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Alumni Features

Since the inception of the graduate program in gifted education at the College of William and Mary, many individuals have had to opportunity to work at the Center for Gifted Education (CFGE) in assistantships as they pursued master’s and doctoral degrees.  Other students have served the CFGE as conference presenters, teachers in the Saturday and Summer Enrichment Program, or curriculum writers. In each issue of The Bridge, we will include an article about a master’s degree graduate and one about a doctoral degree graduate.  The alumni featured in this issue are Kimberley Thoresen and Dr. Lou Lloyd-Zannini.

Master’s Program Graduate: Kimberley Thoresen 

Kimberley Thoresen is now a fourth grade teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary in Prince William County.

Describe your career path.

Kimberley ThoresenI graduated in 2009 with my M.A.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction in Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary. My undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Elementary Education, PreK-6, which I completed in 2008 at The College of William and Mary. In the summer of 2009, I was hired to work as a classroom elementary school teacher in Prince William County Schools. I have worked at Rosa Parks Elementary School from 2009 to the present as a fourth grade teacher. In addition to working as a classroom teacher, I have participated in several professional development activities offered by the school system. In the summer of 2010 I took part in a training course about the Professional

Performance Process (PPP), which was a revamping of the performance appraisal system across the county. I then had the opportunity to train fellow coworkers at Rosa Parks about the new system. I also worked with the Prince William County Schools Science Department to write inquiry-based lesson plans for a Science Handbook, which was distributed to elementary schools across the county in the spring of 2011. In August of 2011, I served as a facilitator for the new teacher orientation (F.I.R.S.T Training) for new fourth grade teachers in Prince William County Schools. Currently, I am the ILT (Instructional Leadership Team) member for the fourth grade teachers in my school and serve as a leader and representative for our grade level at school-wide meetings with the administration and other grade level leads.

Did you have an assistantship at the CFGE?  If so, describe your assignments there and how you have used the skills acquired in your subsequent positions. 

I worked at the CFGE during the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009. I worked closely with Kimberley Chandler in the creation, revision, and formatting of the teaching model cards, various language arts and science units, and the Navigators novel study guides. I also worked to assist where needed with preparation for the National Association for Gifted Children conference, the National Curriculum Network Conference, and professional development programs that Kimberley Chandler and Joyce VanTassel-Baska led around the globe.

I have been able to leverage many of the skills I acquired while working with the CFGE and have become active in shaping curriculum within the county and taking on leadership positions within my school.  For example, I have used what I learned about curriculum development to help with the creation of inquiry lessons for the science department. When working with my students, I have been able to incorporate the teaching model cards, which have helped me include graphic organizers throughout my teaching.

What was most memorable to you about your experiences in the master’s program?

The most memorable experiences during my master’s program were attending the NAGC conference in Tampa, Florida, and defending my thesis in front of Joyce VanTassel-Baska and Carol Tieso. Both experiences will forever be in my mind. After attending the NAGC conference, I realized that I have a duty as an educator to continue to grow throughout my career. One way to continue to learn and help my colleagues and students will be to continue to attend professional conferences in order to gain more knowledge about what is available for our students. Standing in Joyce’s office, presenting my PowerPoint and thesis focused on perfectionism in gifted students, was an overwhelming and daunting task.  Once I finished my defense and answered their questions, I realized that although it wasn’t perfect, I did fine. I had completed my master’s program and they signed off that I’d completed the thesis. I had such a great sense of accomplishment after all the time I had spent developing and preparing my thesis and it was a rewarding finale to my time at William and Mary.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering pursuing a master’s degree related to gifted education?

Find a subject that interests you and pursue it. Gifted education is a way to help students enrich their experiences in schools, and it’s a way to ensure that every child is being challenged through differentiation of curriculum. Although I currently work in a fourth grade classroom with a variety of learners, knowing how to challenge my students who are gifted makes it easier to keep them engaged and interested in everything we do.

 Other comments:

I truly enjoyed my five years at William and Mary, and I return to Williamsburg often to visit campus and the colonial area. I haven’t visited the new education building, but I look forward to exploring the new facility and perhaps attending a conference at William and Mary soon.

Doctoral Program Graduate: Lou Lloyd-Zannini, Ph.D. 

Lou Lloyd-Zannini, Ph.D. currently teaches at Rhode Island College, Feinstein School of Education and Human Development as a department chair. He is also head of school at Henry Barnard Laboratory School. 

Describe your career path since completing your doctorate.

 2002 was the year of my doctoral graduation, with the school’s new Ph.D. in Educational Planning, Policy, and Leadership with an emphasis on Gifted Education.  I also completed my Ed.S. in Educational Leadership with an emphasis on Gifted Education in 1997, just as the doctoral program was transitioning to an Ed.D./Ph.D. option.  Though the Ph.D. required more work, I believed that was the best option for me.

Actually, though many might title theirs “The Long and Winding Road,” my career path was pretty clear cut.  I was already teaching in a master’s program in a local Christian university, where I had developed and directed a high-intensity M.Ed. for practitioners.  I added a new program for alternative initial licensure in 2005, a really good choice considering the market at that time.

Then, in 2010, I accepted the invitation of Rhode Island College – the smallest state’s original teaching college – to join their Feinstein School of Education and Human Development as a department chair.  Here, the Henry Barnard Laboratory School is my department, and I serve as the head of school.  The laboratory school is an incredible place where I have the opportunity to interact with immensely talented faculty innovating, documenting, and disseminating new, best-practice curriculum and methodologies.Dr. Lou Lloyd Zannini

 Did you have an assistantship at the CFGE?  If so, describe your assignments there and how you have used the skills acquired in your subsequent positions.

 Absolutely!  In fact, it was interesting being one of the first men in the Center on an almost daily basis.  The internship was for one semester only, and then I was picked up by another university to teach full time.  Though I wish it could have been longer, so that I could have interacted more with Dr. VanTassel-Baska and the incredible curriculum research teams, I learned so much from my time there.

My role was to handle the electronic side of the Center, doing the curriculum listservs, and functioning as computer curmudgeon (I hated Macs in those days…).  But to be honest, I learned far more about things like collaboration, scholarship, and what it was to be aspiring to the academy than I did anything else.  Those skills – along with my familiarity with ecommunication, and even the Mac (which I now operate on exclusively) – have served me well in my career since.  When combined with the friendships and professional relationships in the field established in those days, my time at CFGE really has been foundational to my professional growth and success.

 What was most memorable to you about your experiences in the doctoral program?

 The people.  Without question, the most memorable part of being a member of the W&M CFGE family was just that:  We were family.  We encouraged each other, redirected each other, corrected each other, worked and studied with each other, socialized with each other, and basically shared each other’s lives and dreams.  Even now, as I reflect back on the program, the first thing that jumps to mind are the people I’ve met, starting with Joyce – who still qualifies as the most amazing human I’ve ever met; the friends from our cohort, many of whom I communicate with fairly regularly; and the people across the country and world in our field who I so enjoy seeing at conferences and other events.

William & Mary’s School of Ed really is an amazing place because of the talent and quality faculty there.  Our professors – folks like Dr. Bob Hanny, Dr. James Stronge, Dr. Tom Ward, and of course, Dr. Joyce VT-B – and our incredible dean, Dr. Ginnie McLaughlin, are absolutely top shelf scholars and amazing teachers, guides, and mentors.  My colleagues have gone on to do great things at other colleges, in state systems, and in curriculum and instructional design for gifted kids. 

People make a program.  William and Mary’s people made the program memorable.

 What advice would you give to someone who is considering pursuing a doctorate related to gifted education?

 The designation of the doctorate as a “terminal degree” is not accidental.  It will kill you if you’re not prepared!  So how do you prepare?  Allow a survivor to suggest a few things.

  1. Understand the field.  It sounds really cool, being in gifted education, but unless you realize that we are not always embraced with great admiration and affection, you could be in for a shocker.  Remember that gifted ed is chronically underfunded, and typically underrepresented.  Professionals in the field are sometimes dismissed as “extraneous” by mainstream and special educators.  So be realistic:  Though the field is vitally important, life in it is not always going to be pleasant or enjoyable.  There will be days when you just want to walk away.  It’s all balanced by the great days when you actually make progress, of course, but that doesn’t help when you’re banging your head against the wall.

  2. Choose your school with great care.  Be sure that there’s a very close match between you and where you want to earn your degree.  Don’t just look for “big names” in the field, or the prestige of the program.  Look at core issues.  How comfortable are you with the school’s conceptual framework and how it plays out in day-to-day practice?  Can you embrace the educational philosophy and practices the school espouses?   Is your focus the same as that of the school?  Will the degree you intend to pursue allow you to do the work you want to do?  Can you afford the full investment in the program?  All of these are so important.

  3. Be sure that you’re ready to fully engage once you start.  Seriously, be sure that you’ve got your financial ducks in a row, that you can allocate adequate time to really get in the process (Think travel $$$ -- always allow double what you think you need), and that your support systems are in place.  If you’re in a relationship, be sure that your partner is 110% behind you, because you’re going to need that support and encouragement, especially when you hit the potholes on the road to the doctorate.  And finally, remember your family!  (Yes, there will be days when you may forget them!)

  4. Engage with abandon.  If you can’t get into your doctoral studies and give everything you have in you to the process, get out now.  There’s no value in wasting your time and money on something you’ll never finish.

 Other comments:

 Earning a doctorate is – for better or for worse – a life-changing event.  You will never be the same again.  So engage with care, and once you have, go for it with everything you’ve got in you. 

Of course, being at a phenomenal place like William and Mary’s CFGE makes that a whole bunch easier.  I will always be indebted to the people and the program there.  Be sure to check it out if you’re thinking of a Master’s or Doctoral degree.  You won’t regret it.