Congressman Raul M. Grijalva visits gifted program in Tuscon - AZEdNews
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Congressman Raul M. Grijalva visits gifted program in Tuscon

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  • Heather Long/ Executive Director AAGT

AAGT And Congressman Grijalva

Arizona Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ 3rd District) toured the gifted education program at Lauffer Middle School in the Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) and visited with students on Thursday, August 29, 2019.

He was joined by Pima County School Superintendent, Dustin J. Williams; SUSD Superintendent, Steve Holmes; Lauffer Middle School Principal, John Bellisario; Gifted Program Director, Marianne Landrith; Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented (AAGT) Advocacy Chair, Donna Campbell; AAGT Executive Director, Heather Long; and Arizona Department of Education Acceleration and Enrichment Support, Peter Laing.

Grijalva, who served on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, including six years as Chairman, toured the gifted program classrooms funded by the Javits Grant. The Lauffer Middle School gifted classrooms offer high-ability and high potential students the opportunity to participate in an engaging curriculum including robotics classes, Future Cities and USA BMX STEM Cycling and Track Modeling Program.

“The students at Lauffer Middle School are a testament to the fact that when we invest in public schools and give our students the opportunities to succeed, they will thrive,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva. “As a former school board member, I understand the importance of engaging students in challenging, creative outlets that expand their horizons and improve their learning experience both inside and outside the classroom. I enjoyed my visit with these incredible students and look forward to fighting for the students of Southern Arizona in the halls of Congress and beyond.”

The state of Arizona has been privileged to receive significant federal funding for expanding gifted and talented services through the Jacob K. Javits Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In Pima County, the Jacob K. Javits Grant has supported professional development, parent meetings, engaging curriculum, and a consortium of educators of the gifted to improve the effectiveness of leaders, teachers and families to support ongoing talent identification, development and enhancement of high ability students.

“The training I received through the support of the Javits Grant enabled me to support my gifted students in ways that enriched their learning. These amazing students thrive when they are provided with meaningful opportunities for creativity and critical thinking,” says Ginny Wheeler, 2nd grade teacher, Rivera Elementary School, Sunnyside Unified School District.

“I’m very grateful for the grant. As a direct result of the professional development that I’ve received and the opportunity to network with and learn from other people in the gifted realm, I have many more tools to serve my gifted and talented scholars. My understanding of “gifted and talented” is much more developed, making me an advocate for the needs of this special population, which I will continue throughout my career, “ says Tom Morales, 4th Grade teacher, Craycroft Elementary School, Sunnyside Unified School District.

Math/Robotics Teacher at Lauffer Middle School, Justin Powell states, “Before Javits, I did not know who my gifted students were, or how to effectively serve them. Our gifted students were falling through the cracks because we were not providing proper support. Luckily, the Javits grant was able to provide much needed funding and training.”

The August 29th visit was made possible by invitation of the Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented. “In all our visits to Arizona’s congressional delegation in Washington, we have always had the support of Congressman Grijalva for the Javits’ Grant,” said Donna Campbell, “He clearly understands how important it is to find ways to identify and provide appropriate education to our gifted students in underserved populations. It was an honor to host his visit to Lauffer Middle School and see the results of the Javits Grant first-hand.”

Background on Javits Act
The purpose of the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act is to orchestrate a coordinated program of scientifically based research, demonstration projects, innovative strategies, and similar activities that build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the special educational needs of gifted and talented students.

The Javits Act focuses resources on identifying and serving students who are traditionally underrepresented in gifted and talented programs, particularly minority, economically disadvantaged, English language learners, and students with disabilities, to help reduce gaps in achievement and to encourage the establishment of equal educational opportunities for all students.

About AAGT
Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented (AAGT) is a nonprofit organization of educators, parents and community members working together to better meet the unique needs of our gifted and talented students in Arizona. AAGT is the only organization in Arizona advocating for educational opportunities commensurate with our gifted students’ abilities and potential. AAGT is an affiliate of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC).

To learn more about Gifted Education and opportunities for students, parents and teachers please visit