Brooke grew up and has lived in Plano since 2nd grade, except for a 5-year stint in East Texas as a bed and breakfast owner. She shares her time with husband Lane, two children, McClaine and Grayson, two cats, TJ and Spotty and her puppy, Ranger.
My story begins as a student in the North Texas area, specifically Plano. My family moved to Plano when I began 2nd grade. I finished high school in Plano and, after college, came back to Plano to teach elementary school. Right away, I was drawn to the gifted and talented population. I finished my Gifted and Talented Endorsement at The University of North Texas during my first two summers as a teacher and then continued teaching as a Gifted and Talented Specialist, or PACE teacher as we call it in Plano.
As a PACE teacher, I had the privilege of teaching all identified gifted children in an elementary school in a pull-out program. They came to me, by grade level, for a few hours a week where they received rigorous and creative differentiated instruction through project based learning. This type of learning is vastly different from the general education class, which is mostly skill driven and leaves little room for experimentation and risk-taking.
On top of the prescribed PACE curriculum, we, as PACE teachers spent a lot of time on activities that teach different types of thinking… creative, logical, critical, analytical, etc. As I had time, I would share some of these activities with all students in the regular classroom.
This is where the thought of an after-school program began. What I found was that ALL students benefit from this kind of learning. It’s no fault of teachers, but there are just not enough hours in the day with the state-mandated curriculum to focus much, if any, time on these critical skills. I also found that teachers were thrilled to have me come in and teach a short thinking lesson to their students, and the students were always excited when I came into the room. From teachers I often heard, “I wish there were more lessons like this in our curriculum.” I also heard, over and over again, “These thinking skills are so critical for kids, but I just don’t have time to incorporate them into the day. There are too many other things we have to focus on.” From students, I often heard, “Yea, Mrs. Bauer is here! What kind of thinking we are going to do today?” The demands on teachers are so extensive, and they work so hard to teach all of the skills students need to learn. Often, I hear teachers talk about how they feel that they aren’t even able to do an adequate job of that much less add thinking skills to the mix.
The greatest part of sharing these lessons in the general education classroom was the smile on students’ faces and the slightly puffed chests when they came up with the most creative or the most logical answer in the class. These were not the identified gifted students, but were many times students who struggled with the daily demands in the classroom. I knew then that I had done my job! How often does a child leave the class thinking, “Today I was gifted!”?
I began to think seriously about how I could get these thinking skills into the hands and brains of ALL students. By this time, budget cuts had forced me to split my time between two schools, so trips into the regular classrooms had to go by the wayside. I decided that in order to do this, I would have to do it on my own. I couldn’t do it as a GT specialist in the public school setting. However, I really didn’t want to embark on this journey alone, so I approached my long-time friend and colleague, Roxanne, to see if she would want to venture out on this journey with me.
Roxanne and I have been friends for many years and taught in the same school for six years. For the past three years, we worked together coordinating our school-wide assemblies. This is where we really found that we work well and have fun together. I knew that she was the right partner. Nothing brings more joy to either of us than seeing children having fun, taking risks, thinking outside the box, gaining confidence, learning from their mistakes, and ultimately succeeding!
So, from there, came CraniaLogix… where we desire to support parents and educators in building a foundation of thinking that will enhance every area of learning for ALL students.