Banquet to honor educators for public-minded scholarship

Some of North Central Florida’s most committed teachers, school administrators and education professors will be honored for their impact on the community in the University of Florida College of Education’s Scholarship of Engagement banquet April 17 at the UF Hilton Conference Center.

The banquet will recognize educators and students from UF and Alachua County public schools whose scholarly outreach activities contribute to improved schools and student learning or address important social and community issues.

The honors are based on the “scholarship of engagement” philosophy, or engaged research and educational activities done for the public good. The research-intensive concept is a burgeoning movement in higher education that UF education Dean Catherine Emihovich has infused as a core principle of a faculty-led transformation of the college’s research and teaching programs.

The event also is a forum for recognizing this year’s College of Education student scholarship recipients and the donors who funded their endowed scholarships. It is a rare occasion where scholarship donors get to meet the students who benefit from their philanthropy.

The College of Education will recognize several local teachers, principals, school district administrators, university faculty and UF education students whose scholarly activities are yielding an immediate positive impact on teaching and learning in the classroom or on the community.

This year’s award recipients included:

University Award
Dr. Martha Monroe, Associate Professor, UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation
Wildfire is a serious threat to people and property in the Sunshine State, but few Floridians know what they can to do prevent it—and public agencies sometime send conflicting messages about the topic. Dr. Monroe researched popular misconceptions about wildfire risk and coordinated a multi-agency approach to craft a set of materials and messages to educate homeowners in fire-prone ecosystems around the state.

Educational Administration and Policy Faculty Award
Dr. Luis Ponjuan, Assistant Professor
Every college administrator knows that African-Americans and Latinos are underrepresented in higher education—and that this state of affairs is a serious social justice issue. Dr. Ponjuan’s work addresses the reasons behind the disparity—at both the faculty and student level—and sheds light on crucial issues in science education and faculty retention.

Educational Psychology Faculty Award
Dr. Diana Joyce, Assistant Scholar
For a child who is struggling in school, competent and perceptive school psychologists can make all the difference. UF’s practicum program is vital to the preparation of school psychologists, and under Dr. Joyce’s direction, the program has doubled in size to include five school districts and seven clinics. Dr. Joyce is a psychologist and a researcher with an interest in social-emotional needs and effective interventions to improve student academic and mental health outcomes.

Counselor Education Faculty Award
Dr. Sondra Smith-Adcock
Throughout her career, Smith-Adcock has focused her research on interventions to help marginalized young people. She has looked at the role of peers in the lives of girls in the juvenile justice system; called attention to a lack of Spanish-speaking counselors in Florida schools; and found new ways counselors can help culturally diverse groups of low-income students.

School of Teaching and Learning Faculty Award
Dr. Nancy Dana
As director of UF’s Center for School Improvement, Dr. Dana has worked with schools throughout Florida to help practitioners and principals systematically study pressing issues they face while working in high-need and high-poverty schools. She has been a leader in the movement to encourage teachers and principals to take charge of their own professional development.

Special Education Faculty Award
Dr. Hazel Jones
Improving the quality preschools by engaging teachers in quality professional development has been a key focus for Dr. Jones. In her work with Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center, the Early Learning Coalition and the Northeast Florida Education Consortium’s Early Reading First project, she has worked tirelessly to help preschool teachers employ research-based practices to promote young children’s language and literacy development.

School District Award
Tom Ringwood, Alachua County Schools
As a district-level inclusion specialist, Ringwood has played a crucial role in school reform efforts that allowed students with disabilities to find a place in the general education classroom. Through national conference presentations and a widely-distributed video presentation, he shares his ideas with other school systems with an eye toward replicating Alachua County’s successes elsewhere.

Graduate Student Award
Christopher Mullin, Educational Administration and Planning
In these economically trying times, institutions of higher education are having to make tough decisions that affect the lives of young people. Chris Mullin has studied and published numerous works on funding issues affecting community colleges, which are the gateway to higher education for millions of people. Mullin was also deeply involved in the launch of the Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, UF’s new journal for research on higher education issues.

P.K. Yonge Award
Kelly Dolan
As a first, third and fourth grade teacher, Kelly Dolan has worked to acquire National Board Certification, and actively participates in unique professional development opportunities. She has been a Florida Reading Initiative trainer since 2002 and a regular host of PKY Research in Action visitors. Her work has inspired many teachers to reconsider their approaches to comprehension, vocabulary and decoding instruction.

Community Award
Mercantile Bank
Through the leadership of its president, Andy Cheney, Mercantile Bank has made sustained investments in improving the quality of teaching and learning in Florida. The bank has worked with UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning to launch an innovative professional development initiative for teachers in high-need schools.