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2022 Candidate Survey Results

Our 2022 Candidate Survey Results are in – we contacted the candidates in all of the legislative districts in Arizona to hear their thoughts on Gifted and Talented Education in our state. Here are their responses to our short survey!

To find your district(s): azredistricting.org/districtlocator
To find your legislators once you know your districtwww.azleg.gov/memberroster/


Sandra Clark

Photo of Sandra Clark

House Candidate (D)
School District:
Benson, Vail
Legislative District: 19
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

No

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

Gifted education responds to students’ individual exceptional talents qualifying a student in a bracket outside of what is considered “appropriate” or “normal”. In my view these kids require a highly individualized approach to ensure they are able to reach and develop their full potential

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

Don Kissinger

Photo of Don Kissinger

House Candidate (D)
School District:
Deer Valley, Peoria, Washington Elementary
Legislative District: 27
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

My son is particularly skilled in math and through most of elementary school was put in math classes two grades ahead. That included sending him and a couple others up to the high school for math classes when they were in 7th and 8th grade. This worked very well for him. My grandsons have also been placed in a gifted program through testing but I am less familiar with the details of the program they are in.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

I’m not really fond of the term “gifted”. I’m not sure what term would be better but that one can tend to make kids feel a little too self important and sometimes drive a wedge between them and their peers.


Jesus Lugo, Jr.

Photo of Jesus Lugo, Jr

House Candidate (D)
School District: 
Crane, Avondale, Deer Valley, Yuma
Legislative District: 23
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.
AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

Mitzi Epstein

Photo of Mitzi Epstein

Senate Candidate (D)
School District: 
Chandler, Kyrene, Mesa
Legislative District: 12
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

Gifted students need to know, “Why?” “Why does that long division algorithm work?” “Why do we learn about only 3 primary colors?” With that foundational knowledge, they will work out answers to a thousand more questions. They prefer to work out answers rather than memorize answers. They want to learn deeply in some topics, and sometimes they have no interest at all in other topics. A great teacher for gifted kids is flexible to present the learning topics in a variety of ways. A great gifted teacher has lots of patience for the endless questions, and revels in helping students find the answers.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

Thank you for advocating for GAT students! It’s not good enough to just push them ahead a grade or two. They will thrive and reach their full potential when their talents and idiosyncrasies are equally appreciated and challenged.


David Raymer

Photo of David Raymer

Senate Candidate (D)
School District: 
Dysart, Litchfield Elementary, Peoria
Legislative District: 29
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

identifying and encouraging academically advanced students.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

I would support this if it were in the context of public schooling.


Neal Carter

Photo of Neal Carter

House Candidate (R)
School District: 
Chandler, Florence, Higley, Queen Creek
Legislative District: 15
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

Gifted students need to be challenged at their level.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

James (Jim) Chaston

Photo of Jim Chaston

House Candidate (R)
School District: 
Chandler, Kyrene, Mesa
Legislative District: 12
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

My experience is that the gifted program is severely underfunded and underutilized. There is a lack of resources and teachers are not given the resoucres to properly dedicate the time to these students. I and my children were all gifted and underserved.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

We need to provide resources for these children and not focus on the lowest common denominator. All levels need support and resources.


Laura Terech

Photo of Laura Terech

House Candidate (D)
School District: 
Creighton Elementary, Paradise Valley
Legislative District: 4
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

Gifted education is education for students who have unique learning styles or may be above grade level and need more of a challenge This may take the form of a student in one grade taking classes that correspond with another grade i.e. a fourth grader taking fifth grade math. In the classroom, I worked with these students to create more opportunities for independent projects and group-based exploration studies.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

As a former educator, I know how important it is to meet the needs of every student in each classroom.


Cynthia (Cindy) Hans

Photo of Cindy Hans

Senate Candidate (D)
School District: 
Chandler
Legislative District: 13
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

I spent 6-8th grade in a magnet program in Indiana for self-contained gifted. I’m still in contact with my former classmates. In Arizona, two of my three children were in gifted “pull out” programs. Additionally, I enrolled my children in supplemental enrichment programs that were offered at ASU in the summer. The middle schools where I worked in Scottsdale School District also offered gifted classes. Gifted education goes beyond “just give them more work to do if they get done early.” Giftedness can mean that the student needs more kinesthetic activities, putting their creative minds into more physical projects; it can mean they grasp advanced concepts quicker and with insight that is beyond their classmates; it can mean that there is a difference between their intellectual capacity and their emotional maturity; giftedness isn’t necessarily expressed academically: it can be performance or emotionally connectedness; and giftedness can be all of those things and it doesn’t preclude having a learning disability (twice exceptional students). Gifted specialists can offer opportunities that goes beyond enriching curriculum and also address the frustrations that some gift students feel when they are bored or don’t feel seen.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

Patricia (Patty) Contreras

Photo of Patty Contreras

House Candidate (D)
School District: 
Chandler, Kyrene, Mesa
Legislative District: 12
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

Gifted students appreciate having additional resources and opportunities in their school. I know this from personal experience. I was identified as a gifted student in junior high and high school. I had opportunities to expand my knowledge and explore different areas of interest in gifted classes. Other students I had class with expressed having been bored in their regular classes, and although some of them were gifted, they did not do well in class because of this boredom. Gifted classes gave them an opportunity to learn and thrive.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

I am still in contact with my high school gifted class instructor. I appreciate her efforts to engage and provide enhanced educational opportunities for me and my fellow classmates. I support gifted programs in our public schools.


Brandy Reese

Photo of Brandy Reese

House Candidate (D)
School District: 
Chandler, Higley
Legislative District: 14
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

Gifted education is as necessarily important as special education. Students’ educational needs and abilities fall within a bell curve distribution, with the majority in the middle who are appropriately educated in a typical school/educational setting. There are two populations of students on either end of the bell curve distribution; the gifted students and the special education students. Each has their own educational needs and requirements in order to help them achieve their maximum potential. Gifted students need to have additional enrichment and accelerated programs to not only help them succeed, but to keep them engaged. Engaged students are far less likely to participate in destructive behaviors and lead more productive and satisfying lives. This is obviously a benefit to us all.

Gifted and talented students and those with above average abilities need a different learning model and environment than typical peers. Just as students with special needs flourish when their unique learning requirements are met, so do high performing students. Meeting these needs with specialized programs is not just advantageous to the student, but to society as a whole. We create more fulfilled citizens who are productive members of the community when we provide challenging environments for all students to thrive.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

As a middle school child, I was identified as a candidate for gifted and talented coursework and completed a series of tests in order to qualify for the gifted and talented program in my school district. Unfortunately, my family and I moved out of that school district and into a more rural area where such programs didn’t exist. Because of the wisdom and hard work of some dedicated educators and lawmakers, the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics was established. I am a graduate of the inaugural class. Because of this exceptional education I received, I was able to qualify for academic scholarships that have helped me leave behind my childhood poverty. I am grateful for and appreciate the value such education grants the students who receive it.


Rachel Jones

Photo of Rachel Jones

House Candidate (R)
School District: 
Amphitheatre, Flowing Wells, Tanque Verde, Vail
Legislative District: 17
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

No

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

I’m not very familiar with it at all.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

Julie Willoughby

Photo of Julie Willoughby

House Candidate (R)
School District: Chandler
Legislative District: 13
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

No

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.
AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

I would need to know more about the program and the funding. I take the budget serious and would need to learn more about specifics.


Nancy Barto

Photo of Nancy Barto

Senate Candidate (R)
School District: 
Creighton
Legislative District: 4
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

Every student is unique and education opportunities should accommodate their need for differentiated education to keep them motivated and learning so they have an opportunity to reach their potential.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

Thank you for all you do to serve students and their parents.


Christine Marsh

Photo of Christine Marsh

Senate Candidate (D)
School District: 
Creighton Elementary, Paradise Valley
Legislative District: 4
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

I currently teach the gifted classes for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade at my school in SUSD.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

Judy Schwiebert

Photo of Judy Schwiebert

House Candidate (D)
School District: 
Deer Valley, Paradise Valley, Washington Elementary
Legislative District: 2
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

In my experience, gifted education is education for students who need a greater challenge than what is provided in their traditional classrooms. It can take the form of college classes (AP, dual enrollment, IB) for high school students or an 8th grader taking high school algebra.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

Brian Radford

Photo of Brian Radford

House Candidate (D)
School District: 
Amphitheatre, Flowing Wells, Tanque Verde, Vail
Legislative District: 17
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

I’ve seen students who excel at reading or math and were one or two grade levels above their peers.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

Jennifer Pawlik

Photo of Jennifer Pawlik

House Candidate (D)
School District: 
Chandler
Legislative District: 13
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

My sisters are gifted as are my daughters. Additionally, I have worked with many gifted children when I was an elementary school teacher.
Gifted people are brilliant; many are very creative as well. They. Often have a tremendous vocabulary and an incredible curiosity about the world. They can be very disorganized, and they may be “twice-exceptional,” meaning they also have a learning disability.


It’s important to recognize the uniqueness each child brings to the classroom and to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of each child. A gifted child should NOT be expected to teach/work with struggling classmates. They should NOT be sent off to work independently. Gifted child require attention and instruction, like any other child, albeit different instruction. I truly consider giftedness as a part of special education. This is why it was important to me to secure on-going funding through a Group B gifted weight.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

I am happy to be the sponsor of the bill if I am re-elected. It is important that children from all over Arizona have the opportunity to be screened for giftedness. Once they are identified, they need access to trained teachers and programs specially designed for gifted learners.


Jeanne Casteen

Photo of Jeanne Casteen

Senate Candidate (D)
School District: 
Deer Valley, Paradise Valley, Washington Elementary
Legislative District: 2
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

Gifted education is education that is supposed to provide a greater challenge for students who may not be challenged enough in their normal classes or to allow them to take college classes in high school.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

David Sandoval

Photo of David Sandoval

Senate Candidate (D)
School District:
Deer Valley, Dysart, Peoria
Legislative District: 28
Campaign Website

Gifted students benefit most from teachers who are educated in gifted foundations and in gifted pedagogy, as well as teachers and counselors who are trained in responding to their unique social and emotional needs. Have you had personal experience with a gifted student? (Yourself, a relative or a friend?)

Yes

Please give a brief explanation of your understanding of gifted education, based on your experience.

I am in my third term as the President of the Peoria Unified School District and prioritize face-to-face engagement with our students. I am proud of what we are doing to lift up our gifted students through annual academic awards, wrap-around services and resources, programming, robust curriculum and gifted pedagogy across all grade levels. Peoria Unified is the fourth largest school district in the state of Arizona and is very intentional about meeting students where they are at and challenging them…ensuring student success.

AZ Statute ARS §15-779 was last fully funded prior to the Great Recession. Will you support the continuation of the $850K investment for universal screening and increasing the new “G” weight?

Yes

Any Additional Comments You Would Like to Add?

I am grateful for this opportunity to highlight my support for our gifted students. Education is one thing that we must get right. I will continuing to ensure that our gifted students are provided with appropriate academic course offerings and services, and educational programming that is commensurate with their academic abilities and potential. Thank you


Want to get involved?

Are you part of the Community Action Network (CAN)?

The Community Action Network is part of a coalition of citizens organized through AAGT with the purpose of advocating for equitable gifted education in Arizona. These citizens have signed on to act on behalf of gifted students by speaking up through attendance at local and state level meetings and hearings, writing letters, emails and making phone calls and in-person visits to educate policy makers and elected officials about gifted students and their learning differences as well as how to accommodate those differences in curriculum and instruction and other programs and services.
AAGT provides names, addresses, background information and data about an issue to make an impactful statement in the message.  Each message also contains the opportunity for the author to share a personal story of how the action being requested will impact a particular student or group of students.
During the Legislative session, CAN members receive Action Alerts to make them aware of an opportunity to give voice to a discussion being held regarding gifted legislation at a committee hearing in the House or Senate.

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