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.
After a successful first phase, the next chapter of the James Patterson Literacy Challenge is ready to be written.
The Florida Department of Education says “high impact teachers” receive the highest valued-added model (VAM) ratings because their students ranked higher than the “reasonable expected score” of similar students in other teachers’ classrooms.
Teachers’ VAM ratings are based on state assessment test scores and a mix of other variables, such as size of classes and whether students are gifted, disabled or learning the English language. Read more about the Florida’s teacher evaluation system.
Four teachers at the University of Florida’s developmental research school are among Florida instructors rated as having the highest impact on the academic growth of their students during the past three years.
The teachers at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School are Cody Miller, a ninth-grade English teacher; George Pringle, seventh-grade math; Bill Steffens, sixth-grade math; and Kate Yurko, 10th-grade English.
The Florida Department of Education recognized them as “teachers of high impact” based on a statewide ranking of Florida’s middle and high school English and mathematics instructors during the past three academic years. FDOE says less than 10 percent of eligible public school teachers receive the high-impact rating, which is derived from detailed measures and equations, called a valued-added model (VAM), and serves as a key factor schools use to evaluate the performance of teachers.
In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked these highly ranked teachers why they are succeeding.
Cody Miller, at age 27 the youngest of the four, says he doesn’t “teach to the test,” a reference to the growing controversy of standardized student testing, which is among the ways the state determines teachers’ VAM rating. With the increased emphasis on tests such as the Florida Standards Assessment exam, teachers are feeling so much pressure to get students ready for the exams that they may neglect to teach skills that go beyond the tests.
“For me, when kids are discussing critically the world around them, that’s a success,” Miller says. “It’s important for students to see how their personal experiences have shaped their views, and to look at someone else and see how their experiences shaped their views.”
Miller has taught for four years, including three years at P.K. Yonge. He considers the high-impact rating as a validation to continue his teaching methods. These include setting a high bar and having students write numerous papers, complete projects, and read and critique eight books each year – ranging from Shakespeare to contemporary memoirs from authors around the world, and graphic novels.
When it comes to taking the standardized tests, Miller says: “My hope is that the test is relatively easy because of all the work I’ve asked them to do. It’s just one item to check off the list. I tell students before they take a test, ‘just knock it out.’”
George Pringle, a seventh-grade math teacher, says he starts each school year with the mindset of improving his teaching practice.
“I’ve gotten better and I’ve learned every year.”
A native of Jamaica, Pringle has taught for 16 years, including eight at P.K. Yonge.
“What I do for one student I do for all students. That is, I treat all students as individuals. My philosophy is for my students to show a willingness to succeed at math.
“Growth is measured differently for all students. State measures are only one way to measure growth. There are many others, such as participating in interactions that take place in the classroom. It’s not just whether they can put numbers on a paper.”
He hopes at the end of each school year “each student can say that was a good experience.”
Bill Steffens, a sixth-grade math teacher, is the most experienced of the four. He has taught for 36 years, including 24 years at P.K. Yonge.
Yet despite his veteran status, he says each school year brings new students and new challenges to solve.
Teachers should try to learn about each student and what methods best motivate them to do their best work, no matter if they are struggling learners or high achievers. It’s one of the puzzles of teaching, but there are many factors that make a teacher a success, he says.
“It’s the way you talk to students, how they respond and work for you. And how to get after them if they don’t. It’s like being a parent. It’s everything.”
He and the other teachers say they had very little understanding of how the complicated VAM scores are determined. But Steffens says he is particularly pleased that the rating shows a consistent high level of teaching impact because it covers a three-year period.
Kate Yurko, a 10th grade English teacher, says she doesn’t rely on standardized tests to gauge her success.
“I’ve thought a lot about how and what I teach. If I focus on the classroom environment I don’t have to worry about the standardized testing. It’s one test on one day.
“I measure students’ success in a different way. Do they enjoying reading? Are they thinking critically? Are they reading books? Helping kids fall in love with words and reading and ideas – that is what’s special.”
After nine years of teaching, including five at P.K. Yonge, she says she has become a better teacher because she is more relaxed and better able to respond to students in real-time instead of always strictly adhering to her curriculum. And it helps having matured and not having a one-dimensional life completely centered on her classroom.
“As you grow in your teaching you get more intuitive. It’s like you get special powers.”
Being at P.K. Yonge, where she says teacher inquiry and research are encouraged, provides a nurturing place to be creative and explore ways to improve her practice.
“We emphasize good teaching, and good teaching brings results.”
Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449
Media Liaison: Julie Henderson, 352-392-1554
Jon Mundorf was considering quitting the profession after three years of teaching elementary school in Naples, Florida.
He felt frustrated and ineffective despite doing his best to follow the top teaching methods, curriculum, and steps laid out in educator manuals.
“Only a small number of kids really got it when I would teach,” Mundorf says.
Some did not speak English, others had behavior problems or any number of learning disabilities. He came to realize: The standardized teaching methods he was using were ineffective because his students weren’t standardized.
In the summer of 2006, Mundorf decided to look for a better way to teach and give his career a spark.
He found it. He learned new teaching methods that are designed for educators to more effectively reach all their students, and he has gone on to become an award-winning teacher, and an internationally recognized practitioner of teaching to meet the needs of all learners.
Young Alumni Award
Today (April 8), Mundorf, 36, received the UF College of Education’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award, one of 23 Gator alumni across campus who will be honored as leaders in their professions at a ceremony at Emerson Alumni Hall.
Mundorf’s story surely holds lessons for other teachers who are early in their careers, when research shows a high percentage leave the profession.
Mundorf, Ed.D., is a 2014 graduate of UF’s online doctorate in curriculum and instruction program, which is designed to strengthen the skills of practicing educators. His dissertation was about his experience of using universal learning methods to teach a blind student to read in his integrated classroom.
This school year, he joined UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, where he teaches seventh grade language arts.
“Dr. Mundorf brings to our classrooms extensive knowledge and many years of experience in leveraging technology and non-tech strategies for supporting the needs of each learner,” P.K. Yonge Director Lynda Hayes says. “He is a dedicated practitioner scholar committed to providing the best possible seventh grade English language arts experience for our diverse students.”
Universal Design for Learning
Mundorf credits his transformation to a decade ago when he entered Harvard Graduate School of Education’s summer institute on universal design for learning (UDL), a partnership with the nonprofit Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), which now includes Mundorf among its teaching cadre. UDL is a method of using inclusive teaching methods to meet the needs of all learners.
“Upon returning from Harvard, I reinvented myself as a teacher,” Mundorf wrote in his UF dissertation. “Instead of focusing and complaining about the disability I saw in my students, I chose to target the disability in our curriculum. The barriers within the curriculum were minimized because I had developed a student-centered stance for exploring the curriculum with my students.”
Mundorf’s ability to engage an audience with his love of teaching is striking, and he can turn a brief interview into a lively hour-and-half discussion of his teaching philosophy, education research findings and lessons he has learned along the way.
A native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Mundorf often wears a jacket bearing the logo for Bowling Green State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in education. He also has a master’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University and joined the small ranks of teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonprofit that aims to advance accomplished teaching for all students.
In an example of his inclusive teaching methods, Mundorf says he provides choices in how a student engages with reading materials, providing audio-visual, text-to-speech, captioning, and, if necessary, Braille formats. His students also have choice in how they express their grasp of the subject, such as writing an essay, making a speech or giving a visual presentation.
This way, students with high-incidence disabilities, such as dyslexia – by some estimates up to 20 percent of students – as well as less common disabilities like blindness are given a better opportunity to succeed.
“We allow students multiple ways to learn, engage, and demonstrate mastery,” Mundorf says. “If I only give them one way, it leaves some out.”
Mundorf is in demand to teach not only students but other educators. He has consulted with schools and organizations on inclusive teaching practices, accessibility, technology integration and other ways to improve teaching and learning. In the fall of 2015, he traveled to Fukuoka, Japan, to provide the keynote speech and lead a workshop on inclusive classroom instruction at the National Conference of the Japanese Academy of Learning Disabilities.
Mundorf says students will succeed in the 21st Century not by memorizing all the prepositions in the English language. They will succeed by becoming expert learners. And the same goes for teachers.
“Teaching can be extremely challenging and there is no one right way to do it,” he says. “You have to constantly work at it to reach all the learners. When you feel like you have figured it all out, the next day things change. Teachers have to be the lead learners in this effort.”
Source: Jon Mundorf, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School; 352-392-1554
Writer: Charles Boisseau, UF College of Education, news and communications office
Leslie Eggert Scales-Holloway (BAE ’68) was visibly moved as she reflected on her late father’s role as the beloved principal at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School from 1947 to 1952. “He strongly believed in the connection between school and community,” she said in a recent interview. “That was Daddy.”
Scales-Holloway of Orlando, and a P.K. Yonge “lifer” (attending kindergarten through high school there), has pledged a $100,000 gift in support of the school’s proposed state-of-the-art secondary building. Like P.K. Yonge’s ultramodern elementary building, which opened in 2012, the 21st century design of the secondary building will “transform the educational experience for today’s and tomorrow’s students,” according to school Director Lynda Hayes.
While the secondary building project is still in the fundraising stage before construction can start, school officials have honored Scales-Holloway for her generosity by naming a key portion of the new elementary wing as the Dr. C. Lee Eggert Learning Corridor, in honor of her father, the former principal.
“The (learning corridor) space is flexible and can be used in so many different ways. Daddy would have loved this space and seeing the potential for a wide variety of learning activities and community events taking place here,” Scales-Holloway said.
After Dr. Eggert’s time at P.K. Yonge, which has served as UF’s K-12 laboratory school since 1934, he joined the faculty at the UF College of Education where he was a professor of secondary administration. His work with the Florida Parent-Teacher Association and chairmanship of the Florida Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools endeared him to students, parents, teachers and administrators statewide.
After graduating from P.K. Yonge, Scales-Holloway went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in education in 1968 from the UF College of Education. She taught school in Alachua and Marion counties and served for several years as a member of the Marion County School Board.
She was recently joined in celebrating the naming of the Dr. C. Lee Eggert Learning Corridor by her husband Rufus (who also goes by “Dick”), three siblings (also P.K. Yonge “lifers”), extended family, P.K. Yonge faculty and staff.
The prevailing sentiment at the school may best be summed up in the words of Ashley Pennypacker-Hill, P.K. Yonge program and outreach specialist and a P.K. Yonge alumna (class of ‘99): “We are delighted that this beautiful space will now remind us of P.K. Yonge’s past and will continue to support P.K. Yonge’s future.”
Inspired by the early impact of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School’s new, state-of-the-art elementary wing, faculty researchers from PKY and the University of Florida are teaming up on pioneering studies into how school building design can influence and improve schooling for both teachers and students.
P.K. Yonge faculty researchers, led by school Director Lynda Hayes, are partnering with UF’s College of Design, Construction and Planning on a two-year study funded by Steelcase, Inc., the world’s largest office furniture manufacturer. The team also includes UF education technology Professor Kara Dawson.
Steelcase has refurbished and furnished a designated “active learning classroom” in the school’s older high school building with up to $50,000 worth of furniture and integrated technology and is training school instructors in the use of the active-learning tools.
“This project will provide a better understanding of how learning best takes place and how smarter, active learning spaces can help,” Hayes said. “Our intent is to create the most effective, engaging and inspiring learning environments to meet the evolving needs of students and teachers in the 21st century.”
P.K. Yonge has been the UF College of Education’s laboratory school since 1934, serving as a center of innovative educational program development and dissemination for kindergarten-through-high-school students throughout Florida and beyond.
SOURCE: Lynda Hayes, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-392-1554, ext. 223
MEDIA RELATIONS: Julie Henderson, communications coordinator, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, email@example.com, 352-392-1554
WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education,firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-273-4137
“It is the best thing that ever happened to me as a teacher.”
— Kathy Savage
Oviedo High bioscience teacher
MOST OF THE TIME they are the teachers.
Not this time.
Dozens of high school teachers from across Florida returned to the classroom as part of an innovative University of Florida program to teach teachers the latest biomedical science and technologies, and to spark interest in bioscience careers among high schoolers.
The idea: You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you know best when you learn firsthand.
“It is the best thing that ever happened to me as a teacher,” said Kathy Savage, a bioscience teacher at Oviedo High School in Oviedo who created a bioscience curriculum working with researchers on UF’s campus.
CPET is the University of Florida’s “umbrella” program and conduit for the transfer of science and technology to public school and community college teachers, students and the public-at-large.
“Our ultimate goal is to improve the teachers’ content knowledge,” said Julie Bokor, assistant director of CPET and a doctoral candidate in curriculum and instruction at UF’s College of Education.
Known as Biomedical Explorations: Bench to Bedside, the program includes four key elements.
To sum it up: UF professors transfer research and techniques to secondary teachers and these teachers translate this knowledge into lessons that students can best understand.
“It’s a professional learning cycle,” said Kent Crippen, an associate professor of STEM education in COE’s School of Teaching and Learning.
Importantly, participating teachers aren’t set adrift after the initial summer camp: They receive continued support from CPET staff and professors.
A good example is Savage, who had taught chemistry for 17 years when she was tapped to create a bioscience program at her school. She was a fish out of water.
“The equipment and procedures and lab techniques weren’t around when I was in school,” Savage said. “It’s a little intimidating doing those kinds of experiments yourself when you have to teach your students.”
After participating in the inaugural cohort in 2010, she has since returned to campus for three weeks every summer to work closely with UF professors and post-doctorate scholars in UF labs. They have helped her design lesson plans, taught her to use science equipment that had been gathering dust at her school, corresponded to answer her questions via email and even visited her classroom to help conduct experiments.
“You never feel afraid to try something new and jump in because you know someone has your back,” she said.
Another example: Orlando Edgewater High biology teacher Jessica Mahoney and fellow CPET alumna Jennifer Broo worked with UF Associate Professor of Entomology Daniel Hahn to create lessons on the interrelated concepts of climate change and evolution.
Students conducted experiments on live fruit flies provided by the university’s Department of Entomology to determine which strains were most vulnerable to climate change based on their recovery from a chill-induced coma.
In previous summers, these teachers teamed to develop two other curricula: one involving the cell cycle and cancer and another exploring the evolution of horses.
All told, 105 high school teachers who have participated in the program are now bringing their new skills to their own classrooms, including 22 in the 2015-2016 school year as part of a second phase of the program.
The UF Bench to Bedside program recently received a two-year $522,698 follow-up grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand the dissemination of the new high school science curricula.
Crippen, a co-principal investigator of this phase-two project, is helping to widely circulate the lessons by training teachers to use a powerful open-source portal funded by National Science Foundation. This online repository is part of the NSF Digital Library and allows instructors to submit, download, collaborate, and manage the copyright of lesson plans and other teaching resources they have created for the program.
CPET, which is housed in the Office of the Provost, has a long history of close collaboration with the College of Education. Education Associate Dean Tom Dana initiated a course offering for the Bench to Bedside program so teachers completing the work receive three hours of graduate credit. In another program, CPET is supporting Rose Pringle, associate professor of science education, and P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School Director Lynda Hayes on a $5 million National Science Foundation grant known as U-FUTuRES (University of Florida Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science) to train middle school science teacher-leaders to transform science teaching and learning. CPET Director Mary Jo Koroly is co-principal investigator on the project to facilitate science enrichment activities on campus.
Sharing lessons – and the lessons learned – is a key element of all this professional development work.
“Ultimately, what we want is for our teachers to get regional, state and even national recognition so they can develop professionally,” Bokor said. “By moving to the next level they get to share this great research.”
Source: Julie Bokor, CPET, 352-392-2310
Source: Kent Crippen, College of Education associate professor of STEM Education, 352-273-4222
Writer: Charles Boisseau, UF COE News & Communications, 352-392-4449
Striving to make an impact on education locally, statewide and beyond, UF’s K-12 lab school, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, has been hosting more than 300 K-12 visiting educators annually as part of its Research in Action program, offering classroom observations, teacher-to-teacher mini-workshops, debriefing conversations and action planning exercises. Now, the UF laboratory school is using new technology such as live video streaming, social media and Swivl audio-visual equipment (which works easily with iPads and iPhone) to expand the reach of its on-campus professional learning programs to national and even international audiences.
Professional Learning is key to P.K. Yonge’s mission as a developmental research school: to design, develop and disseminate best practices in K12 education. Teachers from within Florida and growing numbers from abroad participate in P.K. Yonge professional learning activities throughout the summer and during every year. In 2014-15, experiments with tools to disseminate best practices and connect with teachers are showing promise in reaching far beyond the constraints of the workday and the campus.
In February, the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) and the National Literacy Project Research in Action day held on the P.K. Yonge campus was attended by 60 educators. With attendance limited by physical space constraints, live streaming technology extended the reach of this event immeasurably. While group activities take place on campus, audiences across the nation and in other countries were able to participate and learn at the same time.
Other recent technologies and tools are enhancing professional learning by streamlining the capture and presentation of exemplars from classrooms and simplifying the content capture process. While recording lessons is not new, new technology allows lessons to be captured easily by teachers and support staff, allowing fresh examples of real world classroom teaching to be presented and analyzed for each professional learning activity.
For the February Research in Action event, lessons taught just a few days prior were presented and analyzed — keeping workshop content current and up to the minute. Tools such as Swivl means that recorded sample lessons critical to connecting theory with real-world classroom practice can be captured and included with relative ease.
The February RIA event has now extended beyond live streaming and Swivl lesson capture with follow-up conversation and sharing moving into the realm of social media. P.K. Yonge faculty member and program development coordinator Christy Gabbard participated in an LDC Twitter chat following the on-campus, live-streamed event.
The future is bright! Visit the P.K. Yonge Research in Action page — at http://researchinaction.pkyonge.ufl.edu — to see and archive the live-streamed event and follow us on Twitter (@pkyongedrs).
The word on the (education) street is that school Robotics programs are a splendid pathway to careers in the vital STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math for today’s youth. At P.K. Yonge, UF’s K-12 developmental research school, there is a clear example of this pathway playing out early in the life of one PKY junior.
Eleventh-grader Logan Hickcox recently became one of youngest people in the nation to pass the Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate exam—and with a perfect score! This certification is an industry standard that allows holders to use this computer-based mechanical design program on a professional level.
Logan joined the P.K. Yonge Roaring Riptide FIRST Robotics Team 4118 as an 8th grader and in just a few weeks he was hooked. The ability to work alongside professional engineers and graduate students, to develop skills in communications and business relationships, and develop relationships with other Robotics teams across the state have helped Logan select an interesting path for his future.
The Blue Wave team, with a strong female representation, has led to numerous students reevaluating their academic choices and entering engineering programs at UF. We expect to see Logan in an engineering program in the not too distant future.
Watch a video about Logan’s high school experience: http://media.pkyonge.ufl.edu/#logan
Watch a video about the Roaring Riptide robotics team: http://media.pkyonge.ufl.edu/#robotics
The partnership between P.K. Yonge DRS and the Nanjing Experimental International School continues to grow and touch the lives of an increasing number of faculty, students and families from both schools. NJEIS is a university-affiliated laboratory school in China much like PKY is the UF College of Education’s K-12 developmental research school.
This year, 23 high school students and four chaperones from NJEIS visited P.K. Yonge for five days in late September. Visiting students were able to experience American family life by staying with PKY host families and participating in after-school activities, bowling, tubing, and trips to St. Augustine and the Florida Museum of Natural History. The Chinese high schoolers also participated in PKY music class with Melanie Harris, a PE class with Kelly Barrett and English language arts class with Cody Miller.
The relationship between the two schools originated from UF College of Education professor Danling Fu’s vision for a China-United State partnership focused on school-based connections.
P.K. Yonge students who visited China in 2013 and 2014 enjoyed seeing old friends and making new ones, and Blue Wave students planning to travel to China on a school-sponsored trip in March 2015 connected with friends they will see again in their home country.
“The experience serves as an excellent lesson in cultural and global awareness, as well as in empathy building.” said Julie Henderson, P.K. Yonge’s coordinator of international partnerships. “Previous Blue Wave student travelers to Nanjing recall their own struggles with feeling awkward and displaced in a foreign land and are able to be empathetic to their Chinese guests. For students planning to travel to China for the first time, they gain a glimpse of how they will feel when they make the return visit to NJEIS next spring.”
“After two visits on both sides on the partnership, the schools feel deeply connected and bonded, and look forward to a lasting partnership with lifelong impacts for students, faculty, and families,” Henderson said.
Virtually all 33 UF ProTeach dual certification students who tutored youngsters with reading disabilities during a special four-week summer camp staged by the UF Literacy Initiative say their investment will reap huge benefits in their future teaching practices.
And, lest anyone forget, the same number of mostly elementary school students who spent an hour a day with their tutors at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville will benefit greatly as well.
Caquatto, a member of this year’s UF gymnastics team that recently claimed its second straight national title, appeared to be just as excited as her student when the third-grader broke a personal record during a reading fluency exercise.
“Yesterday he read 73 words in one minute, but today he nailed it,” Caquatto said. “He got 102.”
“Yeah, and with no errors!” the student beamed.
“It’s the little victories that get you pumped up,” Caquatto said. “This program is awesome. I learn from kids all the time.”
Holly Lane, a UF special education professor who has headed the College of Education’s summer reading programs through the UF Literacy Initiative since 2009, says the “awesomeness” is the result of “incredibly passionate” student teachers who qualify for tutoring by attending a four-week practicum and five weeks of all-day classes.
“It’s a huge time commitment for them,” Lane said. “This particular group has been remarkably agreeable. They’re very dedicated.”
Among them is Karyn Ortiz, a part-time graduate student who appeared to have an excellent rapport with her student, a fourth grader with dyslexia.
“Good teachers learn to use their personalities as a tool,” said Ortiz, who used a bag of goldfish crackers as a teaching tool in a recent tutoring session. “This has been a paradigm shift for me – from direct teaching to manipulative teaching. I use the goldfish to help my student learn what the letter ‘g’ sounds like.
“I’ve always taken reading in English for granted,” she said. “This has been an eye-opener for me; I had no idea it could be so difficult for some children.”
Such lessons can only help them to become better teachers, according to Lane.
“Ten to 15 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia, and more than 80 percent of all learning disabilities are due to problems in reading,” she said. “Early detection is key because those students won’t have the added burden of trying to catch up academically after falling behind because of their reading disability.”
Given those numbers, it doesn’t surprise Lane to see UF Literacy Initiative programs continue to grow.
“Word’s been getting around,” she said. “This year we had students from as far away as Tampa and Dunnellon. The parents are very appreciative of this program and the difference it makes with their children.
“One parent shared that her son made more reading progress in four weeks in this program than he had all year at school.”
Source: Holly Lane, associate professor, School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies; email@example.com; phone 352-273-4273.
Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 352-273-4137
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; email@example.com; phone 352-273-3449.
More than 70 youngsters filled the Boys and Girls Club of Gainesville recently for a fun-filled summer week of learning to speak conversational Chinese while studying Far East culture through hands-on activities.
The UF College of Education and the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ department of Literacy, Language and Culture have co-sponsored StarTalk – a federally funded teacher development program — each of the past four years. StarTalk was established in 2006 to promote the nationwide teaching of “critical needs” languages such as Chinese, Russian and Arabic.
UF StarTalk program director Patricia Jacobs, who also serves as a writing coach at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, said the program’s objectives are simple.
“One-fifth of the world’s population speaks Chinese, so it stands to reason that more of us should know how to speak it,” Jacobs said. “Skilled teachers are critical to this learning process, and they’re the focus of this program.”
The COE’s StarTalk program is exclusive to teachers of Chinese, nearly all of them China natives who teach at different schools throughout the U.S. Each year they attend afternoon training sessions at UF’s Norman Hall led by COE faculty members before applying what they learn during morning classes with kids ages 5-18 at the Boys and Girls Club.
Fifteen teachers from as far away as Texas and Massachusetts took part in this year’s program, according to Danling Fu, a UF literacy education professor who specializes in graduate and undergraduate level writing and language instruction.
“Classes are taught much differently in China, so what they gain here helps them become more effective when teaching American children,” said Fu, who serves as lead instructor. “They’re very enthusiastic and the children respond well to that. It’s fun to watch them interact.”
Students were introduced to common Chinese words and phrases while receiving lessons in Chinese culture, such as learning how to make sweet dumplings — called tang yu’an in Chinese – and creating colorful paper lanterns for the Lantern Festival, a celebration dating back to the Han dynasty of 206 BC to 25 AD.
UF student and Taiwan native Eric Fu, who is majoring in criminology with a minor in Chinese, said he attended the StarTalk sessions to broaden his horizons about cultural education.
“It was interesting to see how passionate the teachers were, and how enthusiastically the kids responded,” Fu said. “I’ve been learning a lot from the teachers, but probably just as much by watching the students. All that will be helpful to me in terms of interpersonal dynamics.”
StarTalk is a multi-agency initiative funded primarily by the Department of Defense’s National Security Agency. Cynthia Chennault, a COE associate professor of Chinese language and literature, serves as co-instructional leader.
Other StarTalk sponsors include the National Foreign Language Center in Riverdale Park, Md., and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages headquartered in Alexandria, Va.
Source: Danling Fu, UF College of Education, firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 352-392-9191, ext. 20.
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; email@example.com; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 352-273-3449.
School psychology professor Nancy Waldron, a UF College of Education faculty member since 1999, has been named associate dean for student affairs at the college.
Waldron’s appointment will take effect on June 30, when she will replace longtime COE administrator Theresa Vernetson, who is retiring after 41 years at the college as a student and employee.
Waldron also is the current associate director of the School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies. She previously headed the school psychology program and chaired the COE Faculty Policy Council.
Her core values and educational philosophy seem well suited for the student affairs post.
“The most rewarding aspect of my work as a faculty member has been mentoring and serving as an adviser to doctoral and specialist students,” she wrote in her letter of application. “A strong commitment to student advocacy and supporting individual needs has always guided my work with students.”
She has held several leadership positions in the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), while her research and scholarship activities have focused on the inclusion of students with disabilities, implementation of multi-tiered systems of support, and school psychology preparation.
Waldron has been a professor-in-residence at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School for that past 10 years, working collaboratively with school leaders and colleagues in the development of a model site for school psychology services and field-based experiences for graduate students.
Her scholarship and impact on the field has been recognized through her selection as a fellow of the Division of School Psychology of the American Psychological Association (APA).
Each year starting this fall, up to 15 undergraduate education students from a major Chinese university will spend their fourth year of teacher-preparation studies at the University of Florida College of Education, thanks to a partnership forged this week between the two schools.
Upon completing their yearlong studies at UF, the Chinese teachers-in-training will return to Nanjing Xiaozhuang University, or NXU, in the East China region to complete their coursework and receive their undergraduate degree. Graduates who qualify may then apply for admission into a master’s degree program at UF’s College of Education.
Officials with UF and NXU signed the five-year agreement at UF’s Norman Hall to seal the international education outreach pact. They will review the agreement in 2019 for possible renewal for another five years.
NXU is located in one of China’s most important cities: Nanjing is the capital city and the second largest commercial center in Jiangsu Province and has been the capital of at least six dynasties in ancient Chinese history. The university was founded in 1927 and has more than 15,000 full-time students.
“This partnership provides an excellent opportunity for students and faculty from both UF and Nanjing to interact and learn from one another. It will provide valuable opportunities for our students and faculty to expand their multicultural skills and competences,” said Glenn Good, dean of UF’s College of Education.
Good said the College of Education will provide a faculty program director and an academic adviser for the visiting Chinese students, and the UF International Center will also extend a helping hand.
Good said the Nanjing student enrollees must meet all UF admission standards. As part of the student selection process, College of Education representatives and advisers will interview prospective students from Nanjing using Skype or similar video-conferencing technology provided by NXU.
UF and NXU have carried on an informal relationship since 2011. UF education professor Danling Fu played matchmaker and facilitated the connection. Fu grew up in the People’s Republic of China and attended Nanjing University before immigrating as an adult to the United State in the mid-1980s.
The education colleges at the two universities—and their respective kindergarten-through-high school laboratory schools (including P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School at UF)—have each sent visiting contingents of faculty and students to the other’s campus for academic and cultural exchanges and sharing.
Fu served as interpreter in this week’s agreement signing that sealed the formal alliance.
“ I am very excited to see this partnership established between our two universities. I can serve as a bridge or an ambassador for the two countries, both of which I see as my home countries.” Fu said.
SOURCE: Dean Glenn Good, UF College of Education; email@example.com, 352-273-4135
WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; firstname.lastname@example.org; 352-273-4137
As Florida schools prepare for the official implementation of the Common Core standards next school year, UF mathematics education associate professor Tim Jacobbe and P.K. Yonge, UF’s K-12 developmental research school, have been teaming up since 2009 to ensure the school is ready to meet the more rigid math standards. With Jacobbe’s help, P.K. Yonge implemented a new math curriculum for the elementary grades for the 2013-2014 school year.
Jacobbe has facilitated faculty discussions and needs assessments to determine how to align teaching practices at P.K. Yonge with the rigor demanded by the Common Core standards for math. He also led a weeklong professional learning workshop for K-8 math teachers, focusing on deepening their content knowledge and grasp of the math practice standards.
“Tim had such background in what P. K. Yonge was doing. He led discussions about curriculum adoption and supported P. K. Yonge’s next steps. All of this laid incredible groundwork for moving through the adoption process” said Marisa Stukey, P.K. Yonge’s program development and outreach specialist.
The new adopted math curriculum at P.K. Yonge strengthens students’ perseverance, strategies and reasoning skills specifically related to problem solving. These teaching practice standards had not been explicitly addressed before in P.K. Yonge’s curriculum or in the teaching of math, Stukey said.
“Math is about thinking,” Jacobbe said. “Math is about problem solving, not just knowing math facts. Just knowing facts won’t help students succeed in life.”
In the past, P.K. Yonge’s overall math achievement has been high on standardized tests like the FCAT. These tests, however, assess understanding of basic math concepts, rather than measuring conceptual understanding of more complex math, which is demanded by the Common Core.
Jacobbe will continue making weekly visits to P.K. Yonge to study student work before and during the new curriculum in order to understand how to further help teachers and students gain a deeper conceptual understanding of math. He is working with school math teachers faculty to develop a new middle school math curriculum for the 2014-2015 school year.
“It’s important to make sure we have a cohesive plan between our elementary and middle schools,” Jacobbe said. “The P.K. Yonge teachers are tremendous professionals. The foundation of our work has been laid by good early curriculum decisions and is only possible because the teachers are willing to take on the challenge of helping the learners of today be successful in math in a new way.”
For students, school’s out for the summer. For teachers, it’s an opportune time to step back into the classroom – but as students.
Starting this month, P.K. Yonge laboratory school will hold its professional development series for the eighth summer in a row. Although the first program, the “Literacy Design Collaborative Summer Institute,” of the summer series is filled, elementary and secondary teachers can still register for the upcoming “Transforming Practice: Enacting the Common Core” institute or the supplemental Teacher Scholars Reading Academy.
“Transforming Practice” is a one-week institute held from June 17 to 21 that focuses on best practices for reading instruction based on the state’s new Common Core Standards. This program is catered to teachers of kindergarten through 12th grade. Discussion topics will include academic vocabulary and balancing informational and literary texts in the classroom.
The “Transforming Practice” institute is also the first segment of a three-week Teacher Scholars Reading Academy, which will provide teachers with intensive, hands-on professional learning in evidence-based reading instruction. The focus of the academy, which runs from June 17 to July 3, is on reading in kindergarten through third grade.
After a week of acquiring teaching strategies in “Transforming Practice,” academy participants will co-teach P.K. Yonge’s Summer Adventures in Literacy (SAIL), an intensive summer reading program for young struggling readers, during the final two weeks of the academy. In the afternoons, teachers will reflect on their practices and receive additional training.
“So often, teachers learn something new, but never have the ability to watch it in action or practice it themselves. The Teacher Scholars Reading Academy provides teachers with an opportunity to learn like we want our students to learn – by doing it,” said Marisa Stukey, P.K. Yonge’s curriculum coordinator for kindergarten through third grade. “It’s an incredible learning experience that is sure to change the way you teach reading.”
On the final two days of the academy, July 2 and 3, there will be a two-day leadership session for school principals.
The “Transforming Practice” institute and the Teacher Scholars Reading Academy will take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the weekdays. Registration for the one-week “Transforming Practice” institute is $395 per participant, and $795 per teacher or reading coach for the three-week Teacher Scholars Reading Academy. Teachers and coaches are encouraged to form school-based teams of four to register for the academy. Registration for the two-day principal leadership session is $125 per principal. Registration costs include materials.
Each professional development session will be led by Stukey, P.K. Yonge fourth- and fifth-grade curriculum coordinator Ashley Pennypacker Hill, and teachers from the SAIL program. All sessions will take place at P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School on 1080 S.W. 11th St. in Gainesville.
To register and for more information, visit http://outreach.pkyonge.ufl.edu or contact Marisa Stukey at email@example.com.
Julie Brown, a UF doctoral fellow in curriculum and instruction, has been named as one of six Jhumki Basu Scholars by the National Association for Research in Science Teaching’s Equity and Ethics Committee.
Brown is a former high school science teacher and P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School’s elementary science coordinator.
At UF’s College of Education, Brown researches and designs professional development for secondary science teachers as a means of enhancing their ability to provide culturally responsive and inquiry-based instruction. Her STARTS – Science Teachers Are Responsive To Students – professional development model, for example, is designed to empower science teachers in high-need, urban school districts.
Brown’s professional development model is incorporated within a major partnership being forged between UF and the School District of Palm Beach County. It’s part of an ambitious effort to position the school system as a national leader in the recruitment and retention of master teachers in the STEM subjects who can lead their students to the highest levels of academic success.
“Science education must be accessible to all students,” Brown said. “Increasing culturally-responsive science education’s presence on a wide scale begins with teacher preparation.”
The Basu Scholars Program supports and nurtures promising young scholars who promote social justice. The program also provides scholars with a $700 research scholarship.
Only America’s most exceptional teachers find themselves strolling through the White House discussing education policy with Vice President Joe Biden. COE alumnus Eric Grunden (MEd ’94, science education) recently got the VIP treatment from Biden and the White House staff after receiving the nation’s highest honor in the science teaching profession.
Grunden was one of 97 educators across the country to receive the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in a ceremony at the White House. The honor came with a certificate signed by President Obama, an all-expense-paid trip for two to the capital and a $10,000 stipend from the National Science Foundation. President Obama was scheduled to attend the ceremony but had to make an emergency trip to visit the victims of the Colorado wildfires.
“I had been to the White House before as a tourist, but this was special,” Grunden said. “We got to come in through the back entrance, and I got to meet Bo, the (Obama family) dog – all that was important, but it was nice to feel validated and meet other educators who think like me.”
The Presidential awards are given annually to one math and one science teacher in grades K-12 from each state based on the quality of instruction in their classrooms. Grunden thinks it’s his knowledge of chemistry and teaching skills he honed during his master’s degree coursework in science education at UF that made him stand out as an applicant.
“I think it’s more important to teach less content at a deeper level so students get an appreciation for the system. It’s like cooking: you can teach somebody a recipe, but understanding why you need to add sugar at that point or why you need to do this over low heat allows you to make your own recipes, and then you’re a chef,” Grunden said.
Grunden has been the science department chair at Raleigh (N.C.) Charter High School since 2000 but got his first teaching job at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School after graduation from UF in 1993. He said he still draws on his experience at PKY because it was a small, innovative school much like the school he’s at now.
His science education professor at UF, Linda Jones, recommended Grunden for his first teaching position at P.K. Yonge and said chemistry class enrollment at the school soared after he began teaching.
“He taught chemistry like a magician or showman,” Jones said. “Students don’t even realize they’re in a chemistry class because they’re having so much fun.”
Jones said Grunden, who has been a contestant on the TV game show “Jeopardy!,” is the second UF education alumnus to win the Presidential Award – the first was her husband, Griffith Jones, a master science teacher with the College of Education’s UFTeach program, who won in 1998.
Grunden describes his teaching style as Socratic because he believes having students ask questions of themselves helps them realize what they already know and apply it to different situations.
“Our students are very sophisticated,” Grunden said. “I look at the things they do every day with technology, and I think, ‘if they can do that, they can do this, too.’”
With 17 years of teaching experience,, his latest venture is founding a science-and-mathematics-focused charter school in Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, which opened in mid-August with 160 new freshmen. The high school’s neighbors include science and engineering giants such as GlaxoSmithKline to give students opportunities for interaction and internships, much like his nonprofit, the Contemporary Science Center, that places teens in day-long field trips giving them a firsthand look at what scientists do on a daily basis.
“I never wanted to be anything other than a classroom teacher, and when the board of directors asked me to be the school leader, I reluctantly accepted. Since then, I’ve realized that this is a lot of fun, so I don’t know where this is going to take me,” Grunden said. “I’d like to see this school go for a while, certainly through the first graduating class, but who knows after that?”
Professor Jones said it’s like Grunden to leave you guessing.
“You never know what’s going to come next with Eric, but, whatever it is, it turns to gold.”
WRITER: Jessica Bradley, student intern, news & communications, UF College of Education
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; firstname.lastname@example.org
P.K. Yonge DRS (program area)
A Sun article reported on the 60-year celebration of Le Congres de a Culture Francaise en Floride held recently at P.K. Yonge. Some 80 students from P.K. Yonge and other area elementary and middle schools performed songs, poems and fairy tales in French.
Catherine Atria (P.K. Yonge elementary)
A story in the Sun reported the hiring of Newberry High administrator Catherine Atria as the new elementary school principal at P.K. Yonge DRS. The hiring also was mentioned in the newspaper’s online education blog.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida and its K-12 laboratory school, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, have a long history of collaboration dating back to 1934, and now each will benefit from a $100,000 gift from one of the lab school’s former teachers.
Stephanie Wester, P.K. Yonge’s only fifth-grade teacher when she taught there in 1957-58, and her husband William J. Wester, both retired and living in Gainesville, have pledged the money to create an endowed scholarship in UF’s College of Education. The Stephanie Kornprobst Wester Endowed Fellowship will support deserving UF graduate students in education who are conducting innovative research or teaching projects at P.K. Yonge during their advanced degree studies.
“I didn’t get my degrees at (the University of) Florida, but it’s my husband’s alma mater and I’ve come to think of it as mine, too,” Stephanie Wester said. “I loved teaching at P.K. Yonge, and the school and the College of Education always work so hard together. P.K. Yonge has some exciting plans for the future and my husband and I want to help out and be a part of that.”
Stephanie has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Kent State and a master’s in reading education from Johns Hopkins University. Her husband, William, earned two UF degrees, in physical education in 1953 and electrical engineering in 1958. He is retired from Westinghouse, where he worked from 1973 to 1996.
UF’s College of Education established P.K. Yonge in 1934 as a model school to test its teaching theories and curriculum innovations and to provide practical teacher training for its undergraduates. The college and P.K. Yonge shared the new school building (located on the southeast corner of UF’s campus) until 1957, when the lab school moved a few blocks south to new quarters at its current location. The college took over the old school building and renamed it Norman Hall after former education dean James W. Norman.
“In 1958, I marched my fifth graders from the old building to the new school along with all the other P.K. Yonge students, from kindergarten to high school. That was an exciting time and the kids were absolutely thrilled,” Stephanie Wester said.
Mrs. Wester regrets she had to resign after just one year at P.K. Yonge, following her husband that summer to Long Island for his new job. Her 25-year teaching career took her to schools in Miami, Gainesville and Baltimore, plus three more years as supervisor of student teachers at Salisbury (Md.) State College.
After nearly a half-century away, the Westers moved back to Gainesville in 2005, with their loyalty to UF and P.K. Yonge still intact.
“Stephanie Wester taught at P.K. Yonge during one of the most critical times in the history of its 78-year partnership with the College of Education,” said Glenn Good, in his first year as UF dean of education. “Through their gift, the Westers now offer support at another exciting juncture, as P.K. Yonge embarks on a total campus revitalization to evolve into a model learning community and a 21st century technological powerhouse.
“Good things seem to happen at P.K. Yonge when Stephanie Wester comes around.”
WRITER: Larry Lansford, Director, COE News & Communications, email@example.com; 352-273-4137
Elementary teachers at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School hosted 32 visiting educators from Duval County schools on Nov. 17. Their visit was a follow-up to an intensive, two-week summer training opportunity, Teachers Scholars Reading Academy, provided in collaboration with the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning.
P.K. Yonge, which is UF’s K-12 laboratory school, hosts some 300 elementary and secondary educators yearly as part of its Research in Action program, developed in 2004 in response to a growing need for teachers, administrators and reading coaches to observe research-based reading strategies in classrooms.
Program offerings include classroom observations, teacher-to-teacher mini-workshops, debriefing conversations, and time to develop action plans for implementation, Research in Action days are filled to capacity within weeks of being advertised.
— PKY Update contributor: Christy Gabbard, curriculum coordinator, PKY Secondary Division
P.K. Yonge alumna and “lifer” Jennifer Ramski has returned to the P.K. Yonge School campus to lend her expertise in the planning and furnishing of the new elementary building, currently under construction.
Ramski, founding principal of the interior design and planning firm, Ramski & Company, will lead PKY’s elementary division through a series of charrettes to identify furniture solutions that support teaching and learning needs in the elementary learning communities. Guiding principles will be centered around flexible groupings and leveraging available spaces to support variations in teaching and learning.
The combination of faculty walkthroughs of the new learning spaces and Ramski’s guided charrettes will help planners develop comprehensive design solutions for 21st century learning spaces, including enhanced digital support for teaching and learning.
P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School has been UF’s K-12 laboratory school since 1934.