Monday, June 10, 2024

When Laurie Croft’s daughters were young, it became evident through testing and assessment that they were intellectually and academically advanced. At the time, however, Croft was unfamiliar with how to best support and nurture their development. In a twist of fate, what initially began as a personal quest for information and guidance about gifted education quickly became a life-long passion, including a storied career. 

Now, after more than 25 years of teaching, collaborating, and administering in the field of gifted education, Croft, a clinical professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, and an associate director for professional development at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, is set to retire on June 3.

Laurie Croft, associate director for professional development at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development

Croft joined the College of Education by way of the Belin-Blank Center in August of 1998, initially serving as a staff member before transitioning to adjunct assistant professor, and eventually becoming a clinical professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning. 

“When the Belin-Blank Center advertised a position to work with professional development and the Invent Iowa program … that is what drew me to a full-time career at the University of Iowa,” says Croft. “I’d become familiar with the center when I presented at the Wallace Research Symposium, and I couldn’t have imagined a better place to promote the talent development of advanced learners.”

In her time with the Belin-Blank Center, Croft has been heavily involved in the global advancement of gifted education, including program implementation in which 51 international educators from 41 different countries traveled to Iowa City for the Templeton International Fellowship. 

She has worked and collaborated with international educators in several countries and has also represented the center as a U.S. Delegate on the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children.

“In her nearly 26 years in the College of Education, Laurie helped countless teachers earn their gifted and talented endorsement, taught numerous courses, headed multiple conferences for teachers, held leadership positions in the National Association for Gifted Children and the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association, published multiple book chapters and articles, and gave literally hundreds of presentations,” says Megan Foley Nicpon, director of the Belin-Blank Center and Myron and Jacqueline N. Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education. “She gave her heart and soul to the center and to the college.” 

Croft says she will miss the daily interactions and collaborations with colleagues as well as the community environment of the university. 

“I was fortunate to work with truly exceptional educators from across Iowa and many other states,” says Croft. “I will also miss working with others outside my own areas of expertise. I have always loved the search for answers, and I hope that even though I won’t be ‘on the job’ I can continue the joy of new learning every day.”

In retirement, Croft plans to move back to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to be closer to her two daughters (Jennifer and Anne Marie) and her two grandchildren; however, she will remain involved with the Belin-Blank Center through an Open Educational Resource project that is focused on highlighting diversity within the gifted and talented community. She also hopes to continue teaching (online) about talent development and plans to set aside some time for creative writing.  

Additionally, Croft will continue to promote and work toward continued endowment of the Laurie Jane Croft Scholarship, which was established by her late husband, Jerry, and is available to undergraduate or graduate students in the College of Education who are pursuing an endorsement in gifted education.