Every morning, students from each Deer Valley Unified School District neighborhood head to one of 41 schools that offer a range of gifted education services. But students from one of the district’s schools get something slightly different — the entire continuum of gifted services beginning in preschool.
The Gifted Academy at Las Brisas offers the district’s only gifted preschool program. Also, regardless of gifted identification, gifted-trained Las Brisas educators teach all students gifted instructional strategies daily, from pre-K through sixth grade. The gifted instructional strategies focus on choice and exploration and are highly differentiated based on readiness, content, and learning outcome.
“Many parents with a gifted preschooler find it awkward and challenging to find a program that will meet their child’s academic needs, particularly when they already know how to read because so much of early childhood is preparing to read,” says Las Brisas Elementary School Principal Mara Kurasch. “As a mom of gifted kids, I always think about what my children needed when they were young.”
“Gifted instructional strategies benefit most learners,” Kurasch continues. “Las Brisas brings those instructional practices into classrooms for all students to benefit.”
Kurasch’s experience was the catalyst behind the Gifted Academy at Las Brisas. “As an educator, it opened my eyes to some shifts that needed to occur,” she says.
Bright Beginnings and Beyond
The Gifted Academy at Las Brisas starts with the Bright Beginnings program, servicing gifted-identified students from preschool through second grade. So, it gives the youngest students a solid and enriching beginning for their learning journey.
Students are re-assessed at the end of second grade to see what gifted programming they qualify for in third grade and above. Gifted programs in third grade and above may include Gifted Cluster Grouping, SAGE Content Placement, Spark Enrichment, Gifted Cohort, Walk-Up to Math, or Renaissance Highly Gifted and Global Studies placement. Math acceleration, pull-out enrichment, and gifted homeroom placement are also offered.
“We know gifted students have a vast array of different needs, and often they need a specialized program with a structure that also gives them opportunities to learn independently and nurtures their social skills,” Kurasch says.
Qualifying third through sixth-grade students attend the district’s Renaissance Highly Gifted and Global Studies Program at Las Brisas and continue to Hillcrest Middle School, which is expanding for seventh and eighth grades. This self-contained program offers an immersive project and problem-based environment focusing on global studies and languages.
“We use clustering, cohorts, and self-contained programming for highly gifted students because we know the value of community,” Kurasch says. “It’s important that all students, even those in our highly gifted academy, are with their general education peers for specials, lunch, and recess because social interaction is crucial.”
All students can access STEAM, PE, music, and art through their special-areas rotation.
“We are child-centered. We are flexible. We understand. We know that kids need something different. And we welcome families to come and check us out,” says Kurasch. “We hope parents sign up for gifted tours to see if Las Brisas is where their child can flourish. Many students here love coming to school. Everybody is kind, and there is a strong sense of community. Las Brisas is a hidden gem, and it has a warm, welcoming environment where we do things a little bit differently because we know that our students need something different.”
On Wed., April 5, Las Brisas will host a Gifted Preview Night from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. To learn more and register online, visit dvusd.org/lasbrisas.