By Kim Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sandy Katkov works with a unique group of students at Scenic Heights Elementary in Minnetonka who have tested exceptionally gifted.

The students’ abilities to learn and absorb can be intimidating, for any teacher. Katkov steps up to that challenge every day, which makes her this week’s Excellent Educator.

“They have an IQ of approximately 140 or higher, a gifted child normally has an IQ of 130 or higher,” principal Joe Wacker said.

The fourth- and fifth-graders are at risk of not being challenged enough, unless they have a gifted teacher.

“She’s a great advocate for them and a lot of times these students don’t have an advocate,” he said.

Katkov’s goal is to tap into their highest potential.

“Working with gifted students and their IQs are up there and they ask a question, they want an answer, so I have to be on my feet to know I might not know an answer but I can ask a question to help guide and lead them to finding an answer,” Katkov said.

Right now the 9- and 10-year-olds are busy working on projects they’ve designed themselves.

“They are in the imagination stage,” she said. “We have someone who is printing a model of their idea on a 3D printer. We have two kids trying to capture energy through magnets.”

But she says there are skills that often don’t come naturally to the students — social and emotional skills — that she can teach them.

“They come in here thinking the more they yell, the louder they yell, the more they’re going to be heard. And they have to practice managing that impulsivity, they have to practicing listening to others, listening with empathy for others and they go off to middle school I think as leaders,” she said.

While she prepares these gifted students for the world, her world is fulfilled right in that classroom.

“I love what I do,” she said. “I wake up every morning, these kids bring joy to my life, I learn from them.”

The navigators program that she teaches has been around for eight years and she’s been with it since the beginning. It’s a program in high demand; parents come from other states to enroll students because there aren’t many options for the exceptionally gifted.

The program allows for students to not have to skip grades and remain with their peers because their peers are also gifted.


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