Teachers and students recognized for gifted education

Students to be honored for gifted education accomplishments

Three Charles County Public Schools students were recently selected for state recognition for their accomplishments in gifted education by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and the Maryland State Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education. They are Caryn Law, eighth grader at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, and Veronica Lebeau and Rachel Ruffin, eighth graders at General Smallwood Middle School.

They were nominated for recognition by the learning resource teachers at their schools, who work with students enrolled in enrichment courses and gifted education programs. Criteria for recognition of selected award winners include: student performs at a high level; is a current recipient of a school system, state or national award or competition winner; and participates in a gifted and talented program.

Law is an honor roll student and has received gifted services in reading and mathematics since she attended elementary school. She consistently receives high honors and is enrolled in all honors-level classes. In the classroom, Law demonstrates her ability to grasp concepts and ideas at an advanced level and exhibits quick mastery of concepts. She plays the violin and piano and has been chosen for the All-County and Tri-County orchestras. Additionally, Law is a member of the Stoddert National Junior Honor Society, student government association, newspaper club, Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) and the Charles County Youth Orchestra.

Lebeau consistently earns the principal’s honor roll award and maintains a 4.0 grade-point average. She has received gifted services since she was a third-grade student and goes above and beyond in the classroom. Her teachers say that she is quickly able to make connections with content, such as mathematical concepts and scientific solutions, and praise her focus, effort and perseverance. Lebeau also participates in MESA and was part of the team that won first place among competing middle schools at the county and state levels in 2013. Additionally, she also plays the cello and has consistently earned the highest rating of one at county and state competitions.

Ruffin has received gifted education services since she was a third-grade student and consistently earns honor-roll grades. She maintains a 4.0 grade-point average and has participated in Destination Imagination (DI) since she was in elementary school. The DI sponsor at Smallwood said Ruffin is a leader who takes the initiative to help and guide new members. Ruffin is also well known among her teachers as a student who demonstrates focus and commitment in the classroom, and an exemplary work ethic. She also favors her algebra class because she enjoys seeking alternative methods and solutions for lessons and assignments. Ruffin is also a member of the school chorus, All-County and Tri-County chorus groups.

The students will be recognized as recipients of the student accomplishment in gifted and talented education award at a Feb. 25 state reception Along with these students, two CCPS teachers – Jeffrey Sokoloski, a language arts teacher at Smallwood, and Ann Taylor, a learning resource teacher at Stoddert – will be honored for their work in gifted education.

For more information, visit the MSDE website at

Two CCPS teachers recognized for gifted education efforts

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and the Maryland Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education recently honored two Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) teachers – Jeffrey Sokoloski, a language arts teacher at General Smallwood Middle School, and Ann Taylor, a learning resource teacher at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, for their efforts in gifted education.

Both teachers earned the 2015 Teacher as Leader in Gifted and Talented Education awards. The Maryland State Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education annually honors educators, students and community organizations for their contributions in developing the talents of Maryland students from all populations in gifted education.

Sokoloski has been teaching at Smallwood since 2011 and was nominated for the award by Irene Brewster, the learning resource teacher at Smallwood. He was nominated for demonstrating leadership in gifted education and for encouraging his students to achieve academic and personal success. Sokoloski primarily works with sixth- and eighth-grade students and teaches the gifted reading and language arts curriculum. He is also the eighth-grade team leader and is in the process of completing his master’s degree in English literature.

In her nomination letter, Brewster said Sokoloski is a valuable gifted education resource for students and his peers. “He has presented several core strategies to staff members during professional development meetings and ‘drop ins’ to other language arts classes to enhance and support instructional rigor. As the eighth-grade team leader, Mr. Sokoloski provides policy and procedure information specific to Smallwood to all new eighth grade staff members as well as help and guidance with student behavior and classroom management,” Brewster wrote in her letter.

For the past two school years, Sokoloski has helped with curriculum writing for enrichment classes and the gifted reading and language arts courses of study. He also attends professional development opportunities and presents at countywide trainings. To further expand his knowledge of gifted education and language arts practices, Sokoloski recently attended the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference.

Taylor is in her first year as a learning resource teacher at Stoddert, and previously worked as a gifted education resource teacher at the middle-school level for nine years. She was nominated for the award by Maryann Bourassa, content specialist for gifted education for CCPS. As a learning resource teacher, Taylor coordinates all aspects of gifted education at Stoddert and all of the county and state testing for students. She also collaborates with classroom teachers of gifted students to ensure their needs are met. Bourassa said Taylor is actively involved in the success of her students and is a leader at her school, and among her peers across the county and state.

“Beyond the school day, Ms. Taylor volunteers her time to support her students in enrichment activities like chess, It’s Academic and various academic competitions. She is a leader among her colleagues. Her expertise, professional manner, and willingness to share her experiences and understanding make her a valuable member of our staff,” Bourassa wrote in her nomination letter.

Taylor is a member of the instructional leadership team at Stoddert and provides several professional development meetings and presentations to staff on instructional models that support gifted learners. She has also helped write gifted education reading and language arts curriculum for middle-school students and worked to infuse Common Core State Standards into state social studies curriculum. Additionally, she is active with countywide Destination Imagination and History Fair activities.

Both Sokoloski and Taylor will be honored Feb. 25 at the Celebrating Gifted and Talented Education in Maryland reception and awards ceremony. Additionally, three Charles County Public Schools students selected for gifted and talented achievement awards will be honored during the ceremony. For more information, visit the MSDE website at

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