Sunday, July 27, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

The story of a gifted child

By
From page A1 | March 07, 2013 |

Don-Wook Shin. Enterprise photo

What does it truly mean to be a gifted child in Davis?

Because apparently there is gifted, and then there is Don-Wook Shin.

Shin, now a junior at Davis High School, was doing long division in his head before the age of 5. He began learning calculus in fifth grade, took his first Advanced Placement test (Calculus BC — the more difficult of the two AP calculus tests) in seventh grade, and then proceeded to teach himself the curriculum to seven other AP math and science courses over the next three years.

By the end of 10th grade, he’d done so well on all those AP tests that he was recently named a Siemens Award winner as the highest-scoring male student in California.

But Shin’s AP tests scores really only tell a small part of his story.

The story of this gifted child is also the story of a community of family and teachers who decided when Shin was still very young that this exceptional student, who could have gone to college as early as seventh grade, should be given a true childhood — a chance to grow up among his peers and become a well-rounded individual.

They seem to have succeeded.

Now in his second year at Davis High, Shin is on the volleyball team and the academic decathlon team and serves as an officer on the speech and debate team.

“He doesn’t come across as the stereotypical genius,” says his kindergarten teacher, Catherine Cloughesy.

In fact, she added, “you wouldn’t know if you just met him. I’ve met a lot of gifted children and it’s a rare trait to be able to joke and laugh about yourself like he can.”

Shin, she said, is “a one of a kind.”

It was in the kindergarten classroom at Grace Valley Christian Academy that Cloughesy first developed an inkling of how unique Shin was.

“It became very clear, very quickly that he had a gift and ability far above his age,” Cloughesy recalled. “It was in the math that I began to see it … something in his face, the wheels were turning.”

That’s when, as Shin described it, Cloughesy, “decided to have a little fun with me.”

While his peers, working in small groups, were practicing their adding and subtracting, “I started throwing out long division with three-digit numbers and he did them in his head,” Cloughesy said. “I would sit next to him and I could see that he did it in his head and then wrote it down. It was quite shocking.”

She went to colleague Catherine Harrington, a part-time inclusion specialist for the Davis school district who also works as an alternative curriculum teacher at Grace Valley.

“I said, ‘We need to do something,’ ” Cloughesy recalled.

She also said, “I think I met the person who’s going to cure cancer.”

Looking back, Shin credits both Cloughesy and Harrington for going the extra mile for him.

Harrington would work with him before school or after school, “giving up her own time to tutor me one-on-one,” said Shin, to make sure he could continue progressing at his own rate in math.

It was a little intimidating at times, Harrington said, especially when Shin would beat her to an answer.

“I learned to the solve the problems ahead of time,” she laughed.

And by the time he hit fifth grade, she had to find another teacher for him.

“He needed calculus, and I said, ‘I don’t remember calculus,’ ” Harrington recalled.

Fortunately, Grace Valley had a teacher on staff, an actuary by profession, who did remember his calculus and offered to take over Shin’s after-school tutoring.

Meanwhile, Shin’s parents, in consultation with the Grace Valley teachers, had decided to keep Shin with his peers during the school day, ensuring that developmentally and socially, he would continue to enjoy a typical childhood.

When his parents asked Harrington what Shin should work on over the summer, “I told them he needed to work on riding his bike, swimming and playing,” Harrington said.

“When they said, ‘No, what should he work on academically?’ I said, ‘Riding his bike, swimming and playing,’ ” she recalled.

That insistence that this child should remain a child is why, Harrington and Cloughesy said, Shin has become such a well-rounded teenager.

Keeping him with his peers — who academically were all over the place — not only taught him humility, Harrington said, but how to be socially appropriate.

“Shunting students off in an accelerated program,” she added, tends to result in kids “who have a high sense of themselves.”

Shin, on the other hand, “still doesn’t realize how much easier the math is for him,” Harrington said.

Even the whole idea of Shin taking AP tests at such a young age was really more about measuring what he was learning.

“If the focus had been, ‘Let’s get him to college in seventh grade,’ I think I would have been hesitant,” Harrington said. “I’m not a proponent of a child going to college early.”

But for him to take the test and get the credit was fine, she said.

By the time he was in the ninth grade at Grace Valley, Shin had taken and received 5′s on calculus BC, statistics, both physics tests and biology.

It wasn’t until he was a sophomore at Davis High that he actually took an AP class — chemistry. Meanwhile, he was teaching himself the curriculum for AP environmental science and computer science, and he took all three of those tests at the end of the year, earning 5′s on each.

His scores on all of those AP tests are what earned him the Siemens Award, which comes with a $2,000 scholarship.

Shin will put that money to good use next year, when he will enroll as a freshman at UC Berkeley. He’s graduating a year early because he’s pretty much run out of courses to take at Davis High.

In order to complete his required courses, Shin doubled up on his English and social studies classes the past two years. And before he graduates, he’ll take a few more AP tests: in American government, both macro and micro economics, English literature, Spanish and U.S. history.

“My parents wanted to give me time to enjoy high school and develop on my own,” Shin said of his journey. “It was my own decision to skip one year ahead. I’m really looking forward to college next year and being able to study what I want to study.”

He plans to major in electrical engineering and computer science.

So whether he will indeed be the person who cures cancer, as Cloughesy imagined, remains to be seen. But everyone who knows him expects something great.

“He is a rarity,” Harrington noted.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Comments

comments

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Zombies by rail: It’s not just a show, it’s a trip

    By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Fatal Covell Boulevard crash recalled in court

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

    Humphrey Fellows will host Global Forum

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Community gardens stretch food dollars, study finds

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Wildfire spurs evacuation of 700 homes

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    State can’t say if it’s meeting drought goal

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Rairdan joins race for Davis school board

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Ukraine launches offensive to retake Donetsk

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Israel extends Gaza truce through Sunday

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    New ordinance aims to prevent nut thefts from orchards

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

     
    Biggest book sale to date opens Friday at Davis library

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Luna family matriarch turns 100

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
     
    Discussion of oil by rail EIR planned Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Mace Innovation Center is focus of meeting

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Freeway crash injures two drivers

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

    Museum wants your old Davis High School yearbooks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Affordable housing forum planned in Davis

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Protesters gather at Primate Center

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A8

     
    State awards $40,000 for historic property survey

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A8

    Free blood pressure screenings offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Vanguard hosts economic development director

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Get a sneak peek at documentary trailer

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Davis Chamber Choir sings short summer program

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A9

    Tasting event benefits Yolo Land Trust

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A9

     
    At the Pond: From Davis, it’s easy to get back to nature

    By Jean Jackman | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    Tickets on sale now for DHS Hall of Fame dinner

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    .

    Forum

    Feels like a million miles away

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A7

     
    Here’s what you need for a perfect wedding

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

     
    Check doctors’ vitals before they check yours

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    Husband’s let himself go

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A14

     
    Questions on water rights

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A16, 1 Comment

    Campus turns on the tap

    By Our View | From Page: A16

     
    So, what’s in a week’s worth of waste?

    By Michelle Millet | From Page: A16

    Pat Oliphant cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A16

     
    Golf tourney was a big success

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A16

    We can do more to help

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A17

     
    New playground is wonderful

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A17

    Just Us in Davis: Little Rock Nine hero to celebrate with Davis youths

    By Jann L. Murray-Garcia | From Page: A17 | Gallery

     
    .

    Sports

    Sutherland presents 1st clinic; golf column on its way

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    New Korematsu teacher is an American Ninja Warrior

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Furyk opens 3-shot lead in Canadian Open

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Gray wins 6th straight, A’s 4 HRs beat Texas 5-1

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Kershaw throws 2-hitter as Dodgers beat Giants 5-0

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Nibali set to cruise to Tour victory

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Area sports briefs: River Cats take Game 1 of doubleheader

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    Companies will collaborate on crop insect control

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A13

     
    Developer’s commitments: affordable and green

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13 | Gallery

    Lagerstrom represents Davis at Mary Kay seminar

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A15

     
    UC Davis Health System earns ‘Most Wired’ award

    By Charles Casey | From Page: A15

    Bartholomew hires new associate

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

     
    Yolo County real estate sales

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A15

    Go back to school with Great Clips

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Carlton Hope Meister

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Jonathan Eric Hollander

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, July 27, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A6