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January 18, 1991 - Image 54

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-01-18

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Roeper Teacher Seeks
To Help Gifted Students


Staff Writer


otte Geller's commit-
ment to the education
of gifted and talented
students extends well
beyond the boundaries of her
Roeper City and Country
School classroom in
As one of 22 members of a
national steering committee
on gifted education, Mrs.
Geller, a biology, philosophy,
psychology and English
teacher at Roeper's Upper
School, is helping to shape
the future of the nation's
gifted and talented programs.

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Not bad for someone who
began her teaching career 21
years ago by swearing to the
Philadelphia Board of Edu-
cation that she never had
any affiliation to the Com-
munist Party.


She started out a diag-
nostic bacteriologist at a
children's hospital, said Mrs.
Geller, who earned a biology
degree at George Washing-
ton University in Washing-
ton, D.C. She took a 10-year
break to raise two children
with her husband, Irving.
When her youngest child
was 5 years old, Mrs. Geller,
who wanted to go back to
work, asked the
Philadelphia school board
what she had to do to become
a teacher.
At first, board members
thought she was crazy, Mrs.
Geller said. But suffering
from a teacher shortage, the
board asked her to simply
swear her loyalty to
America. A few days later,
she found herself teaching
biology in an inner city high
She stayed for more than a
year, but later moved to
schools in New York and
New Hampshire before com-
ing to Roeper five years ago.
"I discovered I like children
better than bacteria," she
explained, smiling.
Despite her experience and
success with students, Mrs.
Geller doesn't consider
herself an expert on gifted
education, especially corn-
pared to the other members
on the committee who are
esteemed professionals in
the field. "I looked around
the committee and saw all
these experts and then there
was me, little miss nothing
from nowhere," she said.

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Lotte Geller

But as one of two teachers on
the committee, Mrs. Geller
isn't about to short-change
gifted students.
"Gifted and talented
students are a natural
resource, much like ore and
minerals, to be utilized by
the nation and individual
children should be able to
fulfill his or her potential,"
Mrs. Geller said. "When the
child with an IQ of 170
becomes a plumber, it is a
waste of a natural resource
and a waste in terms of an
individual's fulfillment."
While she believes plumb-
ing is an honorable profes-
sion, educators "need to find
a way to develop programs to
enable gifted children,
whether they are part of a
majority or a minority, at-
tend a public or private
school, to fulfill their poten-
tial," she said.
The committee, which was
formed after Congress ap-
proved the Jacob K. Javits
Gifted and Talented
Students Education Act of
1988, is charged with
designing national, standar-
dized programs for students
who show high performance
The first meetings were
held in September. During
another series of meetings in
early December, the com-
mittee continued to for-
mulate ideas for programs.
The committee will finalize
its recommendations during
meetings in late March or
early April. A final 50-page
report is expected by the end
of the year.
Among the committee's
concern is the identification
of gifted and talented

students, especially among
minority communities, she
said. But once children are
identified, there have to be
programs in place to tap that
resource, she added.
Listening to the recom-
mendations of five Univer-
sity of Maryland students,
who had attended gifted
programs, the committee
agreed most programs estab-
lished should not separate
gifted children from other
"They were against pull-
ing gifted children out of the
general classroom envi-
ronment," said Mrs. Geller,
who advocates a combina-
tion of informal and formal
educational opportunities.
The committee is examin-
ing the possibility of ad-
vanced placement classes,
enrichment programs and
magnet schools which at-
tract the brightest students
in certain fields such as
science and the performing
arts, in an attempt to de-
velop a national vision, she
While some public and
private schools, including a
few in Detroit, already cater
to the needs of gifted chil-
dren, those programs are
scattered across the country
in a haphazard way, Mrs
Geller said.
"There should be a way to
provide a national outline
for programs so the gifted
and talented children in
New Hampshire who move
to Cleveland don't have to
take a break from their
studies," Mrs. Geller said.
But whatever recommen-
dations are made, they "will
have to be broad enough to
be utilized by small towns
and large cities," she said.
She insists that the com-
mittee recommend programs
which can instantly benefit
gifted children. "We want
programs to be implemented
now, not in the year 2349,"
she said.
"The programs don't have
to be expensive," she said.
"We're well aware of the
shortage of money."
The committee doesn't
want to waste its time com-
ing up with excellent pro-
grams only to discover they
are too expensive to imple-
ment except in all but the
wealthiest areas, she said.
"There is no point in
creating pie-in-the-sky pro-
grams. We don't want to
spin our wheels for

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