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Stephanie Tolan
Is It A Cheetah?

Is It A Cheetah?

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The first article included here is one of the most influential ever written about gifted learners. Translated into over 40 languages, this article has made the cheetah an analogy for gifted students all over the world and has become the logo of many groups working on behalf of these children. Time and time again this deeply moving and vivid short article has helped teachers, parents and policymakers to grasp the different attributes of the gifted child and the need for specific provision for these children. Published here with the kind permission of the author and with acknowledgement to Diane Scanlon for the graphics. See also our Links page.

The other articles you can access here, beginning with one jointly written with noted Maori leader Naida Pou (Glavish), are drawn from our director’s body of published work over the years. The brief descriptors with each article will help you to see those most relevant to you right now.

The Gifted Child who is Maori  View PDF (1.7 mb). Jointly written by Naida Pou (now Glavish) and Rosemary Cathcart. Two teachers, one Maori and one Pakeha, in a dialogue in which Naida helps Rosemary discover some unexpected cultural perspectives!
Presented originally as a workshop and then published in Gifted Children: Their Future: Our Challenge (now known as Tall Poppies). Vol. 17/3, 1992.

The Conundrums of Success  View PDF (206 kb). What does success mean for gifted learners? This paper challenges the traditional interpretation of success as limited to academic or measurable performance. It puts forward an inspirational re-definition reflecting a whole-life vision for the gifted child.
First presented as the keynote for the Australian Assn for the Education of the Gifted and Talented national conference in 2008, then requested by Dr Linda Silverman for the US Gifted Development Center’s website, and more recently presented in an edited version for the NZAGC 40th Anniversary Conference in 2015.

Will this history have a future?  View PDF (249 kb). An account of 30 critical years in building gifted provision for New Zealand, recognising the many individuals involved and recording many previously interesting unpublished details – and raising some questions for the future...
Published in the Australasian Journal of Gifted Education, 23/2, December 2014.

Conceptual Curriculum.  View PDF (112 kb). One of the most interesting challenges involved in developing a genuinely effective programme for gifted learners lies in finding an answer to the question, "What shall we teach them?" This paper puts forward an approach based on the gifted learner’s inherent approach to learning and offers some specific topics for exploration.
Originally published in Tall Poppies, Vol.25 No 1, 2000. Later integrated into the teacher’s manual “Differentiation Made Practical”, published by Essential Resources in 2010.

Aiming for Excellence – or Not? View PDF (261 kb). “Excellence” is a perfectly valid objective for the high achieving student. Is it a valid objective for the gifted learner? This short paper explores this possibly surprising question and comes up with some thought-provoking considerations.

The Inclusive Classroom and the Gifted ChildView PDF (464 kb). Based on the view that every classroom should be a good place to be for every child who enters it, this paper examines decades of research for and against grouping and reaches a clear conclusion on this debate, leading to a suggested thought-provoking revision of the notion of an “inclusive classroom”. The concept of a continuum of services is discussed, and some practical steps for provision are suggested.
Paper presented to Rising Tides, a National Conference on the Gifted & Talented, Wellington, 2006.

NB: A recent research study surveying a full century of research on ability grouping can be found at

Whaia te maramatanga – seek enlightenment. Thinking about Pakeha and Maori and Gifted Children. View PDF (116 kb).  A Pakeha teacher reflects on the role of the Pakeha teacher in relation to giftedness in Maori. What do we need to know? What can we as Pakeha learn from Maori to further enhance our own concept of giftedness?
First presented as a workshop in Kaitaia in the Far North of New Zealand.

I had a dream... View PDF (88 kb) Children at One Day School in Wellington were studying Martin Luther King’s famous speech and discussing how people turned dreams into reality. They decided to ask Rosemary Cathcart how she had gone about turning her dreams into One Day School. The question surprised Rosemary who admits that like most Kiwis, she’s not too comfortable about discussing personal history. But on reflection, she saw it as a valid question from children who also had dreams and aspirations which other people didn’t always understand. This is the resulting interview.
Published in Tall Poppies, 31/3, November 2006.

The Mystery Condition: Detection & InterventionView PDF (328 kb). There are some children who have a condition which impacts very significantly on their learning but which is very difficult to diagnose. What is it, and when we find it, what are we really trying to achieve through intervention?
First published in Kairaranga, Journal of the Resource Teachers of Learning & Behaviour, Vol. 3, Issue 1, 2002.

Gifted Is As Gifted DoesView PDF (96 kb). Why is this quote so apt? How can it help us to cater for the gifted learner?
First published in Education Today, Issue 5, 2004.

Choosing A SchoolView PDF (544 kb). A parent’s guide to finding the right school for a gifted child.
First published in Tall Poppies, March 1996, and re-published in another format in 2004.