37 Teachers And Other Folks Break Down The Moment They Realized The Student They Were Talking To Was Extremely Gifted
A lot of people are known to be good at something, whether it’s science-based interests, technical stuff, or being able to make something awesome from scratch. As we go through life, we learn what things make us happy and which areas we succeed in the most, typically choosing those as our main focus. Very often our talents appear when we’re just kids. Have you ever heard someone older share their speculations of who you’re going to be when you grow up because of your interest in a certain thing? Having this in mind, Reddit user @u/DrPhilsHair asked others online “Teachers of Reddit, when did you realize a kid was gifted?” and received not only answers from teachers but also from other people who know some successful stories of gifted and talented people.
The question that received almost 17k upvotes was soon filled with thousands of responses that revealed stories of some very bright kids who now have probably achieved important things in their lives. A lot of these answers talked about young kids who were clever beyond their age, excelling in math, science, or languages.
Do you have a similar story to share? Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments down below!
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#1This kid was always bright but never really inspired by much of what he did. Seemed a little lazy but wasn't troublesome he was just kind of a neutral kid in the class. Then we did one day of Lewis Structures and he thought it was 'too easy'. Gave him a harder worksheet which he finished in like 3 seconds. So I gave him an organic formula that had 12 different isomers and some resonance structures. He came up with all of them in less than 15 minutes including ones that had to do with how the object would look in 3D even though we never covered it.
Kid is currently working on his PhD at Yale in Organic Chemistry.
Image credits: valaranias
#2Biology teacher here.. had a new student come in at age 15. He didn't talk much but he did all his work as asked and did it well. One day we were having a class discussion about something and he joined in. It ended up being a back and forth between just the two of us and at some point I realised I was discussing pretty high level stuff with a 15 year old. He's a neurosurgeon now.
Image credits: fitzwillowy
#3I was teaching distance over time graphs. The student stated that if the line just went straight up that it would indicate teleportation because distance has been gained but no time has passed. This was 5th grade science.
Edit: This kid ended up skipping 6th and 7th grade. 5th to 8th. He was a super humble kid, I miss having him in my class.
Image credits: teachingqueen77
#4Ain't a teacher and its my little brother but I thought ill share it.
When I was around 14 and he was around 6 years old I would watch lots of YouTube videos in English (aint our native language) and he would just sit on the bed behind me and watch for hours, I thought he was just bored and didn't understand anything from what was being said.
Ffw a year we were on a long car ride and he picked up a history book in English, after a couple hours he tells us he is done reading it, dad laughs and says oh sure, I ask him to read a sentence and translate it he proceeds to absolutely nail it and shock us.
Image credits: meashen
#5I knew when he surprised me by reassembling an engine out of a car all by himself in a single 90 minute class period. It was right before school let out for Covid. I had to hurry up and get some projects thrown back together quickly since school was closing. He asked to do it so I let him try and went off to do other things. By the end of the class it was completely assembled! Never asked me for help and it was “working” Definitely gifted!
Image credits: choochoocharli
#6I’m a preschool teacher and I knew a 3 year old girl that had very extensive vocabulary and could already read really well. Once during lunchtime, a little boy scarfed down his food and her response was, “wow, he must have been famished”. I was blown away!
She also taught me about the digestive system once during lunchtime, and it was accurate information. But her favorite subject was the solar system! She was full of facts about the solar system, and she would teach me new things all the time. I always told her mom that she wasn’t ready for kindergarten, she’s ready for college.
Image credits: les_beau
#7Not a teacher, but a student with a gifted kid in his class. In third grade we had a new student come in who had just moved to the country with his family. Our teacher saw he was smart, she she challenged him with some math we were meant to learn in a couple weeks. He solved the problems no problem.
Next she tried some 4th grade level math, again he solved it with no problems. After that she called in one of the 5th grade teacher and she gave him some problems meant for 5th graders. As expected he solved those without any problems. They kept going until he got a question *partially* right. I believe but that point they were giving him stuff intended for early/mid-year 6th grade students.
Last I heard this kid got a degree in mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University.
Image credits: beep41
#8After less than one year of music lessons, it was clear the student would likely become a concert pianist when he learned 15 of Bach's Two-Part Inventions from memory - and played them brilliantly!
Image credits: Back2Bach
#9We took standardized tests like the second week of school. Hadn’t really done much academics yet as it was Elementary school (grade 5) and most of what we’d done was routines and introductions/games.
Kid scored at a 10th grade level in math and 9th grade in reading. Ok. Whatever, impressive but not unheard of. Except this kid was at the WORST school in the state. Literally. Ranked dead last. His whole schooling career. Nobody else in my class scored above a 6th grade level in anything and most were 3/4 grade level.
I basically had to do entirely separate lesson plans for this kid. While the rest of my class did multiplication facts, I had a coding curriculum and was teaching him basic languages. He had his own reading group in addition to the high reading group. It was even more incredible, because he’d always been in trouble and in the principals office the years before. I sent him to ISS once. All year. (Really low for that school, kids on other classes went literally daily, I had a few go once a week).
I begged his mom to switch him out of that school track, said I’d fill out any paperwork, write any letters. It was my only year as a teacher, not sure what happened to him. Mom never contacted me. He finished the year by shattering all of his records on testing exams. Literally the .01% on his tests. He’s legitimately one of the smartest kids I’d ever met, from the poorest school with the worst conditions I’ve ever seen.
Image credits: phisch13
#10I'm not a school teacher, but I used be a hockey instructor way back. During the summers, I was a hockey camp leader. Each week of the 8 weeks of summer, I would teach 20-30 kids how to play hockey. We were on the ice for 2 hours in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, but we had the kids from like 8am-5pm so there was a lot of time to fill.
There was only one kid I remember, his name was Charles. He would be registered for 5-6 of the 8 weeks of camps we ran. Very quiet, sweetest kid you'll ever meet, was 9-10 years old. He was pretty shy and for whatever reason had really taken to me, so I was his go-to buddy or whatever.
One day when we were trying to kill time, we went to a rec room where there were a bunch of board games and c**p. Charles asked if him and I could play a game and I said sure. Most of the games were already taken, and one of the only ones left was chess, so I asked him if he knew how to play, and he didn't. So I said I would teach him.
I showed him the basics, what each piece does, the point of the game, etc. I had been playing chess for years, so was pretty decent. We did a practice game where I didn't really try, and he understood the game shockingly quickly. To the point I could see him laying traps and that for me in the practice game. So we decided to play "for real", and I tried my best. I got absolutely whooped. He started explaining how he planned certain strategies like 5 moves in advance, thinking on a completely different level. We played 4 times and he dusted me every time. His mind was incredible.
I always remembered his name and looked him up on LinkedIn a while back. He's in med school and won a bunch of awards, pretty sure he skipped a few years. He's accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to accomplish but in 8 fewer years. The kid is absolutely incredible.
He was a s**t hockey player though. Kid took like 15 camps over 3 years and I think he somehow got worse. Absolutely hopeless on skates.
Image credits: VeryAttractive
#11I came into the room, he was playing a few strings on the guitar. I asked what it was and he soft pedaled it. I pushed a bit further and he started playing what he'd written. I was blown away. Of course it needed a bit of fine tuning, a guitar solo in the middle, and a few ooo-la-la's here and there but he'd written a legitimate rock song. Blew his parents away when we played it in concert.
Image credits: senor_roboto
#12I used to put a math joke/puzzle in the corner of the white board. Essentially 3 Golden Triangle numbers arranged in a triangle, and a puzzle which gave the letter “I” as a result in the middle. In short, it was an Illuminati joke.
I had this up for quite a few classes, with nobody being able to guess what on earth it was. Until the last class of the day, a student who suffered from particularly invasive Autism just came in, took maybe 3 seconds at most, and then laughed saying “Why have you drawn the illuminati symbol on the board?”
It wasn’t so much that it was impossible, I was just blown away by how quickly he managed to do it.
Image credits: CountPeter
#1311 year old girl (year7) in my Maths class. She started asking questions that would have stumped the brightest in my top set year 11. It was a delight to have her in my class and I’m so jealous of the teacher who gets to teach her this year.
Image credits: LittleBigDuck
#14I’m a special ed teacher and I teach kids who have emotional and behavior disabilities like oppositional defiance disorder or autism which manifests as anger, that kind of stuff.
But anyway last year I had a kid who we think had a photographic memory and was a possible savant. He could see a map once and be able to draw it nearly perfectly hours or even days and months later. He had almost every detail too and all the towns and cities spelled correctly and major land features and even the major highways correctly labeled and named. He also was like a human calculator. You could ask him nearly any math equation and he could answer it in a few seconds in his head. Granted they couldn’t be extreme equations but pretty much anything like PEMDAS wise he could do in his head quickly. His trouble was that he was very aggressive and we could never put him back in a gen ed classroom because he was such a danger to other kids and teachers if he became annoyed or upset. But he was a good kid and very intelligent he just had a lot of trouble with his emotions and behaviors.
Image credits: pill55
#15Science teacher here (UK). The most gifted kids I've ever taught are those that in year 7 (11/12 years old). Never gave up. Always pushed on even when wrong and just kept trying. These are the kids that started average but walked away with, once or twice, getting 100% on a GCSE test. Part might be an inbuilt natural ability. But to me a truly gifted kid is the one that takes failure and turns it in to a learning chance. As they will always get further in life
Image credits: heartlessglin
#16I teach editing to grad students in creative writing programs, but I once witnessed a kid who was so amazing that I know i was witnessing pure, raw genius at work. Her big sister was in my daughter’s 3rd grade class. A bunch of us mommies were just chatting and laughing with our kids’ teacher, in their classroom, while our kids and their siblings milled around the classroom. Out of the corner of my eye I was noticing one tiny little kid about three years old. She was staring at the alphabet border near the ceiling and asked another kid to tell her how both the “big and little letters *say*, not their names. I know my ABCs.” I guess she thought upper and lower case might be different. The big kid did, even the complications of “c” and “y.” The toddler looked at the border, saying each of the sounds. She had our attention then. Then toddled over to a book, “The Celery Stalks at Midnight,” sat on the floor with it and sounded out the words. Slowly, and awkwardly at first, then faster, until they sounded right, maybe not knowing all their definitions, but that didn’t stop her. By then we were all watching— mesmerized. She finished her awkward first pass, then read a few pages out loud to us, prefacing it with, “This is a funny book, Mommy, listen!” She was only three years old— and with minimal help, she had taught herself to read in about 20 minutes. That remains the single most amazing few minutes of my life. I knew I was in the presence of a magnificent human mind and I was deeply moved.
Image credits: Home-school-detector
#17Not a traditional teacher, but I taught guitar at a mom and pop guitar store in my hometown.
A few years ago, a lady brought her 7 year old daughter in for formal training. Now... 99/100 times, a kid that young wants to play the guitar until they get one. After that, it sits in a corner and collects dust until it makes its way to Goodwill or something.
This girl had legitimate talent though. She managed to teach herself very basic chords on her own, and had even began writing music. Everything I taught her, she learned within seconds.
I also discovered through comparison with my own ear training, that she had perfect pitch.
Musicians are d***s. Many of us rarely recognize or appreciate true talent in someone else, but this girl was truly something special. If she isn't a famous/successful musician someday, it will be a travesty.
Image credits: anon
#18Im not a teacher but a past fellow 15 yo student of mine...
In metalwork / craft shop, for a project he produced a 'thing" made of two car hub caps.. looked like a UFO :)
Nothing was visible but he'd rigged whatever was inside so the two hubcaps spun in opposite directions (while staying together).. it looked like a spinning top, with a small shaft top and bottom.
When it came to the presentation, he set it on a table and "spun" it using a drill, when the drill was removed it spun, and spun and we all waited and waited.....
When it was still spinning some 40 minutes later (with only the slightest of a wobble) we had also moved onto the next presentation! The teacher asked what his project was demonstrating..??
he replied. pretty quietly that he was working on a perpetual motion machine.. but had "not quite got it yet..."!!
The teacher called a meeting shortly after and he was gone from the school within a year, allegedly signed up by some huge corporation who paid his full college years on a great salary on the condition he worked for them.
Still going strong in research etc from what I hear :)
EDIT, as I said he was 15 yo, maybe dreaming of becoming the next Einstein, who knows? maybe he already knew it was impossible, but who knows? He tried! I thought of him later in life when I entered my first ever NYC Marathon and my Father said to me"Why? You'll never win...!" wtf!
Sometimes you just gotta do what your heart tells you....
Image credits: Provojohn
#19I teach foreign language at a university, and one semester I get a notification that there will be a minor (under 18) in the class. I have to take some online test about that, so it’s a bit annoying, but fine.
Anyway, flash forward to a couple weeks into the semester. I’m talking with one of my students during the break. He’s an advanced undergrad in his junior year, taking grad courses in theoretical topology. Thinning hair, glasses. Also very interested in philosophy, which was my major in college, so we got along on that front. I figured he was a little older than everyone else, and had come to college late or something. Then it comes out. He’s 17. He was so brilliant that he gave his high school principle an ultimatum after his first year: either they give him the degree early and he goes straight to college, or he drops out and goes to college anyway. Ivy leagues were already looking to recruit him.
I’d never encountered a *genius* before that. And he was just this very humble, unassuming guy. Always did his homework and showed up on time.
Image credits: Schopenschluter
#20I'm not a classroom teacher (mostly music) but I had a small group of 1st and 2nd graders for a math flex block. Basically we group the kids by level instead of grade or class, and I had the "extension" group. They had all the core concepts, and we were building on them. This one second grade kid was something else.
We were working on double digit adding and subtracting with regrouping (borrowing), and somewhere along the line, this kid figured out multiplication. Then he figured out he can use those rules to multiply large numbers that end in zeroes (eg. 700 x 4). He expanded this rule to include more zeroes. Then he figured out he could start putting numbers in the tens and ones slots.
And then school was shut down.
Image credits: BeepBeep_ImAsleep
#21Took a summer job helping at a daycare. One of the toddlers (about 18 months old) was way ahead of the rest. Could talk full sentences, knew his abc’s, could count beyond 20. Already had shapes and colors down. I’ve seen kindergarten aged kids that haven’t mastered some of these things.
He’s in his early 20s now with a masters in engineering and a six figure salary.
Image credits: anon
#22I'm not a teacher, but I was for a while a medicine student and met an extremely gifted mate there. He was just 16 instead of 18 (we found out later). He came from a middle eastern country and didn't speak a single word in our language. In less than a month he learnt enough of the language to maintain a conversation, to follow classes... and to get around 95/100 questions right in our first anatomy test. From that moment on, he just aced every single exam, and today he's working as a surgeon in the most important hospital of his country.
Image credits: anon
#23When I did student teaching in band (did not become a teacher) we had this one 7th grader who was I think dyslexic. I don’t remember. This was 2004. He was a percussionist. Well it’s not just drums, you put them wherever so they learn all the instruments.
Now, I have damn good relative pitch. Go to conduct the band at a rehearsal and the timpani are as if I tuned them myself (for the uninitiated, timpani, or kettle drums, are like the bass guitar of the orchestral percussion world, if you tuned the strings instead of using frets, using foot pedals as you play). A few great rehearsals later, and my practicum teacher and I realized this kid has perfect pitch. We gave him all the harder parts.
I really hope this kid kept playing. Developing relative pitch isn’t easy, and having perfect pitch is nuts.
Image credits: stefiscool
#24One child - he was more ahead of his peers in every aspect - it seemed like he was babysitting the rest of his classmates. After a week of teaching the class simple coding, he built a fully functional multiplayer game with material he taught himself. This was at age 8.
Another child - consistently produced excellent work, finished early and could discuss his viewpoints in depth and actually made me change my viewpoint. He was brilliant in maths - once I was explaining a new concept to the class and worked out one example together. I told them that I would guide them in the second example so that I can help whoever needs and I hear a really genuine and cute "oops ... I just finished them all now".
Image credits: aenr0001
#25Taught a girl in grade 1 in an advanced after school program. She would fool around and laugh and giggle all class and then come test time... perfect score on her English writing. All the other kids would have some minor mistakes.
And this was in KOREA! English was her second language! She got moved out of my class to the REALLY advanced class and I got a flower from her mom.
Image credits: Drinkingdoc
#26Had a four-year-old kid who insisted that I read a children’s Solar System book to him over and over again. After the seventh or eighth time, he was mouthing the words along with me. He couldn’t read - he had memorized the entire thing.
Image credits: TrMrFr
#27Straight A's in school from the start, and the ability to hold a pretty adult conversation with me when he was like 7 or 8. I don't really make a thing of it and neither does he. He doesn't have very much homework to bring home, he does it at school while still in class.
He is a freshman this year and grades are only slipping a bit....all A's except for 1 B. We have never had him tested but all of his Honors teachers assumed he was gifted by his grades and conversational skills.
I am a lucky parent, I wouldn't really say he is gifted in any particular area, he just seems damn smart. Before you ask......no, I am not a gifted parent. I got B's and C's in school, same with his mother. I realize I'm blessed and I am thankful for that every day. He knows he is smart but does not exactly brag about it.
Image credits: ArnulfoCurry
#28I knew a kindergarten student (5-6 y/o) was gifted by her art. At that age, "art" is a very loose term. But this girl was drawing detailed drawings, her people had hair and eyelashes and fingers and finger nails. The amount of detail she puts into her art is very advanced to someone of her age.
Image credits: PartTimeKhajiit
#29There was a kid in my HS Chemistry class who would sit in the back, never really talk to anybody, and finish all tests an assignments in less than half the time. Chill guy, just kept to himself.
One day we had a test on Stoichiometry, which if I remember correctly, involves a lot of conversions across different units with multiplication and division of factors out to the hundredths place. You get a lot of long numbers, really need a calculator to keep it all straight.
Anyways, the test goes on and it reaches the time he normally finishes but this time he doesn't. I'm thinking, oh s**t, this test must be killer if this kid hasn't finished yet, everyone else must be f****d. Time gets to about 15 minutes left, we're all panicking, then finally the kid gets up and turns it in, still the first in the class mind you, but by a much smaller margin than normal.
A week goes by and we get the tests back. Big shockwave in the class bc this kid gets a zero. Teacher thinks he has been cheating because all of his answers were basically close but off by a enough that its not a rounding error. They think, he must have an answer key that he copied, need to investigate further.
After talking to him though that's not what happened at all. Turns out his calculator had run out of batteries right before the test and so, instead of asking the teacher to borrow one, or get more batteries, etc, kid just decides to do all the math in the margins of the test. We're talking 5+ calculations of long multiplication and division OUT TO THE HUNDRETH'S PLACE for each and every question. That's how he got every question right except off by a little bit. And when he was done, he went back and erased all the extra work because it wasn't supposed to be part of the test. Did all of this and STILL FINISHED BEFORE ANYBODY ELSE. I was amazed. The teacher was amazed. Think he got 100% plus extra credit, and they told him next time to just ask for a calculator. It was mindblowing.
Image credits: dkades
#30Foreign exchange student from China in the 8th grade. His writing abilities far exceeded the majority of even the accelerated class.
I moved him from regular English to accelerated and not only was his writing strong, his insights were so deep and thoughtful. At the end of the year, I learned not only was he a top student in my class, he won student of the year in Spanish as well.
Image credits: chis_and_whine
#31One of my 3rd grade kiddos broke a PS3 controller apart and canabalized the parts to make a handshake zapper device.
#32My MIL had my husband when she was 15. Sometimes during college she had to take him with her to class because she couldn't find a babysitter. My husband would raise his hand during class and ask relevant, thoughtful questions. By the time he was in third grade, around 7ish years old, he was able to do statistics. His mom just got her second master's degree :) and my husband is still annoyingly intelligent lol!
Image credits: couldhaveprevented
#33Not a teacher, but when I was in (a top-tier US west coast) college, taking a 3rd year Biochemistry class (meaning there were a few semesters of prereqs), we had a classmate who came with her dad. She was so young that her feet couldn't touch the floor when she was seated in the chairs of the lecture room.
That bastard probably messed up the grading curve…
#34Started a kid on clarinet at age 10. By age 11, he's blowing through Mozart's clarinet concerto like nothing. That's a solo for professional musicians, in case you are not aware.
#35My kid had a fourth grade teacher who let him work at his own pace in math. She managed to acquire books with more advanced material for him. He had taught himself calculus by the end of the school year.
She was such an amazing teacher to give him the space to fly.
Image credits: mountaingoat05
#36I'm Brownie leader for Girl Guiding (UK girl scouts aged 7-10 basically) and we were doing a simple task with money. They had a series of questions to answer for points; one of which was "if you add up all the coins we use, how much does it make?". All the girls looked puzzled, and most began furiously counting on their fingers. However, one of them, after around three seconds of thinking, just said the answer without any hesitation. She worked it out faster than I did, I was very impressed (context, I'm doing a Biochemistry degree, so I do maths and stats all the time).
Needless to say, she got double points.
Edit: the sum would be 1p + 2p + 5p + 10p + 20p + 50p + £1 + £2 (=£3.88)
#37Not really a “kid,” per se, but when I was teaching in uni, one of my first year students wrote a paper that was too good to be true. Now, I’d had several plagiarists over the years, so I did my diligence and asked him if he could come to my office hour to discuss his paper. This is a good test, because a plagiarist will not likely be able to actually discuss what they “wrote” in any detail.
Well, this kid proceeded to just blow it out of the f*****g water. Not only did he write the paper, but he was also able to describe all of the theory behind it in great detail. Kid got an A+ in the class, needless to say. He could easily have jumped straight into a PhD. Legit superstar.