Eugene Paslov: The Davidson Academy: Fulfilling the American Dream
May 6, 2011
University of Nevada, Reno, President Dr. Milt Glick died recently. I did not know Dr. Glick well but did serve with him on the Board of Directors for the Davidson Academy.
The Davidson Academy, a public school, educates profoundly gifted students from the ages of 10 to 17. Milt, as he liked to be called, understood the power of education. He sought to help university youth achieve the American Dream – to do what one loves, to achieve excellence, and to contribute to the economic well-being of the state. He had the same vision for the young people at the Davidson Academy.
As an Academy board member, Milt worked closely with Jan and Bob Davidson, the founders of the Davidson Academy. The Davidsons wanted the unique boys and girls attending the Academy to have a first rate education, with exceptional teachers and exposure to the intellectual demands of university professors. The Davidsons had a dream.
They believe that profoundly gifted children need a special educational environment. The Davidsons’ dream, inspired by a lifetime of hard work and success in American business, was to help gifted and talented children reach their potential. Years of study and research showed them that many of these gifted children were left to flounder in traditional settings. Some succeeded. Many did not. The Davidsons worked with the Nevada Legislature to create a special public school located on the UNR campus. What was once a dream for them is today a beautiful educational institution, serving close to 140 students between the ages of 10 and 17 … a growing dream unfolding.
Colleen Harsin is the director of the Davidson Academy. The Davidson’s had the dream, but it is talented leadership that makes the dream come alive. Ms. Harsin reminded me recently that although these young people are exceptional, they also are children. They need attention, care and demanding intellectual structure to help them fulfill their dreams. They are truly special.
The teachers at the Davidson Academy are themselves exceptional. They love their work and the youth they serve. Guidance Counselor Ms. Ramirez described the “asynchronous” development of students – i.e. a 12-year-old taking calculus whose favorite singer is Hannah Montana – as exciting for teaching and learning. Chris English teaches ancient history and marvels at student inquisitiveness. Ms. Smith-Barrios, an English and mythology teacher, is enthusiastic about the levels of student comprehension. The measure of success of any school is the excitement and wonder for students and teachers.
Jan and Bob Davidson, Milt Glick, Colleen Harsin, teachers, students and parents have all helped make the Academy a reality. The school is full of wonder, learning and excitement, “… the stuff of dreams.”
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.