Gifted girl has an insatiable thirst for knowledge

Giovanna Parnoff, 6, practices her piano at home school vacation week on April 15.
Giovanna Parnoff, 6, practices her piano at home school vacation week on April 15. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo

Old Lyme - On an early spring afternoon, 6-year-old Giovanna Parnoff played the piano in a sun-lit practice room at the Community Music School in Essex.

She had just finished practicing songs from her Suzuki music books and as the lesson drew to a close, there was time for one more song before leaving for the day.

Sitting side-by-side on the piano bench, Parnoff and her teacher, Nancy Thomas, happily tapped the ivory keys to play a duet: "The Russian Sailors' Dance."

Her 3-year-old sister, Mattea, looked up and smiled with delight at their mother, Monique Heller, as the music room filled with the upbeat song played by her sister and the teacher.

Parnoff, a first-grader at Children's Tree Montessori School in Old Saybrook who lives in Old Lyme, earned a perfect score at last month's New London Piano Festival, sponsored by the Middlesex-New London Music Teachers' Association. She also fences, swims and enjoys researching and playing puzzles.

"She really is excellent at everything she does," said Heller, her mother.

Indeed, at age six the Old Lyme child has been admitted to two intellectual societies - Mensa and Intertel - based on her intelligence quotient. Mensa accepts individuals with an IQ in the top 2 percent of the nation, according to the organization's website. Intertel, an International Society of the Intellectually Gifted, has 1,200 members across the globe and accepts members who earn higher than the 99th percentile on an intelligence test, its website stated.

Parnoff has even inspired newly-proposed state legislation that has moved forward in a state House of Representatives committee. State Rep. Marilyn Giuliano, R-Westbrook, introduced HB5911, An Act Concerning the Teaching of Gifted and Talented Children intended "to encourage students in teacher preparation programs to become specialized in the teaching of gifted and talented children."

Parnoff, who began reading at age three, was just accepted into Johns Hopkins and Stanford universities' center for gifted youths. Parnoff aspires to either become a periodontist or neurosurgeon when she grows up and can already name the organs of the human body, said Heller.

Parnoff's ability to solve abstract puzzles was evident at a very early age and she already can solve algebra problems.

"She's very gifted in math," said Heller.

Her 3-year-old sister Mattea, who is learning all of her letters, can also solve puzzles suited for 5 or 6 year olds.

Parnoff has an "insatiable thirst for knowledge" and researches and asks questions to learn more.

"She just has a thirst and quest for knowledge," said Heller. "You can't say 'just because' (to her.) She wants to know the answer."

Parnoff will soon be a published author. She is working on a book report on the "Wolves of Willoughby Chase" by Joan Aiken to submit to Mensa.

Heller said Parnoff's talents derive from both genetic reasons - her grandfather has a genius-level IQ - and environmental factors.

Parnoff can easily and quickly grasp knowledge.

"She's wired to absorb a phenomenal amount of information," said Heller.

"She certainly is a joy to teach," said Thomas, her piano teacher. "She picks everything up. She's just so eager."

Parnoff and her family also have an enthusiasm for traveling. The family also has a road map and visits a couple of states in the United States each year. She is learning Italian and hopes to one day study abroad in Italy.

But it's not only her intellect that makes Parnoff stand out. She also embraces others' differences, said Heller.

"She just is accepting of people," she said.

"I think she's going to contribute on a global level because of her intellect and her personality," she added.


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