Talented and gifted

Diane Pratt is not only an educator at Fort Dodge Senior High, she helps guide state and even national-level education standards.

“I believe that, as teaching professionals, we should always hold ourselves to high standards. We should love our work and respect the value of continual professional growth,” she said. “By raising standards for teachers, the profession can attract top candidates and continue to strengthen, which will ensure that our children will receive the level of education they need and deserve.”

Pratt has been an educator for more than 40 years. Of her 24 years in the Fort Dodge Community School District, 14 have been spend with its talented and gifted students.

“Those are students who are identified as having unique learning characteristics, who learn things faster than other students, learn in a different way than a regular student would learn,” she said. “We have to meet their educational needs just as we would a student who would be on the other end of the spectrum.”

There is a difference between TAG instruction at the middle school and high school levels.

“At the middle school I teach fifth and sixth grade TAG classes, and they actually come to the classroom and there’s a curriculum for those levels,” Pratt said. “At the high school, it’s a very individualized approach to these learners.”

Working with TAG students is fun, as well as a challenge, Pratt said.

“Instead of slowing the pace down, we’re increasing the pace quite often,” she said. “And therefore, you’re looking for resources and other things that go beyond the curriculum for them to work from and learn from.”

Starting in 2012, Pratt participated in Gov. Terry Branstad’s task force on the Iowa Teacher Leadership and Compensation System.

“I’m enjoying that quite a bit,” she said. “I was on the governor’s task force for teacher leadership last year and then some of those members rolled over into the current commission, which is a three year appointment.”

She added, “You get a broader picture of how education should be working in Iowa and what the vision for education in Iowa is.”

Pratt also participates in the National Association of Gifted Children, serving on its professional standards committee.

“Being a member of the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association, I’m also a member of the national association,” she said. “That’s how we get our resources and find out what’s going on, and the new research. They had some openings on their standing committees, and I was assigned to the professional standards committee. I’ve just started on that.”

According to Pratt, she enjoys being an educator as much as ever.

“I’d wanted to be a teacher as long as I could remember. It’s what I always saw myself doing,” she said. “I’ve taught everything from preschool through sixth grade full-time, and then ninth through 12th and talented and gifted. There’s a lot of different age groups I’ve worked with, and I’ve found all of them to be very enjoyable. Moving around as much as I have, and trying different levels of the field, has given me a great appreciation for what teachers do every day.”