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Gifted and Talented Education Program

Three men left to right, Ron Petrelli, Dustin Schonauer, Michael Cushine

The Panama-Buena Vista Union School District Elementary Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Program is designed to extend and enrich the identified fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade students' educational experience through special teacher-prepared units of study. The units are created to meet the special needs and correspond to the unique learning styles of gifted children. Mr. Ron Petrelli (4th), Mr. Dustin Schonauer (5th), and Mr. Michael Cushine (6th) generate a challenging curriculum designed to extend the core curriculum, expose students to new and different topics of study, and offer a wide range of experiences to foster creative talents and develop critical thinking skills.

Identified students from all of the District’s 20 elementary sites are bussed to the Stockdale GATE Center for one full day of enrichment instruction each week. Program hours are 9:00 am - 1:30 p.m.

Identification Process

Qualification to test for the elementary gifted education program is based on students' STAR Math/Reading results from the previous school year. Students must minimally score an Achievement Level of 4 in both Mathematics and ELA to be considered. Qualifying students are invited to take the Otis-Lennon School Abilities Test (OLSAT) which is administered at each school site in August. Students are ranked on OLSAT test scores. The highest-scoring students are placed in the available openings in the GATE classes. GATE instruction begins in September. GATE Parent Orientation Night is October 4th, 2023, from 7:00-7:30 PM at the Stockdale Elementary Multi-purpose room. 

GATE Program

The GATE staff is dedicated to meeting the needs of the District's advanced learners. Teachers stay current on state standards, differentiated curriculum, and GATE instructional strategies. Professional development is ongoing through university coursework and California Association for the Gifted (CAG) conferences and institutes.

The GATE instructors participate in the DonorsChoose program and have been quite successful in getting numerous projects funded. We have acquired a variety of math, art, and science materials used for many of our S.T.E.A.M. challenges and activities. Several of the GATE teachers’ projects have been fully or partially funded by Chevron through its partnership program with non-profit organizations.

Fourth graders begin the year with a study of the History of the World, an interdisciplinary unit encompassing geography, geology, archaeology, paleontology, and anthropology. The 5th graders participate in the study of Space Science, a unit specifically designed to extend and enrich the earth science core curriculum. This unit integrates the study of our universe, the history of space flight and exploration, and exposes our students to career options in the fields of science, engineering, and advanced mathematics. Sixth graders experience a hands-on approach to learning about Economics and Finance. In Stock Market game competitions, students discover real-world applications while competing with school teams across the state. Our 6th-grade students consistently place in the top tier of the U.S. West Region - placing 1st in 2009, 2018, and 2020 - including a top 1% finish in the nation in 2012! Our 6th-grade students also placed first place in the 2020 Essay Contest!

Student learning is enhanced by participation in educational field study programs related to the GATE curriculum. Each grade level participates in two out-of-town field trips each year. Fourth graders visit the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles to extend their study of Paleontology and Archaeology. To enhance their study of Space Science, fifth graders travel to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Sixth graders visit the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, which is designed to engage visitors' hearts and minds while challenging them to assume personal responsibility for positive change. Spring field trips will have all grade levels visiting southern California to extend their study of Art Appreciation and expand their knowledge of Art History and the Visual Arts. Funding for all field trip experiences is provided by GATE parents.

An essential part of the GATE curriculum is the study of Art History and Appreciation. GATE students are exposed to the arts of different cultures and various art historical periods. Students examine the lives and work of the world’s famous artists and not only learn to appreciate the arts, but actively participate in the creative process. Students in all grade levels produce an extensive assortment of projects using a wide variety of mediums.

To promote cultural literacy and expand language arts skills, teachers provide meaningful and challenging learning experiences. Students study the etymology of words with Greek and Latin roots. Latin-based languages provide the foundation of our foreign language curriculum. Italian, Spanish, and French are introduced through a variety of listening, speaking, reading, and writing activities.

The GATE curriculum includes mathematics enrichment, where all strands of the discipline are explored. Students study famous mathematicians throughout history and investigate mathematical ideas and principles. Teacher-made units of study incorporate advanced hands-on learning activities based on the California Mathematics Content Standards. Instructors work as a team to develop innovative ways to enhance and extend students' mathematical reasoning and understanding. 

Our GATE instructors continually strive to improve the curriculum to appropriately meet the needs of these special-needs learners. Instructors are committed to creating a supportive learning environment where students with exceptionally high intellectual abilities are challenged, yet feel safe to take risks in their academic explorations. The GATE team is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of the District’s gifted children.


Junior High Above Grade Level/Accelerated Program


The junior high school above grade level/accelerated program is offered at each individual school site. Students follow a regular junior high school schedule taking above grade level/accelerated Math and/or English/Language Arts daily. Students are placed in junior high above grade level/accelerated classes based on STAR Achievement Test results, CAASPP, GPA, and teacher recommendation.

stock market game photos
winners of the stomp rocket challenge
group photo of children in lab
children working together
collage of children in museum
children working together
children working together
children posed at art musuem
children working together
children working together
children showing their helecopters
children holding their rockets with how high they flew
children measuring weight of coins
children learning about money
children gathered for a photo
collage of images of children and old cars
children working on science with a fish
children working on science in classroom
children working on science
children observing wall of art
children working on science
children working on computers
children working on computers
children signing a poster
classroom of children gathered for a photo