UF Support for Local School Continues Through Pandemic

A team from the UF College of Education hasn’t let a global pandemic slow progress working with administrators, staff and students at Terwilliger Elementary School toward school improvement.

Job prospects look brighter for minority pre-service teachers after FFMT symposium

Several of the 26 UF students who have received Florida Fund for Minority Teacher scholarships say they were impressed with this year’s FFMT-sponsored Teacher Recruitment and Professional Development Symposium.

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Among the 26 UF students who attended the recently held Florida Fund for Minority Teachers symposium were Aida Valdes (from left), Alexis Potter, Jessica Vera Garcia, Samantha Cordero, Monique Levy and Suntrell Butler.

The 16th annual event, held on consecutive weekends at the University of Central Florida and Florida A&M and Florida Memorial universities, featured recruitment fairs that focused on placing minority teachers in classrooms throughout Florida’s 67 school districts.

Students said they left the symposium feeling confident about their ability to pursue teaching careers, including Aida Valdes, a junior in the UF ProTeach program who is majoring in elementary education.

“I got really energized after I went to a mock job interview breakout session,” Valdes said. “There were two people role playing as interviewers, and at first they asked some standard questions — but then the questions got tougher. I needed that perspective.”

FeIlow junior Jessica Vera Garcia, also a ProTeach elementary education major, said she left the symposium feeling confident that she is on the right career path.

“Overall, it was one of the best professional experiences I’ve ever had,” Garcia said. “The job recruiters told me I’m headed in the right direction.”

Since the Florida Legislature created FFMT in 1996, the program has disbursed more than $36 million in scholarships to minority education students at public and private colleges and universities throughout Florida. More than 3,500 recipients have gone on to teach in Florida’s public school classrooms.

FFMT is housed in the College of Education’s office for Recruitment, Retention and Multicultural Affairs, where Michael Bowie serves as the program’s executive director. COE Dean Glenn Good is chairman of the FFMT board of directors.

Bowie said the event has continued to grow in size and in importance to aspiring teachers.

“Our scholars are passionate about learning their craft,” Bowie said. “The scholars, the school districts, the institutions and our board members all welcome the symposiums each year.

The workshops supplement the incredible pedagogy being taught at the participating institutions, and many students left the events with contracts,” he added. “The school districts are always impressed with our scholars — their quality, qualifications and professionalism.”

More information about the FFMT and the scholarship program can be found online at

   Source: Cheryl Williams, UF College of Education liaison;; phone 352-273-4364.
   Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications;; phone 352-273-4137.
   Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications;; phone 352-273-3449.

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Math educator grant aids ProTeach senior Rachel Andrews

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UF ProTeach senior Rachel Andrews

The Florida Council of Teachers of Mathematics has given UF ProTeach senior Rachel Andrews a Lichtenberg Pre-service Educator Grant that will cover up to $500 of her costs when she attends the council’s fall conference in Palm Harbor.

“Grants like this are out there, so I tell everyone to keep their eyes open,” said Andrews, who wants to teach math after she receives bachelor’s degree in elementary education in May and a master’s degree a year later.

Andrews, who will be introduced with four other grant recipients during the 62nd annual conference Oct. 23-25, received the award based on her 3.92 grade point average, volunteer work at Gainesville elementary schools and a solid endorsement from UF math education doctoral candidate Rhonda Williams.

“She is a very bright student and has a passion to work with elementary children,” Williams wrote of Andrews, who grew up in Wesley Chapel, Fla. “She continually seeks out opportunities that will help her grow professionally.”

Andrews is an executive board member of the UF chapter of the Golden Key International Honor Society and spoke at the Aligning of the Stars education conference in Pasco County two years ago.

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UF teacher prep program is first in state accredited by international dyslexia group

The dual certification track of the COE’s Unified Elementary ProTeach program is one of the first teacher preparation programs in the nation to receive accreditation from the International Dyslexia Association, an impressive credential that should enhance the college’s student recruitment efforts.

UF special education professor Holly Lane said the accreditation comes just one year after the dual certification track was redesigned to include a three-course block on assessment and intervention for students with reading disabilities.

Holly Lane, shown teaching a literacy education class, led the accreditation effort with Linda Lombardino. Both are UF special educaiton faculty members.

Holly Lane, shown teaching a literacy education class, led the accreditation effort with Linda Lombardino. Both are UF special education professors.

“The timing was perfect,” Lane said. “Nearly every classroom in America has kids with dyslexia, so this accreditation means a lot in terms of showing how well we prepare our students to become fully qualified teachers.”

She said fellow special education professor Linda Lombardino played an integral part in developing the voluminous accreditation process.

“This was a total team effort,” Lane said. “Dr. Lombardino is widely recognized for her expertise in dyslexia.”

Students who choose the dual certification option of UF’s five-year ProTeach master’s degree program qualify for certification in both elementary and special education for grades K-12.

Dyslexia is a neurological learning disability that is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

Secondary consequences could include problems with reading comprehension and delayed growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. 

UF’s College of Education is the first higher education institution in Florida to receive accreditation from the IDA, a non-profit, scientific and educational organization that operates 43 branches throughout North America and has global partners in 20 other countries.

The IDA has granted accreditation to just 17 universities and dyslexia therapy programs since it began the practice two years ago. 

“A number of schools are eager to be accredited by us,” IDA spokeswoman Elisabeth Liptak, said. “It gives them a competitive advantage when recruiting students in local markets.”

Ten to 15 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia, yet only five out of every 100 dyslexics are recognized and receive assistance, according to the Dyslexia Research Institute in Tallahassee.

And that, Lane says, is what makes the COE’s accreditation so significant.

“Teaching teachers how to recognize children who have dyslexia is just as important as making sure they get the help they need,” she said.

Colleen Pollett, a former graduate student who received her master’s degree in special education in May, said she was impressed with the nine-credit-hour requirement and its contents, including a “Learnable Linguistics” tutoring method developed by COE adjunct professors Jane Andrews and Susan Vanderline.

“After I studied the course’s ‘Learnable Linguistics’ method, I was hired as a tutor for a fourth-grade student with dyslexia,” Pollett said. “I worked with him twice a week, and I saw incredible growth and progress in his reading comprehension, fluency and his word recognition. That confirmed it for me. The program really works. 

Pollett said she was surprised to learn that dyslexia affects a person’s ability to translate written words into meaningful text.

“People who have dyslexia aren’t slow learners,” she said. “It’s just that their brains process language in a different way, so traditional methods of teaching reading aren’t effective. “

Jean Crockett, director of the college’s School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies, said IDA accreditation came about because of the vision and dedication demonstrated by Lane and Lombardino.

“Thanks to them, our dual certification graduates will be highly qualified to teach elementary and special education,” Crockett said. “They’ll be classroom-ready to help all children read.” 

   Source: Holly Lane, professor of special education, UF College of Education;
   Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;
   Writer: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education;