Learning center will help top educators share secrets of teaching success

Posted Oct. 15, 2008

Dorene Ross


October 10, 2008



Posted Oct. 15, 2008

Dorene Ross

Imagine assembling 100 of Florida’s top K-12 school teachers all in one place, picking their brains about how they teach and why their methods work so well, and then passing on their secrets of teaching success to educators throughout the state, and beyond.

That’s exactly what will happen Oct. 24 in Orlando at a statewide professional development and awards program for up to 100 exceptional teachers from Florida public schools-and the Lastinger Center for Learning at the University of Florida will be right in the thick of it all.

The honored teachers will be recognized at the inaugural Celebration of Teaching, to be held at the Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa in Lake Buena Vista. The event is sponsored by the Tallahassee-based Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), which will provide cash awards to the top elementary, middle and high school teachers whose students made the greatest gains on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test from the 2006-07 school year to 2007-08.

Before the evening awards program, the honored teachers will participate in focus groups to share their real-life classroom experiences and to help UF education researchers identify and compile their secrets of successful teaching. The celebrated teachers also completed a UF-developed online survey earlier this month about their classroom teaching practices.

Eight education professors and 13 doctoral students from UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning will lead the focus groups and capture the teachers’ knowledge and techniques described in the discussions. In the ensuing months, the UF researchers will use a variety of multi-media tools to disseminate the resulting "Secrets of Successful Teaching" report to all Florida teachers.

UF Education Professor Dorene Ross, who will direct the Lastinger Center activities, said the resulting collection of teaching "best practices" will feature profiles of the award-winning teachers, along with their responses to questions such as:

  • How do you use data in the classroom?
  • How do you motivate students?
  • What is the best way to deal with disruptive students?

According to Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the honored teachers will serve as Education Ambassadors over the next year, sharing their successful methods throughout the state. They will receive a package of prizes, including cash and gifts, and their schools also will receive cash awards.

"A core principal of this initiative is that effective teaching is the key to student achievement, and the skills and techniques to become an effective teacher can be learned," said Ross, who is one of two Irving and Rose Fien Professors at UF’s College of Education. "Besides generating a collection of best teaching practices, we want to empower students, parents, education leaders and policymakers with the information that can transform our public schools into world-class learning institutions."

The event’s host, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, is a not-for-profit charitable organization launched in 2007 by Jeb Bush, governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.

UF education faculty members participating in the Orlando event are Ross, Lastinger Center Director Don Pemberton, Lastinger Assistant Director Alyson Adams, Sylvia Boynton, Timothy Jacobbe, Stephen Pape, Barbara Pace and Kate Kiss.

Doctoral education students involved are Vicki Vescio, Stephanie Dodman, Emily Peterek, Charlotte Mundy, Katie Tricarico, Katrina Short, Brian Trutschel, Holly Moses, Joseph DiPietro, Mary Theresa Kiely, Lauren Tripp, Luke Rodesiler and Karina Hensberry.

Faculty members Tyran Butler and Thomasenia Adams also will help analyze survey and focus-group data and develop the "Secrets to Successful Teaching" multi-media materials.

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WRITER: Larry Lansford, UF COE News & Communications, llansford@coe.ufl.edu

SOURCE: Dorene Ross, Professor, Teaching and Learning, dross@coe.ufl.edu