Martha Bentley, Gifted Education teacher at Elvin Hill Elementary School, has been named Outstanding Gifted Education Specialist by the Alabama Association of Gifted Children (AAGC). Bentley won the award during the AAGC annual conference held September 21-23 at the McWane Science Center.
Bentley has been teaching in Shelby County for 20 years and currently serves as the Gifted Education teacher for grades 3-5 at Elvin Hill Elementary School. She serves in numerous leadership roles at her school, including the Leader in Me Lighthouse team, technology committee, library committee, WCAT morning news sponsor, and Science Festival team facilitator. Her previous honors include the First Year Teacher of the Year Award for 1997-1998 and Shelby County Elementary Teacher of the Year for 2015.
The Outstanding Gifted Education Specialist award is one of seven AAGC Awards of Excellence given each year to honor those who have made a significant difference in the life of a gifted student and/or in gifted education in the school, community, or state. The other six award categories are Outstanding Administrator, Outstanding Gifted Coordinator, Outstanding General Education Teacher, Lifetime Achievement in Gifted Education (dedicating 20 years or more to Gifted Education), Outstanding Community Member, and Outstanding Gifted Student.
Betsy Smith, Principal at Elvin Hill Elementary, said Bentley has certain traits and abilities that make her an outstanding gifted education teacher.
“She believes that everyone learns best by actively participating. She models for students how much fun it can be to explore and learn new things every day,” Smith said. “She tries to remember that children are born scientists- they come into the world wondering, questioning, experimenting and constantly revising their understanding of the incoming data.”
Smith said Bentley uses questioning techniques to challenge and correct misconceptions and assumptions. She also encourages them to analyze what they are learning, to evaluate the accuracy and validity of both their resources and their understandings, and finally to synthesize their learning by producing a presentation, good or service that will impact the lives of others.
“This sometimes merges beautifully with the approach known as problem-based learning in which students choose or are presented with a messy, ill-defined real-world problem,” Smith said. “They set about investigating, researching, and collaborating to find a real, feasible solution that is then presented to authentic stakeholders. When students engage in problem-based learning, they are empowered to see how their learning can make a difference in our world.”
Bentley was nominated for the award by Columbiana Middle School teacher, Jason Mayfield, whose gifted education class also won a major award at the conference for producing the winning video for the 2016 AAGC Video Competition for grades sixth through eighth.
“I know Martha’s a great teacher because I’ve seen her students firsthand for the past 10 years,” Mayfield said. “She makes a difference in their lives, not just in becoming high achievers, but in becoming good people. Additionally, she has been a personal encourager to me, an inspiration to do my best for the students I have in the classroom. I am so happy the state has recognized her with this award.”
Mayfield students, Alexa Couch and Carrie Nesbit, led the effort to produce the award-winning video for the contest. Students were challenged to create a two-minute video that promoted the 2016 conference theme of “Gifted from All Angles”. Within the video, the student explained what it means to be gifted, why and how gifted education is from all angles, and how being a gifted student has made a difference in their lives.
“The students pulled video from their experience working with Shakespeare in their gifted classroom in order to stress the importance of having gifted education continue from elementary school,” Mayfield said.
As winners of the contest, the students received a high definition action camera called an Apeman for the gifted education classroom.
Four other teachers were also honored at the conference as winners of 2016 AAGC Mini-Grant awards. Leigh McLemore and JoBeth Robbins from Forest Oaks Elementary School and Samantha Moody & Brittany Beatty from Columbiana Middle School were recipients of the $500 mini-grants, which assist teachers with gifted education projects.