Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For new Hillsborough teachers, it's all about the Gates grant


"I am here for you."

With those words, 11-year veteran teacher Woodrow Samuel helped launch a new era in Hillsborough County.

He was one of around 50 mentors appointed this year to help support and evaluate beginning teachers, part of the district's $202 million partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Speaking to a small group of his charges this week during the three-day orientation program for new teachers, Samuel said it would be his personal mission to help them succeed. He said he would be there or all of the problems rookies face — paperwork, stage fright, the challenge of misbehaving students and a flurry of state requirements.

"I plan on being at your school site to help you set up your classrooms, if you want me to," said Samuel, 37. "I will be with each of you at least once a week."

Such work lies at the heart of Hillsborough's seven-year reform effort with the Gates Foundation, which aims to develop a new teacher evaluation system and tie teacher pay and job security to student performance. New teachers will face a higher bar for earning tenure, and veterans may face calls to improve or find a new job if they don't measure up.

But both groups will be evaluated and supported by fellow teachers along the way. And new teachers will get a "significant" raise on their $37,014 starting salary when they earn tenure after three or four years.

"We are on the cutting edge of making great things happen in education, and you're a part of it," superintendent MaryEllen Elia told over 500 new hires on Wednesday.

"You're going to be part of a system that's going to change the delivery of education in our country," said deputy superintendent Dan Valdez. "Everyone is looking at us."

All told, around 120 teachers have been taken out of the classroom to serve as mentors, or as or peer evaluators for veteran teachers — a costly proposition that might never have happened without the Gates support.

The Hillsborough teachers' union backed a similar plan in the 1990s, but couldn't find the money to carry it out.

It's a strong departure from traditional practice in most districts across America, where beginning teachers are thrust before students with little support or training — instant CEOs in their own classroom.

"No other profession does it — doctors don't, lawyers don't, " Elia said, urging the new teachers to take advantage of their mentors' support. "Because that is what a true professional does."

The new teachers in Samuel's group seemed to need little urging, peppering him with questions and thoughts on their new careers.

Matthew Wiseman, who majored in math at the University of South Florida, will soon teach that subject at Middleton High.

He loved tutoring and mentoring students in college, and once opened and ran a successful pizza restaurant.

But to him, nothing approaches the complexity of being a good teacher.

"Administrators were talking about how often they're going to be coming in to evaluate us," said Wiseman, 40. "To me, who has never taught before, it was very overwhelming."

Jessica Copeland, who will teach special-needs and agriculture science classes at Middleton, spent part of last year as a temporary teacher in east Hillsborough.

The 24-year-old said she learned the hard way not to take on too many optional duties during her first year.

"It about killed me," she said.

"That's the illusion, 'I can do it all,' " said Samuel, who previously taught language arts and led the eighth-grade team at Sligh Middle School. "Well, no, you can't."

Natalia Iarmoch, who will teach math at Middleton, said she was setting her sights high.

"The first thing that came to mind was (achieving) a 100 percent passing rate in all of my classes," said Iarmoch, 29. "I don't know how doable it is."

"It does seem lofty, but what if you shoot for that and 96 percent pass?" Samuel asked. "That's awesome. You will work insanely to achieve it. But if that's your goal, run with it."

He told the group it would take a special effort to keep their spirits up, teaching in an inner-city neighborhood where many youngsters — particularly young men — fail to graduate.

"Surround yourself with positive people," Samuel advised. "Don't hang out at the water cooler with the teacher who hates his students and hates his life and he's been doing it for 20 years.

"You don't need someone bringing you down, talking about 'those kids.' I hate those two words. They're our kids."

Tom Marshall can be reached at or (813) 226-3400.

The Gates grant

What: "Measure of Effective Teaching" grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Amount: $100 million.

Additional funds: Hillsborough is kicking in $102 million, and at least $30 million a year after the grant runs out. Officials hope to raise that money through other grants, and by redirecting money now used for teacher development.

Duration: Seven years.

Goal: It will do things few school systems have ever attempted: give every new teacher a full-time mentor and create a corps of trained teacher-evaluators to rate every teacher in Hillsborough's 190,000-student district. It also will give high-performing rookies a chance to out-earn veteran teachers on the pay scale and take a harder line on awarding tenure and dismissing those who don't measure up.

For new Hillsborough teachers, it's all about the Gates grant 07/28/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 11:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Suspect arrested in fatal shooting of Virginia special agent


    RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia State Police special agent died Saturday after being shot by a man sitting in a car in Richmond, police said. The shooting suspect fled on foot, sparking an overnight manhunt that ended with the man's arrest about an hour after the agent's death.

    This image provided by the Virginia State Police shows law enforcement investigating the scene of a shooting early Saturday in Richmond, Va.   Special Agent Michael T. Walter, a Virginia State Police special agent died Saturday after being shot by a man sitting in a car in Richmond, police said. The shooting suspect fled on foot, sparking an overnight manhunt that ended with the man's arrest about an hour after the agent's death. Virginia State Police said in an emailed statement that Travis A. Ball of Richmond is being held without bond on charges that include malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. (Virginia State Police via AP)
  2. Mayor Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg mayoral election is about going forward, not back


    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally
  3. Forecast: Lots of sunshine, low humidity to start Memorial Day weekend


    The start of your long Memorial Day weekend is all sunshine this Saturday, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Rick Kearbey.

    WTSP seven-day forecast on May 27, 2017.
  4. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting


    UPDATE, 12:45: Cash said Robertson was taking better swings Friday and so he wanted to move him up today, liking the idea of having three straight right-handers vs. a LHP they don't know much about. ... Souza was still smiling this morning about his failed dive attempt last night, and the reaction it got. .. The …

  5. Global computer outage grounds British flights


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports Saturday as a global IT failure caused severe disruption for travelers on a busy holiday weekend.

    British Airways planes are parked at Heathrow Airport in January. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file)