Poekert awarded UF Foundation Term Professorship Award

Phil Poekert, director of the Lastinger Center for Learning, was awarded the UF Foundation Term Professorship Award for 2021-2022.

$200 Million for Florida Literacy Initiative

House Bill 3 establishes the New Worlds Reading Initiative, a statewide book delivery and family-engagement program, to be administered by the UF Lastinger Center for Learning.

Microsoft Support for Mathematics Innovation

To meet this exponentially increasing demand Math Nation, a Lastinger Center innovation, accelerated the development and launch of the new On-Ramp to 6th Grade for teachers and students to use in Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and South Carolina.

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Novelist’s continued support helps scale up UF literacy initiatives

After a successful first phase, the next chapter of the James Patterson Literacy Challenge is ready to be written.


UF’s Bob Graham Center to honors education, historic preservation philanthropist Allen Lastinger

The University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service recently honored Allen Lastinger who has worked to make Florida a better place to live and work. Lastinger was named the 2018 Citizen of the Year for contributing to the state in a civic capacity above the requirements of professional duty.

Algebra Nation Aims To Incorporate Personalized Learning Features

The Virtual Learning Lab, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, is relying on the collaboration of nationally acclaimed researchers to evaluate Algebra Nation and its effects on students’ overall performance in Algebra I.

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Early learning ‘action network’ taps Lastinger Center specialist for national fellowship

Valerie Mendez-Farinas

Valerie Mendez-Fariñas

Valerie Mendez-Fariñas of the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning didn’t have to think twice about joining a vibrant national movement over the next three years to improve early learning opportunities and resources for our youngest children.

Mendez-Fariñas, a professional development specialist, is one of 38 American leaders in the early-childhood arena recently selected to fellowship posts with the newly formed Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN). The network brings together state, county and national experts who seek to reduce racial disparities in early learning systems.

The ELAN group evolved from a program called BUILD, created over a decade ago by the national Early Childhood Funders Collaborative. The BUILD program’s purpose: to support states’ efforts to build high-quality early-childhood systems that ensure all children have an opportunity to develop and reach their full potential without discrimination or bias.

Mendez-Fariñas will work with other ELAN fellows to help states identify and eliminate inequities based on race, ethnicity, language and culture in our early childhood state systems. They also will help build support and influence states’ policies in the areas of health, early learning and family support.

“I’ve always believed in the power of collaboration, and now I have 37 new critical-thinking friends in the network who will help strengthen my work, fuel my passion and push my thinking,” Mendez-Fariñas said.

She has worked for more than 23 years in education, including positions as a special education teacher, adjunct professor and quality improvement specialist.

Part of her work as an ELAN fellow will involve studying data from the UF Lastinger Center’s groundbreaking Early Learning Florida program, which blends online and face-to-face professional development for thousands of early childhood practitioners who work with infants, toddlers and preschoolers in Florida centers, schools and family child care homes.

Her main focus, though, will be on training certified early learning coaches in Florida’s 30 early learning coalition districts, working through Early Learning Florida. The eight-month, job-embedded process equips the coaches-in-training with new skills for helping fellow practitioners learn and implement new, equitable teaching methods.

“Coaching creates opportunities for reflective discourse that may include conversations about key issues, practices and policies that create disparities between groups of children,” Mendez-Fariñas said.

Since 2014, the Lastinger Center, the R&D innovation hub for the College of Education, has built a statewide network of over 200 certified Early Childhood Coaches and 280 Community of Practice facilitators who are improving the quality of early learning programs throughout Florida.

SOURCE: Valerie Mendez-Fariñas, (c) 305-490-7825
WRITER: Katelin Mariner, communications intern, 352-273-4449
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education,   352-273-4137

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National group honors UF education leader for helping low-income students get to college and succeed

Don Pemberton

Don Pemberton

University of Florida education innovator Don Pemberton received the prestigious Bob Craves Champion of College Access Award this week for his leadership in providing the means for low-income students to attend and succeed in college.

The award was presented on Monday in Orlando at the annual meeting of the National College Access Network (NCAN), one of the premier nonprofit organizations created to improve college access to low-income and other underserved populations.

Pemberton, 63, is director of the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning, the College of Education’s research-and-development incubator for advancing teacher and student achievement.

The award salutes Pemberton’s life mission to give opportunities to young people who lack the hope, much less the money and support, to attend and succeed in college.

“It’s an honor in terms of affirmation of this work,” Pemberton said. “It’s about collective effort and by honoring me they honor the organizations and individuals that have supported the work.”

UF College of Education Dean Glenn Good said Pemberton is more than worthy of the award.

“Don is an innovative, passionate and tireless advocate for the children and students of Florida,” Good said. Pemberton’s work has influenced school administrators, educators and students not only across the state “but it is having a national and international impact.”

Pemberton is the first and only director of the Lastinger Center, which works with schools and communities to improve student performance, teacher practice, school achievement, principal leadership and parental engagement.

A quarter of a century ago, before he joined UF in 2002, Pemberton was a teacher and guidance counselor in Pinellas County where he was troubled by an alarming number of Tampa Bay area students who dropped out of school.

In 1995, he founded a nonprofit organization, Take Stock in Children, to address the high dropout rate. With the backing of concerned community leaders and businesses, the organization has grown to become Florida’s largest college access and mentoring program to help students escape poverty through education.

It serves all 67 Florida’s counties by providing scholarships, advocates and mentors to middle-school students who need help to graduate from high school and attend college.

“More than 25,000 kids have been through the program,” said Pemberton, who continues to serve as a board member of the organization. “Today there are military officers, doctors, lawyers, accountants and pharmacists who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to college without the mentoring and promise of a college scholarship that Take Stock in Children provided.”

Among the biggest backers of Take Stock in Children was Allen Lastinger, who at the time was president of Barnett Bank, since purchased by what is now Bank of America. A $2 million gift to UF’s College of Education from Lastinger and his wife Delores also led to the creation of the Lastinger Center for Learning.

Pemberton received the award named for Bob Craves, co-founder of the College Success Foundation and a founding officer of Costco. Craves died in 2014 after many years advocating for students who have been historically underserved by higher education. Past award winners include the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.

    SOURCE: Don Pemberton, UF Lastinger; 352-273-4108;;
    WRITER: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education;
    MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137;;

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Collier receives McKnight Doctoral Fellowship

The Florida Education Foundation has awarded COE doctoral candidate Zachary Collier a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship based on his academic achievements and promising future.


COE doctoral candidate Zachary Collier

Collier is a member of the UF Algebra Nation team at the COE’s Lastinger Center for Learning, where he collaborates with Study Edge, an entrepreneurial technology firm, to provide online support for Florida students enrolled in Algebra I.

The McKnight fellowship addresses the under-representation of African American and Hispanic faculty at Florida colleges and universities by increasing the pool of minority Ph.D. candidates to teach at the college and university levels. Up to 50 fellowships are awarded statewide each year.

Collier said the fellowship validates his belief that hard work pays off, especially when you have passion for your chosen field.

“I leaped out of my chair when I read the news,” said Collier, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in research evaluation and methodology. “After I collected myself, I called my mother; we cried, we prayed.”

He said the fellowship – which carries monetary awards of up to $5,000 per year toward tuition (with the balance being waived) and an annual stipend of $12,000 – virtually guarantees that he will be able to complete his doctoral work sometime in 2017.

“It’s a blessing to me and my family,” Collier said. “And – lest we forget – I’ll be free of student loans.”

Sylvia Boynton, the Lastinger center’s innovation manager, says Collier has a “brilliant future” ahead of him.

“Zach has been helping our team understand the impact that Algebra Nation’s components have on teacher practice and student achievement,” Boynton said. “He’s dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of the most vulnerable students in Florida schools.”

Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications;; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications;; phone 352-273-3449.

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Dean Good named to elite Abu Dhabi teacher education panel

UF College of Education Dean Glenn Good has been appointed to the blue-ribbon International Advisory Panel for the Emirates College for Advanced Education (ECAE), a teacher education and school development center affiliated with the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

Dean Glenn E. Good

Dean Glenn E. Good

Good joins an elite four-member panel that also includes education leaders from the Institute of Education at the University of London, the National Institute of Education-Singapore, and the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

His appointment occurs as UF’s College of Education and its Lastinger Center for Learning are adding a third year to a formal partnership with the Abu Dhabi group that is yielding unprecedented teacher advancement and exchange programs between the two institutions. The alliance supports efforts by the United Arab Emirates to prepare a fresh generation of educators for the new economy of Abu Dhabi.

Dean Good has accepted several key leadership posts over the past year, including committee and panel positions with the American Educational Research Association and the American Association of Universities.


FATE has Timmons on presidential track

Crystal Timmons

Crystal Timmons

Crystal Timmons, a UF professor-in-residence in the Duval County school district for the College of Education’s Lastinger Center for Learning, is the new president-elect of the Florida Association of Teacher Educators.

Her one-year term as president-elect, starting in October, puts her on track to automatically assume the presidency of FATE in 2015-16. She will continue serving on the group’s board of directors the following year as immediate past president.

“I’m asking for support and feedback from anyone who is involved with FATE to help us strengthen our mission to improve the effectiveness of teacher education,” Timmons said. “A strong state unit ultimately enhances the efforts of the national Association of Teacher Educators.”

WJXT-TV — UF kicks off Algebra Nation summer program

WJXT-TV Jacksonville (News4Jax)
UF kicks off Algebra Nation summer program
UF Lastinger Center for Learning director Don Pemberton is quoted in a story on WJXT-TV’s news website about the start of UF’s partnership with Duval County schools to offer an online algebra summer camp for students who need help in addition to what is offered through UF’s Algebra Nation online tutoring program for high school students taking Algebra I.



Adams, Vernetson named to FLDOE review panel

Alyson Adams3

Alyson Adams, clinical associate professor in the COE’s School of Teaching and Learning, and Theresa Vernetson, assistant dean of student affairs, have been named to the Florida Department of Education’s statewide review panel charged with advising the Florida education commissioner on revisions to protocol standards for district professional development systems. 

Their appointments to the Professional Development Protocol Revisions Update panel helps to position the COE as a frontline player in the development of state education policies and practices as they relate to Learning Forward — formerly known as the National Staff Development Council.

“Florida has an intensive cycle of reviews of professional development practices and policies in each school district,” said Adams, who also is chief learning officer for the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning. “Dr. Vernetson was on the team of people who conceptualized this more than 10 years ago, and they’re pausing the process to review the entire set of statewide professional development standards as well as the review process.”

Adams and Vernetson both plan to attend the first in a series of five or six panel meetings on June 6 in Orlando.

 As clinical associate professor, Adams works within job-embedded graduate programs for practicing educators focused on teacher leadership and practitioner research in local contexts. Her work with the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning includes professional development initiatives for teachers in high-poverty schools throughout the state.

Although retiring later this month after 41 years at the College of Education as both a student and long-time administrator, Vernetson will continue serving on the FLDOE review panel.

THE REPUBLIC: Algebra Nation

The Republic
Algebra Nation

The Republic, a newspaper in Columbus, Ind., published a feature article about Algebra Nation. Don Pemberton and Boaz Dvir of the Lastinger Center for Learning are quoted in the story


The Gainesville Sun, The Tampa Tribune
11-15-13, 11-17-13
Algebra Nation 2.0

Articles in The Gainesville Sun and The Tampa Tribune covered the Nov. 1 release of Algebra Nation 2.0, the update to Algebra Nation, a digital algebra program created by the Lastinger Center for Learning and Study Edge. Boaz Dvir of the Lastinger Center is quoted in the story.


Alumni Association’s Florida Gator
Fall 2013
Stacy Carlson (PhD ’11)

The UF Alumni Association profiled alumna Stacy Carlson, who is the program director of a STEM grant awarded to the Lastinger Center for Learning, in their fall magazine’s “Pathfinder” section.

Story not available online.


TAMPA TRIBUNE: Don Pemberton

Tampa Tribune (Highlands Today edition)
Don Pemberton

Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune, quoted Don Pemberton, director of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, in a story about teacher quality in early learning programs.According to the article, Pemberton told the Florida House Education Committee that UF had just completed a study for the state Office of Early Learning that showed “significant and substantial improvements in outcomes for teachers” after they’d completed a 20-hour professional development course.


UF, Palm Beach County schools launch bold STEM ed reform effort

The School District of Palm Beach County, together with the University of Florida, has announced the launch of a three-year reform effort to build a “best-in-class” educational program in the vital STEM subject areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

Officials say the ambitious effort could become a national model for transforming teacher practice and student learning in the STEM subjects. The resulting professional development and educational advances will directly benefit thousands of teachers and students in the Palm Beach County district.

Palm Beach County science teachers construct an atom model at a UF Summer Institute on chemistry instruction recently at UF's P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School.

Palm Beach County science teachers construct an atom model at a UF Summer Institute on chemistry instruction recently at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School.

Major funding support for the STEM initiative’s rollout comes from $1 million in combined grants from three charitable foundations—the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, the Mary and Robert Pew Public Education Fund and Quantum Foundation. Additional funding is projected with amounts to be considered before the effort’s second and third years.

UF has worked with the school district and its community and philanthropic partners in planning the initiative, and will provide “in-kind” professional development and educational programs valued at more than $1 million—funded primarily by additional state and national foundation grants held by UF’s College of Education 

UF and school district officials expect the Palm Beach County STEM Initiative to yield measurable improvement in four key areas: school culture, teacher quality, student learning, and higher performance and assessment evaluations in the STEM subjects for teachers and students. Certain programs are designed especially for schools in high-poverty communities where recruiting and retaining teachers is more challenging 

 “This bold initiative will position the Palm Beach County school system as a national leader in recruiting, retaining and developing highly effective teachers and boosting students’ achievement,” said Dean Glenn Good of UF’s College of Education. 

Palm Beach County School Superintendent E. Wayne Gent said, “With the ever increasing importance of STEM-related jobs in Florida, the (school district) is dedicated to equipping our teachers with the resources they need to educate the future STEM leaders of tomorrow. We are grateful to our partners at the University of Florida, along with the generosity of our key foundation partners, who made this program a reality.”

UF’s College of Education brings several existing STEM education innovations to the partnership. The college’s Lastinger Center for Learning will provide job-embedded professional learning opportunities to district science and math teachers, and the center’s free, online Algebra Nation tutoring program (launched last year in numerous Florida school districts) supports students and their teachers preparing for a required algebra end-of-course exam.

Through an outreach program called U-FUTuRES — or UF Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science — university professors will train middle-school Science Teacher Leaders to lead districtwide implementation of research-proven teaching practices and subject content. The education college also will provide tuition-free courses to 15 Palm Beach County teachers for a certification program in math or science education that they can take without leaving their classrooms. UF launched U-FUTuRES last year in 20 mostly rural Florida school districts under a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Another new UF program is Florida STEM-TIPS (Teacher Induction and Professional Support), which will have education faculty developing coaching, mentoring and networking programs for new science and math teachers in Palm Beach County.

Other components of the UF-Palm Beach Schools STEM initiative include:

  • Math and science clinics emphasizing special “inquiry-based” teaching and learning practices;
  • Weeklong summer institutes at UF for teachers led by UF science and math professors;
  • Regular meetings of principals and school leaders to support improved STEM teaching and learning in the district;
  • An annual learning showcase where teachers can share the results of their new learning experiences. 

    Source: Tom Dana, associate dean, UF College of Education, 352-273-4134
    Writer: Larry Lansford, News & Communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137,



The Gainesville Sun
Algebra Nation

A Gainesville Sun article featured the expansion and success of Algebra Nation, a digital project by the Lastinger Center for Learning and Study Edge. Boaz Dvir and Dom Pemberton of the Lastinger Center and Alicia Stephenson of P.K. Yonge Developmental School were quoted in the story.

State legislature invests $2M in Algebra Nation, UF’s answer to high-stakes End-of-Course exam

Algebra Nation flagAfter hearing from teachers who actively engaged with Algebra Nation in its trial period, the state Legislature has invested $2 million to expand the reach and impact of the University of Florida’s innovative program to help students succeed on the high-stakes End-of-Course exam. 

Developed by UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning in partnership with the Florida Department of Education and Gainesville-based Study Edge, Algebra Nation offers Florida’s teachers, students and parents a free, accessible, interactive 24/7 online resource and supplemental instructional tool aligned with the latest state standards.

“We had planned to continue self-financing Algebra Nation in its second pilot year,” UF Lastinger Center Director Don Pemberton said. “We are honored that the Florida Legislature has independently recognized that Algebra Nation is making a difference for teachers, students and parents throughout the state.”

The UF Lastinger Center plans to substantially expand Algebra Nation’s reach and impact in many ways, including:

  • Building a new app that allows teachers to fully utilize the program in their classrooms.
  • Aligning the Algebra Nation material with the new Common Core State Standards.
  • Creating new assessment tools.
  • Designing, building, field-testing and implementing a teachers’ Common Core professional development network.
  • Producing new instructional videos aligned with this year’s state standards and the Common Core State Standards, which will be taught this year but will be tested next year.
  • Updating and upgrading the Algebra Nation Workbook.

For Florida’s high school students, the Algebra 1 EOC is as high stakes as it gets — it determines their future. They must pass it to graduate. About 48 percent of ninth-graders failed the spring 2013 Algebra 1 End-of-Course exam.

“We’ve created Algebra Nation to help Florida students succeed in this key STEM subject,” said Joy Schackow, UF STEM professor-in-residence in Pinellas County who serves as Algebra Nation’s math expert. “Algebra serves as a gatekeeper to success in high school and beyond.” 

Since it launched Jan. 15, Algebra Nation has exceeded expectations. More than half of Florida’s middle and high school algebra teachers, representing 900 schools in all 67 school districts, have used this learning ecosystem. In and out of the classrooms, teachers and students showed and watched the Algebra Nation instructional videos more than 116,000 times.

Students have posted as many as 1,000 daily inquiries, answers and comments on the Algebra Wall, which is monitored in real time by Algebra Nation study experts.

“Research tells us that peer-tutoring is one of the most effective ways to learn,” said Boaz Dvir, UF’s Algebra Nation project manager. “On our Algebra Wall, students feel free to ask even the simplest questions. The discussions they spark and the answers they elicit are simultaneously individualized and universal.” 

Students also post feedback to the Algebra Nation team, including:

  • “This is the best tool I have used in my entire life! I actually used to hate algebra at one point, but my Dad heard about this on NPR … I hope I get to use this tool throughout my life!”
  • “I’d just like to say Bravo! Algebra Nation is so fun and is such a good way to have students practice and learn more.”
  • “Math has always been my toughest subject in school (my definite strength and talent is writing), therefore the Algebra Nation team has REALLY been helping me … I think the practice quizzes are especially helpful, because we can test our knowledge and understanding of what we learned in the guiding videos and apply it to test-taking.”

Teachers are equally appreciative. For instance, Ponte Vedra High School algebra teacher Janice Rausch wrote, “Thank you so much for developing a great resource like Algebra Nation. There are so many fantastic links and resources that I have really loved using in my class. Next year, I would love to use some of your lessons as I go. I have loved using your resources by section to reteach and ‘remind’ them about challenging topics. Thanks again for creating such a rich and wonderful resource!”

Housed in the UF College of Education, the Lastinger Center is an educational innovation incubator. It harnesses the university’s intellectual resources to design, build, field-test and scale models that advance teaching, learning and healthy child development. The center continuously evaluates and refines its work, widely disseminates its findings and roots its initiatives in a growing network of partner sites around the state and country. 

Study Edge is a Gainesville-based enterprise that helps college students improve their outcomes. Its founding president, Ethan Fieldman, was the first winner of the Cade Museum Prize for Innovation.

SOURCE/WRITER: Boaz Dvir, UF Lastinger Center for Learning,; 352-273-0289

GAINESVILLE SUN: Lastinger Center for Learning

Gainesville Sun
Lastinger Center for Learning

The Gainesville Sun wrote an article about the Lastinger Center for Learning’s collaboration with Study Edge in the creation of a new free web application for students, teachers and parents named Algebra Nation. The online tool offers instructional videos and virtual practice platforms covering material tested by the state’s Algebra 1 end-of-course exam.

WCJB-TV 20, GTN: Lastinger Center for Learning

Lastinger Center for Learning

Local TV news programs, WCJB-TV 20 and GTN, recently featured the Lastinger Center’s latest innovation, Algebra Nation – a highly effective, intensive, online learning, 24/7, free, End-of-Course exam preparation resource.

UF Lastinger Center partners to create free online app to help students prep for Algebra end-of-course exam

Don Pemberton, director of the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning

More than 40 percent of Florida middle and high school students failed the spring 2012 Algebra 1 End-of-Course, or EOC, exam. Vulnerable children fared even worse. In many high-needs schools, the failure rate topped 80 percent.

Florida students must pass the Algebra 1 EOC to earn a high school diploma.

“Algebra is a key STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subject,” said Don Pemberton, who directs the University of Florida College of Education’s Lastinger Center. “It serves as a gatekeeper to success in high school and beyond.”

To help students succeed on the 2013 EOC exam, the UF Lastinger Center has joined forces with Gainesville-based Study Edge to create Algebra Nation – an intensive, accessible, easy-to-use, free, 24/7 online preparation resource.

UF education professors have dissected the material tested on the EOC and aligned Algebra Nation with the latest state standards.

“Algebra Nation is based on the latest research and best practices,” Study Edge founder and president Ethan Fieldman said. “And it features some of Florida’s top math teachers.”

Algebra Nation launches as a free app statewide Jan. 15. This represents the first phase in a grand effort to help accelerate and upgrade learning throughout Florida. UF and Study Edge plan to create and roll out Geometry Nation, Biology Nation and other EOC exam preparation resources next year.

These cutting-edge online resources utilize social learning and technological breakthroughs to construct and stage a vibrant e-learning system for students, teachers and parents. Intuitive and interactive, they offer differentiated instruction through live and asynchronous tutoring, as well as other effective learning tools.

“We are deeply respectful of educators and have designed Algebra Nation as a powerful supplemental tool,” said Pemberton, a member of Gov. Rick Scott’s educational transition team. “At a time when teachers are being evaluated on their students’ standardized test scores, they need targeted supports, particularly when it comes to preparing for the End-of-Course exams. Algebra Nation is the answer.”

Study Edge has achieved success at improving college student outcome. Fieldman, its founder and president, was the first winner of the Cade Museum Prize for Innovation. Study Edge experts have succeeded not only at the college level but also with a test-prep program for AP courses at Boca Raton Community High School over the past five years.

Housed in the UF College of Education, the Lastinger Center is an educational innovation incubator. It harnesses the university’s intellectual resources to design, build, field-test and scale models that advance teaching, learning and healthy child development. The Center continuously evaluates and refines its work, widely disseminates its findings and roots its initiatives in a growing network of partner sites around the state and the country.

SOURCE: Don Pemberton, director, UF Lastinger Center for Learning;, 352-273-4108
WRITER/MEDIA LIAISON: Boaz Dvir, UF Lastinger Center for Learning;, 352-273-0289

PDK recognizes UF professor as ‘International Emerging Leader’

Crystal Timmons, UF clinical assistant professor in education, was named one of 22 “International Emerging Leaders” by Phi Delta Kappa International. Every year, Phi Delta Kappa International, an association for professional educators, recognizes leading educators under the age of 40.

Timmons is a professor in residence for the Teacher Leadership for School Improvement degree program in Duval County, a project of the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning.

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’65 grad Delores Lastinger named UF Distinguished Alumna

Delores Lastinger, a leading civic leader, philanthropist and former Jacksonville high school teacher known for her tremendous contributions to the Northeast Florida community and the University of Florida, has been chosen to receive the 2012 University of Florida Distinguished Alumna Award.

She was honored May 5 at UF’s commencement ceremony in Gainesville.

Lastinger, a longtime Jacksonville resident who, with her husband Allen, moved to St. Augustine in 2001, earned her bachelor’s degree in education from UF’s College of Education in 1965 and has always displayed a deep commitment to education. The Lastingers in 2002 created a $4 million endowment at UF to establish the Lastinger Center for Learning at the college.

The renowned center reflects the Lastingers’ vision of practical training that improves teacher practice and student learning. Little did they know that the center would grow in a few short years to link some 300 partnering high-poverty schools across Florida with UF research scholars from multiple disciplines, forming powerful learning communities in support of school improvement, teacher advancement and children’s early learning and healthy development. The Lastingers are active board members who continuously contribute to the center’s success.

“Close to 10 years ago, Allen and Delores, who’ve worked hard in life, found themselves in a position to give something back,” said Lastinger Center Director Don Pemberton. “They invested in education and planted a seed here in the College of Education. That seed has grown and grown and grown.”

Delores is vice president of the Lastinger Family Foundation and her devotion to education and charitable work has been a lifelong labor of love. After graduating from UF, she earned a master’s in education administration and supervision from the University of North Florida and taught for many years at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville before having children and moving into high-profile volunteer work and philanthropy.

UF has been the beneficiary of the Lastingers’ generosity on several occasions. Delores and Allen are joint lifetime members of the UF Alumni Association and are members of the President’s Council. (Allen has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from UF and is the retired CEO of Barnett Banks.) Delores also serves on the UF Foundation’s leadership gifts council and campaign steering council.

Besides the center, the Lastingers have made substantial donations to UF’s archeology program, the John V. Lombardi Scholarship Program, the UF 150th Anniversary Cultural Plaza Endowment-UF Performing Arts, and the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies (also in the College of Education.)

Delores Lastinger’s generosity is well known throughout Northeast Florida. She and Allen co-chaired a successful $15 million capital campaign for Jacksonville Episcopal High, where Delores serves on the board of trustees. She also served on the board of directors for Leadership Jacksonville and developed the group’s annual fundraising program for its Youth Jacksonville Program, which supports more than 800 high school students. She’s also held board leadership positions for the Hubbard House (a domestic violence shelter), Hope Haven Children’s Clinic and Family Center and other charities.

Delores has volunteered for many years at the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida inpatient care center in St. Augustine and helped the center establish its pediatric hospice program. She’s also a trustee of Flagler College in St. Augustine and the Lastingers have campaigned to help preserve the college’s historic buildings.

MEDIA CONTACT: Boaz Dvir, creative services, UF Lastinger Center, UF College of Education, 352-273-0289;

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Participant in UF master-teacher program receives top honor in Pinellas

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For the second year in a row, a teacher who receives training from the University of Florida Master Teacher Initiative has been named teacher of the year in Pinellas County.

Pinellas County Schools recently chose UF Lastinger Center Teacher Fellows Facilitator Stephanie Whitaker, a fifth-grade teacher at Dunedin Elementary, as Pinellas County’s 2012 Teacher of the Year.

“I don’t think I would have won Outstanding Educator if I hadn’t had the opportunity to participate in the Teacher Fellows program and conduct inquiry,” said Whitaker, 29, who teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages, known as ESOL.

Inquiry — action research conducted on the job by educators — is a cornerstone of the Master Teacher Initiative, an award-winning, job-embedded professional development program run by the UF Lastinger Center for Learning.

Inquiry has proven to be a natural fit for Whitaker, said Lastinger Innovation Champion Sylvia Boynton, who has worked closely with Dunedin teachers over the years.

“One of the things I’ve started doing is inquiry opportunities with my students — having them conduct research,” Whitaker said.

It’s been a big hit, year after year.

“There was never a discipline problem and the kids loved every minute — they would ask to do this work,” Boynton said.

Whitaker, who’s been teaching for six years, has participated in the Teacher Fellows program since Dunedin partnered with Lastinger five years ago.

Last year, PCS named Tracy Staley, a participant in the Master Teacher Initiative’s on-the-job graduate program, the district’s Outstanding Educator. She went on to become a finalist for the state Teacher of the Year.

Being named Pinellas’ 2012 Teacher of the Year caught Whitaker by surprise.

“It’s really been an out-of-body experience,” she said.

Her teaching has been more structured since she began as a Teacher Fellow, Whitaker said. She differentiates her instruction through individualized data and views her students in new ways.

“I look at my classroom through a different lens,” she said.

Besides teaching, Whitaker serves on Dunedin’s school leadership team.

“She is a wonderful resource to the other teachers,” Boynton said.


Sylvia Boynton, innovation champion, UF Lastinger Center for Learning, 727-742-3759,