Rockwood Gifted Program
265 Old State Road, Ellisville, MO 63021
Phone (636) 891-6550
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Director's Blog - Mr. Dennis Rhodes

Nov 02
November 2, 2018

"What you do today can improve all your tomorrows."  -Ralph Marston

​When looking at education, the possibility of tomorrow can sometimes get lost in the minutia of today.  It seems imperative that we focus on today to improve tomorrow.  Students walk through our doors on a daily basis and have a wide-eyed enthusiasm about the possibilities of what can be.  In education, we are building tomorrow one student and one experience at a time.  I think that we are fortunate to shape the world by our actions of today.  It is an exponential impact when you think about the ramifications of our actions today impacting everyone that each student interacts with in the future.  This is the reason that I come to this building every day with a smile on my face.  I would like to leave you with a question.  What are you doing today to improve tomorrow?​

Sep 20
September 20, 2018

"Dream, struggle, create, prevail. Be daring. Be brave. Be loving. Be compassionate. Be strong. Be brilliant. Be beautiful."                           -Caterina Fake


Education is not about any one part of an individual.  In recent years, the buzzword around education has been rigor.  Rigor is important, but it is not the only aspect of what impacts how students learn.  Students with immense potential are often asked to immerse themselves into problem-solving situations that can impact the world.  While this is important, I wonder if we are focusing on the empathetic side of problem-solving enough.  To solve a problem, it is a process that is oftentimes systematic.  Without empathy, it is an empty endeavor.  We need to help our students, and therefore the future, understand how their solutions will impact the world around them.  I hope that students struggle through, create solutions for, and prevail over all that stands in their way.  The beautiful part of this process comes about when they understand the audience, care about those around them, and be strong so that others can be supported.  To accomplish this, we need to focus on more than just rigor.

Apr 20
April 20, 2018

Dear Families,

I’m pleased to share that at last night’s School Board meeting, our Board of Education approved the hiring of Mr. Dennis Rhodes as our new director of gifted education effective July 2018.

I’m confident he will continue to be a great leader for gifted education in Rockwood. As you know, Mr. Rhodes is currently the assistant principal at the Center for Creative Learning (CCL) in the Rockwood School District. Prior to this position, he was the gifted coordinator for the Valley Park School District. He has also served as a teacher leader and educator at CCL, and in the Parkway School District was a teacher and computer resource specialist.

Mr. Rhodes received his master’s degree in educational administration from Lindenwood University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. He has also earned certifications as an elementary principal and in gifted education K-12. He is currently in a doctorate program in educational leadership at Maryville University with expected completion in Dec. 2020.

Please join me in sharing my congratulations to Dennis, as well as gratitude for his continuing service to our gifted school community.

Apr 06
April 6, 2018

Dear Rockwood Gifted Program Parents,

I wanted to let you know that I have informed the Rockwood Board of Education of my intention to retire effective June 30, 2018.  After 33 years in public education, I feel fortunate to have been part of Rockwood's gifted program and have enjoyed working with so many outstanding students, parents, and educators.

Gifted education has always been controversial since its inception at the turn of the century.   I have been grateful that gifted education in Rockwood receives a great deal of support.  It's critical that we continue to increase the understanding that students identified as gifted learn differently and require expertise and support beyond the regular classroom to make sure new learning and challenges occur each day.   

I will miss seeing the students and look forward to hearing about the amazing things they'll do in the future.  Thank you for the joy your children have brought me during the past three years.

With much appreciation,


Aug 21
August 2017

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​It's great to have students back in our schools and see parents and students again.  Thanks to the hard work of our maintenance and facilities staff, you'll notice some new colors in the hallway at the Center for Creative Learning (CCL) and carpet additions in some classrooms.  We continue to explore new ways to design our gifted classrooms to meet the needs of our changing, modern learners.

Three new teachers are joining the gifted program this year.  Christina Berwin is teaching second grade at the CCL and comes to us from Chesterfield Day School.  Katy Davis is in first grade, where she served as a long-term substitute last year.  Alexandra Forgerson is an 8th grade Academic Stretch teacher and a high school gifted resource teacher at Rockwood Summit High School.  We are fortunate to have these three great teachers share their passion for learning and gifted students. 

Last year we asked our CCL students to "dream big".  This year, we will be asking our gifted students and staff to "imagine possibilities."  We know how important it is to develop the potential in each child and to help gifted students grow and develop their critical and creative thinking skills.  We are constantly working to discover, design and develop the best possible experiences for gifted students to better understand their own strengths and challenges and be prepared for future learning and exploration.

We look forward to a great year ahead and appreciate the opportunity to work with you and your child.



Dr. Joan Oakley

Director, Gifted Education

Apr 03
April 2017

Remember to Vote: Election Day is April 4

During the last few weeks, I’ve been sharing information about Prop T, a bond issue that will address increasing enrollment, class sizes and our continued support for STEM/Innovative learning for our students.

About 2,300 homes are expected to be built in the district in the next f

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years. The timing and reasons for this bond issue are driven primarily by this growth and compromise to our recent class size efforts. Prop T will fund the construction of a new elementary school in Eureka, build additional classrooms, and repurpose the existing school for early childhood programs. In addition, Prop T will fund the creation of an innovative learning space in our school. This space would become a collaborative K-5 classroom equipped for robotics, computer programming, STEM+ maker spaces, 3D design in prototyping, and invention kits in arts/engineering. 

As an Election Day reminder, please note:

  • Prop T will not raise the current Rockwood tax rate. 
  • Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4.
  • Prop T requires a four-sevenths (57.14 percent) majority for passage. 

If you’d like to learn more about Prop T, please let me know. In addition, you can visit the Election Day website where you’ll find the Super Talks series with Dr. Knost and our students, along with information about the candidates for the Rockwood School Board election.

Mar 22
March 2017

Hello, Families,

Election Day is less than two weeks away.  I want to let you know that Rockwood has Prop T on the April ballot to address increasing enrollment, class sizes and our continued support for STEM and innovative learning.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Just prior to Election Day, each registered voter will receive a postcard from the Election Office designating the polling place for the voter. You can find your polling place at

The Constitution of the State of Missouri requires a four-sevenths (57.14%) majority for passage of the bond issue.


You can visit the Prop T website: Plus, view the latest Super Talks video where our own Rockwood students interview Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost regarding STEM education.

Feb 15
February 2017


Date: February 14, 2017

Dear CCL Parents,

I wanted to share that our Board of Education recently voted to place a bond issue on the April 4 ballot. Rockwood voters will consider Proposition T (Thrive) to address increasing enrollment and our continued support for STEM/Innovative learning. Prop T will not alter the current Rockwood tax rate.

Funds from Prop T will build a new elementary school in Rockwood.  The last time Rockwood built a school was in 2004 in response to growth in the Wildwood area when we built Fairway Elementary School.

We are again experiencing increases to student enrollment. According to Rockwood Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost, about 2,300 homes are expected to be built in the district in the next five years. Projections of increases in student enrollment led district officials to review current capacity in our schools. We evaluated how much space is available in each school. We also considered our curriculum and the learning spaces needed to meet the needs of instruction.

During the last few years, the district has made a concentrated effort to decrease class sizes at the elementary levels. Our preferred Rockwood class sizes have made a difference in our elementary schools as we move toward the state’s desirable class size numbers. Here is a quick overview of the projects funded by Prop T:

Class Sizes

  • build a new element​ary school in Eureka to address increased student enrollment
  • repurpose the existing school for early childhood education and RSD programs
  • add classrooms to schools to address increased student enrollment

Innovative Learning

  • create and equip innovative learning spaces in our elementary schools to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in our curriculum
  • complete the final phase of high school STEM lab renovations​
  • expand the implementation of the one-to-one student/technology program

The $95.5 million bond issue requires a four-sevenths (57.14 percent) majority for passage on April 4. I’ll continue to share more information about the bond issue in the coming weeks.  Visit the Prop T website for more information.

Dec 01
December 2016


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One of the words most often used to describe gifted students (and adults) is “intense.” Students identified as gifted often feel and react to things and events in ways that can seem extreme.  These feelings can be confusing and frustrating to the student, parents, and peers.  Gifted students will say they are often told they’re overreacting or being too sensitive.  This can create a sense of feeling different from peers and result in feelings of isolation.  At this time of year, we often see students go through extreme highs and lows as the holidays come around.  We see students dealing with increased and “intense” pressure on themselves in dealing with grades, projects, and finals.  Parents become concerned when they see these levels of anxiety rise and often wonder how to respond to help their child through these difficult but normal challenges for gifted learners.

It’s critical we find ways to help students understand their thinking and the resulting emotional reactions.  We need to encourage students to find ways to monitor and manage their intense feelings that can seem overwhelming...especially around this hectic time of year!

One simple strategy that works to calm an overactive mind or intense emotion is to simply redirect attention.  For example, count the number of shades of green (or any other color) in a room.  This simple exercise works for all ages to help calm the mind and decrease the physical response that accompanies intense feeling or heightened stress.  

Another critical skill is being able to identify and name specific emotions and understand how to regulate their impact.  Adults need to help students understand that emotions serve a purpose. For example, anger and fear are signals for self-protection, letting us know we need to proceed with caution or rethink a situation. Our gifted counselors and teachers have many strategies that they use to help students struggling through the complex challenges of feeling things intensely!

One of the best gifts we can give to ourselves and our students is the recognition that we are doing the best that we can in this moment.  This holiday season, celebrate what your child has tried, even if it wasn’t the greatest result.  Celebrate the messy things in life, like making and building things together as a family.  Allow the pressure to fade and relax and enjoy this joyful and crazy time of year.

Wishing you a wonderful, creative, and restful holiday!

Joan Oakley

Oct 11
October 2016

Inquiry-based learning may sound familiar to many parents. Taking an inquiry approach allows students to direct and take charge of learning. Most importantly, this approach can deepen understanding and meaning in and out of the classroom. Fortunately, inquiry has been embedded in the instruction and curriculum design of Rockwood’s gifted program over the past 30 years.

The Inquiry Method is something that parents can use on a regular basis away from the school setting to help encourage student interests and promote self-directed learning. When your child mentions something that really gets them excited and curious:

1.   Ask them to come up with a main question they’d like to know about the topic.
2.   Next, come up with additional questions that could help them find the answers to the             big question .
3.   Ask your child to imagine they are a detective and to investigate their questions.
4.   Brainstorm individuals and experts to consult to get the answers.

Inquiry-based approaches are something adults see on television constantly as we watch crime shows and mysteries. We can use that same sense of questioning and curiosity with students. Encourage and guide the investigation process and help your child see that ambiguity, data collection, hunches and dead-ends are all part of the learning process. Finally, no matter what the results of the endeavor, help create an audience to share what’s been collected, discovered and learned. This could be in the form of a letter, e-book, blog or video.

The important thing is to validate the inquiry process and demonstrate that learning and asking questions is active, engaging and required in our jobs and personal lives on a regular basis. Share with your child how you answer some of the big questions you get in your profession which require research and inquiry and how you use the same skills in researching and determining the best bank, investment, car, vacation or barbecue grill!

Inquiry is a critical skill for life-long learning that we encourage, utilize and promote daily in gifted education. Help your child understand the multiple ways we can ask big questions and find joy in the messy process of discovering the answers.

In search of the next great investigation,

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