Four educators in the North Little Rock School District recently earned awards related to their specialties in assisted children considered gifted or talented.

The popular acronym used for the curriculum is AGATE, which refers to the Arkansans for Talented and Gifted Education.

The Educator Recognition Award was earned by Mary Lou Ferguson, while the Curriculum Award was bestowed upon Amanda Ware and Deborah Jeter.

A Leadership project award was given to Amanda Ware and Deborah Jeter. where students found ways to serve the community. In addition, an AGATE grant for $5,000 was given to the district to help cross district boundaries and promote Summer Quest at the secondary level with Dunbar Middle School. According to the district’s Gifted and Talented Facilitator Bonnie Dale Curlin, in 2011, the district received the Act 56 award from AGATE in recognition of its program, in part because the district has a Gifted and Talented seminar at the middle school level and the International Baccalaureate (IB) programs at North Little Rock High School.

"We can reapply for ACT 56 every three years, so I chose to apply this year for the AGATE Grant for our Summer Quest program," said Curlin. "Gifted students select two classes and attend for two weeks in the summer. We want students on free and reduced lunch to be able to attend, and this grant will cross district boundaries to promote the secondary component of the program at Dunbar Middle School and allow students to attend who might not otherwise be able to afford it."

The teacher who won the educator award last year won the curriculum award this year with her co-teacher. They took leadership a step beyond just studying about leaders.

"Students became leaders. We held a leadership symposium in 2012, and local leaders spoke about what they do as leaders. Our keynote speaker, Officer Tommy Norman, called for students to be leaders in their community, and students at Indian Hills Elementary took the challenge."

One turned a lemon-aid stand into a hot chocolate stand as the weather became colder and donated his money to the Alzheimer’s Association. Another who had benefited from "Coat for Kids," decided to pay them back by collecting over 100 coats to donate.

"When electricity went out in his neighborhood, another, who is ‘twice exceptional’ and finds eye contact and empathy with others difficult, collected firewood and delivered it to his elderly neighbors," she said. He returned numerous times with firewood until electricity was restored.

Another volunteered at the animal shelter, and the school is still collecting newspapers and old blankets to donate, so her influential leadership lingers even after she moved to middle school, said Curlin.

"Our program is also special because our GT teachers, known as "Quest" at elementary work so well together," according to Curlin. "They meet once a month and make decisions regarding curriculum, discuss changes, and discuss how to meet the needs of our students and how to help our classroom teachers."

Curlin added, "We are proud to meet the needs of our gifted students in the district. As coordinator for the program, I do all I can to work with other district administrators, building principals, classroom teachers, parents and community members, and students. Our ultimate goal is to develop within the individual a desire for excellence, a sense of responsibility to self and society, and a world-class educated graduate."