Waterloo Schools program caters to twice exceptional students - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo Schools program caters to twice exceptional students

Posted: Updated:

What does it mean to be twice exceptional? A first-of-its-kind program in the state, called Twice Exceptional (or 2e), has started this year at Waterloo Schools. Kingsley Elementary School is the first to pilot the program in the district. 

Twice exceptional - or 2e - are students who are gifted with a disability. They have a high level of intelligence, but struggle when it comes to social relationships. 

Advanced Programming Administrator, Sherice Ortman, has been instrumental in getting this program off the ground and running in Waterloo. It all started with a donation to the Waterloo Schools Foundation four years ago. 

"What we found is that a lot of the students in this program are very strong within the area of spacial, logical, mathematical thinking," said Ortman. "So we created an environment where they can express that strength. And in the area of need, it might be interpersonal and peer relationships."

The 2e program provides the missing piece for these students. 

"During that time, they can engage with a like-minded peer and still engage in activities together that they have to negotiate," said Ortman. "How are we going to work together to build that interpersonal need area?"

Ortman says creating a space where these students feel they belong is key. But the program goes beyond that. Older 2e students have the opportunity to mentor younger ones, showing them they, too, belong. 

Fifth-grader Nate Kline recognizes the same brilliance in the second grader he's mentoring.

"I like chemistry the most," said Kline. "I think chemistry is really fun. Finding all the names and meanings of the chemical compounds."

Kline is well beyond his academic level. He's already studied the periodic table last summer.  His counterpart who he mentors is just as intelligent.

"The puzzles and problems I do with him, he's catching on himself," said Kline. "He's learning really fast. He has that skill. He can learn amazingly fast."

The mentorship also helps with challenges the younger 2e students may face. 

"He struggles with, if he did something wrong, he's kind of upset with himself and I'm helping him with that," said Kline. "And it's really helpful to him, I think, because when I'm here, he doesn't do that a lot."

Ortman says these students are thriving in a classroom where they belong, and she wants them to walk away feeling a certain way. 

"People get me.  That's the most important," said Ortman. 

Waterloo Schools says they've seen an increase in attendance and a decrease in behavior referrals with the 2e program. 

There will be a Twice Exceptional Conference in Cedar Falls in April. For educators or parents interested in learning more about the conference, click here. 

Powered by Frankly