For Janet Hurwitz, gifted education is not only a career but a passion. It's that passion that led to Hurwtiz being named the 2013 Outstanding Educator by the state Association for Gifted Education (PAGE) recently.
"I was completely shocked," Hurwitz said about receiving the news that she had won the award. "... I never imagined that I'd be nominated, let alone win."
Hurwitz, who previously was the gifted adviser for students in grades seven through 12 but now only works with seniors, was honored during the association's annual conference. She said she enjoyed the conference, which included workshops and speakers, because she was around others who were passionate about the same topic as her.
"It was really wonderful to be surrounded by people that are passionate about gifted education," she said.
And although she was shocked to be considered for the honor, she believes it was mostly her work in resurrecting the state Governor's School for the Sciences that made her a stronger candidate. The school, which was part of the state Governor's Schools of Excellence, gave high-achieving students the opportunity to participate in an intense summer program cost-free.
The program fell victim to budget cuts in 2009.
But through Hurwitz, who had a son attend the school, and alumni, a non-profit organization was formed and the school will be operating again this summer. It also was this group of alumni that nominated Hurwitz for the award.
The non-profit will need to secure and match the state's funding each year for the program to continue. Hurwitz said there were 550 applicants for this summer, and 60 were accepted free of charge maintaining the integrity of the program.
Hurwitz's passion for gifted education began with her sons, she said, as she needed to learn about gifted education in order to help them.
She learned that gifted students must continuously be challenged in order to reach their potential. By leaving them to do the same work as the rest of the class when they already have mastered it is doing a disservice to the gifted students, she said.
"People just assume that if someone's gifted, they'll be fine and don't worry about it. But gifted children need to be challenged and nurtured in order to thrive," Hurwitz said.
Sometimes gifted students in high school just need an advanced placement class, but, Hurwitz said, all cases are different and they may need extra programming.
"They need to be exposed to cultural events and career possibilities they may never have considered," she said. "Many kids don't know what the possibilities are. They need to learn about summer programs they can participate in."
Another misconception of gifted education is that students are advanced in all parts of their life. Hurwitz said sometimes it can be one aspect or subject in school that they are more gifted in.
And as she continues in her work, Hurwitz hopes to see local schools sharing and working together when teaching gifted students. Overall, she wants gifted students to be challenged and accepted for who they are.
"The only thing we can do is make sure these kids are challenged so they develop the ability to follow their passions throughout their lives because that's what makes them successful," she said.