Strong support system allows student to succeed

At the new Helena Middle School, gifted and talented specialist teachers Tricia Roberts and Jennifer Cleere address the needs of students who have been identified as qualifying for the gifted education program.

Some 155 HMS students spend one period daily in classes that provide continued challenges, stimulation and encouragement appropriate to the individual.

Seventh graders who score in the 95th percentile or above on achievement tests can choose, with parental approval, to take the ACT test.

“I tell my students it is a great way to gain experience prior to the required ACT test for college admission given in the senior year of high school,” Roberts says, “The more practice you have with any situation, the more comfortable you will be, which opens the way to performing at your best.”

Cleere mentions eighth grader, Mareth Saville, who scored a 24 on the test last year. This outstanding score also earned her national recognition in the Duke Talent Program. Mareth is the second oldest of a family of three sisters and two brothers who have all grown up in Helena. Her father, Lin, a former marathoner, has supported her interest in track and cross-country. Her parents, Mareth says, did not push her, but emphasized self-motivation and did require she make good grades. The Saville family (including siblings Trey, Mallie, Rob, Mandy and Maddie) makes time around activities for dinner together three to four nights each week. The household rule is no television on school nights, but the family enjoys watching Auburn football together on weekends.

Mareth also enjoys jazz, tap, modern and hip-hop dance and has taken classes for many years. She is an avid reader and notes the fiction of author Sarah Dessen as a favorite. Last Christmas, she received a digital camera that has heightened her interest in photography. As a HMS yearbook staff member, she is photography editor and also enjoys taking candid pictures of friends and family.

Mareth’s mother, Michelle, says, “It seems like each of Mareth’s teachers have given her a special gift. From Ms. Andrea Burke in kindergarten, who encouraged her love of reading to her fourth and fifth grade teachers who helped her learn to like math, I have been so appreciative of the way they have pointed her toward success.”

Observing Mareth to be a well-rounded teenager, Cleere says, “I hope Mareth can become comfortable with her intelligence. She has incredible potential and once realized, there will be no stopping her.”