PhD Candidate Is Thankful To EduGator Nation

Monique Perry (Ed.D ’13, Higher Ed.) recently was appointed Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing and Chief Public Information Officer for York Technical College.  She will oversee marketing, employee communications, presidential communications, media/public relations and the Speakers Bureau for all three YTC campuses. Perry is believed to be the first minority appointee in this position.  She previously worked at the college as a Communication/English instructor and academic adviser.

Perry wrote in an email, “I cannot forget how my UF professors and other members of Gator Nation helped lay the foundation for me to get this opportunity. Your core lessons to us about not just focusing on our academic matriculation in the program, but balancing that with building relationships, focusing on consistent job performance, and maintaining contemporary knowledge immediately set me apart from my peers, allowing me to bring value-add and knowledge that positioned me for this opportunity.

Perry is currently pursuing a PhD in Higher Education Administration at UF and is expected to graduate in 2013.  Her primary research centers on the impacts of the multi-generational workforce on higher education and its ability to attract and retain future leaders.

2nd Annual EduGator Homecoming Celebration

Last Friday evening, the College of Education hosted a Cajun-themed Homecoming Celebration for alumni, faculty, and friends in the Norman Hall Courtyard.  Attendees were able to meet Dean Glenn Good and reconnect with fellow alumni before heading to Gator Growl.  This year we had authentic Cajun cuisine, live music by N’awlins Po Boyz, and beer from our local Swamphead Brewery for our guests.

Click here to see pictures from the event.  Click here to see a video from the event.

This year’s EduGator Homecoming Celebration was a success!  We look forward to seeing everyone again next year!

Go Gators!

Social studies organizations names UF alumna ‘Teacher of the Year’

UF College of Education alumna Kassie Erenstoft was named the Dr. Theron Trimble Teacher of the Year among elementary school teachers by the Florida Council for the Social Studies.

The council is a professional organization of social studies educators aimed at promoting social studies instruction in the state.

Erenstoft graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the College of Education. She has been teaching at Spessard L. Holland Elementary School in Bartow, Fla., since 2006. In 2011, Erenstoft was a finalist for Brevard County’s Teacher of the Year award for her engaging and meaningful classroom techniques and her role in connecting teachers with best practices across the district.

Alum Credits COE For Her Accomplishments

Sheri Porubski (M.Ed 2002, English Education) recently accepted a new position as Coordinator of the Teacher Incentive Fund for the Duval County Public School District. Sheri initially worked for Samuel W. Wolfson High School as an English teacher in Jacksonville, Florida, but soon became the first AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teacher in the city, and eventually held the title of AVID Coordinator.

Sheri has been featured in local television and news articles, including The Florida Times-Union, that covered her program.  She was also featured in a video about the Bill and Melinda Gates EXCELerator Grant that provided the initial funding to bring AVID to Duval County. She has also served as a mentor teacher to close to a dozen pre-interns and interns, as well as novice teachers.

Sheri Porubski credits UF’s College of Education for much of her accomplishments. “I would never have been able to plan and execute professional development events for hundreds of people if I did not have the confidence that I gained through earning my degree from such a fine institution. I was well-prepared to tackle both teaching and leadership roles for the past seven years thanks to the thorough instruction and practical application opportunities the college provided,” she states.

The Teacher Incentive Fund is a multi-million dollar federal grant designed to assist the many high-need schools throughout the city of Jacksonville through individualized professional development, data analysis, and teacher performance pay.

College of Education 2012 Grand Guard Event

We had a successful Grand Guard event this year, celebrating the 50th reunion class of 1962.  The alumni and their guests had the opportunity to have lunch at Norman Hall with Tom Dana, Associate Dean and Theresa Vernetson, Assistant Dean.  The former education students were able to spend time with other classmates and listen to some of the new research and highlights that are taking place with the College of Education today.

When asked: What advice would you give to new or prospective teachers?  The Grand Guard attendees suggested:

1. Take the time to listen to children; sometimes it’s better to throw out the lesson plan and “just listen”. You don’t know what’s going on in their lives outside of school.

2. Don’t listen to what other people say about a student in your class, make your own observation.

3. Take advantage of every opportunity you have while you’re here at the College of Education.

4. Don’t forget your personal exercise…you can work out a million problems while walking around the block.

5. Teach proper keyboarding skills so your students don’t “hunt and peck” when using the computer.

Pictured: Robert and Anne Carlson, Ed and Barbara Johnson, Assistant Dean Theresa Vernetson, Loretta Dow, Associate Dean Tom Dana, Bill and Elaine Pannell, and Sybil Catala.

Class of 1962: Anne Carlson, Barbara Johnson, Loretta Dow, Elaine Pannell, and Sybil Catala.

COE Alum, Dr. Kathryn Kennedy, Accepts New Position with iNACOL

Kathryn Kennedy (Ph.D., 2010) was recently hired as the Knowledge Manager/Researcher for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL – In this position, she serves the membership of iNACOL and the field of K-12 online and blended learning by keeping a pulse on research needs of the field and collecting and synthesizing data on policy, practice, and trends. She is also responsible for identifying information that needs to be gathered, developing a plan for researching the information, designing survey questions, conducting analysis on responses and putting in place the necessary infrastructure to maintain and disseminate this information. She is managing iNACOL’s K-12 Online and Blended Learning Research Database, where iNACOL will house links to K-12 online research. She will be supporting the Center for Online Learning and Students with Disabilities and reaching out to iNACOL membership and beyond to arrive at a current research agenda for the field. She will be disseminating current research to the field in research-to-practice-focused venues, such as webinars, blogs, tweetchats, and more.

Congratulations to Dr. Kennedy!

COE alum receives nation’s highest science teaching honor

Only America’s most exceptional teachers find themselves strolling through the White House discussing education policy with Vice President Joe Biden. COE alumnus Eric Grunden (MEd ’94, science education) recently got the VIP treatment from Biden and the White House staff after receiving the nation’s highest honor in the science teaching profession.

Grunden was one of 97 educators across the country to receive the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in a ceremony at the White House. The honor came with a certificate signed by President Obama, an all-expense-paid trip for two to the capital and a $10,000 stipend from the National Science Foundation. President Obama was scheduled to attend the ceremony but had to make an emergency trip to visit the victims of the Colorado wildfires.

“I had been to the White House before as a tourist, but this was special,” Grunden said. “We got to come in through the back entrance, and I got to meet Bo, the (Obama family) dog – all that was important, but it was nice to feel validated and meet other educators who think like me.”

The Presidential awards are given annually to one math and one science teacher in grades K-12 from each state based on the quality of instruction in their classrooms. Grunden thinks it’s his knowledge of chemistry and teaching skills he honed during his master’s degree coursework in science education at UF that made him stand out as an applicant.

“I think it’s more important to teach less content at a deeper level so students get an appreciation for the system. It’s like cooking: you can teach somebody a recipe, but understanding why you need to add sugar at that point or why you need to do this over low heat allows you to make your own recipes, and then you’re a chef,” Grunden said.

Grunden has been the science department chair at Raleigh (N.C.) Charter High School since 2000 but got his first teaching job at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School after graduation from UF in 1993. He said he still draws on his experience at PKY because it was a small, innovative school much like the school he’s at now.

His science education professor at UF, Linda Jones, recommended Grunden for his first teaching position at P.K. Yonge and said chemistry class enrollment at the school soared after he began teaching.

During his Washington, D.C. visit, Grunder poses a question to physicist Jim Gates, a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, at a recent council meeting. (Photo courtesy of National Science Foundation)

“He taught chemistry like a magician or showman,” Jones said. “Students don’t even realize they’re in a chemistry class because they’re having so much fun.”

Jones said Grunden, who has been a contestant on the TV game show “Jeopardy!,” is the second UF education alumnus to win the Presidential Award – the first was her husband, Griffith Jones, a master science teacher with the College of Education’s UFTeach program, who won in 1998.

Grunden describes his teaching style as Socratic because he believes having students ask questions of themselves helps them realize what they already know and apply it to different situations.

“Our students are very sophisticated,” Grunden said. “I look at the things they do every day with technology, and I think, ‘if they can do that, they can do this, too.’”

With 17 years of teaching experience,, his latest venture is founding a science-and-mathematics-focused charter school in Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, which opened in mid-August with 160 new freshmen. The high school’s neighbors include science and engineering giants such as GlaxoSmithKline to give students opportunities for interaction and internships, much like his nonprofit, the Contemporary Science Center, that places teens in day-long field trips giving them a firsthand look at what scientists do on a daily basis.

“I never wanted to be anything other than a classroom teacher, and when the board of directors asked me to be the school leader, I reluctantly accepted. Since then, I’ve realized that this is a lot of fun, so I don’t know where this is going to take me,” Grunden said. “I’d like to see this school go for a while, certainly through the first graduating class, but who knows after that?”

Professor Jones said it’s like Grunden to leave you guessing.

“You never know what’s going to come next with Eric, but, whatever it is, it turns to gold.”

Former UF COE Alum, Dr. Charles Henderson, dies

Dr. Charles Henderson passed away on July 13, 2012 at his home in Jacksonville, Florida at the age of 85.  Born in Gainesville, Florida, Dr. Henderson earned his Doctorate in Education from the University of Florida in 1967.  He also served in the U.S. Navy during World War ll.

Dr. Henderson was the principal of the UF College of Education’s P.K. Yonge Laboratory School and a professor in UF’s College of Education Department of Instruction and Curriculum for 21 years.  In 1985, he retired early as professor emeritus, but continued to teach part time until 1998.  Dr. Henderson was a member of the team that established the Florida Association for Staff Development and he was presented the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Florida Educational Leadership Award in 2000.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Ann Messer Henderson.

The Florida Times-Union obituary for Charles Henderson.

Dr. Holly Smith Accepts District Dean Position at Pierce College

Dr. Holly Smith (Ph.D. ’10, Higher Ed. Admin.) has accepted the position of District Dean of Arts and Humanities at Pierce College in Lakewood, Washington.  Dr. Smith previously served as the Instructional Chair of Liberal Arts at Colorado Mountain College.

She writes, “After moving to Florida to teach English at Lake City Community College (now Florida Gateway College), I decided to begin a Ph.D. in the UF College of Education Higher Education Administration program.  The ability to work full-time and attend college part-time allowed me to combine theory and practice on a daily basis.  It enriched my classroom interactions and my workplace interactions. It also kept me motivated along the way.  I strongly support UF’s option to allow students to pursue their Ph.D.’s part-time.

While I was teaching Lake City Community College, I was promoted to the Coordinator of Liberal Arts and the Chair of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Accreditation.  During this time, I was recognized for my instruction at the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development in 2008 and I was recognized for my scholarship with the Wattenbarger Fellowship in 2009. This combination of experience and education allowed me to pursue a promotion to Instructional Chair of Liberal Arts at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I completed my Ph.D. in 2010, after moving to Colorado. Shortly thereafter, my husband and I welcomed our daughter into our family. Following the guidance of my mentors, I began looking at Dean’s positions, and was thrilled to accept the position of District Dean of Arts and Humanities at Pierce College in Lakewood and Puyallup, Washington for August of 2012.

I rely upon my training and my education from UF regularly, as well as the professional and personal connections that I have made through the University have been more than helpful over the years.  This truly is a Gator Nation, with a new outpost in the Tacoma, Washington area.”

Former UF COE Alum, Dr. Adelbert (Bert) J. Purga, dies

Dr. Bert Purga passed away on Thursday, August 9, 2012 at Cape Canaveral Hospital at the age of 62.  The Merritt Island resident was provost of the Palm Bay campus from 1994 until 2007.  During his tenure, the campus underwent numerous expansion projects.

The New York native started his career as a teacher at North Country Community College in Saranac Lake, NY.  He later earned his doctorate degree in education from the University of Florida in 1979.  Dr. Purga was recognized by the University of Florida as an Institute of Higher Education Outstanding Graduate.   He also served as dean and president in the Eastern Iowa Community College system.

His surviving immediate family includes: his wife, Margaret, and his son, Jonathan.  Funeral service will be held at 11:00 am, Tuesday, August 14th at Divine Mercy Catholic Church, Merritt Island, to celebrate his life.