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40 educators chosen for UF’s new leadership network

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.

Don Pemberton

Don Pemberton

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

Phil Poekert

Phil Poekert

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 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




W.W. Irby Elementary

Lorena Sanchez


Meadowlane Primary

Sarah Brown



Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary

Tropical Elementary

Isabel Nodarse

Donald Nicolas

Amy DeCelle



Mai Keisling


Matanzas High

Amanda Kraverotis

Florida Virtual

Florida Virtual School

Charles Cummings


Bloomingdale High

Heather Hanks


Grassy Lake Elementary

Kelly Dodd


Riverdale High

Tortuga Preserve Elementary

Deneen Kozielski

Jennifer Grida


John G. Riley Elementary

Bridgette McCloud



Cara Dunford


Crystal Lake Elementary

Christina Kennard


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


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


Imagine School at North Port Upper Campus

Tiffany Bailey


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


Deltona High

Dylan Emerick-Brown


Walton High

Deena Martin

   — Rebekah Cordova, professional development coordinator, (c) 303-246-4331; (w) 352-273-4105
   — Don Pemberton, 352-273-4103
   — Phil Poekert, 305-586-8665, UF Lastinger Center (Miami office)
  WriterCharles Boisseau, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449 

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COE awarded $1 million to boost skills of Florida’s early learning educators

GAINESVILLE, FLA. — The Jim Moran Foundation has awarded a $1 million grant to the University of Florida College of Education to provide access to the latest teaching tools for the state’s 55,000 early learning educators.

Toddlers get plenty of engaging, early learning experiences at UF's Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center.

Early Learning Florida dovetails with one of UF’s priority research initiatives to “optimize” early childhood learning and healthy child development. Pictured: a teacher engages a toddler at UF’s Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center. (File photo)

The funding will boost the college’s transformational Early Learning Florida program, a first-of-its-kind online professional development system for early learning practitioners.

“We’re thrilled and grateful,” said Don Pemberton, director of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, the college’s innovation incubator that is implementing the program. “We’ll use this money to improve learning and development for hundreds of thousands of young children by providing new tools and resources to build the skills of early learning professionals.”

Built through community support, Early Learning Florida offers online and face-to-face instruction and continuing education with the latest course content, plus new certification programs for technical assistance coaches. State-funded stipends for early learning providers who successfully complete the course also are made available.

“By partnering with the Lastinger Center on this innovative initiative, we are helping create a standard for early learning that equips classroom teachers with the knowledge and know-how to provide all our children with a solid foundation for future academic success,” said Jan Moran, chairman and president of The Jim Moran Foundation, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Early Learning Florida dovetails with one of UF’s priority research initiatives to “optimize” early childhood learning and development. Early childhood studies are a vital component of UF’s preeminence push — backed by the Florida Legislature — to become one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities.

Don Pemberton

Don Pemberton

Pemberton said The Jim Moran Foundation grant – which will be dispersed in equal payments over the next three years – also serves as an endorsement of the foundation’s belief in the importance of early learning.

“We are humbled to receive such a generous investment in our work from a foundation that honors the memory and extends the legacy of one of Florida’s greatest entrepreneurs and humanitarians,” he said.

The Jim Moran Foundation is one of four major philanthropic organizations that, together, have donated more than $3 million over multiple years to support Early Learning Florida.

The other three contributors are the Helios Education Foundation ($900,000), which supports education reform in Florida and Arizona; the Florida-based Lastinger Family Foundation ($500,000); and $600,000 from an Ohio-based foundation that has asked to remain anonymous.

About The Jim Moran Foundation
Founded by automotive pioneer Jim Moran, the mission of The Jim Moran Foundation is to improve the quality of life for the youth and families of Florida through the support of innovative programs and opportunities that meet the ever-changing needs of the community. The Foundation has invested more than $50 million in education, elder care, family strengthening, and youth transitional living initiatives since its inception in 2000 — with efforts currently focused in Broward, Palm Beach and Duval counties. Through a long-term grant agreement, The Foundation’s significant funders are JM Family Enterprises, Inc., and its subsidiaries, including Southeast Toyota Distributors, LLC. It is located at 100 Jim Moran Blvd., Deerfield Beach, Fla. 33442. To learn more, visit or call (954) 429-2122.

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

UF Source: Don Pemberton, director, UF Lastinger Center for Learning; 352-273-4103;
UF Media Contact: Larry Lansford, director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137;
Writer: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education;


Algebra Nation 2.0 launched to meet statewide demand of teachers, students

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Responding to widespread demand among teachers across the state, the University of Florida is launching Algebra Nation 2.0, an even more powerful way to help students succeed on the high-stakes algebra end-of-course exam.

Algebra Nation flagFor Florida’s high school students, the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam is as high stakes as it gets – it determines their future. They must pass the test to graduate. About 48 percent of ninth-graders failed the exam in the spring. Created by the UF Lastinger Center for Learning in partnership with the Florida Legislature, Governor’s Office and Department of Education, as well as Gainesville-based Study Edge, Algebra Nation offers students, teachers and parents a free, highly effective, interactive, 24/7 online resource aligned with the latest state standards.

“When we launched Algebra Nation 1.0 in January,” said UF Lastinger Center Director Don Pemberton, “we knew we were addressing a tremendous need with the right resource but we had no idea it would take off so fast and go so far.”

More than 3,800 teachers in 1,000 schools in all 67 Florida schools districts are using Algebra Nation. To keep up with the increasing demand, UF is launching Algebra Nation 2.0, which is fully accessible on the web, iPhones, Android phones and Facebook.

“Now Algebra Nation is truly everywhere – in and out of the classrooms, around the clock,” said Boaz Dvir, Algebra Nation’s UF project manager.

UF has been working with school districts around the state to integrate Algebra Nation 2.0 and make it as user-friendly as possible. Students and teachers sign on easily with their school credentials. Teachers find their rosters already loaded. No matter where they are, students can readily access videos, study guides, an online Practice Tool that mimics the end-of-course exam and an interactive Algebra Wall where they can receive help day and night. 

To assure a smooth transition, the Algebra Nation also offers free professional development sessions to teachers, math coaches and math supervisors throughout the state.

UF is also printing and delivering free Algebra Nation Workbooks, which supplement the Content Review Videos, to Florida Algebra 1 teachers and students. UF initially offered 25,000 free Workbooks on a first-come-first-served basis. But after receiving orders from 1,000 teachers for 165,000 workbooks, the Algebra Nation team decided to fill them all – at no printing or shipping charge to the teachers.

“The workbooks, as well as the four new apps, allow teachers and students to fully maximize Algebra Nation’s effectiveness,” said Study Edge President Ethan Fieldman.

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

Study Edge is a Gainesville-based enterprise that helps high school and college students improve their learning outcomes through technology. Its founder, Fieldman, was the first winner of the Cade Museum Prize for Innovation, created to inspire creative thinking and support future inventors and promising entrepreneurs in the local community. 

SOURCE: Boaz Dvir, UF Lastinger Center,, 352-273-0289


UF launches free Algebra Nation prep tool at 2nd Florida high school

GAINESVILLE, FL—Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville on March 4 became Florida’s second high school to adopt a novel program called Algebra Nation, a free online preparation tool created through the University of Florida to help students prepare for a required algebra end-of-course exam.

More than 40 percent of Florida middle and high school students failed the spring 2012 Algebra 1 end-of-course exam. In many high-need schools, the failure rate topped 80 percent. Florida students must pass the test to earn a high school diploma.

To help students succeed on the exam, the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, part of the College of Education, has joined forces with Study Edge, a Gainesville education technology firm, to create Algebra Nation, a research-proven, online end-of-course exam preparation resource. The program gives students 24/7 access to help through a collection of free tools from video tutorials and live teacher support to an interactive “wall” like on Facebook, all geared toward helping students boost their algebra skills.

Gov. Rick Scott had participated Jan. 25 in UF’s first Florida launch of Algebra Nation at St. Petersburg’s Dixie Hollins High School.

On Monday, Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett and Florida State Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand participated in a morning ceremony marking the Duval County launch of Algebra Nation at Jackson High, the state’s lowest ranked high school in the midst of a multi-organization, multi-year effort to turn the school around.

“Algebra is a key STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subject,” Lastinger Center director Don Pemberton said. “It serves as a gatekeeper to success in high school and beyond.”

To help students succeed on the 2013 end-of-course exam, UF education professors have dissected the material tested on the exam and aligned Algebra Nation with the latest state standards.

“Algebra Nation is based on the latest research and best practices,” Study Edge director Ethan Fieldman said.

Algebra Nation is the first phase of a planned campaign to accelerate learning throughout Florida. UF and Study Edge officials say they plan to develop and roll out Geometry Nation, Biology Nation and other end-of-course exam resources next year.

Read more about Algebra Nation here. You also can view the News4Jax television news report on the Jacksonville launch.

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