bbkidsteachersFour Vinton-Shellsburg sixth grade students spent last Saturday in Iowa City, being honored by the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center for an outstanding performance on a test known as I-Excel.
Graham Henkle, Caroline Erickson, Samantha Walton and Ella Hainey were among many students recognized for a variety of academic achievements a at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center.
The four are among the Expanded Learning Program (ELP) class at VS Middle School, where Jeff Mangold is their teacher. Their fifth grade ELP eacher was Alissa Mann. Students were allowed to invite a teacher to receive recognition with them; along with Mangold and Mann, they chose 5th grade teacher Chelsea Lorenzen to accompany them to Iowa City.
“Basically, the I-Excel test is an 8th grade test given to 6th graders,” Mr. Mangold explains. “The information shows how they test compared to average kids 2 grades above them. The kids that take the test had to have had at least one score at or above the 95% in at least one subject area on the Iowa Assessments. These four students met some requirement/% (I am not sure of the formula they used) that put them in a category deemed as ‘very high ability achievers.’  In other words, they are really smart and tested well in Math, Science, English, and Reading.”
These students each had multiple scores that would have placed them in the top 5% of all 8th graders nationally (according to standardized testing), even though they were only in 6th grade, Mangold adds.
“The lowest any of them scored was the 75th percentile in one area compared to other 8th grade students,” he said. ” I contacted the Belin-Blank Center last winter to learn about above-level testing. Basically it’s called a ‘talent search’ and the students who had at least 2 scores above the 90th % on their Iowa Assessments test were eligible. I gave the test in April to 26 of our 6th graders who qualified. So to get this honor they tested very well against only high achieving students, not all students.”
Along with receiving medals, the students had a chance to hear several speakers and see some displays of technology.
“Graham says he enjoyed the technology on display at last Sunday’s award ceremony, and the speakers,” says his mom, Kelly.  “The Belin-Blank Center has different program offerings for gifted education, and some of their displays highlighted that.”
Mr. Mangold shared the following observations the four students shared with him:
“They said it was a great experience, seeing and mingling with so many bright and motivated students from Iowa and several other states. The showcase for the Belin-Blank center that the kids got to see showcased all the advanced opportunities available to students.  Examples include Invent Iowa (used to be Invention Convention), and the Scholastic Arts and Writing national competition. They thought the keynote speaker was very inspirational, because she started as a student just like them, but when she became associated with the Belin-Blank center for gifted programming, it propelled her to finishing high school early and she is now completing her engineering degree,” Mangold said.
U of I president Bruce Herald also addressed them with a short speech. Gov. Branstad could not attend but they did show a video of him addressing the students and their accomplishments, and how important it is for Iowa to have bright motivated students to ensure a bright future for our state.
Future programs
Mangold will soon start coaching seven specific teams that will prepare for contests with other students from other schools: Three Middle School Lego League teams, three Middle School Future City teams, and the High School Science Bowl team. Mrs. Mann will also have two 5th grade Lego League teams.
“I’m bringing back the High School Science Bowl team that hasn’t been in existence for several years,” Mangold says.
About the Belin-Blank Award Ceremony:

Caroline Erickson, Ella Hainey, Graham Henkle and Samantha Walton, students at Vinton-Shellsburg Middle School, were among the 700 students from Iowa and throughout the nation who were recently invited to be honored at The University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center’s Recognition Ceremony. Additionally, recognized students were given the opportunity to honor a teacher they credited for having a profound influence on their lives. Jeff Mangold, Allissa Mann, and Chelsea Lorenzen were selected by these students for this honor.

The ceremony was held Sunday, September 25, 2016 at the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus.

Students were invited to be recognized by the Center for exceptional performance in the Belin-Bank Center student talent search, for receiving scholarships for Belin-Blank Center summer residential gifted programs, for being Gold Key awardees from the Scholastic Art and Writing program, for being a student research presenter at the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, for being an awardee for Invent Iowa State Inventions Convention, participants in STEM Excellence and Leadership program, or participants in the Secondary Student Training Program.

Addressing the students, teachers and guests were The University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, Dean Dan Clay from the College of Education, and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. Engineering Dean Alec Scranton, delivered the keynote address to teachers and Adetayo Oladele-Ajose delivered the keynote address to the students.

The Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development is an international full-service gifted education center at the University of Iowa’s College of Education (

See more photos HERE.