Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Program Helps Teachers Make the Grade in Urban Classrooms

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Program Helps Teachers Make the Grade in Urban Classrooms

Article excerpt


Teacher-in-training Misha Elie considers her gig at Lake Shore Middle School to be ideal.

"I had a lot of issues when I was in middle school. I can identify with these students," Elie said while teaching at Lake Shore, where 68 percent of students are on free or reduced lunch. "It's time for me to make a difference in a child's life. This [middle school] is where you gain them or lose them."

Elie, an intern, is a senior in the University of North Florida's North Florida Urban Professional Development School Partnership, launched a dozen years ago. UNF education students are able to observe, mentor and practice-teach at select urban Duval County public schools.

These schools are the ones most likely to hire first-time teachers, some of whom aren't prepared and can't handle it - in fact, more than 40 percent of new teachers nationwide quit teaching within five years, according to a recent Times-Union report. But UNF's program recently won a national award because 86 percent of the program's graduates are still teaching after five years.

Currently, Duval schools participating are Woodland Acres Elementary School, West Jacksonville Elementary School and Pine Estates Elementary School.

Lake Shore is the only participating middle school.

With Florida's education funding dwindling, Larry Daniel, dean of UNF's College of Education and Human Services, said he hopes the program expands into other schools.

"The program gives students the opportunity to experience urban schools or middle school life, which can be difficult at times," said Maria Ramdas, UNF's resident clinical faculty adviser. "Not everyone is called to be a middle school teacher. We are looking for a few good, wonderful and powerful interns."

Often, Ramdas said, those interns get hired.

Amy Sander, another UNF intern teaching at Lake Shore, had students create DNA strands using Froot Loops. …

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