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Gifted and Talented Teacher Career Guide

A gifted and talented teacher, sometimes called a gifted and talented education (GATE) teacher, works with students in public and private schools from grades K-12. Programs for gifted students are also found as pull-out education programs (in which students are removed from the regular classroom) in neighborhood schools or in specialized schools for advanced students. This guide provides further information on what gifted and talented teachers do, how to become one, and gifted and talented teacher salary and job outlook.

Gifted and Talented Teacher Job Description

Gifted and talented students, also known as advanced or high-ability learners, are students who have been identified as performing academically, intellectually, or creatively beyond their grade level. Teachers working with gifted and talented students must be able to instruct advanced subjects effectively and understand how to challenge students to meet their individual needs. The specialty requires that a teacher have excellent communication skills and a high degree of knowledge in their chosen field of study and instruction.

Teachers working with advanced students need to utilize techniques that help their students develop productivity, creativity, self-discipline, and leadership skills. Teachers in this specialty must be prepared to individualize and modify instruction as necessary and relate to the unique education needs of advanced students. When working with high-achieving students a teacher must understand that a student may be intellectually advanced beyond their years but developmentally similar to their peers, and know how to relate on that intellectual level without losing sight of the child’s true age. In addition, some gifted students may be diagnosed as twice-exceptional, meaning that they simultaneously have advanced skills in some areas qualifying them as gifted as well as behavioral or emotional disabilities qualifying them as special needs students. To prepare them to teach these learners, teachers of gifted learners may also be trained in special or exceptional education.

Gifted and Talented Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

Becoming a teacher of the gifted and talented involves first obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a specific field of instruction or in elementary or secondary education. Qualifying to teach the gifted and talented also frequently requires a master’s degree specific to teaching advanced learners. Gifted and talented teachers are trained to identify and select advanced students for gifted and talented programs through conducting parent and student interviews and administering assessments. When working with gifted students, teachers need the skills necessary to plan and implement a challenging curriculum and must also be able to test, assess, and grade students at their performance level. In a secondary school setting, mentoring and advising students on career and post-secondary education choices is a common duty.

Teachers of the gifted and talented frequently work with other classroom teachers to develop assignments for advanced students in regular classrooms. Gifted teachers must strive to create a learning environment that is academically challenging for advanced students while remaining appropriate to students’ behavioral development. Because of the special needs of their students, gifted and talented teachers may meet more frequently with parents and administrative teams to measure student progress and achievement as part of each student’s individual education plan.

How to Become a Gifted and Talented Teacher

Gifted and talented teachers must possess at least a bachelor’s degree in education or in a related field, but most have a master’s degree. In order for graduates to qualify for teacher licensure, they must complete a teacher preparation program that is approved by the board of education for the state in which it is located. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has developed a set of national standards for gifted and talented teacher preparation programs, and most of these are at the master’s level or endorsement programs; few are undergraduate teacher preparation programs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over 70 four-year public or private non-profit colleges and universities in the US offer graduate degrees in gifted education, while none offer bachelor’s degrees in the specialty.1 In four-year bachelor’s degree programs in education, students will spend the first two years taking general education courses and the second two years focusing on courses in education. These courses typically include at least one classroom-based internship in the grade level(s) at which the prospective teacher wishes to practice. After graduation, prospective teachers must then apply for state teacher certification. The typical pathway to this career is as follows:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field including a state-approved teacher preparation program.
  2. Complete a student teaching internship.
  3. Take your state’s required exams for teacher certification.
  4. Apply for your teaching certificate.
  5. Begin applying to open positions for regular classroom teachers.
  6. After gaining classroom management and teaching experience, earn a graduate degree in gifted and talented education.
  7. Take your state’s licensing exam for gifted and talented education and get an endorsement in the area, if necessary.
  8. Apply to open positions for teachers of the gifted and talented.

An internship and research project are typically incorporated in master’s programs in gifted and talented education. Coursework typically covers instruction on how to identify gifted learners in the classroom, how to tailor curricula for them, and how to assess and instruct them differently than other students.

Gifted and Talented Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

In some school districts, the identification of gifted students begins as early as preschool. As a result, gifted and talented teachers can find positions working with students at all grade levels from preschool to high school. The grade level of instruction, individual subject specialty, and the teacher’s education and experience will have an impact on a teacher’s salary. However, gifted and talented teachers can expect similar salaries to the average for the grade level taught. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn a median annual salary of $57,980.1 At the middle school level, teachers earn a median annual salary of $58,600.2 High school teachers earn an annual median salary of $60,320.3 Job growth for elementary, middle, and high school teachers is projected at 3-4% through 2028, which is slower than average for all occupations.1,2,3

Helpful Skills and Experience

Teachers of the gifted and talented should demonstrate patience and flexibility with students and lesson plans. As teachers of the gifted and talented may have responsibility for public relations relating to gifted programs, these teachers should be comfortable with public speaking in a variety of settings outside of the classroom. Previous experience teaching other student populations is considered a benefit for teachers looking to move into this field.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • GATE Teacher
  • Gifted Education Specialist
  • Gifted Teacher
  • Master Teacher
  • Talented and Gifted (TAG) Teacher

Additional Resources

  • National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC): NAGC emphasizes advocacy and development for gifted and talented students. Members of this organization include teachers, administrators, graduate students, counselors, and parents of the gifted and talented. Membership benefits include subscriptions to the Teaching for High Potential quarterly newsletter, training and learning resources for gifted students, discounts on materials, and participation in professional and student development networks.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do I need certification to become a gifted and talented teacher?

Answer: Teachers of gifted students are able to find employment in a variety of school settings, but in nearly all cases, at least a bachelor’s degree and state-level teaching license are required to enter this career. In some states and school districts, a master’s degree and certification are expected. You can check with your local education program or state board of education for requirements specific to your state.

Question: Are gifted and talented teachers considered special needs teachers?

Answer: High ability learners do have special needs, and as such, gifted and talented programs in some school districts are considered special needs programs. As a result, gifted and talented teachers may be able to command a higher salary based on the demands of the job and their specialized training in teaching gifted students.

Question: What paths to advancement are available for gifted and talented teachers?

Answer: Gifted and talented teachers may become gifted and talented program coordinators, with responsibility for developing and implementing programs in specific schools or districts. As most teachers in this field hold advanced degrees, career paths into other administrative positions are common, as are career paths into college teaching.

References:
1. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=all&p=13.1004&l=91&ct=1+2&ic=1&id=201885#programs
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm