Atkins GT program receives award

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published March 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 13, 2013 at 11:07 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Atkins Middle School students Hayden Bowder, left, and Cole Cody look over their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) project. The Atkins Middle School’s gifted and talented program was selected by the Governor’s Advisory Council as an outstanding program, and the school also received four other state awards.

Atkins Middle School

Students in Betsy Hays' gifted and talented class at Atkins Middle School talk about one of their many projects they work on on a daily basis. (By Rusty Hubbard)
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— Gifted and talented students at Atkins Middle School are doing big things.

The program was recognized as an Act 56 Outstanding Gifted Program by the Governor’s Advisory Council on Feb. 21 at the Arkansans for Gifted and Talented Education Conference.

Betsy Hays, the gifted program administrator for Atkins Middle School, said she is excited about the program being recognized.

“We’re always doing something different,” Hays said.

The Atkins Middle School gifted and talented students’ projects vary every year, and the program is no stranger to getting recognized for its work.

In addition to the Act 56 Outstanding Gifted Program award, Atkins Middle School received the 2013 Affiliate Group Award for parental and community involvement.

“Our community involvement is probably one of our strengths,” Hays said.

She said parents of the gifted and talented students are always looking for ways to help out their students.

The program occasionally uses community surveys to get input for a project the students are doing, and Hays said members of the community often volunteer resources for the program.

This summer, with the assistance of the 2013 Arkansas Gifted and Talented Education grant award it received, Hays said, the school will host a summer science enrichment camp for students entering the fifth and sixth grades.

“It’s to bridge that summer [learning] gap,” Hays said.

The camp will be held at the school, and students will have the opportunity to learn about Arkansas wildlife with representatives from local agencies, such as the HAWK (Helping Arkansas Wild “Kritters”) Center in Russellville and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Another new project the Atkins Middle School gifted and talented students are working on this year is a collaboration with Arkansas Better Chance.

“The seventh-grade students plan lessons and mentor students in our pre-K program,” Hays said.

The seventh-graders are assigned a child in the Atkins pre-K program, and GT students work individually with each one, Hays said.

With each project, Hays said, both she and the students always learn something.

Hays has been with the gifted and talented program at Atkins Middle School since it began in 1985.

“[Gifted and talented] is about finding what the students are good at and praising those strengths,” Hays said.

Hays said the gifted and talented program at Atkins is part of the success of the school as a whole.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at

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