REACH Education was created in 2005 specifically to support schools in working effectively with gifted learners by providing quality professional development.
Our basic philosophy is simple: unless teachers have access to sound up-to-date research allied to thoroughly achievable practical strategies, they cannot be expected to cater for a group of learners with such significantly different needs. So that’s what we provide.
Our first initiative was to establish the online Certificate of Effective Practice in Gifted Education. Launched in 2006, this 12-module course takes participants on a journey of growing insight and understanding and equips them with a wide range of high-interest strategies to transform their teaching approach. It has been successfully completed by numerous New Zealand teachers and by teachers from Australia, Hong Kong, Sweden, Jamaica, Thailand and Beijing, and has won endorsement from the US-based Institute for the Study of Advanced Development.
Beginning in 2005, our strong international links have enabled us to bring a number of leading experts to present in New Zealand, including Linda Silverman, Stephanie Tolan, Francoys Gagné, Michael Piechowski and in 2014 eight members of the prestigious Columbus Group on their first-ever presentation outside the US. We ourselves also organised a successful national conference in 2009, “Reaching Forward”, held in Rotorua.
From the outset we have provided advisory support both to individual teachers and to schools, taken workshops on a range of topics to various parts of New Zealand, and presented at national and regional conferences. For example, we helped a high school evaluate its three-year talent development initiative, worked over a period of more than a year with an RTLB cluster to develop a knowledge base for intervention strategies, addressed a national children’s librarians’ conference, took a day-long workshop for a group of visiting Australian principals, took workshops to smaller centres often not reached by speakers in this field,, eg Kaitaia, Otorohanga, Whakatane, supported a school trying to arrange special placement for a specific gifted child with complex needs, etc etc.
We have also often provided individual support for parents who have contacted us seeking information and advice, most memorably perhaps in a phone call from a homeschooling parent on a remote outback farm in Australia, but on many other occasions as well.
In 2016 we successfully applied for our staff to become accredited “facilitators” under the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s newly established accreditation system for professional development providers, or professional learning development (PLD) as it is now known. In 2017 our focus is on developing PLD packages for whole school development in relation to provision for gifted learners which can be used by individual schools or by schools working together as “communities of learning”.