Leonardo Gifted School is partner or member of: COBIS - Council of British International Schools, ECHA - European Council for High Ability, WCGTC - World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, AERO - Alternative Education Resource Organization, BPLUSA - Big Picture Learning Design USA, University of Bucharest - Faculty of Phychology and Educational Sciences, University of Connecticut - Neag School of Education, Simon Fraser University - Faculty of Education
What would you do for your child if you were to know your child would be a Michelangelo or a Leonardo?…
My name is Monica Gheorghiu, and I am the Principal CEO of Leonardo Gifted School. I must confess that I wondered about this question a lot. And for a very long time. This is one of the questions that made me start this project about 11 years ago. So I dare expose myself, because I want you to know myself as a person – as a person with ups and downs, bad days and good days in this field, as a person who fought hard, and so did a couple of people near me: to bring the right education to a population of children so misfortunate, and so lucky to be who they are. Misfortunate because the system does not recognize them for who they are and their needs, and so lucky, because they can put a rainbow over a world in turmoil, or can shake the world to bring a better one – and this is the promise of their potential, of what this world could become because of them.
My connection with giftedness comes from my family. I was raised in a family with many gifts, people who worked hard to put their abilities to work. From the love for the land, for manufacturing, for wood, for bee hiving, to the love for numbers, for computers, for instruments and music, dance, singing and painting. I have learnt that your gift is yours, and it will show distinctively, and be with you for the rest of your life, if you are warmly wrapped in an atmosphere of freedom of spirit and good energy and you start doing something alone or with a person with much love for the craft.
For a child, this is the right way to learn anything. And I learnt a lot from every person in my life. They have all poured their love into many shapes and forms.
I take the occasion and am pleased to announce the scholarship named after my grandfather – “Anatolie Gheorghiu” for gifted children who have a great motivation to learn and want to develop their gifts, from the Republic of Moldavia. My grandfather was a free thinker, with a great love for personal development and a high intuition on choosing your way in life – what you love to do – , a highly gifted person, with an immense mental power (he was playing chess aveugle – mental chess, no chess table; he was director of an orchestra) and was gifted in many ways (math, music, languages, swimming). He was coming from a family with roots in the Republic of Moldavia – Basarabia. My grandfather closely supported my own father in choosing his career in life, and this care and positive approach had my father let me try my own hand at doing what I love (no matter how hard).
Before starting Leonardo Gifted School, we have worked hard to learn about gifted children – so to put our courage to have a school we have built on our unprecedented over 1000 hours of direct work with gifted children and after 5 years we have decided to have a school because of our success and what parents asked us to do. Our work in gifted education, for the first time in Romania, started in 2004. And it took us 6 years of lobbying and fighting the local authorities to run in the end a program which involved the testing of an unprecedented number of more than 1200 children and then, involving the education of 45 of them into a Gifted Academic Program.
This is how you can meet us – in our strive and effort as a team to learn, to gain expertise and desire and bring more love for them. For years, I have personally supported the growth of a network of gifted teachers, organizing the first summer schools in Gifted Education in Romania, and first courses for gifted parents, alongside prof Dr. Florian Colceag, international expert in gifted education. I am proud to say that with huge efforts, I was in the team to forcefully lobby The Law 17/2007 for the education of gifted, capable of high performance children, through the Parliament – which passed tacitly through the Senate. As prof. Colceag said: “Too bad it is not applied, even 10 years now after its ratification. It is the law that strictly defines the category of gifted child with special needs for differentiated education, for the first time in Romania.”
This school, like any other, has a personal story. A story of thirst and hunger for freedom of spirit, freedom to develop. I have in my heart and mind the experience of a huge campus, one of the biggest in the world: the Case Western Reserve campus, being part of the University System of Ohio, the largest university Campus in the US, and top 6 in the world – two universities brought together: Case University and Western Reserve University. Here I was inspired to dream big for the children in Romania: to have such a campus for them in Romania. In this huge campus of Case Western Reserve, the atmosphere was the dream of any student: an immense openness for learning, a “palace” with an excellent service like a hotel – which was the library, with books you could only dream for, and resources at discretion (where you could move around with a cart of books, and even sleep at the library! only to wake up to learn more…), freedom of thinking and of self-expression, successful brilliant teachers, coming from the industry, with an extraordinary capacity to encourage free entrepreneurial thinking and to instill the desire to risk everything for your dream.
So I studied in one of the top 10 schools in entrepreneurship in the US – Weatherhead School of Management, built in a finely skewed building in every angle, the Peter B. Lewis building – which is in itself a monster of imagination and impossibility for a builder and an entrepreneur. In this campus you could move from one school to another – if you dared – to choose credits or audit classes if you liked in other schools (Law school, Mandel School for Non Profit Management, Medicine School, etc) because you were allowed to. It felt like freedom to choose and to build your character on this powerful law of spirit: freedom.
Then I thought about preventing the loss of character and of such a lot of young gifted children there in Romania. In this way this project came to my heart for gifted.
And it worked out, through visualization, by following my instinct, by working days and nights, listening, changing myself, stretching, imagining, talking to people from diverse industries, having in mind the marriage of multi specialist, multi sensory and multi discipline – just like our mind is built.
Why did I write this? Because I want to let everyone meet firsthand the spirit of this grassroots project, so that it brings light on our drive and our spectacular stamina, and then you will learn to appreciate. And love and work along with us. Because we work with parents, side by side- this is one of the greatest challenges of the project, the school for parents. We have brought a strong partnership with psychologists and counselors who work with us to meet the needs of children, but also the needs of parents. Most of the time parents work so hard to bring the best for their child, and still, the emotional and social health of the parents is the first nourishment a child receives…
Leonardo Gifted School is unique in the region. Our body of teachers create a tailor made curricula, by using the best practices used in the world to develop gifted, to build individualized learning plans for gifted children – a highly challenging task in itself. Here we bring an array of brilliant and talented minds – the mentors- to work with your children in the enrichment classes, and offer them the contact with the energy of enthusiasm for being a creator. My team of teachers are specifically trained and experienced in working and teaching gifted children. They know not only their intellectual needs, but how their social and emotional needs make an impact on their development, how special these needs are – and they give much attention on nourishing them.
When your body is rigid, so is your mind. Children learn here to un-learn about the set or fixed poses of their body. In this school, they are free to move. Yes, this freedom is achieved by developing Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence – this is a high focus of the project, and we know that the more you feel free in your body, the more your mind can be set free. And there are so many other factors, which makes us unique. I think it’s 24 differentiators – and they are growing.
Children learn in an atmosphere of love, of understanding, of high respect, of friendship, self-love and empathy, in a non-violent communication environment – they learn to express and accept their feelings – that it is normal to have good or bad feelings, to be happy for who they are, while acquiring new thinking skills, knowledge and the capacity to make decisions with your mind and heart. This is the greatest understanding: in an atmosphere of love and freedom, they can succeed in making friends, in being happy and in learning, as suits them best. They can choose, they can negotiate learning – this is never heard of before in a school. This is what makes them be pleasurably involved in learning and candidly accept the challenge to find something which is more interesting – by becoming aware of what makes them bored – this is legitimate here. Their greatest gain is their learning about who you are, what they like, what are their interests and their passion – the groundwork for being latter capable of choosing your career in life and being happy with it.
Stats are tough on gifted children: according to a study in the UK in 2010 by researcher Joan Freeman, the percentage of children with high ability who “miss” social success or reaching their potential is 97%, i.e. gifted children do not perform well in adulthood to the level or to the promise when they were small. This is mainly because gifted children get so disconnected from their feelings, they have so many passions, take these passions into so many directions, and have so many people around to put pressure on them that they forget to use their inner guiding system – to choose a path that really represents and makes them happy. This is why we put so much emphasis on their ability to make choices and learn what pleases them – their inner emotional guiding system. We come close to their world and we learn about them, like we, the teachers, would be going to school. We view children for their own capacity to take decisions, and they respond exactly with that – they become more self-aware, vociferate their needs and desires, and they can learn soon their own way through self-management of learning, another extremely important value adding learning aspect.
We provide an environment where children can feel good for who they are. We don’t encourage and do not use competition as a means of speeding children towards some goal. „You are not in competition with anyone else. This is about you, and you are free.” We do emphasize this during the day-to-day interactions, and we let children indeed feel free to be themselves. If they think and act differently, we are all here to act and think differently, teachers and staff, all alike. We have the mindset to make everyone feel secure for their questions, enquiries, feelings, and all interests. This is the right setting which allows everyone to feel all right by being themselves. This is one of the greatest general settings which offers empathy, openness, and a mindset to tolerate differences and even appreciate and admire diversity – which in turn, in time consolidates into a resilient personality able to cope well within the self and with all that life provides.
We understand the needs for differentiated education for gifted children, as well as the needs for counseling for their parents. We bring an unprecedented experience in the field, and we bring a universal approach to the human being and the education in the spirit of self-empowerment, and leadership in an environment set for a global education – that will serve children cope with life’s intricate situations and succeed. There are very few schools with the gifted in mind. We have built this school with gifted children in mind, remaining all the same dynamic and with a culture for change and innovation.
We support children into a process of self-discovery where they learn task commitment, while using their high creativity and high intellectual abilities – our central focus is to engage and empower them to become autonomous and independent thinkers. This can make them break free in their life by being able and capable to manage their personal development into the right way, where they can find themselves, they can find happiness, true happiness.
As Ghandi once said: Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. And we have to let children live this when they grow into …happy adults!
We offer children the chance to learn at the level of their abilities. „Can you remember how it was when you were bored as a child in school and you knew, you felt there was something else you needed and you knew you could do something better, more engaging than that?” Well, you can offer this chance to your child. Gifted children cannot learn without a differentiated education and special counseling, just as a flower will not do with no water. For an optimal development and for avoiding the later on risks (and we need to be conscious about these social risks: alienation, depression, antisocial behavior, anxiety, school dropout, even suicide) they need something different, some place where reaching out for your potential is simply, normal.
If you could watch closely their faces and bodies their first day in school, you would feel their high interest into each other and have their feeling – that is when „two mountains” meet. Children do sense each other and have a sense of recognition by seeing in the others their own traits and abilities, and so they feel secure and in comfort, and eager to learn and share new experiences.
Recommendations to parents
I would like to mention some very eye-and-soul opening books. They are 4. It is about finding “The Element. How finding your passion changes everything” to manifest the maximum potential and to change your perspective on intelligence – by Sir Ken Robinson, how to understand intelligence and the so-called promise of IQ: “Outliers. The story of success” by Malcolm Gladwell, and the book which opens our soul to our own wounds and traumas, and we can see what we have missed – the psychological abuse, and “The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self” by Alice Miller. Last, but not the least, a very tiny little book, which can make you smile, while dealing and going right to the point of what it means to be Gifted “You Know Your Child Is Gifted When . . .” by Judy Galbraith, M.A. I would also like to highly recommend the videos of Sir Ken Robinson and Erwin Wagenhofer’s documentary “The Alphabet” on the modern educational system – challenging you to see what a child needs to thrive in education. Last, but not the least, I urge you to become familiar with the Research That Supports the Need for and Benefits of Gifted Education. NAGC, USA.
What we can guarantee is that excellence for us is not a word, it is a constant outstretching to meet the needs of gifted in a culture of innovation and personal change. I believe that our rate card of 100% satisfaction – coming from the children themselves – makes us proud, and gives us courage and drive to go on.
I believe in the utmost right of gifted children to learn at the level of their abilities.