Gifted facilitator Carmen Shelly continues to grow with gifted services program

After a long career in the district, Shelly remains passionate about the gifted program she started

February 10, 2015

Gifted services facilitator Carmen Shelly stands in her classroom surrounded by gifted students on Tuesday, Feb. 10.
Photo by Jena Smith
Gifted services facilitator Carmen Shelly stands in her classroom surrounded by gifted students on Tuesday, Feb. 10.

Gifted seems to run through gifted services facilitator Carmen Shelly’s veins. It’s in her career; it’s in her children; it’s in her own way of thinking. Shelly knows how gifted learning works. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering she has been Mill Valley’s gifted facilitator for the entire 15 years it’s been open.

“It kind of hits you after the fact. I don’t really think about the fact that I’ve been here that long,” Shelly said. “When I look back at it in hindsight … I can feel the 15 years.”

Although Shelly was new to the building when it first opened, she was not new to the district. Before that, she had already been working at De Soto High School for 16 years, teaching English, speech, debate, drama and forensics. In fact, Shelly has spent her entire career in the De Soto school district.

Despite having been teaching at De Soto for well over a decade at the time, Shelly’s decision to transition to a brand new school and teaching specialty was not as difficult as one may imagine.

“I was tired and it was time in my professional career to do something different and reenergize,” Shelly said. “The reason I started looking into gifted was that I had a son who was identified as gifted … the kinds of things he was doing in his gifted services was stuff that I would do with my drama … or debate kids and so it all just seemed to fit together.”

For Shelly, this move came at the perfect time. Starting in a new program at a new school allowed her to sculpt the gifted program from scratch in her own way.

“[Had it not been a brand new school,] I would’ve had to work with a lot of preconceived ideas … of how gifted services was supposed to run, but because it was a new school, it was probably easier to get over some of those things,” Shelly said. “I really had a lot of freedom to make and build the way I wanted it to be.”

Over the time she’s been here, Shelly hasn’t managed to get bored yet. She attributes this to the people she works alongside, including paraeducator Debby Likes. Likes and Shelly have been working together in gifted services for 15 years, the last eight of which have been at Mill Valley. Like Shelly, Likes also raised gifted children and was one herself.

“She totally gets who I am. We really do think very much alike and I guess it probably does come from the background,” Likes said. “I try to be her support system because I know her load is insane and I don’t know how she stays as cheerful as she is.”

Through the heavy workload Likes describes, Shelly is able to keep her sights set on the development of the gifted services program. She regularly works general education into gifted services in an attempt to support what students learn in the classroom. This helps her stay “fresh and integrated into the school system,” Shelly said.

Of all the things she’s done to build up the program, Shelly said her biggest accomplishment has been getting students to be accountable for their responsibilities in gifted services and to see a deeper connection between their goals and growth.

“I feel like I’ve solidified a philosophy around gifted … it isn’t all about getting the perfect test scores and it’s not all about getting perfect grades,” Shelly said. “My philosophy about gifted is that it should open your eyes to what’s going on out in the world that maybe the general education classrooms don’t have time to cover. That kind of has solidified over the years.”

Over the years, Likes has watched Shelly’s passion and commitment to gifted education continue to grow.

“I have never known anyone who has much knowledge and creativity and continued excitement about what she does,” Likes said. “She gets just as excited about what students are going to do. Maybe that’s why it’s so much fun for me. She doesn’t let it get old. She is constantly looking for new ways to challenge students.”

For Shelly, teaching gifted students is more than a job – it’s a learning experience that keeps her on her toes and inspired.

“Every kid brings a new idea to me every day and there’s always something new to learn. There’s a lot more to learn out there than just what I have learned,” Shelly said. “For me, it’s also the topics I get to expose students to because I’m always trying to expose students to the newest things, so I get to know about them too. That the beauty of my job.”

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