Whitworth University Center for Gifted Education

Quick Look

  • M.A. and Gifted Education Specialty Endorsement
  • Only university in Washington with a degree in gifted education
  • Complete your specialty endorsement in one year
  • Online and on-campus options
  • Courses and institutes for professional development
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Meet Us

Jann Leppien, Ph.D.

Jann Leppien is the inaugural holder of Whitworth University’s Margo Long Chair in Gifted Education. Before joining the faculty at Whitworth, Leppien taught at the University of Great Falls, in Great Falls, Mont. She has also worked as a research assistant for The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT),,and she is co-author of The Multiple Menu Model: A Practical Guide for Developing Curriculum, and The Parallel Curriculum: A Design to Develop High Potential and Challenge High-Ability Students. Her areas of expertise include curriculum and instruction, assessment and learning, educational research, teaching thinking skills, and program development. Leppien presents nationally and internationally and consults with school districts around the nation. Currently, she teaches New Directions in Gifted Education, Strategies and Instructional Models for Challenging Bright Students, and Improving the Teaching of Thinking. Leppien has been an instructor of gifted education colleges and universities in Montana, Washington, Louisiana, Minnesota, Alaska, Connecticut, and Idaho.

Kathryn Picanco, Ed.D.

Kathryn Picanco is director of the Whitworth Center for Gifted Education. She is an experienced classroom teacher, district coordinator, consultant and instructor in the areas of differentiation and gifted education. A Spokane native, Picanco earned her B.A. from Santa Clara University; she holds both an M.Ed. in elementary education and an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction from Washington State University. She taught fourth and fifth grades prior to becoming the district differentiation specialist and gifted and talented education coordinator for the Saratoga Union School District, in Saratoga, Calif. Picanco regularly taught coursework in the field of gifted education at the University of Santa Cruz Extension and at Santa Clara University before moving back to the Spokane area and joining the Whitworth faculty. Picanco teaches New Directions in Gifted Education, Strategies and Models for Challenging Bright Students, Differentiating Instruction for Highly Capable Students, and Exceptional Learners and Differentiated Instruction. Picanco’s areas of research interest include differentiated instruction, environmental and sustainability education, and co-teaching in the student-teaching internship.

Glenda Armstrong

As an instructor in both the Evening Teacher Certification Program and the Specialty Endorsement in Teaching the Gifted and Talented Program, Glenda Armstrong served the local community as principal of Dalton Elementary School and Advanced Learning Program director for the Coeur d’Alene School District. She now is principal at Elrod Elementary School, in the Kalispell School District. Armstrong teaches the course Differentiated Instruction in Whitworth’s Evening Teacher Certification Program. As part of the Specialty Endorsement Program, she teaches Differentiation for Highly Capable Students. Armstrong received her master of education in administrative leadership and an endorsement in teaching the gifted from the University of Idaho.

Joni Domanico Brock

Joni Brock is a National Board-Certified teacher who has been an adjunct professor in the graduate studies department at Whitworth for more than 20 years. Her years of experience as both a teacher of the gifted and a gifted-program coordinator helped her develop expertise on a variety of topics – particularly social and emotional issues -- related to the gifted student. She also provides on-site professional development as an instructional coach for Spokane Public Schools. The unique and satisfying opportunity to facilitate small graduate classes drew Brock to Whitworth. Facilitating high-quality interaction and in-depth learning opportunities keeps her here.

Roger Fisher

For more than 20 years, Roger Fisher has been an independent educational consultant, providing consultation services to school districts and parent groups on topics related to gifted education. He is currently a consultant teaching for the Evergreen School District, in Vancouver, Wash. His experiences also include cluster-grouping responsibility for gifted students and teaching Summer Challenge classes. Fisher coordinates the Children’s Culture Parade, which involves more than 1,200 children in Vancouver. As adjunct faculty member at Whitworth, he teaches Creativity and Analytical Thinking. Fisher has several years of experience in teaching gifted students through a pull-out gifted program, a full-time gifted-education program, and a self-contained classroom.

Gail Hanninen, Ed.D.

Gail Hanninen’s background includes educational administration and special education, with specializations in learning disabilities, gifted students, and serious behavior disorders. She currently works as an educational consultant in the area of gifted education and program reviews. At Whitworth she has taught courses such as Teaching in the Mixed-Ability Classroom, Twice-Exceptional Students, and Nature and Needs of the Gifted Learner. Hanninen’s doctoral dissertation studied "The Effects of the Hilda Taba Teaching Strategies on Creative and Critical Thinking."

John Klapp

John Klapp completed doctoral work in human learning, development and instruction at the University of British Columbia. His work experience includes administration of summer teaching-enrichment programs. He teaches classes such as Strategies and Instructional Models for Challenging Bright Students, Educational Psychology, Educational Research, and Milestones in Education. Since 2003, Klapp has taught in the Starburst Program for Gifted and Talented Students from the Post Falls School District.

Carol Mahoney

For the past 11 years, Carol Mahoney has worked as a middle-school classroom teacher for language arts and social studies, as well as for gifted education enrichment programs, in both Port Angeles and Cheney, Wash. She spent three years as an instructional coach responsible for the implementation of an inclusion model for elementary highly capable students in the Cheney School District. After obtaining her administrative certification, she served as Cheney’s district assessment and humanities curriculum coordinator. She recently became the principal of Betz Elementary, in Cheney. Mahoney earned her undergraduate degree in secondary English education from Eastern Washington University, which also awarded her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in gifted education.

Brandi Maynard, Ph.D.

Driven by her passion for technology and a hunger for learning, Brandi Maynard hopes to offer the most cutting-edge resources in the area of gifted and talented education and technology integration. She shares strategies for technology innovation, teaching gifted students, and teaching in an online environment. Maynard has been a gifted teacher since 1997. She says that teaching at Whitworth was like “coming home,” as she completed her MIT in gifted and talented learners here in 2002. In 2002, Maynard built a K-8 virtual gifted program model, the first of its kind in a K-12 Virtual Academy.

Luanne Williams

Luanne Williams co-instructs the Jan Term class New Directions in Gifted Education. She has also taught Teaching the Gifted Underachiever and Developing Curriculum. Prior to that, Williams worked on the Washington State Highly Capable Working Group to make recommendations to the legislature on gifted education in basic education. She earned both her master’s, with an emphasis in gifted, and her specialty endorsement at Whitworth. She currently works at Mountainside Middle School, in the Mead School District, where she teaches math to eighth graders. Williams spent a number of years teaching in extremely high-achieving private schools in California.