CAG Friend of the Gifted Award

The CAG Friend of the Gifted is awarded to an educator, school administrator, parent, community member, or professional who has profoundly impacted the lives of gifted children in our state.

Who has made a major difference in your child’s or students’ lives during this school year? Is there a teacher or administrator or psychologist or superintendent in your district who has been unusually helpful or innovative or supportive of gifted children? What about a Board of Education member or parent advocate? We are looking for that person! Nominate him or her for the  “Friend of the Gifted” Award. Each year CAG presents this award to someone who has made significant contributions to the lives of gifted children in CT. Use this form to nominate someone for CAG's Friend of the Gifted Award, and email the completed form to Deadline for nominations has been extended through March 31.

Former CAG President, board member and volunteer, serving for close to 20 years, Katie Augustyn was selected by the CAG Board of Directors to be the 2019 'Friend of the Gifted'. Her nomination focused heavily on her tireless commitment to high-potential children and collaboration with Bridgeport Caribe Youth Leaders and Bridgeport Public Schools in bringing CAG's signature enrichment event, Minds in Motion™, to the families of Bridgeport, for the past 5 years.

John Torres, leader of Bridgeport Caribe Youth Leaders, a co-chair and organizer of MiM Bridgeport, says "Katie has been instrumental in putting together Minds in Motion Bridgeport. She has been a huge supporter of Bridgeport Caribe Youth Leaders and the children of Bridgeport.'

'She's such an optimistic person and believes that every child can succeed. For a lady that didn't grow up in Bridgeport, she has acclimated herself to us and the way we do things, while building relationships with key stakeholders in Bridgeport.'
'She is passionate about helping gifted children and has a sincere approach and compassion in helping others. It's evident through her leadership style that she's not above anybody else by being in the weeds to ensure a great experience for children and their parents. We are forever grateful to Katie and extend our congratulations to Katie on the well-deserved recognition.'

Though the nomination focused on her work in Bridgeport, Katie has done so much more over the years for gifted students/parents and educators in Connecticut. As Dr. Sally M. Reis of University of Connecticut said about Katie, 'She is actually the best friend of gifted in our state!'

Katie was presented with her award at CAG's Annual Dinner May 21 at Riverview Bistro in Stratford. Sangeeta Bella, Principal of Discovery Magnet School gave Katie her award.

Connecticut's Education Committee lawmakers who supported the new G/T law PA 17-82 were named CAG's 2018 ''Friend of the Gifted'. The Education Committee members were honored at an awards ceremony during CAG's Annual Members Dinner at the Inn at Middletown on May 16, 2018. Rep. Andrew Fleischmann represented the committee at the dinner and received the award. Members of the Connecticut Assembly's Education committee were selected by the CAG Board of Directors. The law PA 17-82 will have great impact in gifted education. This law has made an impact nationally. 

"The State of Connecticut is taking an important step in recognizing the special needs for children with extraordinary gifts and talents; particularly those bright students who are economically disadvantaged, from minority backgrounds, or are learning English as a second language," said M. René Islas, executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). "For too long, these students have been overlooked, and NAGC congratulates the extraordinary advocates and leaders whose tireless efforts to increase understanding and support for gifted education will ensure that all students are given a fair shot at achieving their personal best."

University of Connecticut Associate Professor of Educational Psychology Catherine Little, PhD, was named CAG's 2017 Friend of the Gifted. Dr. Little was awarded this honor during CAG's Annual Members Dinner at the Inn At Middletown on May 16, 2017. Dr. Little was nominated by her colleague Kelly Kearney, PhD. Dr. Little has been on the Gifted education faculty at UConn since 2004. She directed the UConn Mentor Connection program from 2005-2015, served on the CAG Board of Directors and on the National Association for the Gifted (NAGC) Board of Directors, including her current position as Governance Secretary. She has provided Professional Development opportunities in several Connecticut school districts through her association with CAG. Little is the Project Director for Project SPARK, a federally-funded research project that focuses on helping teachers recognize and respond to high potential in diverse populations in the early grades with the ultimate goals of diversifying gifted programs, supporting teacher understanding, and promoting achievement in high-potential students from diverse backgrounds.


Connecticut State Education Commissioner Dr. Dianna R. Wentzell is the recipient of the Connecticut Association for the Gifted 2016 Friend of the Gifted award. CAG's annual Friend of the Gifted award is given to an educator, school administrator, parent, community member, or professional who has profoundly impacted the lives of gifted children in our state. Dr. Wentzell is receiving this award in recognition of her continued support of CAG's mission to support and advocate for Connecticut's gifted, talented, and high-potential children of diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

An experienced educator and gifted education specialist, Dr. Wentzell has taken proactive interest in issues of gifted and talented programming in our state. Dr. Wentzell met with CAG representatives as an acting Commissioner, and then as Commissioner, expressing her commitment and support for gifted and talented students' programs in all school districts in Connecticut. High ability children in underserved districts are some of the most neglected students in the state. As does CAG, Dr. Wentzell believes that gifted pedagogy can often be implemented with minimal resources by shifting attention to certain best instructional practices shown to benefit all youngsters in the school, while concurrently meeting the needs of high ability students.

Last year, Dr. Wentzell lent her support to the CAG-sponsored legislative initiative which made its way through the Connecticut Legislature as Senate Bill 1055. Although the bill was not voted on in the last moments of the 2015 legislative session, the spirit of S.B. 1055 was nonetheless implemented in the summer of 2015 when Dr. Wentzell became the new Commissioner of Education. She appointed Dr. Gil Andrada as the new state representative for Gifted and Talented education, and has asked that a study be conducted to inventory the state's current resources and programs devoted to gifted and talented.

Thanks to Dr. Wentzell's vision and support, CAG and State Department of Education leadership including Dr. Andrada, are working closely to ensure the 2016 gifted and talented state inventory study be executed, and that gifted provisions of the December 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are properly implemented into the state law. Together we are hoping to ensure that no high-ability child in the state of Connecticut is left behind in receiving the appropriate level of educational support for their academic and social emotional needs, regardless of the zip code in which that student resides.

Dr. Wentzell was presented with her award by CAG VP of Legislation and Public Policy Bianka Kortlan-Cox, and CAG President Jon Stoner at the annual Members Dinner on May 10, 2016 at Gusto Trattoria, Milford.


The Connecticut Association for the Gifted, CAG, is pleased to announce that Dr. Jonathan Plucker has been honored as the 2015 Friend of the Gifted. The award is given annually to an individual in our state who has made a significant positive difference for high-ability student. Dr. Plucker served as Raymond Neag Endowed Professor of Education at the University of Connecticut, where he taught in the Educational Psychology and Educational Leadership programs. He specializes in talent development, creativity, and research-supported advocacy for gifted learners. Dr. Plucker is well known for his work regarding excellence gaps, the development and assessment of 21st century skills, and creativity. His work defining and studying excellence gaps is part of a larger effort to reorient policymakers' and educators' thinking about how best to promote success and high achievement for all children. He often comments on the plight of gifted learners whose talent goes unrecognized, especially in communities where funds for education are seriously curtailed.

A former high school chemistry teacher and elementary school gifted education teacher, he has received numerous honors for his work, including distinguished scholar awards from the National Association for Gifted Children and American Psychological Association. His work has been published and cited in main national media, including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Washington Post, and Newsweek. He has published over 200 articles, chapters, and reports, and his most recent books include Critical Issues and Practices in Gifted Education (2nd ed.) with Carolyn Callahan and Intelligence 101 with Amber Esping.

Dr. Plucker's latest article addresses the issue of Common Core and provides guidance to schools on how they can best meet the needs of their high achieving learners in the Common Core context.


The Connecticut Association for the Gifted, CAG, is pleased to announce that Harold Kamins of Westport, CT has been honored as the 2014 Friend of the Gifted. The award is given annually to an individual in our state who has made a significant positive difference for high-ability student.

CAG is extremely grateful to Harold for his many years of tireless volunteer work on behalf of the needs of students throughout the state. He created a professional and user-friendly event registration system to enable online registration for CAG's Minds in Motion events. Harold has made upgrades and adjustments to the system each year, and he is always responsive at a moment's notice to answer questions or make further adjustments, no matter where in the world he is.

CAG is honored to have the support of such a caring contributor as Harold Kamins to help advance the needs of Connecticut's students. We look forward to many more successful years of collaboration.
The award was presented on Wednesday, October 22, 2014, at 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM in the Christ and Holy Trinity Church Servery, 75 Church Street, Westport, CT. 


The Connecticut Association for the Gifted (CAG) awarded the 2013 Friend of the Gifted award to State Senator Toni Boucher on November 21 at Westport Town Hall. The award was presented by CAG President John Pellino.

Senator Boucher was chosen for this award because of her long dedication to ensuring all Connecticut students achieve their full potential, which started when she was on the Wilton Board of Education.  Senator Boucher is well-respected as an outspoken advocate for education.  As the current State Senate Ranking Member of the Education Committee, she fought for appropriate level of instruction for high achieving students, and gave a voice to advocates of personalized education for all students, including high ability and academically advanced students.  She made it possible for many state institutions, including the University of Connecticut and CAG, to speak directly to the members of the Legislature's Education Committees about the urgent need to meet the academic needs of our state's bright students, often left behind for lack of appropriate funding and resources.

In 2013, Senator Boucher proposed a bill to establish an Academically Gifted Advancement Program in Connecticut.  Gifted 11th graders could take a qualifying test and apply to waive their final year of high school, allowing students to begin college early.  Qualified students could receive a full scholarship for tuition to a public college or participating private college.  Senator Boucher hoped this program would put special emphasis on math, science and engineering, recognizing the need for highly skilled workers in Connecticut in these STEM areas.  Senator Boucher stated "It would be wonderful to foster this learning pipeline early and allow our gifted and talented students the opportunity to learn and live here in Connecticut."  Although the bill was stripped of the financial component, the essence remains viable and is expected to be re-introduced in the next legislative session.

CAG is extremely grateful to Senator Boucher and supportive of her work on behalf of the needs of high-ability and high-achieving students.  We are honored to have had the opportunity to work with her to advance the needs of Connecticut's students.  We look forward to many more successful years of collaboration to spread the message of need to develop highly skilled workers in Connecticut in the areas of science, technology, engineering and manufacturing.


The Connecticut Association for the Gifted is pleased to award its 2012 Friend of the Gifted Award to Dr. Del Siegle of the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut.

Del has made an enormous contribution to the field of gifted education over the past 30 years.  He started his higher education and career in gifted ed in Montana before earning his PhD in Gifted & Talented/Educational Psychology from UConn in 1989.  He is currently the Department Head of and a professor in UConn's Educational Psychology Department.  Del has served as President of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), as well as in numerous other capacities on the NAGC Board of Directors.  Along with his wife Betsy McCoach, he is also the current co-editor of Gifted Child Quarterly, the premier journal for gifted education.  In 2011, Del was the recipient of the NAGC Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest awards NAGC bestows.

Del is not only dedicated to making a difference for gifted students nationally,  but he also contributes at the state level here in Connecticut.  He has been an active member of CAG for many years and is always willing to help out whenever his demanding schedule allows.  During the 2011-2012 school year, Del visited the Westport Minds in Motion to deliver the keynote address: "The Bill of Rights for Gifted Children."  He also presented a breakout session at the event on a topic he has been researching for many years, "Understanding and Addressing Student Motivation."

But beyond the years of accolades and accomplishments, one comment from Del's nomination speaks volumes about him as a person.  "Del is one of the nicest and most genuine people I have ever met and we are fortunate to have him in Connecticut working on behalf of gifted and high-ability students!"

Thanks to Del for all he has done (and continues to do!) for students, parents, and educators across Connecticut, and CAG looks forward to working alongside him for years to come.

Congratulations, Del!


The CAG Friend of the Gifted is awarded to an educator, school administrator, parent, community member, or professional who has profoundly impacted the lives of gifted children in our state.  We are very happy to recognize Dr. Susan Baum as the 2011 recipient of the award. 

Dr. Baum is an international consultant in gifted education and is the co-founder of AEGUS, the Association for the Education of Gifted Underachieving Students.  She is Professor Emeritus in education at the College of New Rochelle and is a world-renowned expert on twice exceptional (2e) learners, lending her talents to the Bridges Academy for twice exceptional students as their Director of Professional Development. 

This past school year Dr. Baum was overwhelmingly generous in lending her time and considerable talents to help CAG increase its focus on 2e learners.  Thanks to her efforts, CAG hosted two presentations by Dr. Baum on dual exceptionalities during the 2010-2011 school year.  Dr. Baum was also instrumental in helping CAG establish its new 2e Committee, dedicated to helping parents and teachers meet the needs of our state’s dual-exceptional learners.  Now fully established, the 2e Committee has begun offering consultation groups to parents and educators across the state (contact us for more information on the 2e Committee). 

CAG would like to thank Dr. Baum for her exceptional dedication to gifted learners and for all she has done to help families and children throughout Connecticut.  We are proud to award her the 2011 CAG Friend of the Gifted Award, and we look forward to many years of continued collaboration in the future.


The Connecticut Association for the Gifted’s “Friend of the Gifted” 2010 honor was bestowed upon Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven J. Adamowski and Assistant Superintendent Miriam Morales-Taylor. They were on hand to receive the award plaques and commendation at the 2010 New England Conference on Gifted and Talented Education, held at the Hilton Hartford October 21-23. Over 400 educators, parents of gifted students, and others attended the conference. The “Friend of the Gifted” award is given annually to a person or persons in Connecticut who have made significant contributions to the lives of gifted children in our state.

Dr. Steven J. Adamowski (far left) and Assistant Superintendent Miriam Morales-Taylor (far right) with (l to r) CAG President Binaka Kortlan-Cox and UConn Professors Drs. Sally Reis and Joe Renzulli

Due to the vision and determination of Miriam Morales-Taylor, and the strong support of Superintendent Steve Adamowski, Hartford once again has not only a program for gifted and talented students, but it now has a magnet school to serve their needs. To recognize their contributions, the two Hartford administrators are being honored as the CAG Friend of the Gifted award recipients for 2010.

Miriam Morales-Taylor, a mentor principal with the Rensselaer Institute, has been an educator in Hartford for over 30 years, serving in a variety of teaching and administrative roles. Her extensive special education and bilingual education experiences, combined with her unique management style, have enabled her to successfully serve in many leadership roles. Presently, she is the Assistant Superintendent for Learning Support Services, where she is responsible for Special Education, Pre-K Instruction, Parent Welcome Center, Health Clinics and Alternative Education programs. 

In 2008, Mrs. Taylor collaborated with Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Dr. Sally Reis to design a Gifted & Talented program for students in the Hartford Public Schools. Last fall, the Renzulli Academy opened, for students in grades 4-6. This year the academy was expanded to serve students in grades 4-7.

Dr. Steven J. Adamowski, a successful educator and school reformer for nearly 35 years, has made good on his promise to begin closing the achievement gap between the students in Hartford and its suburban districts.  Since his arrival in November of 2006, the test performance of city students has risen by record levels, surpassing the statewide gains for the past three consecutive years. Key to that success was an overhaul of the district into a system of high performing specialty schools and small high school academies for Nursing, Law and Government, Engineering and Green Technology, Culinary Arts, Journalism, Teaching, and Insurance & Finance.

Prior to arriving in Hartford, Dr. Adamowski was a Senior Fellow and Managing Director at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), where he focused on assisting school districts in improving their effectiveness.  He joined AIR after serving as Superintendent/CEO of the Cincinnati Public Schools, where he led a massive redesign and decentralization that produced dramatic gains in student outcomes.

Dr. Adamowski has been supportive of the efforts to better serve the needs of gifted and talented students in Hartford through the creation of the Renzulli Academy. The Connecticut Association for the Gifted is thankful to both Dr. Adamowski and Mrs. Taylor for their work on behalf of gifted children!


Dr. Jeanne Purcell has been awarded the 2009 CAG Friend of the Gifted Award. She is retiring from the CT State Department of Education where she oversaw gifted education over the past seven years. During that time she secured over $17 million in Advanced Placement grant funds for Connecticut and New England and was responsible for developing and conducting statewide professional development for teachers and administrators on curriculum differentiation.

“I have enjoyed every day of my time at the Connecticut State Department of Education providing leadership for gifted and talented education and advanced placement,” Jean said in announcing her early retirement. “Most importantly, I have enjoyed working with each and every one of the dedicated people who work daily on behalf of high-potential children. I am confident that much progress will continue to be made in both fields.”

Prior to her work at the State Department of Education, Jeanne was an administrator for Rocky Hill Public Schools, where she was a K-8 curriculum coordinator and conducted a three-year staff development initiative on curriculum differentiation; a program specialist with the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, where she worked collaboratively with other researchers on national issues related to the achievement of high-ability young people; and a staff developer to school districts across the country and Canada.

Jeanne was also an English teacher in grades 7-12 for eighteen years in multiple Connecticut school districts. Jeanne is also the co-author of several books, including the Parallel Curriculum series, and has published many articles that have appeared in Educational Leadership, Gifted Child Quarterly, Roeper Review, Educational and Psychological Measurement, National Association of Secondary School Principals' Bulletin, Our Children: The National PTA Magazine, Parenting for High Potential, and Journal for the Education of the Gifted. Jeanne was active in many educational organizations, including serving as Secretary of the National Association for Gifted Children.

In recognition of her contributions to the field of Gifted Education, and particularly to gifted students in Connecticut, Dr. Purcell has been honored with the 2009 CAG Friend of the Gifted award. Her contributions will be sorely missed throughout Connecticut and the rest of the country. CAG congratulates Jeanne on receiving the Friend of the Gifted award and on her career’s worth of accomplishments. We wish her well in her retirement as she relocates to the beautiful northeastern Connecticut countryside.


The 2008 CAG Friend of the Gifted Award was presented to Ann and Bill Clemmons of Madison, CT at the 14th Annual NECGT in Mansfield, MA on October 17, 2008. Ann and Bill are Directors of the Shoreline Youth Symphony Orchestra (SYSO). In addition, Ann is Director of the Whiz Kids Orchestra, and Bill leads a similar youth jazz band.

They are master teachers in the truest sense of the word. Every child they work with is challenged to his or her potential. Every child learns to re-evaluate what that level is and to reach for more within themselves. The Clemmons’ mantra is to ”be alive and have fun learning.”

In that regard, they are a good example of how to lead one’s life. They teach the children many life lessons along the way. When SYSO members go to college they cry about leaving the Clemmons’ and the SYSO. This couple understands what kids are capable of achieving and they make them feel good about themselves.

According to one parent, “Ann is the rare soul a gifted child meets once in a decade, if lucky. Children, especially, cannot forget Ann as they are forever changed by meeting her. In addition to being a talented musician and conductor herself, she has an ability to see and lead children to their individual music potential. And it’s not just the music potential she brings out in these very talented youth, it is that she raises their whole life to a new level. They are no longer “different” children alone in the world.”

Congratulations to Ann and Bill Clemmons for receiving the CAG Friend of the Gifted Award!

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