Jonté’s Journey

Investing in One EduGator’s Future

By Charles Boisseau

Jonté Myers’ story begins on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an impoverished Caribbean island where he was orphaned at age 12.

His career options were limited. His financial resources nil.

But he possessed a rare grit, resourcefulness and talent that would eventually lead him to the doctoral program at the University of Florida’s College of Education, one of the country’s premier special education research institutions.

He was helped along the way by many mentorships, including ones formed with College of Education professors, and funds from a scholarship created by college alumna Karen Koegel for graduate students pursuing studies in special education.

Yet Jonté says it was by mere chance that he found his passion of teaching children with learning disabilities.

It started more than a dozen years earlier, after he finished high school and completed classes at a community college, when he landed a job as a lab assistant at a secondary school in the British Virgin Islands.

In short order he was called on to substitute teach and then become a full-time teacher.

“Any funding toward education is an investment, no matter how small or big it is.”

— Jonté Myers

“I fell in love with the idea of special education because these kids were the ones who really needed that extra help.” — Jonté Myers

For many years he sharpened his classroom skills by being assigned the island school’s most difficult learners. He also took online courses to earn a bachelor’s degree and landed a scholarship to Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens.

He was awarded a master’s in education and was named to the first class of All-Star students by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

That brings us to 2014, when Jonté’s journey brought him to UF. He now is on the way to earn a Ph.D. in special education and is building an academic career as a research scholar with the goal of unlocking better ways of teaching children with learning disabilities.


Jonté is a graduate student in the college’s CEEDAR Center. (CEEDAR stands for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform.) CEEDAR was created in 2013 by a team of UF special education faculty researchers under a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s office of special education programs to strengthen teacher preparation in the field in 20 participating states.

Rare among education doctoral candidates, Jonté already has authored a peer-reviewed article for a prestigious research journal, Learning Disabilities—A Contemporary Journal, on best practices for teaching math to secondary students with learning disabilities.

Jonté recently sat down with Karen Koegel for a lunch. He shared his gratitude for the assistance her scholarship provided.

“I wanted to thank her. It’s a one-time gift, but it has a lifetime impact,” Jonté said. “When people put money up for you, you make sure you maximize their investment.”

That’s what making a difference is all about.

Giving Back

Learn about the ways you can contribute to our mission.