Lacava-Owen named VA Gifted Resource Teacher of the Year

Hannah Song

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By Hannah Song

Gifted resource teacher Jamie Lacava-Owen has been able to foster close relationships with students and teachers alike, despite not teaching in a traditional classroom setting.  

“I’ve been able to see students blossom into the people they want to be,” said Lacava-Owen, known affectionately as Ms. Lo.

She recently was recognized as the Virginia Gifted Resource Teacher of the Year. When she found out that she won the award, she couldn’t believe it.

“It seemed unreal,” she said.

Lacava-Owen has been a gifted resource teacher for five years. She was offered the unexpected opportunity as soon as she began working at PA, and she happily accepted. This year is her 11th year teaching, and she has previously taught IB English in Fairfax County, VA and middle school English in Norfolk.

Lacava-Owen had never even considered studying education until college when she started to work at a child study center and realized her potential in the teaching field.

“It was something I happened upon,” she said. “I started taking classes and doing internships and I realized I could make a huge difference as a teacher, so I pursued it.”

For Lacava-Owen, there is no such thing as a normal schedule. She works almost exclusively behind the scenes, collaborating with teachers, students, and even administrators to plan out the best curricula and pathways for student learning.

“The purpose of my job is to advocate for gifted kids. I am advocating that they have the ability to learn something new and different every single day,” said Lacava-Owen.

“There are a lot of times when people will come in and say, ‘What do you do?’ and sometimes I get hurt by that question because what I do is so much behind the scenes,” said Lacava-Owen. “I don’t need the attention, but I always want students to know that I’m there for them. The reality is that there are more than 500 gifted kids at this school and I don’t know every single one of them. I know everyone’s names, but I might not know the details about their lives and they might not even know that I know who they are. It’s something that I’ve tried to overcome.”

Giftedness is a very ambiguous concept to most students–even if they are classified as such. In her opinion, being gifted doesn’t necessarily mean being “smart” but simply means thinking uniquely whether manifested academically with school work or creatively with the arts. This trait is something that the school system wants to foster among students through Lacava-Owen.

Lacava-Owen noted that no one ever explains what it really means to students even in elementary school which to her is a “huge disservice to the gifted community because being gifted impacts who you are and how you see the world.”

“If any student wants to know what it means, I would love for them to come talk to me about it,” she said. “I didn’t know what it meant to be gifted until I was in college. I remember feeling so enlightened.  It helped me gain a deeper understanding of my strengths and limitations. I think every gifted student should have that experience.”

She has worked hard alongside her gifted resource colleague at Green Run to change the curriculum for the gifted classes she teaches: SPARK and Think Tank, which focuses on allowing students to understand who they are and to pursue passion projects.

In addition, teachers constantly go to Lacava-Owen for advice on how to improve their curricula or she will come up with ideas for them to work with.

“One thing that we did with Ms. Karunaratne with her biology classes (both IB and non-IB) was ADI, argument-driven inquiry,” said Lacava-Owen. “It’s a strategy that really is having students look at the information they are trying to learn in a conceptual way so I think that was something I really wanted to explore especially with gifted kids.”

Through her job, she wants students to feel empowered even though they may not see her face: “I am advocating for them in the background to make sure every student gets the opportunities for a quality education.”

“It’s always been my mission to help students understand how their giftedness affects who they are,” said Lacava-Owen. “I want to just be here to help whether it’s academically, socially, or emotionally for every student, not just gifted kids.”