Quick Look

  • M.A. and Gifted Education Specialty Endorsement
  • Only university in Washington with a degree in gifted education
  • Complete your specialty endorsement in one year
  • Online and on-campus options
  • Courses and institutes for professional development
Apply Online

About Us

Whitworth University
School of Education
Center for Gifted Education
300 W. Hawthorne Road
Spokane, WA 99251

Margo Long Chair in Gifted Education, Jann Leppien, Ph.D.

Specialty Endorsement and Program Coordinator, Sharon Page

For information, contact the Whitworth Graduate Admissions Office:
509.777.3222 │ gradadmissions@whitworth.edu

  • Meet Us

    Jann Leppien, Ph.D.

    Jann Leppien is the inaugural holder of Whitworth University’s Margo Long Chair in Gifted Education. Before joining the faculty at Whitworth, Leppien taught at the University of Great Falls, in Great Falls, Mont. She has also worked as a research assistant for The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT),,and she is co-author of The Multiple Menu Model: A Practical Guide for Developing Curriculum, and The Parallel Curriculum: A Design to Develop High Potential and Challenge High-Ability Students. Her areas of expertise include curriculum and instruction, assessment and learning, educational research, teaching thinking skills, and program development. Leppien presents nationally and internationally and consults with school districts around the nation. Currently, she teaches New Directions in Gifted Education, Strategies and Instructional Models for Challenging Bright Students, and Improving the Teaching of Thinking. Leppien has been an instructor of gifted education colleges and universities in Montana, Washington, Louisiana, Minnesota, Alaska, Connecticut, and Idaho.

    Kathryn Picanco, Ed.D.

    Kathryn Picanco is an experienced classroom teacher, district coordinator, consultant and instructor in the areas of differentiation and gifted education. A Spokane native, Picanco earned her B.A. from Santa Clara University; she holds both an M.Ed. in elementary education and an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction from Washington State University. She taught fourth and fifth grades prior to becoming the district differentiation specialist and gifted and talented education coordinator for the Saratoga Union School District, in Saratoga, Calif. Picanco regularly taught coursework in the field of gifted education at the University of Santa Cruz Extension and at Santa Clara University before moving back to the Spokane area and joining the Whitworth faculty. Picanco teaches New Directions in Gifted Education, Strategies and Models for Challenging Bright Students, Differentiating Instruction for Highly Capable Students, and Exceptional Learners and Differentiated Instruction. Picanco’s areas of research interest include differentiated instruction, environmental and sustainability education, and co-teaching in the student-teaching internship.

    Gail Hanninen, Ed.D.

    Gail Hanninen’s background includes educational administration and special education, with specializations in learning disabilities, gifted students, and serious behavior disorders. She currently works as an educational consultant in the area of gifted education and program reviews. At Whitworth she has taught courses such as Teaching in the Mixed-Ability Classroom, Twice-Exceptional Students, and Nature and Needs of the Gifted Learner. Hanninen’s doctoral dissertation studied "The Effects of the Hilda Taba Teaching Strategies on Creative and Critical Thinking."

    Carol Lewis

    For the past 11 years, Carol Lewis has worked as a middle-school classroom teacher for language arts and social studies, as well as for gifted education enrichment programs, in both Port Angeles and Cheney, Wash. She spent three years as an instructional coach responsible for the implementation of an inclusion model for elementary highly capable students in the Cheney School District. After obtaining her administrative certification, she served as Cheney’s district assessment and humanities curriculum coordinator. She recently became the principal of Betz Elementary, in Cheney. Lewis earned her undergraduate degree in secondary English education from Eastern Washington University, which also awarded her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in gifted education.

    Luanne Williams

    Luanne Williams co-instructs the Jan Term class New Directions in Gifted Education. She has also taught Teaching the Gifted Underachiever and Developing Curriculum. Prior to that, Williams worked on the Washington State Highly Capable Working Group to make recommendations to the legislature on gifted education in basic education. She earned both her master’s, with an emphasis in gifted, and her specialty endorsement at Whitworth. She currently works at Mountainside Middle School, in the Mead School District, where she teaches math to eighth graders. Williams spent a number of years teaching in extremely high-achieving private schools in California.

  • School of Education Mission & Conceptual Framework

    The mission of the School of Education is to prepare educators of mind and heart who are scholars, community members, effective practitioners, visionary leaders, and guardians. The School of Education provides opportunities to integrate theory and practice in diverse settings through the study of established and emerging content as well as through pedagogical and professional knowledge. Whitworth University prepares educators to have a positive impact on the learning and development of those whom they are called to serve.


    Educators of mind and heart possess current knowledge of the content areas in which they work, understand the connections among disciplines, use tools of inquiry, and demonstrate an attitude of ongoing learning as existing fields of knowledge continue to evolve and grow. Educators of mind and heart strengthen their existing knowledge base through continuous intellectual and scholarly growth based on current research, the study of their own practice, the analysis of data collected and the application of data to the solution of problems in their respective fields of study.

    Community Members

    Educators of mind and heart develop and sustain intentionally collaborative and interdependent relationships among teachers, students and their families, counselors, administrators, and other community members. Educators of mind and heart understand their roles as professional colleagues in the school, community and professional organizations. They actively help to shape the culture of classrooms and schools to reflect the values of our democratic society. They model professional behaviors appropriate for those entrusted with educating today’s children and young people.

    Effective Practitioners

    Educators of mind and heart are prepared to analyze situations, set goals, plan and monitor actions, assess outcomes, and reflect on their professional thinking and decision making. They are committed to culturally responsive and relevant practices that engage students and are purposeful in making a positive impact on their students’ learning. They demonstrate proficiency in the selection and differentiation of materials, strategies, and assessment practices that are appropriate for the diversity of students and the educational contexts in which they serve. They use formative and summative data as evidence for decision making. They are competent in using technology and other 21st century skills in the educational setting to improve their own practice and the learning of their students.

    Visionary Leaders

    Educators of mind and heart have a vision. They articulate a personal philosophy of education that includes a belief in the worth and ability of each human being that provides a framework guiding personal and professional decision making and development. The educators’ practices are intentionally aligned with this vision for the benefit of members of their learning communities. Educators of mind and heart model transformational and servant leadership in their learning communities and in their contributions to society.


    Educators of mind and heart act as advocates for children and youth, demonstrating a sincere and equitable commitment to the success of all, paying attention to the role that diversity, including gender, ability, ethnicity, race, culture, religion or socio-economic status brings to learning and the community. Educators understand and respect the inter-connected, global nature of society and encourage sustainable practices designed to preserve our world for future generations. In the Christian tradition of servant leadership, educators serve humankind and seek opportunities to assist, encourage, and support all those under their care in a manner that leads to transformation in the lives of their students.