A new teacher-development network is in the works at UF thanks to a $250,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
This network will be an expansion of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning’s current Algebra Nation program, an online resource created in partnership with Study Edge to help Florida high school students pass the Algebra End-of-Course-Exam.
The Algebra Nation teacher-development network will feature videos of classroom instruction explaining math problems, discussion forums and lesson plans, according to a UF College of Education press release.
Boaz Dvir, operations manager for the UF Lastinger center, became involved with the center while working on a documentary he made, “Discovering Gloria,” about an innovative Gainesville teacher who inspired the center to craft its teacher-development programs.
“I kind of fell in love with what they were doing,” he said. “They were on the frontlines of education, helping to make a difference for high-need schools and high-poverty children.”
Dvir was responsible for writing the grant proposal to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is focusing on the building and launching of the teacher-development network.
The Lastinger Center and Study Edge plan to launch the tool for teachers over summer and work to build the network during the following year.
Dvir said the No. 1 priority of the Algebra Nation teacher program is to create a safe, easy-to-access virtual home environment for the teachers.
“They need a place that they can go to and feel safe, to interact with other teachers, to be able to ask any question they want,” he said.
The center’s innovation manager, Sylvia Boynton, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiative coordinator, Alexandra Prinstein, are focusing on the building and launching of the teacher-development network.
Laura Bemis, a 20-year-old UF education junior, said it’s an honor to be a part of a college receiving a grant from such a distinguished foundation.
“Once I get in the classroom, I would definitely use a program like this,” she said. “I like how we would be able to share lesson plans and get ideas.”
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 3/28/2014 under the headline "Teaching center gets Gates grant"]