With $1.6 million grant, UF partnering with Pinellas schools to develop master teachers in science and math

Posted Dec. 14, 2009

With a $1.6 million grant from Helios Education Foundation of Tampa, UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning is partnering with Pinellas County schools to give as many as 500 math and science teachers a shot at advanced degrees and professional development training.

It’s all part of the Lastinger Center’s effort to develop master teachers who can improve student achievement in the so-called STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and math. Under the four-year initiative, about 100 Pinellas teachers will be eligible to earn a free master’s degree in exchange for a five-year teaching commitment to their schools. The remaining 400 will be enrolled in the center’s professional development activities.

portrait of Don PembertonLastinger Center founding director Don Pemberton (pictured, right) said the initiative could impact as many as 4,500 students in high-needs middle and high schools in Pinellas County. The training opportunities for their teachers include summer sessions and on-the-job training. Those in the degree program will take online classes and also study under UF education “professors-in-residence” who will visit them on site.

“This master teacher initiative could serve as a national model,” Pemberton said. “Details are still being ironed out, but recruitment of participating teachers and schools should begin next semester, in early 2010.”

The Lastinger Center, created in 2002 by UF’s College of Education, partners with some 250 schools across the state, mainly high-needs elementary schools in inner-city and rural communities. Since 2005, UF has launched free advanced degrees and other training programs in teacher leadership and school improvement for practicing educators in five Florida counties—Alachua, Duval, Miami-Dade, Collier and Pinellas.

Pemberton said this latest Pinellas initiative marks a shift in focus to improve secondary teacher training in math and science instruction—one of several recent UF initiatives created to narrow the cavernous student-achievement gap in the STEM subject areas.

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   SOURCE: Don Pemberton, director, UF Lastinger Center for Learning; dpemberton@coe.ufl.edu
  WRITER/MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications; UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu