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Advocate for the Gifted Student

Sara HackenWhat do you do if your family moves to a new area, looks for gifted/ talented programs, and finds none? If you’re Sara Hacken, you go back to the university to earn a master’s degree in educational administration, add a teaching credential and a gifted/talented endorsement, and finally volunteer to be an intern in your children’s school district.

“People can complain, but you need to do something positive. Nothing positive comes from complaining,” Sara says. “The district was willing to listen to my concerns and willing to try new programs, and that made the difference.”

Sara was given a small desk, a filing cabinet, and time to research what advanced students need if they are to be challenged and involved in their learning. She wanted to make sure that all students would receive at least a year’s growth each school year.

Her efforts led to the formation of an elementary magnet school for the gifted. “When students of like ability are grouped, they are challenged, sometimes for the first time. They can be who they are. It’s a safe haven for these students,” Sara explains.

For the last 25 years, Sara’s enthusiastic efforts have benefited thousands of students and teachers. She has taught at three elementary magnet sites, directed special learning activities like Bright Ideas or History Fair, instructed teachers earning their gifted endorsement through the BYU–Public School Partnership program, and started a gifted program at the junior high level. At present she teaches seventh- and eighth-grade students, having earned her English and history endorsements.

Sara’s goal has been to meet the needs of all children. Many services and ideas offered to the gifted have been adopted into the general curriculum.

Only one of Sara’s four children was able to benefit from her mother’s efforts, but currently one of her grandsons is in her junior high class, and teaching him has been rewarding.

In the fall of 2009, the first Sara Hacken Service Award was announced by her district to recognize Sara’s work. It was presented to her with thanks for the years she dedicated to building the gifted program. Subsequently, this award will be given annually to recognize outstanding teachers in the district who have contributed to and advanced the gifted program.

Sara concludes, “I have had such an interesting career. I wouldn’t change anything about it.”