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Gifted Education Institutes

Experience on-campus institutes that will help you grow as a professional and learn to address contemporary issues in gifted education. 

Register at If you have questions about the registration process or for more information, please contact the Center for Gifted Education at 509.777.3226 or

We are currently planning our next institute; please check back soon for updates. Session topics and presenter information from our last institute are available below.

After attending Whitworth's Institute on Differentiation last summer, I decided almost immediately that Whitworth was the best place to continue my education. The depth of knowledge, professionalism, and caring communication I saw from everyone I met there made Whitworth my clear decision.

Nick Castilleja, M.A.T., Gifted & Talented

Taking Beautiful Risks: Having the Courage to Teach and Learn Creatively

At a time when creativity is in higher demand than ever before, how do we "create spaces" for young people in our schools to engage in taking beautiful risks that strike a balance between meeting curricular goals and, at the same time, provide students opportunities to develop and express their understanding of academic content in new and meaningful ways? Come join us as we explore slight changes in our teaching and learning practices that can have a big impact on learning as we design complex challenges that put academic learning to creative use in and beyond the classroom.


  • Dates: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019
  • Time: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
  • Location: Whitworth University, 300 W. Hawthorne Road, Spokane, WA 99251
  • Cost: $175 per person (includes lunch). 


9-9:15 a.m. Welcome
9:15-10:30 a.m.  

Keynote Presentation

Taking Beautiful Risks in Education - Ron Beghetto, Ph.D.

10:30-10:45 a.m.  Break
10:45 a.m.-noon

Keynote Presentation (continued)

Taking Beautiful Risks in Education - Ron Beghetto, Ph.D.

noon-12:45 p.m.  Lunch Break
12:45-2 p.m.  Session One (choose one to attend)
  1. Taking Beautiful Risks: A Deeper Dive – Ron Beghetto, Ph.D.
  2. From Inspiration to Conclusion: Facilitating Independent/Group Investigations – Jann Leppien, Ph.D.
  3. Thriving Environments for Creativity: Inspirations from Reggio Emilia, Italy – Nancy Hertzog, Ph.D.
  4. Place-based Education: A Noble Pedagogical Shift - Doreen Keller, Ed.D.
2-2:15 p.m.   Break
2:15-3:30 p.m.

Session Two (choose one to attend)

  1. Visible Learning with LEGOS – Jen Flo
  2. Thinking Creatively: Use Inquiry to Fuel Creativity to Produce Documentaries (Middle & High School) – Kim Kooistra
  3. The Joy of Higher Level Questioning Strategies – Mike Cantlon
  4. Brave Learning: Structuring and Facilitating Differentiated Projects for Gifted Students - Nicholas Castilleja
  5. Developing Creative Talent in the Everyday Classroom: 21st Century Imperatives - Kristen Lamb, Ph.D.

Additional Information

  • Check-in for the institute will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. All registered participants will receive an email at least one week before the event with detailed check-in and event information.
  • We recommend you bring a laptop computer or tablet. Free wireless will be provided.
  • There is no dress code for this institute; however, we recommend that you dress in layers to maintain your comfort. We have limited control over the temperature of our classrooms

Payment Information and Cancellation/Refund Policy

Payments with credit cards can be made via the online registration form. We also accept checks and purchase orders. Please email purchase orders to or mail them to:

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

All monies will be refunded if paid registrations are canceled by 4 p.m. PST on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. Requests for refunds received after this date will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Contact the Center for Gifted Education at or 509.777.3226 to cancel your registration and request a refund.

Academic Credit/Clock Hours

You may elect to receive one graduate-level credit from Whitworth University for an additional fee of $150. There will be additional course assignments. This credit can be used to meet the elective requirement for the state-recognized Gifted Education Specialty Endorsement. One graduate-level semester credit equals 15 clock hours. Registration for credit will occur during the institute. 

Five (5) clock hours will be available for an additional $15 fee. 


Lunch is included in the registration fee. On the registration form, you will have the opportunity to inform us of any dietary needs.


The institute will be held on campus at Whitworth University.  Click here for a campus map and driving directions. 

For a list of local accommodations, click here. We have not reserved a block of rooms at a hotel. However, several hotels on our accommodations list offer special Whitworth University rates. To receive the special rate, use the provided online code or inform the hotel you are attending an event at Whitworth when making your reservation.

Session Descriptions

Keynote Presentation

Taking Beautiful Risks in Education - Ron Beghetto, Ph.D.

Teaching and learning creatively takes courage. Sometimes doing things different is worth the risk and sometimes it is not. In this interactive keynote, you’ll learn how taking beautiful risks in your professional work can lead to a positive and lasting impact in the learning and lives of others. You’ll have an opportunity to explore how even slight changes in our teaching and learning practices can have a big impact, including exploring questions such as: What if we viewed uncertainty as an opportunity for new thought and action (not as something to be avoided)? What if we modeled an unshakeable sense of possibility thinking in our professional work? What if we had the courage to move from "this is the way it is" toward "how it could or should it be different?" What if we used complex challenges to help our students put academic learning to creative use in and beyond the classroom? And what if we equipped our students to step more confidently into uncertainty by tackling the kinds of problems that can make a positive and lasting contribution to the learning and lives of others? In short, what if we committed to encouraging and taking beautiful risks in our teaching and everyday lives? Be ready to not only consider such questions, but to have an opportunity to take beautiful risks during this keynote.

Session One (choose one to attend)

  1. Taking Beautiful Risks: A Deeper Dive – Ron Beghetto, Ph.D.

    In this breakout session, we will build on the ideas presented in the keynote and provide focused time for you to work on infusing these ideas into your existing curriculum and professional work. Be ready for a highly interactive work session with the primary goal of preparing you to make slight, but impactful changes to your classroom teaching and learning practices. Learn how to apply concepts of lesson unplanning, legacy challenges and other strategies for opening up your curriculum for more engaging, meaningful and creative learning. Come to this session prepared to engage in possibility thinking, take beautiful risks and push your professional practice to the next level.

  2. From Inspiration to Conclusion: Facilitating Independent/Group Investigations – Jann Leppien, Ph.D.

    Through independent or group investigations, students can experience how their ideas and solutions can make a positive change in their schools, communities or the world. But, the real challenge is how we can inspire our students to tackle real world problems and persevere throughout the process. This session will focus on strategies for embedding research into the curriculum, teaching advanced research methodologies and tools to your young researchers, and how to access websites and apps that support student research.

  3. Thriving Environments for Creativity: Inspirations from Reggio Emilia, Italy – Nancy Hertzog, Ph.D.

    Inspired by the 100 Languages of Children and the preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy, Hertzog will share the aesthetic early childhood environments and experiences of her many visits to the infant/toddler centers and preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Using the "Environment as the Third Teacher," Hertzog will share how young children engage in creative and critical thinking by choosing from a vast array of materials to express themselves. Participants will pay particular attention to values and beliefs, societal influences, instructional strategies and environmental factors that affect young students’ cognitive and emotional development. 

  4. Place-based Education: A Noble Pedagogical Shift – Doreen Keller, Ed.D.

    This session will introduce participants to place-based education (PBE). The purpose of this presentation is three-fold: 1) to define and describe what PBE looks like in practice; 2) to offer lessons from the literature and case study research about the potential of a PBE approach; and 3) to invite participants into dialogue around the realities, benefits and challenges of making such a pedagogical shift.

Session Two (choose one to attend)

  1. Visible Learning with LEGOS – Jen Flo

    Explore ways to engage learners in a hands-on session with LEGOS. During this session, participants will "use their hands" to explore ideas, enhance creativity and develop problem-solving skills. LEGOS can be used to facilitate discussion, provide a metaphor for understanding and allow thinking to be visible.  Participants will leave with a brainstorm of ideas that can be easily implemented and LEGO management strategies for the classroom. Limited to 30 participants.

  2. Thinking Creatively: Use Inquiry to Fuel Creativity to Produce Documentaries (Middle & High School) – Kim Kooistra

    Inspire students to dig deep into research using differentiation to fuel their interest. Take students through the full stages of a research and information writing process to develop projects and writing projects that supply an interdisciplinary focus and hook their interest. In our session, we will discuss the stages of inquiry within the research process, discuss scaffolding for the information writing process, and explore rich ways to produce differentiated products in grades 6-10.

  3. The Joy of Higher Level Questioning Strategies – Mike Cantlon

    The questions advanced students ask are perplexing, paradoxical and often whimsical, but quite naturally lead back to disciplinary investigations and insights. So how do we keep this sense of inquiry alive in our students and encourage them into investigative ways of knowing? This session will take you on a journey to expand the intellect through the art of higher level questioning. We will collaborate to develop inquiry sessions that enrich the teaching process and challenge the minds of students at all levels of readiness by using questioning strategies.

  4. Brave Learning: Structuring and Facilitating Differentiated Projects for Gifted Students – Nicholas Castilleja

    Project based learning is one of the most engaging, dynamic and enjoyable teaching methods for gifted classrooms. In this session, we outline the steps to crafting differentiated projects that ignite students' creativity and love for learning. Nicholas will share methods, checklists, examples, resources and encouraging stories while emphasizing bravery to maximize creative project success.

  5. Developing Creative Talent in the Everyday Classroom: 21st Century Imperatives - Kristen Lamb, Ph.D.

    Creativity is often viewed as an add-on after a unit or lesson; however, through a creative pedagogy, teachers can incorporate creative thinking and strategies at each level of learning while also teaching students to engage creatively with peers. Using a creative pedagogy encourages idea generation, creative processes, relevant inquiry, and the creation of authentic products and performances that are imperative for 21st century learners. Building upon current creativity research, Kristen will demonstrate how to incorporate creative thinking and strategies for 21st century learning through: a) defining creative pedagogy, b) establishing creative environments and mindsets, c) employing methods to create new lines of creative thinking, and d) guiding gifted and talented students to become creative producers in today’s world. 

Ronald Beghetto 

Ronald A. Beghetto, Ph.D.

Ronald A. Beghetto is an internationally recognized expert on creative thought and action in education. He serves as a professor of educational psychology, director of UCONN's Innovation House and graduate program coordinator for the Cognition, Instruction, Learning and Technology Program in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. He’s a fellow of the American Psychological Association, creativity advisor to the LEGO Foundation, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Creative Behavior. Ronald’s work highlights how making slight changes to existing practices can result in new ways of thinking and acting. He has published ten books and over 100 articles and chapters on topics related to creativity and education. More information about Ronald can be found at:

Jann Leppien 

Jann Leppien, Ph.D.

Jann Leppien is a professor and the Margo Long Endowed Chair in Gifted Education and professor in the Graduate School of Education at Whitworth University. Whitworth's Center for Gifted Education supports and develops policies and practices that encourage the diverse expressions of gifts and talents in children and offers a Gifted Education Specialty Endorsement and Master of Arts in Teaching: Emphasis in Gifted and Talented programs. She is the co-author of The Multiple Menu Model: A Practical Guide for Developing Differentiated Curriculum and The Parallel Curriculum: A Design to Develop High Potential and Challenge High-Ability Students. She has served on the board of the National Association for Gifted Children and currently serves on the Gifted Advisory Board for Washington, the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development for 2e students. She is president of Edufest, a summer teaching and learning institute in gifted education ( She provides professional development in the areas of identification, program services and advanced curriculum design.

Nancy Hertzog 

Nancy B. Hertzog, Ph.D.

Nancy B. Hertzog is a professor in the area of learning sciences and human development and the director of the Robinson Center for Young Scholars at the University of Washington. She received her master's degree in gifted education from the University of Connecticut and her Ph.D. in special education from the University Illinois. In addition to studying the outcomes of Robinson Center alumni, her research focuses on teaching strategies designed to differentiate instruction and challenge children with diverse abilities. Specifically, she has studied teachers' implementation of the project approach in classrooms with both high-achieving and low-achieving children. From 1995 to 2010, Nancy was on the faculty in the department of special education and directed University Primary School, an early childhood gifted program, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her experience in the field has spanned from preschool to college – giving her perspectives that prioritize understanding and advocating for the needs of the whole child. She has published three books and several chapters on early childhood gifted education and numerous articles in the Journal of Curriculum StudiesGifted Child Quarterly, Journal for the Education of the Gifted, Journal of Advanced Academics, Roeper Review, TeachingExceptional ChildrenEarly Childhood Research and PracticeJournal of Research in Childhood Education, and Young Exceptional Children.

Doreen Keller 

Doreen Keller, Ed.D.

Doreen Keller is an associate professor and the secondary coordinator of the Master in Teaching Program at Whitworth University. After teaching high school English for eleven years, she transitioned to higher education and joined the Whitworth faculty in 2013. In her current role, she leads faculty members in aligning the program’s common assessments to the edTPA, she leads the program’s efforts in facilitating wrap-around support for submission of edTPA, and she leads professional development sessions for various audiences several times each year. She is engaged in community work on tough issues such as disproportionate discipline for students with disabilities and students of color. She is an active participant and consultant for the NAACP’s education committee, the Every Student Counts Alliance (ESCA), and she serves on Spokane Public School’s superintendent work group. Active lines of research inquiry include: place-based education, edTPA preparedness and equity in education, particularly concerned with access to opportunities and solutions to the problem of disproportionate discipline. She has recently authored: "Partnering to Advance a Shift in School Climate in Spokane Public Schools and Place-based education: A Look at its Potential Benefits to our Students and our Places through Case Study Research and the Literature", published in the international journal Interdisciplinary Environmental Review. She has also co-authored a chapter for the forthcoming book A Practical Guide for edTPA Implementation and Success. 

Kim Kirstra 

Kim Kooistra

Kim Kooistra is an instructional coach and differentiation specialist at Sakai Intermediate School and an ELA teacher at Bainbridge High School in the Bainbridge Island School District. She has taught all levels of learners from fifth and sixth grade to middle and high school in California, Virginia and Washington for sixteen years. Her latest work has focused on leading 5th and 6th grade ELA teachers in a redesign of unit curriculum to enrich the program. Kim has a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Master of Arts in Humanities and she is currently earning a Master of Arts in Teaching with an emphasis in gifted and talented education at Whitworth University. She is a differentiation specialist, highly capable case manager, teacher, regional representative on the WAETAG board, and presenter of workshops that focus on differentiation, assessment and GSuite technology integration.

Mike Cantlon 

Mike Cantlon

Mike Cantlon has dedicated his career to improving the learning environment of gifted and talented students and to helping people better understand the unique needs of highly capable children. He developed and implemented programs for gifted students in Kennewick and Spokane. He created a college campus residential summer camp for gifted students grades 6-12 called Satori, hosted at Eastern Washington University. In Spokane Public Schools, Mike was instrumental in the identification of highly capable students, he taught in the Tessera Program, and was also the chair of a gifted education task force resulting in the Odyssey Program. He has been an adjunct instructor at Eastern Washington University and works collaboratively with the Gifted Education Center at Whitworth University. He has presented at many institutes and symposiums for local colleges and school districts, as well as internationally, helping educators develop and better understand the importance of higher level questioning strategies when teaching gifted students.

Jen Flo 

Jen Flo

Jen Flo is the hi-cap partnership coordinator for ESD 113, supporting teachers and administrators in her region, and a mentor teacher for a Washington school district. Jen has served highly capable students and their families in a variety of roles: district coordinator for highly capable services, enrichment teacher and general education/cluster teacher. Currently, she is the WAETAG vice-president and a member of the OSPI State Advisory Committee for Highly Capable. She received her endorsement in gifted education (2015) from Whitworth University and will complete her Whitworth master’s program in 2019. Jen has been endorsed by WAETAG as a regional hi-cap PD specialist.

Nicholas Castilleja 

Nicholas Castilleja

Through his experience teaching multiple levels, subjects and populations, Nick Castilleja has become a strong advocate for elevating instructional best practices to give students the dynamic education they deserve. Now in his 10th year of teaching, Nick is challenged and inspired by the intellectual/social/emotional needs of 22 bilingual, highly capable 6th grade students in Pasco, Wash. His passion for teaching gifted students has fueled his educational growth, and Nick has come to specialize in project-based learning, tailoring engaging learning environments, differentiating instruction and curriculum writing for gifted students. Approaching the close of his master's in gifted education, Nick plans to continue sharing his passion for gifted education through professional development and consulting.


Kristen Lamb, Ph.D.

Kristen Lamb is a post-doctoral research associate for the Robinson Center for Young Scholars at the University of Washington. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of North Texas with a concentration in gifted and talented education and taught science for Fort Worth ISD in Texas. Kristen studies equity issues in gifted education, the role of creativity in talent development of high ability students, and classroom conditions conducive to developing creative thinking and talent. Kristen has presented her research at the National Association for Gifted Children, the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, and the American Educational Research Association conferences. Her research on teacher perceptions of creativity has been published in Creativity Research Journal and Thinking Skills and Creativity, and her book Developing Creativity in the Classroom: Learning and Innovation for 21st Century Schools was released in November 2018.