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From the Executive Director

The mission of Programs for Talented Youth (PTY) is to develop talent in gifted students and those who work with them.  To this end, we offer a variety of high-powered and engaging talent-development opportunities for gifted students, their parents, their educators, and the community at large. Gifted students need opportunities for interaction with like-ability peers and accelerated instruction in an area of interest in order to develop expertise. Moreover, we know that families, educators, and mentors play a critical role in the development of a gifted student’s success and trajectory. The growing research base in the area of talent development indicates that many life-changing opportunities for gifted students occur when they access academic programs that offer rigorous, fast-paced courses taught by content experts in a field. Many times access to appropriately challenging curriculum is enjoyed outside of the school day through participation in academic programs or competitions held after school, on Saturdays, or during the summer.

The elementary years are a time for gifted students to develop their interests, gain a strong sense of self, and explore the world around them. In response to this need, PTY has created a program for elementary and early middle school gifted school students, specifically those in Kindergarten through grade six. Saturday Academy at Vanderbilt for the Young (SAVY), held in the fall, spring, and summer of each year, provides an opportunity for gifted children to meet like academic peers from across the region and to enroll in an exciting course of interest to them. The SAVY curriculum is designed specifically for gifted learners, is grounded in research on teaching and learning, and is shown to increase gifted students’ understanding of advanced concepts, content, and critical thinking skills. Because educators are important to the development of talent, we recruit master teachers and content experts to teach in SAVY.

During adolescence, exposure to accelerated coursework becomes critical in the development of talent, especially for those students who are capable of engagement in abstract thinking and a fast-paced, accelerated academic environment before college entrance. Therefore, we have designed weekend and summer residential opportunities that increase in depth and complexity of content as students develop and mature. Vanderbilt Summer Academy (VSA) invites students to live on the Vanderbilt campus and experience college life in an intense and invigorating academic setting. All courses are taught by content experts in the field, most of whom are Vanderbilt faculty members and doctoral students. Students are in the classroom or laboratory at least six hours per day and then enjoy time mingling with like academic peers in a variety of settings.  These times outside of class encourage students to develop other interests, social skills, and collegial relationships. Weekend Academy at Vanderbilt University (WAVU) is similar to VSA but is held one weekend in the spring and fall of each year for students in grades seven through ten.

Parents also play an important role in the development of talent.  During each of our events, parents are provided opportunities to network and to learn more about gifted children. During SAVY, parents may enjoy guest lectures the first and last day of SAVY or enroll in a small discussion group, led by area counselors, to discuss unique issues of parenting gifted children. During VSA and WAVU parents may attend a brief lecture on the development of talent during adolescence or another pertinent topic.

Constructive feedback is also important when guiding students in advanced academic pursuits and the development of expertise. Each of our programs provides opportunities for students to receive feedback from faculty members through means of a rubric assessment, parent conference, or open house, depending upon the length and emphasis of the program.

Continuing education is vital for those in the field of gifted education. Vanderbilt Gifted Education Institute offers specialized workshops and professional development opportunities on campus each spring, summer, and fall for educators, psychologists, counselors, and other professionals who work with gifted students. Past opportunities have addressed curriculum implementation, acceleration, differentiation, and the identification and misdiagnosis of gifted students. In addition, the state of Tennessee recommends that teachers who work with gifted students engage in at least six hours of course credit or the equivalent in the areas of characteristics and assessment and instructional strategies for gifted. In conjunction with the state of Tennessee and Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, Vanderbilt Gifted Education Institute offers the Tennessee Employment Standard in Gifted Education to teachers every summer. Individual professional development opportunities may also be designed exclusively for a particular school district or parent group.

As you peruse this site and our many offerings for students, educators, parents, and other significant individuals who positively impact the lives of gifted students, we encourage you to email us with any questions. Also, please sign up for our e-newsletter so that you may be informed of upcoming events, deadlines, and the latest research in gifted education.

Thank you for your interest in PTY. Together we can provide the best environment and experiences for gifted students to achieve to their fullest potential.


Tamra Stambaugh, Ph.D.
Executive Director of Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth
Research Assistant Professor, Special Education