CCPS staff honored for accomplishments to gifted education students, programs

CCPS staff honored for accomplishments to gifted education students, programs

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and the Maryland State Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education honored eight Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) educators for their efforts and accomplishments in gifted education.

Kristen Modes, CCPS instructional specialist for gifted education, was honored with an Outstanding Educator in Gifted and Talented Education – Local School or School System Program Coordinator Award. Modes has been in her current role for the past two years and previously spent several years as a CCPS learning resource teacher. Program coordinators are recognized for their contributions in expanding programs for gifted and talented students.

Seven CCPS teachers were honored with Outstanding Educator in Gifted and Talented Education – Teacher as Leader Awards. They are:

  • Elizabeth Adams, General Smallwood Middle School;
  • Carla Joyner, Smallwood;
  • Sabrina McCabe, William A. Diggs Elementary School;
  • Kathryn Neiles, John Hanson Middle School;
  • Teresa Schinasi, Dr. James Craik Elementary School;
  • Holly Smigal, Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School; and
  • Heather White, Matthew Henson Middle School.

Teachers are honored with a Teacher as Leader Award for supporting gifted students, pursuing professional development in gifted education, and demonstrating peer leadership in gifted education.

All CCPS honorees were recognized during a Feb. 25 virtual ceremony hosted by MSDE and the Maryland State Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education.

Modes is known among her colleagues as an outstanding advocate for gifted education. She is passionate about education and helping students reach higher levels of achievement. In her role as instructional specialist for gifted education, Modes helps to oversee the CCPS gifted education program. She also serves as the regional director for the Destination Imagination (DI) program. Modes is consistent in her communication with CCPS learning resource teachers. Through weekly emails and meetings, she shares program updates and ways teachers can help advocate for gifted students. Modes offers helps to teachers in need. Her nomination details a time when Modes helped a new learning resource teacher transition to the role, including helping her to organize, prepare and update program files at the school. Modes also connected the teacher with a mentor who would support her in the new role. Modes is well known for her commitment to advocating for the educational, social and emotional needs of students.

Adams has been teaching the seventh-grade gifted language arts class at Smallwood for the past five years. She is an advocate for gifted students and uses a variety of teaching styles to meet the needs of gifted learners. She encourages her students to seek enrichment opportunities outside of the classroom and helps her students prepare for high school level classes. Adams regularly attends gifted professional development activities and helps to write gifted education program curriculum. She is the language arts department chair at Smallwood and oversees the staff equity and diversity committee. Adams also supports other gifted teachers and shares successful strategies for use in the classroom.

Joyner teaches the eighth-grade gifted language arts class at Smallwood. She sets high expectations for her students and pushes them to use critical thinking and discussion skills. Joyner incorporates technology and assignments that require her students to think at a higher level. She works closely with the learning resource teacher at Smallwood and asks for help when needed. Joyner uses different strategies and teaching styles to make sure all gifted students are performing at a level they are capable of in the classroom. She stays current on gifted practices and regularly attends professional development opportunities. Joyner serves as the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program sponsor and works closely with students and their families. She also coordinates the school Spelling Bee and helps other gifted teachers.

Schinasi is a fourth-grade teacher and uses gifted curriculum to enrich, challenge and nurture her students. She can instruct her students beyond their grade level. Schinasi works hard to provide her students with the necessary rigor to expand their knowledge. Her students are thriving in the classroom. Schinasi continuously seeks opportunities for gifted education professional development and has helped to write reading, social studies and writing curriculum. She consistently volunteers to present at the county level and offers to share her knowledge with other teachers. Schinasi also coordinates the Tiger Newspaper and provides a club for students to strengthen their writing skills.

Neiles is the learning resource teacher at Hanson. She has served in this position for the past six years and is devoted to helping students and teachers. She works closely with teachers to help them identify and work with gifted learners. Neiles constantly monitors student progress to ensure all are evaluated for gifted services. She meets with gifted students who need additional help and leads small group instruction. Neiles attends state and national professional development opportunities. She seeks out opportunities to expand her knowledge of helping gifted students. Neiles also leads county-level professional development and writes gifted education curriculum. She assists with other gifted programs such as Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) and It’s Academic.

White is the learning resource teacher at Henson. She dedicates her time in working closely with teachers and students. She visits gifted classrooms to help model lessons, share discussions and co-teach to share her expertise. White is sought out by her colleagues for gifted education guidance. She is known as a true advocate for the gifted education program and gifted learners. White was instrumental in developing a new unit at Henson for gifted students in sixth grade. She presents at local, state and national conferences on gifted strategies. White is well known for her passion for gifted education and her willingness to take on any task that involves working with students and teachers.

Smigal is the learning resource teacher at Mitchell. She spends most of her time co-teaching with gifted cluster teachers, working in small groups and helping students with gifted potential. She is sought out by her colleagues for her expertise in instruction and gifted education. Smigal is known among Mitchell staff as a role model teacher because she effectively communicates with parents, staff and students about the needs of gifted students. She is an advocate for students and is dedicated to the success of all learners. Smigal earned the gifted and talented certification last year and presents at the county level on gifted education and nurturing students with potential. She has coached the school math team and helps to organize Read Across America activities at Mitchell annually.

McCabe is the learning resource teacher at Diggs. She spends most of her time co-teaching with gifted cluster teachers, working with small groups of gifted students and mentoring students. McCabe models differentiated lessons for teachers and ensures all advanced learners at Diggs are successful. She is known as a leader among her peers. She helps to plan and coordinate professional development activities for gifted education and enrichment teachers. McCabe has also been instrumental in developing gifted strategies for use with virtual learning. She annually attends the Maryland State Gifted Conference and is pursuing her gifted and talented certification. McCabe also serves as the school DI sponsor and math team coach.

During the recognition ceremony in which the CCPS educators were honored, 34 CCPS students were recognized for their accomplishments in gifted education. Read about the students on the CCPS website at

About CCPS

Charles County Public Schools provides 27,000 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event. CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).

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