Looking Back, Looking Ahead

by Nancy Green, former executive director

In 2004, when I became a finalist for the position of NAGC Executive Director, the Search Committee asked me to do a presentation. If I were offered the position--what I would do once in the job? I titled my power point, "NAGC: Building to the Future" (sounds safe, doesn't it?) and I walked through an action plan with the members of the group. Two days later, as I was sitting at my kitchen table on a Sunday afternoon, the offer came from then President, Rick Olenchak. It seemed the search committee liked the plan!

So, why is this memory top of mind? Just the other day, Karen Yoho, NAGC's Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, ran across this document in the electronic files at the national office and sent it my way. I had forgotten about it...somewhere over the past 11 years of my tenure it dropped off the set of relevant items informing my actions. As I went through the pages of that dated presentation, two thoughts hit me. First, boy was I naive! Second, wow, have I ever learned a lot in this role. Here are six of the lessons that I came to appreciate over time.

  1. Partnerships are absolutely key to success, but they are hard to start and harder to sustain. What partners make the most difference to our goals and why? NAGC's work building awareness with administrators is a great example of a strategic partnership. It's easy to say "we should partner," and a lot harder to do it. Without focus, a partnership easily fizzles out.
  2. Speaking with one voice on behalf of gifted learners is essential for the future. One wish I have for NAGC going forward is for our various groups who champion different perspectives to find common ground. We should always talk "both/and" rather than "either/or." Successful advocacy groups have figured this out. Can we?
  3. Standards and Research-Based Practice set NAGC apart. When I first stepped into this role, I was all about marketing and building numbers. I'll admit that it can be tempting to champion current education fads and trends, but staying true to our values as a field helps maintain our position as the "gold-standard" for quality content and advice.
  4. Stopping to appreciate the people who contribute is fundamental. The individuals I have worked with-on the staff, on the Board, and in all of the other nooks and crannies of NAGC--are passionate and dedicated and well-informed. This makes our culture powerful. Not many projects go unfinished when our key contributors want to make it happen. Few demand much in the way of visibility, so a simple thank you is often the best gesture. This is worth remembering each and every day.
  5. While support for STEM and Talent Development have become the shared national drumbeat, our work is just beginning. The pressure to convey the research findings that demonstrate that gifted education makes a difference is only going to grow in our data-driven environment. Educators feel this demand for data acutely, and the media/policy makers request it constantly.
  6. The time to cultivate future leaders and diverse leaders is now. This issue cuts across all membership organizations, where the volunteer model gets less and less attractive to younger leaders, who don't have eight years to commit to a governance track. They want to make a difference...today! It's also worth striving to make NAGC look more like the national population, although that will take patience and time.

With a great mission and supportive member and leaders, the NAGC Executive Director position will be very attractive to some of the most talented nonprofit leaders and education experts. Washington, DC, is filled with them! Luckily, they will have strong partners to work with at the Board, Committee, State and Network level, and a professional, skilled staff to complement their vision. It's a great recipe for success! My thanks go to so many past presidents, committee chairs, network leaders and others. Your guidance and friendship helped NAGC, and me, to grow in lots of new directions.