Photo of PJ Sedillo

Dr. PJ Sedillo

In his research, teaching, and advocacy, Dr. Sedillo champions LGBTQ+ students and Gifted students

October 3, 2022

Highlands University Professor Dr. PJ Sedillo has been selected by the New Mexico Association for the Gifted as the 2022-2023 Advocate of the Year. Sedillo is an Associate Professor of Special Education and the Gifted Department Chair at Highlands and was selected as Advocate of the Year for his work with Gifted and talented students.

Sedillo, who received his undergraduate degree from NMHU in 1989, said he found his calling in Gifted Education after teaching for ten years and hitting a wall with traditional education. When he was first placed in a Gifted classroom, he assumed it would be easy but quickly understood how complex it is to teach students who are highly intelligent and often underserved in schools.

Sedillo took the four classes required by the state of New Mexico to get his teaching endorsement in Gifted Education.

“Gifted is underneath the special education umbrella in New Mexico, which is very unique. Gifted students get an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) just like students who have disabilities,” Sedillo said. “We rank lowest in education compared to other states, but we are actually in the top ten for serving gifted children in the United States.”

Sedillo has been teaching Gifted Education coursework at NMHU for eight years and said it has become a passion. With an extensive body of publications and research under his belt, Sedillo said he has become known worldwide for his research on the risk and resiliency factors for LGBTQ+ students who are Gifted.

“The biggest myth is that they’re going to make it on their own. Fifteen to eighteen percent of students who are identified as Gifted drop out of high school,” Sedillo said. “There’s a lot of stigma placed on individuals who are LBGTQ+, and on individuals who are Gifted. They have to, in essence, dumb themselves down to fit in society.”

As someone both gay and Gifted, Sedillo said his research and his passion for Gifted Education comes partly from a personal understanding of the struggles students face when they are Gifted, LGBTQ+, or both. Sedillo said NMHU is the only university in the state that offers a master’s degree in Special Education with a Gifted Endorsement. According to Sedillo, the program is becoming well known and even attracts international students.

“My life has always been fighting for the underdog because I too was a person who didn’t have a voice. I get lots of calls from parents wanting help with meeting the needs of their children,” Sedillo said. “As a leader in Gifted Education, I’m able now to be an advocate for others. My primary function is making sure that Gifted Education thrives through throughout New Mexico.”