For the past 11 years, West Anchorage High School has been the only school in the Anchorage School District to offer the rigorous Highly Gifted (HG) Program. The HG Program is geared towards high-achieving students who benefit from academically accelerated classes.
Judy Friar is the head coordinator of the HG Program and has been coordinating for West’s and Romig’s highly gifted students for the past 11 years. “West is the only continuation of the HG program, and it’s a little bit more rigorous to get into it,” says Friar. West has four teachers for the HG program which are; Brian Malta for ninth grade English; Rachel Kittoe for tenth grade English; Brian Goudreau for ninth grade Biology; and Stephen Rosser for ninth grade Social Studies.
The main purpose of the HG program is to allow gifted students to show their full potential academically while in high school. Many kids in high school are just trying to get through as quickly as possible and don’t think much about excelling exceptionally, however, HG students are typically the opposite. “For HG kids in particular, they try to strive to be high level all the way across the board,” says Friar.
What makes HG students different from regular ed students? “Their personal desire to want to learn and to explore things on their own is much greater than a traditional ed student,” Malta says. Malta has been teaching here at West for three years and taught at Romig in their HG program for two years. His main focus in his HG class are close reading and how to use writing devices. “Malta is funny and entertaining, but he still pushed me to be my best,” says Rachel Heimke, a tenth grader in the HG program. “Students who come out of my class learn how to prioritize time; time management is huge,” says Malta.
Students enrolled in the program receive heavy homework loads on a daily basis. “I generally get two and a half hours a night,” says Heimke. Being a student in the program means students have maintained a 3.6 GPA or higher, they have qualifying test scores in both reading comprehension and mathematics and they are in the top percentile in their classes.
One reason students may join the HG program is from the push of their parents wanting them to succeed in school academically and learn curriculum at an advanced level. Heimke says, “It’s partially my parents and partially [me] wanting to be successful.”
The program is here to allow students to be challenged and give them enriched classes to prepare them for college. “I don’t have to encourage these kids to go to college, they come in of that expectation,” says Friar. The freshmen in the program they take three HG classes and sophomores only take one. By the their junior and senior year, HG students move on to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes here at West. “I’m thinking about taking AP U.S Government and IB English classes,” says Heimke.
The HG program will hopefully be a continuation for years to come.