In 1967, advanced classes for intellectually-gifted students in Florida and throughout the United States were virtually non-existent. There was a growing interest in the federal government to have advanced courses of study for intellectually gifted students, due to the perceived scientific advantage of the Russians and their launch of the “Sputnik” program.
Dr. Dorothy Sisk joined the Special Education Department of the College of Education in 1967. She had specialized in the area of gifted education in her doctoral studies at UCLA. In 1968, she started a Saturday morning enrichment program for intellectually gifted children. IQ tests were administered to children applying for the free program, with only those who scored 130 points or above qualified to participate in the program. Dr. Sisk planned and supervised the USF students who were interested in gifted education in order to provide an innovative program for gifted children in the area of mathematics, language arts, and creative writing.
In 1970, Dr. Sisk secured funding from the United States Department of Education to support the development and implementation of a program to prepare teachers of gifted students. The Gifted Children’s Program and the subsequent program to prepare teachers of gifted students influenced school districts within the USF College of Education service area to initiate K-12 gifted education programs.
As programs for gifted children were developed for K-12 schools in the Tampa Bay area, the Saturday morning program was discontinued. The USF Gifted Program shifted its focus to the preparation of teachers of gifted children for the new K-12 program.
Upon Dr. Sisk’s departure from the College to accept an endowed professorship at Lamar State University, Dr. Hilda Roselli, also of the USF Special Education Department, assumed the leadership of the program. Dr. Elizabeth Shaunessy is the current director of the Gifted Children’s Program Center.