Movers and Shakers in 2e Education

Variations2e MagazineThere are countless educators, professionals, researchers, and parents doing critical work in supporting twice-exceptional learners. In our latest issue of Variations2e magazine, we profile twenty-two such individuals who are a making a difference in 2e education.

As we assembled this “People to Watch” section, we also had the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and friends who were nominated but not ultimately included in the magazine. Though these educators and professionals are equally as deserving of recognition, our goal was to profile 2e leaders who are either new to us or new to the 2e community. As an online supplement to our fall 2020 magazine, we have compiled updates about the movers and shakers in 2e education and what they have been up to.

The new print issue is included with all standard subscriptions and also can be purchased separately. In the meantime, read on to find out how these women and men continue to support 2e education.

Dr. Dan Peters, licensed psychologist and executive director of the Summit Center, has recently taken his work supporting 2e families online, offering virtual assessments to students in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. A past recipient of the California Association of the Gifted’s (CAG) Distinguished Service Award and the Social Emotional Needs of the Gifted’s (SENG) Mental Health Professional of the Year honor, Peters is currently working on a book with Dr.  Jean Peterson about bright and complicated kids to be released by Free Spirit Publishing in 2021. He continues to host the “Parent Footprint Podcast with Dr. Dan.”

Julie Skolnick, a Cornell Law School-trained writer, teacher, and educational advocate, recently unveiled 2eResources. com, which provides guidance about programs, services, schools, and products that support 2e students and their families. Her organization, With Understanding Comes Calm, produces a virtual conference called “2e Days of 2e,” which was held this year under the moniker “Let’s Talk 2e.”

Skolnick, who received an Outstanding Business Supporting Gifted Education Award from the Maryland State Department of Education, has also launched a free membership community where she facilitates weekly discussions through a parent empowerment group and instructs parents on a range of topics critical to raising and educating 2e students.

Marriage and family therapist Debbie Steinberg Kuntz — featured in our inaugural issue of Variations2e — has grown her organization, Bright & Quirky, to offer two more popular programs. The IdeaLab, a learning community for parents, includes a catalog of more than 100 video-recorded talks from experts in 2e, as well as private master classes and monthly group coaching. Catalyst, a new enrichment program, brings young people together to explore their interests and connect with other 2e students. Kuntz’s Bright & Quirky Child Summit, which drew over 15,000 registrants worldwide in its first year in 2018, will be held again in March 2021.

Dr. Joanna Haase, a private practice marriage and family therapist, is a founder of Gifted Research and Outreach, an organization that furthers the world’s understanding of giftedness through scientific research, lectures, written material, and training. GRO has an online resource library containing articles to help parents and professionals better understand and meet the unique psychological, educational, and emotional needs of gifted individuals. Haase is currently working on a book chapter entitled, “When the Teacher is the Bully: Yes, It’s Real and the Scars Last Forever” and is focused on helping gifted individuals cope with the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest. “Each of us has the power to help our world grow to the next level of development,” she said. “It is very, very hard work, and sometimes it feels like there will be no end to it. But when you feel that way, you need to look for the kindnesses that are happening all around you.”

Dr. Kim Busi, founder and head of school for Quad Prep in Lower Manhattan, has grown the student body to 183 students across two neighboring campuses. Quad’s model integrates the expertise of professionals in the areas of education, psychiatry, psychology, social cognition, sensory integration, and executive function to drive all aspects of  the school — from curriculum and pedagogy to professional development and leadership. Busi, a past recipient of the Brown University School of Medicine’s Social Responsibility in Medicine Award, also holds an annual national conference called “Breakthroughs in Twice Exceptional Education,” featuring research in 2e as well as diverse and dynamic speakers from across the academic, scientific, business, and educational communities. Breakthroughs will go virtual for the next event in March 2021.

Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon continues her work as associate director for research at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa, a long-term leader in work with 2e students. Last year she was named a Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) leadership fellow and was inducted into the Iowa Academy of Education, an organization composed of outstanding scholars. Foley- Nicpon, a recipient of the National Association for Gifted Children’s Early Scholar Award as well as MENSA research awards, provides clinical and research supervision to doctoral students in counseling psychology, many of whom focus on child psychology and talent development. Her primary interests are twice-exceptionality and talent development in underrepresented groups.

Jen Merrill returned to her “band geek roots” (her words) full time this fall, teaching middle school band in Northern Illinois. Then COVID intervened and now she’s teaching middle school band remotely through her computer screen and hoping there are actual students behind the muted mics and avatars. This summer she and her partner in crime, Kate Arms, presented “How to Talk So Teachers Will Listen and Listen So Parents Will Talk” at the SENG 2020 virtual conference. Based on the positive reception, they’re confident there were people behind the muted mics and avatars, and plan to present on this topic again. Jen keeps busy very  slowly catching up on writing projects (which includes answering emails), gesticulating wildly at the laptop camera to see if her students have a pulse, and keeping all her plates spinning.

Tom Ropelewski had racked up numerous Hollywood feature film credits as a producer, writer, and director before applying his talents to the twice-exceptionality movement. His films 2e: Twice Exceptional (2015) and 2e2: Teaching the Twice Exceptional (2018) provide an in-depth look at the programming, environment, and learning strategies at Bridges Academy, a school in Los Angeles for highly gifted students with learning differences. For his work, Ropelewski in 2015 received an award for “Best of Festival — Documentary Feature” at the Richmond International Film Festival, an “Audience Choice – Best Feature” award at the Silver Springs International Film Festival, and the “Best Social Benefit Documentary” at the Eugene International Film Festival. Ropelewski, whose 2e son, Thomas Jr., recently graduated from Eckerd College with a bachelor’s degree in political science, produces and manages the Bridges 2e Center’s growing video archive of interviews with pioneers in 2e education and other educational workshop materials.

People to Watch in 2eDeborah Reber founded Tilt Parenting in 2016 to support parents in embracing, accepting, and supporting their neurodiverse kids to build their confidence and achievements. Her breakthrough book Differently Wired offers guidance for parents raising atypical children and was a New York Times bestseller. Reber also has two children’s books on the NYT Bestsellers List, and her book, Chill, earned a “Quick Pick for the Reluctant Reader” recognition from the American Library Association. Another of her books, In Their Shoes, was named to the Amelia Bloomer Project’s “List of Recommended Feminist Books for Young Readers.” She is a two-time TEDx speaker, and her talk, “Why the Future Will Be Differently Wired,” has received more than 11,000 views online. Her Tilt Parenting podcast, which has been downloaded more than 2 million times, has topped 200 episodes. Most recently, Reber has created and produced the Parenting in Place Summer Masterclass series and is currently developing preschool curriculum and related content focused on inclusion, understanding, and acceptance of neurodivergence.

Big Minds UnSchool’s founder and executive director, Dr. Melanie Hayes, has researched how to help parents and educators understand and meet the needs of 2e children. She is currently expanding her area of focus to support 2e adults who struggle with self-efficacy and managing work and relationships in their own lives. A past recipient of SENG’s Educator of the Year Award, Hayes is also taking her Big Minds school online. She recently completed a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and will be offering consultation and therapy through the Summit Center. She is a regular monthly contributor to Bright & Quirky’s IdeaLab and appears on various 2e community platforms, including the Tilt Parenting podcast.

FlexSchool, led by founder and head Jacqueline Byrne,  now has two campuses in the Tristate area, one in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, and the other in Bronxville, New York. Flex is a program for gifted and twice-exceptional students. In response to requests to admit younger students, Flex has added grades 1–4 to Cloud Campus, its synchronous online learning portal. The Cloud program continues to go, with an increased number of courses and the addition of a speaker’s program.

Dr. Nicole Tetreault is a neuroscientist, author, meditation teacher,  and international speaker on topics of neurodiversity, neurodevelopment, creativity, mental health, and wellness. Her forthcoming book, Insight into a Bright Mind, explores groundbreaking research examining the experiences of unique, creative, and intense brains through interviews, storytelling, and literary science, while advocating for new directions of human and neurodiversity. As the founder of Awesome Neuroscience, she translates the most promising neuroscience and positive psychology for people to live their best life. She is the recipient of the Milton Career Exploration Prize from Caltech and is creating a non-profit, Beyond the Cell, a transformative program to rehabilitate incarcerated women through teaching guided meditation, neuroscience, literature, and expressive writing.

Emily Kircher-Morris’ Mind Matters podcast, which has been featured on 2eNews.com, explores topics related to the development of gifted, 2e, and neurodiverse individuals, from children to adults. A mental health counselor at Unlimited Potential Counseling & Education Center in O’Fallon, Missouri, Kircher-Morris uses her background as  a teacher in gifted education programming to assist with educational advocacy for her clients. She is also the founder and president of the Gifted Support Network, a nonprofit organization in the St. Louis area that provides information, community, and enrichment for gifted learners and their families. She has just written a book called Teaching Twice- Exceptional Learners in Today’s Classroom, which will be released by Free Spirit Publishing in 2021. She continues to provide professional development for educators on supporting neurodiverse learners.

Students with backpacksDr. Michael Postma launched Gifted and Thriving, which provides education and support resources and services to the gifted and 2e community. Co-created with his wife Julie Postma, Mike Postma says the mission is to “create supportive, educated, and healthy communities by providing educational support and services to parents, teachers, families and all who interact and are involved with the gifted and twice-exceptional populations so that they can realize their full potential in the classroom, on the job, at home, and in life.” Dr. Postma previously served as executive director of SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted), has worked in gifted education as a teacher and administrator, is a frequent speaker and consultant, and has written numerous articles and two books. Additionally, Postma and Dr. Matt Zakreski co-authored the upcoming Understanding the Social and Emotional Development of the Gifted Using a Lens of Neurodiversity. He and Julie have raised four gifted children, three of whom are twice-exceptional.

Carol Barnes is a visiting fellow in gifted education at the School of Education at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. She is also the national coordinator for Gifted with Learning Disabilities (GLD) Australia, a national, non-commercial online learning community, support group, and advocacy organization for parents and teachers of 2e children. Barnes’ work concerns policy development and implementation in the context of 2e students and students with disabilities in general, especially in obtaining approval from government authorities for accommodations on high- stakes state exams. Currently pursuing a doctorate in law and the legal aspects of education provisions for 2e children, Barnes volunteers as a consultant for eight government inquiry, reviews, and reference groups, including those pertaining to primary and secondary school gifted education, students with disabilities, teacher professional development, and remedial intervention.

At Arete Academy, a school serving 2e students in Minneapolis/St. Paul area, Max Melby and Jamie Teigen recently took on the roles of director and assistant director, respectively. Since the spring, they have worked hard with the Arete staff to reinvent the wheel and launch the 2020-2021 school year fully in-person, with a distance learning as a phase-in and phase-out option. Teigen is participating in a leadership development affinity group with local female leaders in the Women’s Executive Coaching Roundtable from the Good Leadership Organization, combining that with development of her 2e knowledge to create meaningful cornerstones in Arete’s programming and our students’ futures. Max currently serves on the Minnesota Department of Education’s Gifted and Talented Advisory Council, the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented CHOICES Chapter Board, and on the Advisory Committee for the Certificate Program in Twice-Exceptional Education for the Bridges Graduate School. Melby and his wife Dayna also welcomed his first child this spring, a baby girl named Hattie.

And last, but certainly not least, Dr. Linda Silverman, long-time friend and advisory board member of 2eNews.com and Variations2e magazine, continues her important work as a psychologist, author, editor, researcher, and speaker. She handed over her Gifted Development Center (GDC), which has provided assessments for more than 6,400 children  since its opening in 1979, to the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development (ISAD) in 1995, and currently serves as its president. Silverman is active in virtual conferences  and online workshops. She created the “Checklist for Recognizing Twice-Exceptional Children” along with GDC senior staffers Bobbie Gilman and Betty Maxwell. The Checklist was published in 2018 in Scott Barry Kaufman’s edited volume, Twice Exceptional, and later revised and expanded in collaboration with Deirdre Lovecky. Silverman has multiple written works in print, including “Honoring the precious uniqueness of your gifted child” for Gifted Education International and a poem called “We Will Remember” for the Advanced Development journal.

The fall 2020 issue of Variations2e, which features twenty-two People to Watch in 2e, is available now. The magazine comes with a full subscription to 2e News and also can be purchased individually

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2e News is the online home for the latest news, features, opinions, and research around neurodiversity and twice-exceptional education.

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