Gifted and talented students are advanced or high-ability learners, identified as working above grade level either scholastically or creatively or both. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) supports the needs of high-potential learners. NAGC says children who are in the top 10% relative to national and/or local norms by grade level are generally good candidates for receiving gifted instruction. As a result, schools often provide additional learning opportunities within the regular classroom or in a breakout group.
Because they are high-achieving, these students benefit from the expertise of teachers prepared to address their specific needs, known as a gifted and talented teacher, or a gifted and talented education (GATE) teacher. Gifted and talented teachers are able to teach specific subjects at an advanced level as well as motivate and challenge their high-achieving students. They receive specialized training enabling them to evaluate and identify gifted students, design appropriate assignments, tailor instruction to students’ capabilities, and address their emotional and social needs.
Some schools search for gifted and talented teachers who hold a postgraduate degree that focuses on teaching advanced learners, such as a Master of Education in Teacher Leadership with a Specialization in Gifted and Talented.
Steps to Becoming a Gifted and Talented Teacher
The minimum requirement to become a gifted and talented teacher is a bachelor’s degree in education or another related field, but many GATE teachers have master’s degrees. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), however, no U.S. university or college currently offers an undergraduate education degree with a focus on gifted and talented learning.
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has created guidelines for teacher preparedness programs in gifted and talented education, forming the basis for state standards in many areas. At a minimum, these guidelines require high-quality gifted and talented teacher preparedness programs to provide:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Opportunities to gain and demonstrate appropriate pedagogical skills including extensive field experience and clinical practice
- Preparation in core academic subjects
After graduating from such a program, aspiring teachers must pass their state’s teacher certification exam. The CEC also expects that new gifted and talented teachers will undergo a discipline-specific period of induction conducted by the state or school district.
The CEC notes that many GATE educators pursue post-secondary degrees to increase their instructional and leadership skills and develop expertise in issues specific to children who are gifted and talented. This additional training allows educators to assume additional roles outside of classroom instruction, including administering gifted education programs and services, teacher preparation, research, or teacher coaching.
In most cases, the timeline for becoming a gifted and talented educator is as follows:
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field, including a state-approved teacher preparation program.
- Successfully complete a student-teaching internship or supervised field experience.
- Pass all required state teacher certification exams.
- Apply for and receive a state teaching certificate.
- Obtain a job as a regular classroom teacher to gain relevant experience.
- Earn a graduate degree with a focus on gifted and talented education.
- Pass required state licensing exam for gifted and talented education and/or receive a necessary endorsement in the area.
- Obtain a job as a gifted and talented teacher or administrator.
Most advanced degree programs in gifted and talented education, such as Lamar University’s Master of Education in Teacher Leadership with a Specialization in Gifted and Talented online program, have specific application requirements.
Lamar University’s program requires a completed bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA, a valid state-issued teaching certificate, as well as two years of classroom teaching experience. Additionally, applicants must show they are employed by a Texas Education Agency-approved public or private school campus. They must also include a professional reference from that school’s principal. Out-of-state applicants must contact their state’s Department of Education to determine whether the program will meet the credentialing requirement.
Learn more about Lamar University’s M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership with a Specialization in Gifted and Talented online program.
Teacher Certification Degrees: Gifted and Talented Teacher Career Guide
Council for Exceptional Children: Initial Gifted Education Professional Preparation Standards