Award Winning Lavaca GT Coordinator Publishes First Book

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Lavaca K-12 gifted and talented coordinator Krista Hinton has had a productive semester. The UA Little Rock graduate student just published her first children’s book and received an award for her work in creating an exceptional curriculum unit for gifted and talented education.

The book, inspired by her grandfather, was a lifelong dream of Hinton’s. Grandpa’s Good News Garage,” was published by Lighthouse Publishing in March. The book for children ages 3-8 tells the story of a grandfather who takes old and worn out objects that others consider as useless and transforms them into something new.

“I wrote this book in honor of my own grandfather. He was my best friend and mentor,” Hinton said. “His example of a life well lived through faithfulness to God, love of his family, and dedication to work made me the person I am today. He also made me a scooter when I was a kid out of old and useless objects. In the story, the grandfather is building a scooter.”

Hinton’s journey to become an author is 14 years in the making. “I wrote the book 14 years ago and have worked to get it published off and on during the years since I wrote it,” Hinton said. “I submitted, received a lot of rejections, and revised many times before it was accepted by a publisher. It took a lot of perseverance and dedication to the process. Having a book published was a lifelong dream, and I am so thrilled for it to be a reality.”

While Hinton is still enjoying her recent success as a published author, this is just the first in what the educator hopes will become a plentiful series of children’s books. “I do have plans for more books in the future and have several manuscripts already completed,” she said. “I am looking forward to summer break so that I can devote time to getting my manuscripts to publishers.”In addition to her first book, Hinton recently received the 2021 Curriculum Award from Arkansans for Gifted Talented Education. The award highlights the importance of differentiated curriculum and recognizes outstanding curriculum units.

This published author and UALR student was also honored for her work in creating in creating an exceptional curriculum unit for gifted and talented education. The K-12 gifted and talented coordinator for Lavaca School District received an AGATE Curriculum Award.

The AGATE Curriculum Award highlights the importance of differentiated curriculum and recognizes outstanding curriculum units. An award of $500 is presented to the educator’s gifted and talented program.

“The AGATE Curriculum Award, to me, is the pinnacle of academic achievement,” Hinton said. “To be recognized on a state level for an original unit is an honor that very few teachers have the privilege to experience. The award will always hold a special place in my heart.”  

Hinton developed her unit as part of the Arkansas Declaration of Learning program, a partnership between the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms in Washington, D.C. and the Arkansas Department of Education. The program works collaboratively with Arkansas teachers and school librarians teaching 7th-12th grade students in the fields of art, English language arts, and social studies to develop innovative curricula that bring history to life and share the importance of civic engagement with students.

Hinton was given the opportunity to select objects for her unit from the Arkansas Central Library System, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Diplomatic Reception Rooms.

“All created units will be distributed nationwide,” Hinton said. “Students all across the country will have the opportunity to learn about my unit and the historical objects I selected as well as learn about Arkansas’s rich history and contributions to the narrative of our country. The goal of the program and my unit was to develop lessons that would teach students the value of objects from our nation’s historical past and create civic engagement opportunities that promoted diplomacy skills and civic responsibility.”

Hinton’s curriculum unit for seventh- and eighth-grade students in the Gifted Education Program took an in-depth look at the essential question, “In what ways does the term community conceal as much as it reveals about society?” The unit of study helps students understand empathy and compassion for their community members and society as a whole.

Students utilized artistic impression to analyze how social media platforms have influenced the idea of community and how those influences have impacted attitudes towards age and gender. They also demonstrated understanding by creating civic-engagement projects that identify, describe, and articulate what the term community means to their lives and the lives of those around them. Additionally, they expressed how negativity in social media affected feelings and attitudes.

“The ultimate goal of the unit is to provide students with the tools necessary to positively impact their home lives, classroom communities, and the district as a whole, as well as the community at large,” said Dr. Tim Smithey, director of gifted and talented education at Springdale Public Schools and AGATE Awards chair.

The participating students also used surveys and data to assess the success of the project. In addition, the students made suggestions to enhance future learning on the topic.

Due to the efforts of the students, Lavaca School District added two new programs to the Gifted Education Program. The “Word Worms” program pairs kindergarten students with third- and fourth-grade students to improve reading skills. Meanwhile, in the “Uplifters” program, seventh- and eighth-grade students spend one day a week working with students in the district’s Special Education Program to promote social skills and positive interactions.

“My most memorable experience from the unit was watching the students brainstorm ways that they could affect changes within their school that would have a permanent impact on the Gifted and Talented program and then implement their ideas,” Hinton said. “My desire for the lessons was to empower students to make a difference where they can and understand that their voices matter to all around them.”

Hinton is also looking forward to implementing the final part of the unit that had to be postponed due to COVID-19. In “The Positivity Project,” students will create a social media campaign and poster project to encourage people to take a pledge to only post positive and encouraging comments, pictures, ideas, and quotes across all forms of social media they use. The district also plans to hold a social media fair that would include discussions on the safe use of social media, mentoring, and a gaming tournament.

“I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to be taught by the instructors from the Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education at UA Little Rock,” Hinton said. “Through the guidance of Dr. Ann Robinson and Dr. Christine Deitz, I have refined my teaching skills, learned new teaching techniques, and gained a deeper appreciation for the amazing privilege it is to be a teacher of gifted and talented students.”

Hinton’s professors at UA Little Rock agree that Hinton has a bright future ahead of her.“She is a natural leader in the field of gifted education,” said Deitz, assistant director of the Jodie Mahony Center. “Krista was elected to the AGATE Nominations Committee. Beginning July 1, Krista will assist the board in spotting leadership talent among Arkansas’s educators. As she is finishing her GT licensure with UA Little Rock, she is beginning her National Board Teacher Certification in Exceptional Needs/Gifted. I’m looking forward to working with her as she seeks this national credential.”

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Tammy Teague

Tammy Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; 20+ years experience in the news.

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