Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Secondary math, science teachers offered free boost from UF

As many as 500 middle and high school math and science teachers in Pinellas County will have a shot at getting advanced degrees and training, thanks to a new program being launched by the University of Florida.

The Lastinger Center for Learning, housed under the university's College of Education, is spearheading the program with the help of a $1.6 million grant from the Helios Education Foundation, based in Tampa.

The program, which will stretch across four years, will begin recruiting next semester. In all, 100 teachers will be eligible to earn a free master's degree in exchange for a five-year teaching commitment to their schools. The remaining 400 will be enrolled in the center's professional development program.

The teachers will come from a cluster of high-needs middle and high schools in the county.

"The essence of this grant is to develop master teachers," said Don Pemberton, Lastinger's founding director and a former Pinellas educator. "By master teachers we mean teachers who will improve student achievement."

Officials announced the grant during a math and science summit last week at UF. The news came as a pleasant surprise for Pinellas school officials.

"It had been rumored to me that they were looking into this," said Rose Mack, the district's secondary mathematics supervisor. "They hadn't told me it was confirmed."

The Lastinger Center, founded in 2002, has had a significant presence in elementary school teacher training throughout the state, including at 19 schools in Pinellas.

But this program marks the beginning of a shift to pour more resources into secondary teacher training to revamp math and science instruction.

"I'm elated and ecstatic that our secondary school teachers have this opportunity," Mack said. "The sooner we can get our teachers trained in the concepts of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) … the better for the students."

Details about the program are still being hammered out, Pemberton said.

Teachers will have access to a myriad of training opportunities, he said, including summer sessions and on-the-job training. Those in the degree program will take online classes and have access to a UF education professor who will visit them on site.

The approach is unlike traditional professional development programs, Pemberton said, in which teachers go off to a conference once or twice a year and then are expected to apply a few concepts to the classroom. Instead, he said, the teachers get practical support and training that's embedded into their jobs.

"What we're really trying to do is create a rich learning environment for the educators so they can provide a rich learning environment for the students," Pemberton said.

Officials chose to launch the program in Pinellas because they were impressed by what the schools are already doing to boost math and science, Pemberton said.

Earlier this fall, the district announced a pilot program to get more middle school students ready for grade-level and advanced math classes. The program came out of a partnership with the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, SRI International and the Helios Foundation.

Ian Smith, chief communications officer at Helios, said the organization is equally as excited about the Lastinger project.

"It's really about giving those teachers more access to the skills and resources at the University of Florida … to help them and augment them in teaching STEM courses," Smith said.

"The hope is that it can become a national model."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

Fast facts

In a nutshell

Last week, the Lastinger Center for Learning at the University of Florida announced that it received a $1.6 million grant from the Helios Education Foundation. The school will use that money in Pinellas County, offering advanced degrees and training to up to 500 middle and high school teachers who teach math and science.

2009 FCAT scores

Percent of students scoring

at or above grade level
Pinellas 556066

Secondary math, science teachers offered free boost from UF 11/21/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2009 5:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate


    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help


    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  3. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers


    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem


    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  5. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.