40 Florida educators chosen for new UF leadership network

See the complete list of educators
selected for the program

“These teachers are all passionate about leading their schools and districts to improve student learning.”
— Dr. Don Pemberton, director of UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s College of Education today named 40 public school educators to a new program to develop leadership skills and share their expertise with teachers across Florida. The selected teachers are the first Florida Teacher Leader Fellows and will participate in an 18-month program designed to build a statewide teacher leadership network, improve the quality of classroom teaching and enhance outcomes for students.

“These teachers are all passionate about leading their schools and districts to improve student learning,” said Dr. Don Pemberton, director of UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning. The center is the College of Education’s R&D arm that spearheads professional development programs to improve teaching and learning.

The idea: Nurture a crop of teachers who can inspire and empower others to better the teaching and learning at their schools, districts and, ultimately, across the state. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested in this idea to get the program off the ground.

The 40 fellows, selected from 217 applicants, are practicing classroom teachers, school counselors, media specialists and instructional coaches at pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools across Florida.

Educators selected for the program said they want to become better teachers and inspire others.

  • “By participating in the Florida Teacher Leader Fellowship I hope to improve my teacher leader skills and ignite those skills in the amazing teachers I am surrounded by at Matanzas High School,” said Amanda Kraverotis, an instructional coach in Flagler County.
  • “I chose to apply to this fellowship to challenge myself personally and professionally and to grow as a teacher, learner, mentor and leader,” said Adrienne Reeder, a reading teacher at Dr. Edward Whigham Elementary School in Miami. “I hope to gain an adaptive perspective on how to provide meaningful instruction through inspiring leadership.”
  • “Since I teach the middle school population, I know that there are specifics about their lives I will never know in detail. I have only a small amount of time to make a difference in their lives, so I better be impactful,” Daryl W. Pauling Sr., a math teacher at Carver Middle School in Delray Beach. “I want to be a part of the transition of working for a better understanding to expand a person’s knowledge to make them better.”

UF’s Lastinger Center created the program in partnership with the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ), a national nonprofit organization. CTQ will support fellows by facilitating virtual collaborations with project staff and other fellows, measuring the impact of the work they lead, and engaging educators and influencers across the state as their leadership efforts expand.

“There are so many teacher leaders across the state who are seeking to have a greater voice and impact in their schools,” said Barnett Berry, CEO of CTQ. “The goal of this fellowship is to help these leaders share their expert practices across schools and districts.”

The teacher-leader program will formally begin March 1, when the fellows come to Tallahassee for two days to learn about creating a fellowship community and engaging in educational policymaking. In June, the fellows will come to UF’s main campus in Gainesville to launch their personal leadership projects. The fellowship will continue with an international teacher leadership conference in Miami next year.

UF education researchers say they will closely follow the fellows and document the impacts of professional learning on teacher and student growth as a way to continually refine and improve the program.

“Through developing and researching the fellowship, we want to better understand what teacher leadership looks like in schools and districts across the state. And we want to know how to cultivate a group of teacher leaders who, in their support of individual schools and districts, advance the state’s education system for the benefit of Florida’s students,” said Dr. Philip Poekert, assistant director of the Lastinger Center.

Below are the 40 educators selected for the inaugural Florida Teacher Leader Fellows program:

County and/or District School Educator
Alachua W.W. Irby Elementary Lorena Sanchez
Brevard Meadowlane Primary Sarah Brown
Broward District-based

Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary

Tropical Elementary

Isabel Nodarse

Donald Nicolas
Amy DeCelle

Duval Paxon Mai Keisling
Flagler Matanzas High Amanda Kraverotis
Florida Virtual Florida Virtual School Charles Cummings
Hillsborough Bloomingdale High Heather Hanks
Lake Grassy Lake Elementary Kelly Dodd
Lee Riverdale High

Tortuga Preserve Elementary

Deneen Kozielski

Jennifer Grida

Leon John G. Riley Elementary Bridgette McCloud
Levy Yankeetown Cara Dunford
Martin Crystal Lake Elementary Christina Kennard
Miami-Dade Charles D. Wyche Jr. Elementary

Dr. Edward L. Whigham Elementary

Eneida M. Hartner Elementary

Gulfstream Elementary

Kendale Lakes Elementary

Rockway Middle

William H. Turner Technical Arts High

Maria Silva

Adrienne Reeder

Nicole Fernandez

Osmany Hurtado

Lianna Saenz

Michael Windisch

Treesey Weaver

Orange Wyndham Lakes Elementary Deborah Carmona
Palm Beach Carver Community Middle

Del Prado Elementary

Forest Hill Community High

Forest Hill Community High

Royal Palm Beach High

Suncoast Community High

Daryl Pauling

Tyler Montgomery

Jillian Gregory

Allison Hammill

Daniella Suarez

Stephen Kaplan

Sarasota Imagine School at North Port Upper Campus Tiffany Bailey
Seminole District office

Lyman High

Pam Ferrante

Martha Ladd

St. Johns John A. Crookshank Elementary

Timberlin Creek Elementary

Jacqueline Zahralban

Andrea Dieckman

St. Lucie Frances K. Sweet Elementary

Lincoln Park Academy

Palm Pointe Educational Research

Nardi Routten

Makeda-Ione Brome

Glenna Sigmon

UF Lab School P.K. Yonge Developmental Research Jon Mundorf
Volusia Deltona High Dylan Emerick-Brown
Walton Walton High Deena Martin


Sources (UF Lastinger Center):
— Rebekah Cordova, professional development coordinator, (c) 303-246-4331; (w) 352-273-4103
— Phil Poekert, 305-586-8665;
— Don Pemberton, 352-273-4103;
WriterCharles Boisseau, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449 

UF seeks state money for reading program piloted in ‘failure factories’

POLITICO, Tampa Bay Times
Feb. 4, 2016
UF Lastinger Center Director Don Pemberton in talks with lawmakers about piloting reading program
UF researchers are working in Melrose Elementary

Don Pemberton, director of the college’s UF Lastinger Center for Learning, told POLITICO Florida he is in discussions with lawmakers to fund a pilot intensive reading program that has garnered preliminary success in two troubled Pinellas County elementary schools. A Lastinger Center team worked with 20 third, fourth and fifth graders after school and evaluated the students’ grasp of critical reading skills before and after the program. Students’ success improved by 75 percent to 100 percent. Pemberton said he is seeking funding for five to 15 schools in three districts, with the total cost not more than $1.5 million. The Tampa Bay Times’ education reporter also picked up the story.


Preaching the power of Teacher Inquiry

‘Inquiring’ minds are finding answers in Nancy Dana’s passion

Nancy Dana has published10 books on teacher inquiry and professional development.

Nancy Dana has published 10 books on teacher inquiry and professional development.

The photocopied sign taped to a cabinet drawer in Professor Nancy Fichtman Dana’s office at the UF College of Education employs just one word to arrive at the heart of the matter: Inquiry.”

Dana is a leading international authority on teacher inquiry – a powerful form of educator professional development that’s helping teachers design and deliver engaging ways to help all students learn to their maximum potential.

“Teacher inquiry is systematic, intentional study by educators of their own practice,” Dana says. “So, rather than research being done to teachers or school leaders, practitioner inquiry empowers teachers and leaders to engage in action research on their own practice, wrapping their professional learning around the learning of students.”

Her influence in the research and growing practice of teacher inquiry is evident in UF’s modernized teacher preparation curriculum, and in the UF Lastinger Center for Learning’s extensive outreach professional learning initiatives and educator coaching programs, which so far have reached over 10,000 teachers. Dana has worked with numerous schools and districts across Florida, the United States and abroad to help them craft professional development programs of inquiry for their teachers, principals and district administrators.

She embraced the inquiry concept while collaborating with a group of teachers and their principal at a Tallahassee elementary school as part of her doctoral dissertation studies during the late 1980s.

“The practice of inquiry was a transformational and empowering experience for all of us at that elementary school,” she says. “Over and over again I’ve seen what an incredibly powerful form of professional development inquiry can be.”

Dana has studied and written about practitioner inquiry for over 20 years, publishing 10 books on the topic, including three best sellers. Her latest book—on Professional Learning Communities and titled, simply, “The PLC Book”—was  published in November by Corwin Press.

Dana has turned globetrotter, leading workshops on inquiry and professional learning communities in several countries.

Dana has turned globetrotter of late, leading educator workshops  on teacher inquiry and professional learning communities in several countries.

Dana has been racking up the frequent flyer miles of late, traversing the nation and globe making keynote presentations and leading workshops for educators hungry for professional learning models that focus on examining evidence from practice. Over the past few years her work has taken her to China, South Korea, the Netherlands and Belgium. In January 2015 she led a weeklong course on inquiry in Lisbon, Portugal, for education leaders from nine countries in the European Union. Next October she is headed to Estonia.

Born and raised in New York, Dana has a doctorate in elementary education from the Florida State University College of Education, which recently honored Dana with its 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award. She also served on the Penn State University education faculty for 11 years. She arrived at UF in 2003, around the time the UF Lastinger Center for Learning was created as the College of Education’s innovation hub for education reform. Dana immediately identified with the center’s progressive philosophy and objectives and was instrumental in infusing inquiry into the center’s outreach professional development programs for practicing educators.

“I had always been passionate about raising teachers’ voices in educational reform and helping educators improve their practice, and the Lastinger Center was emerging as a place that kept practicing professionals’ voices at the core,” she says.

Lastinger director Don Pemberton describes the center’s emergence and Dana’s arrival at UF as “perfect timing.”

“Nancy’s work is particularly relevant because it takes research-based practices and translates them into helping educators improve the quality of their teaching through an accessible, scientific process,” Pemberton says. “That is a key distinction of practitioner inquiry and Nancy’s scholarship.”

Dana doesn’t focus singularly on inquiry, although her signature focal point seeps into her other interests. She and co-researchers Cynthia Griffin (UF special education) and Stephen Pape (Johns Hopkins mathematics education) secured a $1.5 million grant from the federal Institute of Education Sciences to develop and study an extensive online professional development program for third-through-fifth-grade general and special education teachers focused on the teaching of struggling math learners. Teachers’ engagement in inquiry was the program’s core feature.

She also is deeply involved in the college’s new, professional practice doctoral program in curriculum, teaching and teacher education. The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program is an online, on-the-job degree program designed specifically for practicing K-12 educators who aspire to lead change, school improvement and education reform efforts in their schools and districts. As you might expect, the program emphasizes evidence-based self-study and Dana designed a course specifically to introduce these students to the concept of inquiry.

When it comes to practitioner inquiry or “action research,” Dana and others at the College of Education know that they are onto something special – something that’s transforming teacher practice and boosting student achievement.

“Teacher inquiry is a very personal process,” Dana says. “Teachers are engaging in inquiry because they care really deeply about the learners in their classroom, and they desperately want to do anything they can to be successful in the teaching of all learners and to meet their varied needs.”

SOURCE: Nancy Dana,
WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, News & Communications, UF College of Education,




UF’s free tutoring app helping Fla. students prep for high-stakes algebra exam

Algebra3 - zoomed

Algebra Nation’s online practice tool closely resembles the end-of-course exam and also features an interactive, Facebook-style discussion forum known as the Algebra Wall.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Last spring, nearly half of Florida ninth-graders flunked the statewide end-of-course Algebra 1 exam—a gateway test that Florida high school students must pass in order to graduate. University of Florida education researchers, using a powerful online teaching tool they developed, are offering incentives and challenging students across the state to “kick it up a notch” as they prepare for this year’s testing, which will begin April 20.

UF is sponsoring its second annual, statewide “Algebra Nation Test Yourself! Challenge” to support the students’ effort. Algebra Nation is a free, first-of-its-kind, Web-based tutoring tool specifically designed to help students prepare for the Algebra 1 exam. In less than a half-year after its 2013 launch, Algebra Nation was being used by more than a quarter-million students and 3,300 teachers in all 67 Florida school districts.

The two‑week Algebra Nation Challenge, which runs through April 19, motivates students to prepare for this high-stakes test with a chance for valuable prizes for students and their teachers. Florida students have the chance to practice for the upcoming Algebra 1 end-of-course exam by working algebra problems through Algebra Nation’s online Test Yourself! Practice Tool. This tool simulates the end-of-course testing environment by allowing students to answer standards-based problems in a format similar to the required exam.

Students earn entries into the Algebra Challenge by completing practice tests with at least 80 percent accuracy. With each entry, students also earn an entry for their teachers.  Each entry will be placed into a raffle for prizes. Algebra Nation will give out 100 class pizza parties and 10 iPad minis to students, plus five Caribbean cruises for two to teachers!

The 2014 Test Yourself! Challenge was a remarkable success, with over a million questions answered by students all across the state. Nathan Howe, an algebra teacher at Sunlake High School in Pasco County and a cruise winner, said, “I still can’t believe I was a winner of the teacher prize. The Bahamas cruise was by far the best thing I’ve ever won in my life.  It was also the first cruise I’ve ever been on, and definitely the trip of a lifetime.  Thank you Algebra Nation!”

The Challenge is more than just pizza, prizes, and fun. It helps students learn algebra and succeed on a high-stakes exam that they must pass to earn a high school diploma.

“Success in algebra is increasingly becoming a major determinant for future academic success,” said Don Pemberton, director of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, which created Algebra Nation with Gainesville tech firm Study Edge. “Getting kids motivated to take advantage of the Algebra Nation tools is a key to their success.”

The Algebra Nation team will award 50 pizza parties at the end of the first week of the Challenge, and the rest of the prizes at the end of the second week. For more details on how the Algebra Nation Challenge works, please visit

Students logged in to Algebra Nation can watch dynamic concept videos that come with corresponding study guides. Florida master teachers from diverse backgrounds provide the instruction on the videos and students choose the instructor that is the best fit for them.

Algebra Nation’s online practice tool closely resembles the end-of-course exam and also features an interactive discussion forum (Algebra Wall) where Florida students and teachers can ask and answer questions about algebra. Algebra Nation is now used in over 1,500 schools across Florida.

Students, parents and teachers can access Algebra Nation’s free resources 24/7 through their computers, iPhones, iPads, and Android phones. To learn more about Algebra Nation, go to

Melody Pak, Algebra Nation, 352-327-8218;
   Ashley Dodds, Algebra Nation, 321-446-4556;
   Sylvia Boynton, UF Lastinger Center, 727-742-3759;
Don Pemberton, UF Lastinger Center for Learning; 352-273-4103;

Independent Alligator — Teacher-development network being formed

The Independent Florida Alligator
Teacher-development network
UF Lastinger Center for Learning operations manager Boaz Dvir is quoted in an Independent Florida Alligator article about a new teacher-development network being formed, thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The network will be an expansion of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning’s Algebra Nation program, an online resource created in partnership with Study Edge to help high school students pass the algebra end-of-course exam.

Gov. Scott helps in statewide launch of UF’s online prep tool for required algebra exam

Gov. Rick Scott made a stop last Friday (Jan. 25) at St. Petersburg’s Dixie Hollins High School to participate in the statewide launch of a new program called Algebra Nation, a free online preparation tool created through the University of Florida to help students prepare for the required Algebra 1 end-of-course exam.

Algebra Nation is a collection of free online tools, from video tutorials to live teacher support, geared toward helping students boost their algebra skills. Florida students are required to pass an Algebra 1 end-of-course exam to earn a high school diploma. UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning, part of the College of Education, created the program in collaboration with Study Edge, a Gainesville education technology firm.

“I know it’s going to be a big positive impact on our state, on our students, and eventually job growth in our state,” Scott told Tampa Bay Online.

Algebra Nation is the first phase in an effort to accelerate learning through Florida. UF and Study Edge officials say they plan to develop Geometry Nation and Biology Nation and other end-of-course exam resources next year.

Read more about Algebra Nation here.

Contact: Boaz Dvir, UF Lastinger Center for Learning, 352-273-0289



Center for Learning offers Master Teacher training to help turn around state’s lowest-ranked high school

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning, part of the College of Education, recently joined a multi-organization, multiyear effort that includes Duval County Public Schools (DCPS), the Jaguar Foundation and Teach for America to turn around the state’s lowest-ranked high school, Andrew Jackson H.S. in Jacksonville.

Starting during the 2012-13 school year, this collaboration – which also includes United Way, City Year, Communities in Schools, Educational Directions, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Ready for Tomorrow and Bridge of Northeast Florida – will aim to improve teaching and learning at Jackson, an F school on intervene status. The organizations are meeting May 29 to brainstorm ideas and synthesize their plans.

“The whole purpose of this project is to increase success,” says DCPS Deputy Superintendent Patricia Willis, “and introduce more of what the UF Lastinger Center is doing in non-high schools.”

Through its award-winning Master Teacher Initiative, the Lastinger Center provides on-the-job, onsite/online professional development to educators in Jacksonville’s highest needs elementary and middle schools. The initiative’s programs include a free UF master’s degree to teachers who make a five-year commitment to their schools. It offers this opportunity at Jackson, which, like many vulnerable schools, struggles to hire and keep experienced faculty.

“We’re inviting everyone who wishes to contribute to turning around Andrew Jackson High School to join us on a multi-year journey,” Lastinger Director Don Pemberton says. “It’s not going to be easy. It’s not for the mild and meek. But it’s an opportunity to make a real difference.”

Besides providing comprehensive professional development to Jackson teachers and administrators that includes leadership and team building, Lastinger will also help boost student engagement and morale, mobilize the community to support the school, recruit UF volunteers, chronicle the transformation effort and assemble research and evaluation teams to measure the results.

“We will identify research-based strategies and share them widely with our partners,” Pemberton says.

Brain drain to magnet and private schools often harms vulnerable schools, says UF Duval County Professor-in-Residence Crystal Timmons. Many high-achieving students opt out of attending lower-performing schools such as Jackson.

Out of 1,200 area students who could attend Jackson, only 800 have elected to do so.

“The community is losing a third of its students,” says Jon Heymann, CEO of Communities in Schools and a DCPS School Board candidate. “They’re voting with their feet.”

To attract more high-achieving students, who receive opportunity scholarships to attend schools out of their zones, Jackson will offer the International Baccalaureate and leadership and entrepreneurship programs beginning this fall.

“If everyone’s truly committed,” Timmons says, “then there is no reason why this venture should not be successful and why the students should not be successful.”

As part of the turnaround effort, social workers and other professionals will also be stationed at Jackson to meet the needs of students, teachers and families, Willis notes.

“We think if we can get sustainable work in Jackson,” she says, “we can spread that work and replicate it in other struggling schools.”

An educational innovation incubator, the UF Lastinger Center harnesses the university’s intellectual resources and partners with educational organizations to design, build, field-test and disseminate new models to transform teaching and learning.


    WRITER: Boaz Dvir, UF Lastinger Center, 352-273-0289;



Lastinger Center featured in booklet on UF’s impact in Miami-Dade

UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning, the College of Education’s statewide teaching- and school-improvement program, is featured in the South Florida edition of “UF in Your Neighborhood,” a new booklet produced by the University of Florida Foundation.

The foundation recently published several different regional versions of the booklet to highlight how UF’s teaching, research and service impact the lives of UF alumni and all residents in major markets throughout Florida and the Southeast.

The South Florida edition, covering Miami-Dade County, leads off with “Promise of a Brighter Future,” a full-page overview describing how “improving teacher practice and student achievement is at the heart  of (the Lastinger Center’s) newly expanded program in Miami-Dade County.”

Following the Lastinger Center piece, under a headline of “Education Champion,” the booklet offers a mini-profile of UF alum David Lawrence Jr., former publisher of The Miami Herald and a leading advocate of early childhood education at UF, in Miami-Dade and across the nation.

Here are brief summaries of how the college’s  Lastinger Center for Learning and UF early-learning advocate Lawrence are impacting the Miami-Dade County communities . . .

— Ready Schools Florida program
The Lastinger Center has partnered with Miami-Dade Schools and The Early Child Initiative Foundation since 2006 on an ambitious effort to give young children the best chance to succeed in school and beyond. It’s called Ready Schools Florida. Supported by a $10 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the program promotes early learning and child well-being from birth through elementary school. It’s an all-out effort to prepare all pre-schoolers for success by the time they enter the classroom.

Master Teacher Initiative
Improving teacher practice and student achievement is at the heart of another innovative Gator program. UF’s Lastinger Center last year was awarded a $6-million federal innovation grant to expand its award-winning Master Teacher Initiative to some of Miami-Dade’s most vulnerable schools. The initiative allows early-learning teachers at 20 schools to pursue a new graduate degree track in early childhood education and teacher leadership while remaining on-the-job and at virtually no cost to them. UF campus-based professors provide the online instruction while professors-in-residence based at the district provide on-site instruction and first-hand observation. More than 1,200 teachers and 30,000 of Miami-Dade’s youngest school children are the beneficiaries of the three-year effort.


EDUCATION CHAMPION: David Lawrence Jr., UF alum and early-learning supporter
UF alumnus David Lawrence Jr. needs little introduction to Miami-Dade citizens and education supporters. The 1963 College of Journalism graduate is the former publisher of The Miami Herald and he left the newspaper in 1999 to become an advocate for early childhood education. Lawrence is president of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation in Miami, and the David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center public school in Miami is named in his honor. UF’s College of Education also has a $1.5 million endowed professorship in early childhood studies named in his honor. Lawrence joined the UF faculty in 2001 as the University Scholar for Early Childhood Development and Readiness and he is a Lastinger Center visiting scholar and board member. Lawrence was instrumental in forging the UF-Miami/Dade partnerships in the Ready Schools and Master Teacher initiatives.


SOURCE: Don Pemberton, director, UF Lastinger Center for Learning,; 352-273-4103

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