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COE doctoral student honored for ‘teaching tolerance’

Cody Miller and one of his ninth-grade English students.

Cody Miller and one of his ninth-grade English students.

Ninth-grade students at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School are starting the school year today in the classroom of a language arts teacher who has recently gained state and national attention for his effective instructional methods.

Cody Miller, 27, who is in his fourth year teaching ninth grade English language arts, reaches far and wide for inspiration to teach writing and literature to students — and it is paying off.

Miller was one of five U.S. educators honored for excellence by the Southern Poverty Law Center at a July ceremony in Montgomery, Alabama.  The center’s Teaching Tolerance project says it selects K-12 teachers who excel at reducing prejudice and supporting equitable experiences among students for the $2,500 biennial award.

Miller also was among a select group of Florida instructors ranked by Florida Department of Education for having the highest impact on the academic growth of their students during the past three years.

In addition to teaching high schoolers, Miller is pursuing a doctorate in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in English education from UF College of Education.

In an interview, Miller talked about his teaching philosophy and the methods he uses to engage students in literature and language arts.

“Helping students become both writers and readers and understanding that literacy and literature is a way for them to gain autonomy and power in society really drives my English language arts curriculum,” Miller says.

He credits Paulo Freire, an influential Brazilian educator and thinker, for being a big influence. Freire emphasized dialogue with students and concern for the oppressed.

Miller says students aren’t empty vessels, that education is a relationship between teacher and students as opposed to a “banking model” in which the educator makes deposits into the mind of the student.

Educator Rudine Sims Bishop, a professor of emeritus at Ohio State University, who pioneered what she called a “windows and mirrors” concept to children’s literature, also has influenced Miller.

“Students should be able to have literature and poetry and narratives that act as mirrors so they can see themselves and windows so they can see other people’s experiences,” Miller says.

He tries to set this foundation from the first day of class when students exchange personal letters with him about their learning experiences and later as they “co-create” the curriculum for the class.

In addition to classics such as “Romeo & Juliet,” Miller assigns texts like “If You Could Be Mine” by Sarah Farizan, an Iranian-American who writes about a teenage lesbian in Tehran, where homosexuality can be punished by death. Such books inevitably become a rich source of dialogue and study among students and often gives them the courage to tell their own stories in and out of the classroom, Miller says.

In a recent video about Miller, several of his teenage students were asked to describe him in one word. Among the responses: “woke” (meaning aware of injustices), “intelligent” and “decolonial.”

Miller co-sponsors the “De-colonizing Club,” a lunchtime discussion group open to all students to explore globalization and how colonialism and the dominant U.S. and Western culture has influenced their identities. He also leads school-wide professional development on creating inclusive spaces and curriculum for LGBTQ students.

After he completes his doctorate degree, expected in 2009, Miller wants transition to a career as a professor of English education. “I would eventually like to work with future teachers and think about how I can broaden my sphere of influence,” he says.

Source: Cody Miller, 352-392-1554
Writer: Charles Boisseau, 352-273-4449

P.K. Yonge volleyball team scores state title


Hard work and dedication are values touted by P.K. Yonge faculty—and not just in the classroom. This year, that hard work and motivation from last year’s near-miss at a state volleyball title served as inspiration in the gym as the Blue Wave girls’ volleyball team won the Florida Class 4A state championship for 2014-15.

Team members Courtney Chappell (class of 2015), Sammy Mueller (‘16), Jac’cara Walker (‘16), Gabby O’Connell (‘16), Cameron Childs (‘18), Simone Harris (‘18), Amanda Phegley (‘18), Lacey Richeson (‘18), Jaq Mueller (‘19), Kiki Sermons (‘16), and coach Chad Davis returned to a hero’s welcome on the P.K. Yonge campus and a schoolwide rally celebrating the new state title winners.

The team, earning the Blue Wave’s first state volleyball championship since 2002, can stake claim as one of the greatest teams in school history. With a large contingent of underclassmen, all eyes are on next season when the P.K. Yonge girls defend their title.

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P.K. Yonge Spanish teacher honored for ‘excelencia’ as part of Hispanic Heritage Month

Excellence – or excelencia – in education is clearly evident in the teaching and learning activities occurring in Grisell Santiago’s Spanish classroom at P.K. Yonge. And this hasn’t gone unnoticed.

SANTIAGO, Grisell 2

Grisell Santiago

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera presented Santiago and two other honorees with Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Education awards at the 2014 Hispanic Heritage Month reception at the Governor’s Mansion Oct. 2. Santiago won the teaching honor for the high school grades.

Celebrated since 1988, Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 and recognizes traditions, culture and contributions of Hispanics and Latino Americans. The Excellence in Education award recipients are nominated by students and peers and receive $1,500 donated by Volunteer Florida.

Seňora Santiago, as she is known around the P.K. Yonge campus, has taught at UF’s K-12 developmental research school for nine years and distinguishes herself as a dedicated, engaged and creative educator. She also serves as vice president of the Florida Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese and will move up to president in 2015.

In collaboration with the world languages department at UF, Santiago hosts an annual teaching workshop for Sharing Best Practices for the World Languages Classroom. She also implements new and innovative methods of teaching and learning, as evidenced by her participation in the P.K. Yonge Blended Learning project. The project was featured this fall on the documentary video series “A School That Works,” produced by, an education reform website produced by the George Lucas Foundation.

Muy Buena, Sra. Santiago!

Trip of lifetime becoming yearly event for P.K. Yonge, China students

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.

Blue Wave and NJEIS students forge new friendships on the P.K. Yonge campus.

Blue Wave and NJEIS students forge new friendships on the P.K. Yonge campus.

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.

Gainesville Sun — P.K. Yonge among ‘Schools That Work’

The Gainesville Sun
P.K.Yonge named among ‘Schools That Work’
The Gainesville Sun ran a story on UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School being featured on Edutopia’s Schools That Work series. Edutopia is a national education foundation, and chose P.K. Yonge as one of only 20-25 schools it will feature in 2014.

Everyone’s a mathematician at heart

Tim Jacobbe believes you’re a mathematician at heart—you just might not know it yet.

Forget the rote memorization of tedious formulas you may recall from your high school math classes. For Jacobbe, associate professor of mathematics and statistics education at the UF College of Education, math is far more than formulas: It’s a way of looking at the world

Jacobbe helps P.K. Yonge School fifth-graders on a math lesson.

Jacobbe helps P.K. Yonge School fifth-graders on a math lesson.

“I don’t think that people understand what math is,” Jacobbe says. “It’s about creating people that can solve problems in everyday life.”

And in a society increasingly driven by data, math is more important than ever, Jacobbe says. A solid understanding of statistics, which use a methodical process to analyze data, draw conclusions and interpret results, is particularly key to scrutinizing and solving real-world problems. Whether you’re deciding to change jobs, buy a house, or just making a pros and cons list, you’re using statistics—yet this discipline has long been overlooked in K-12 education.

Jacobbe is working to change that by training the next generation of teachers in statistics education. He once worked as a primary test developer for the advanced placement statistics program, but thought he could make a bigger impact in teacher education. At UF, he earned the college’s Undergraduate Teacher of the Year award in 2011, and he also leads a four-year, $2 million study funded by the National Science Foundation to develop better tests for assessing students’ statistical understanding.

His efforts to advance statistics education haven’t gone unnoticed by his peers. Jonathan Bostic, who earned a Ph.D. from UF in 2011 with Jacobbe as his co-adviser, says his former mentor is one of just a handful of experts widely recognized in the field. “There are very, very few folks like him in the United States,” says Bostic, now an assistant professor of mathematics education at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University.

Since 2009, Jacobbe has also devoted himself to helping teachers and students at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School transition to the new, more stringent Florida Standards. This work at P.K. Yonge has a personal component for Jacobbe: His wife of 15 years, Elizabeth, teaches at the school, and his 10-year-old daughter, Hannah, and 7-year-old son, Nathan, are both students there.

“We need to teach math in different ways,” Jacobbe says. “Math is used as a gatekeeper to keep kids out of certain careers. Everyone is capable of doing mathematics, they just need the opportunity.”

Jacobbe’s desire to create opportunities for kids extends beyond math: It’s also a key element of the charity he founded in honor of his nephew, Caleb Jacobbe, who passed away from cancer in 2006 at the age of 8. Caleb’s Pitch aims to brighten the lives of seriously ill children and their families, bringing collegiate athletes into hospitals to visit with sick kids and organizing “syringe art” sessions, where children turn the medical implements into painting tools.

“Our mission is to help kids have fun while they’re going through that stuff,” Jacobbe says.

Whether honoring his nephew’s memory or giving teachers the tools necessary to help students excel, Jacobbe’s driving principle boils down to one simple formula: “I have a passion for helping people.”

Writer: Sarah L. Stewart (special to the College of Education)


PKY starts planning for new secondary wing

With dust barely settled from the recent construction of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School’s prototype elementary wing, preparations have started for the next phase of the school’s campus revitalization project: a new $15.9 million building that will house the middle and high school grades.

P.K. Yonge is the K-12 laboratory school of the University of Florida’s College of Education. The lab school’s existing secondary wing is located south of the local Tumblin Creek among several separate buildings built in the 1950s and ‘60s.

With a design concept already in place, planning for the new 75,000-square-foot secondary school building pressed forward with a meeting in May between P.K. Yonge’s construction committee and representatives from the Orlando office of SchenkelShultz Architecture. The two teams met for the second time in early June.

“The new secondary school building will contain a variety of learning spaces, none of which will look like traditional classrooms,” said P.K. Yonge’s technology coordinator Julie Henderson. “This building will be unique as the design supports modes of learning for today’s and tomorrow’s children.”

The main goal of the new building’s design is to incorporate community-style spaces that support collaboration, flexibility, mobility, as well as individual work. The learning areas will also include space for computers, teacher work, eating, and lounging. The classroom walls will be transparent to support observations of students and class activities.

“Experts in the field were calling our new elementary wing a model school building for the 21st century, and we’re using the same progressive design principles in planning our secondary wing as a student-centered learning community,” said P.K. Yonge Director Lynda Hayes.

In fact, the recently completed elementary wing received merit recognition this year from the Florida Educational Facilities Planners’ Association during its Architectural Showcase.

In the current design-build phase, SchenkelShultz is consulting a faculty committee composed of elementary, middle and high school faculty members that is providing the firm with “their needs and dreams related to learning spaces,” Henderson said.

The firm has also surveyed P.K. Yonge secondary students and teachers to determine their instructional and learning preferences.

To make room for the new secondary wing, the school library and a separate wing of classrooms will be demolished. The library program and resources will be moved to a temporary location while demolition and construction take place.

Once funding for the project is secured, a groundbreaking is possible within 10 months. Construction is estimated to take 12-14 months after breaking ground.

After the new secondary school is constructed, P.K. Yonge plans to continue the campus revitalization project with the construction of a gym and fitness center, administration building, global learning center, library, parking lots and sports fields.

SOURCE: Lynda Hayes, 352-392-1554, ext. 223,
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, 352-273-4137,


P.K. Yonge high schoolers visit Chinese partner school during spring break


P.K. Yonge and NJEIS students group together before leaving for their overnight stays. Photo by Tom Tahlier.


On March 23, 16 excited (and somewhat travel-weary) globetrotters from P.K. Yonge set foot in Shanghai for what would be an enlightening and life-changing week in China. Thirteen high school students and three chaperones from the UF K-12 laboratory school spent spring break week in Nanjing to launch the first concrete, student-focused stage of a new partnership between P.K. Yonge and Nanjing Experimental International School (NJEIS). 

Savannah Branch, P.K. Yonge 9th grader, her partner Kitty and a friend leave for Kitty's house on a Friday afternoon.

Savannah Branch, P.K. Yonge 9th grader, her partner Kitty and a friend leave for Kitty’s house on a Friday afternoon. Photos by Tom Tahlier.

The Blue Wave students experienced a variety of cultural treats, including Chinese food, classes in Chinese language and calligraphy, kite flying, and a range of historical sites in Nanjing. 

The most memorable part of the trip, though, was the students’ weekend with NJEIS students and their families. They got to experience Chinese culture more authentically than most international travelers dream of. When the chaperones reunited with the students, they were met with an explosion of voices, laughter and animated stories about each student’s unique experiences with their partner families. Their experiences included hiking, grocery shopping, visiting theme parks, and getting a brief glimpse of Chinese family life. 

Paige Crumpton and Luisa Schlafke pose with a structure in China.

Paige Crumpton and Luisa Schlafke pose with a structure in China.

PKY students handled the transition from west to east with aplomb. Their willingness to experiment and try different things was commendable. For example, one student reflected, “Rabbit doesn’t taste like chicken, but snake does!”

Overall, each traveler expressed heightened empathy for foreigners, personal confidence, awareness of how fortunate they are, the importance of family, and a sense that their futures do not have to be restricted to the borders of their home country. 

P.K. Yonge chaperones returned eager to take the next steps in the exchange relationship with NJEIS. The two schools are currently working on NJEIS student visits to Gainesville and already planning for the next PKY group from to visit China. P.K. Yonge chaperones and administration see the relationship with NJEIS brimming with possibilities, especially through meaningful cross-cultural connections between the Gainesville and Nanjing communities. 

P.K. Yonge students experience and learn about Chinese tea culture at the Yu Garden in Shanghai.

P.K. Yonge students experience and learn about Chinese tea culture at the Yu Garden in Shanghai.

In the words of a NJEIS student, “Even though our hair, eyes and skin colors are different, our hearts are the same.”








UF, county to celebrate International Children’s Book Day

On April 2, join the College of Education and Alachua County in celebrating International Children’s Book Day.

The event, which is sponsored by the University of Florida, Alachua County Library District, Santa Fe College and St. Leo University, will offer a variety of activities, including book displays at UF’s Education and Baldwin libraries and a presentation by storyteller Barry Steward Mann. The College of Education’s Ruth Lowery, an associate professor of children’s literacy and a state representative for the United States Board on Books for Young People, is the event coordinator.

Mann will be speaking at UF’s Smathers Library from 2 to 3 p.m. and at Alachua County’s Library Headquarters, 401 East University Ave., at 5 p.m.

Peter Sis, an internationally-renown and award-winning illustrator, will be the headliner of the day with a presentation and book signing at 7 p.m. at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, 1080 SW 11th St.

Sis has written and illustrated more than 60 books for both adults and children, including Madlenka, Starry Messenger, and The Tree of Life.

For more information, visit

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PKY-COE host gathering to map out transformation of middle school science education

Bolstered by a $5 million grant last year from the National Science Foundation, a collaborating faculty research team from P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School and UF’s College of Education has been studying how to transform middle school science curricula and improve student learning. Team leaders recently hosted 40 teachers and administrators from 10 partnering, rural school districts at P.K. Yonge to discuss strategies for meeting those goals.

The gathering was the first of a quarterly series of meetings scheduled for the five-year project, named U-FUTuRES, or University of Florida Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science. To facilitate the transformation effort, the researchers have created a Science Teacher Leadership Institute to train teacher-leaders to lead district-wide implementation of a new, research-proven, middle school science curriculum.

UF science education professor Rose Pringle works with students in a P.K. Yonge middle school science class.

The researchers’ aim is to narrow the gap in science learning between American students and their peers in higher performing nations.

At the core of this initiative is the new curriculum called IQWST, or Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology. P.K. Yonge and several other institute-partnering schools are already pioneering the new middle school science curriculum design, which has students conducting daily investigations of science phenomena, learning how to use scientific reasoning to support their claims, drawing on past science learning and experiences, and developing critical thinking skills.

During last month’s institute meeting, the developers and researchers behind IQWST—P.K.  Yonge director Lynda Hayes, UF science educator Rose Pringle, and Joe Krajcik from Michigan State University—explained how to implement the new curriculum, as well as how to support existing science teachers in Palm Beach County.

Hayes is the principal investigator of the NSF grant; Pringle and Krajcik are co-PIs. Krajcik told the visiting educators that the IQWST curriculum will align with the more rigid K-12 science standards now being developed by a collaborative of more than half of the states.

“Visiting faculty left impressed by P.K. Yonge students’ use of scientific terms, their critical thinking skills, and the level of activity in the P.K. Yonge science classes,” Hayes said.

Now in the third year of using the IQWST curriculum, P.K. Yonge science instructors in the middle grades report significant improvements in student learning in their classes. According to Hayes, school faculty consider last year’s 10 percent increase in the number of students scoring at level 3 or above (on a scale of 5) on the 8th grade FCAT science test a positive trend resulting from their efforts to change the way their science curriculum works.

“Partnerships supported by this project show promise in a broad scale transformation of middle school science education to meet the needs of today’s students and to plant seeds for tomorrow’s scientists,” Hayes said.

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COE-P.K. Yonge researchers head $5 million effort to transform middle-school science education

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida education researchers will lead a $5 million effort, funded by the National Science Foundation, to transform how science is taught in Florida’s middle schools, with high-need schools in 20 mostly rural school districts serving as the testing grounds.

The researchers are chasing an ambitious goal — to close the gap in science learning between U.S. students and their peers in higher performing nations. Scores from a 2010 Program for International Student Assessment report showed the U.S. ranked 17th out of 34 industrialized countries in science scores among 15-year-old students.

Lynda Hayes

“We want to shift middle school science teaching to a goals-driven approach with learning experiences that excite and engage all students. This will increase their chances of success as students transition from middle school to more advanced high school science courses,” said Lynda Hayes, an affiliate faculty member at UF’s College of Education and director of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, the college’s K-12 laboratory school.

“To catch up with our peers in other nations, we need to increase the size and diversity of our pipelines in science and math after high school graduation,” added Hayes. “We must ensure that disadvantaged students in small, rural and high-poverty schools are afforded equal opportunity to succeed in a cutting-edge science curriculum before they reach high school.”

Hayes is principal investigator of the five-year NSF project. Her UF co-investigators are science education professor Rose Pringle and Mary Jo Koroly, professor and director of biochemistry and molecular biology. Suzette Pelton, STEM coordinator of the Levy County School District, a project core partner, is also a co-principal investigator. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Recruiting and retaining more highly qualified middle and high school science teachers is a critical workforce need. The NSF project’s reform strategy calls for boosting student achievement by improving science content knowledge and professional development among practicing middle-school teachers.

The researchers are banking on an award-winning, on-the-job graduate degree program developed at UF called Teacher Leadership and School Improvement, with a focus on science education, to train “Science Teacher Leaders” in new, research-proven practices in science instruction. The TLSI program won the Association of Teacher Education’s coveted 2011 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education Award.

TLSI blends 36 credit-hours of online and face-to-face instruction by UF professors. The program is free for participating teachers with the NSF grant covering their tuition, valued at $21,000 each. Another novel aspect of the coursework is its “inquiry-based” approach, in which the teacher-students collaboratively assess their own teaching practices and share new knowledge with each other.

UF’s College of Education will enroll one teacher from each partnering school district in the degree program, which upon graduation will qualify them as district Science Teacher Leaders.

“In exchange for free tuition, the Science Teacher Leaders must remain at their high-needs schools for five years, including their two-year coursework,” Hayes said. “This will help our most challenging middle schools support and retain some of their best science teachers.”


Armed with new science knowledge and a research-proven curriculum, the highly-trained Science Teacher Leaders will form and lead “professional learning communities” of their peers—each leader training 10 teachers at their own schools and neighboring middle schools to continuously study science teaching practices and student learning. Their students, in sixth through eighth grade, will be taught the same inquiry-based science practices and critical-thinking methods that the teacher leaders learned in their own coursework.

“Our Science Teacher Leadership Institute will allow 40 middle school science teachers in 20 school districts to earn their master’s degree in science education in two years and coach 400 middle school science teachers in their home districts,” said co-investigator Pringle, the UF science education professor. “The Science Teacher Leaders will work as change agents to lead district-wide transformation in middle school science teaching and learning. Nearly 60,000 middle school students will be impacted, primarily in high-poverty rural and urban areas.”

Participating school districts will come from the Northeast Florida Educational Consortium — a support organization for 15 districts spanning from the Gulf coast to the Atlantic coast in north and central Florida. Five other counties also have committed: Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Union and Suwannee.

P.K. Yonge science teacher Mayra Cordero, pictured, will host a demonstration class for Science Teacher Leader trainees.

Under Hayes’ guidance, UF’s P.K. Yonge laboratory school began testing the experimental curriculum last year and is working with Joseph Krajcik, a leading authority on science curriculum development from Michigan State University, to align the curriculum with Florida’s rigorous new science standards. P.K. Yonge’s middle school science program will host demonstration classrooms to help train the Science Teacher Leaders.

Researchers will compare the impact of the new teaching approaches with conventional practices and disseminate their findings nationwide to drive science education reform in middle schools around the state and nation.

Other UF units contributing to course design, training, implementation and project evaluation include the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training, the Division of Continuing Education and the CAPES (Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services) program, headed by professor David Miller in the College of Education.


SOURCE: Lynda Hayes, university school professor at UF’s College of Education and director of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School (UF’s K-12 laboratory school),; 352-392-1554, ext. 223

SOURCE: Rose Pringle, associate professor, science education, UF’s College of Education;; 352-273-4190

WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4137