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Just for Teachers – March 2009

I recently had the chance to interact with high school students from across the state at the Florida Future Educators Association (FFEA) Conference. It was a fantastic event and I was impressed by the students’ enthusiasm and interest in pursuing a career in education. During one workshop, I asked the participants why they wanted to be teachers. Some answers were predictable, “I think it would be fun,” or “Little kids are so cute!” One student’s response, however, made me reflect on my own career decisions. The student simply said “I want to make a difference.” As educators, we are in the position of making a difference in the world, beginning with all of the students in our sphere of influence. In the midst of teaching, reviewing, testing, grading, assessing, mentoring, listening, and disciplining, it’s good to take a moment to recall the ways that you have made an impact on children, whether they are 4 or 17. I would love both to hear and to share stories of how you have made a positive impact in your classroom. Please send your stories to .

This edition of Just for Teachers includes information on upcoming events, FCAT materials, Universal Orlando Resort’s promotion details, and opportunities for both you and your students. You will also want to read about your remarkable colleagues who deserve special recognition.

Please Send Your Feedback – Just for Teachers Survey

Thanks to all of you who took time from your busy schedule to respond to the Just for Teachers Quality Survey. I received great feedback, but I could use even more ideas, concerns, and suggestions. Please visit and share your thoughts.

Universal Promotion

Universal Orlando® Resort, in partnership with the Florida Education Foundation, is offering Florida Public School Personnel (Pre-Kindergarten – 12th Grade) an incredible opportunity to experience TWO exciting theme parks -- Universal Studios Florida® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure®...FREE! It’s their way of saying “thanks” for all you do! From Saturday, February 7 through Friday, March 27, 2009, all Florida Public School Personnel (Pre-Kindergarten – 12th Grade) may receive one (1) FREE* 1-DAY, 2-PARK TICKET to experience BOTH Universal Orlando theme parks. Visit for complete details.


As your students prepare for upcoming state-wide assessments, the Office of Assessment has prepared a PowerPoint entitled “Tips for Taking the FCAT.” For a PDF version, visit: You can also download the PowerPoint version by going to and scrolling down to January 2009. This material presents test-taking strategies in a fun and informative format.

National School Breakfast Week - March 2 - 6, 2009

The “Power Up with School Breakfast” campaign features a team of superheroes who introduce students to the importance of eating school breakfast every day. Using a series of interactive tools and activities, students meet the school breakfast heroes and learn about the importance of eating healthy, eating a variety of foods, and being active. By eating school breakfast, students can power up to become superheroes themselves. For more information and activities that can be used throughout the school year, visit

National Women’s History Month 2009

Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet

March is designated as National Women’s History Month to recognize and celebrate the history of women in schools, workplaces, and communities throughout the country. The stories of women’s historic achievements present an expanded view of the complexity and fulfillment of living a purposeful life.  The knowledge of women's history provides a more expansive vision of what a woman can do. This perspective can encourage girls and women to think larger and bolder and can give boys and men a fuller understanding of the female experience.  This year’s theme recognizes the pioneering and fearless ways that women have taken the lead to save the planet.

For information about National Women’s History Month (NWHM) or the 2009 NWHM Honorees, visit or contact the National Women’s History Project, 707-636-2888 or . The site includes lesson ideas, promotional materials, biographies, and sample quizzes.

Recognizing Outstanding Women Educators

Maria Cardenas – Touching the Lives of Students

Maria Cardenas grew up in poverty; both her parents were migrant farm workers who spoke no English and traveled the country in a pickup truck, following the crops. Yet she never gave up her dream of becoming a college graduate and worked hard not only to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, but also a Florida State Endorsement to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Maria was able to pursue her dream with the help and encouragement from her own teachers who helped her obtain a HOPE (Help One Person Excel) Scholarship. This program, which was started by Edison State College’s District President, Kenneth P. Walker, provides funding for tuition, books, and tutoring to at-risk students. Today Maria teaches third graders at Orange River Elementary School in Ft. Myers and her accomplishments were recently the focus of an article in the Fall 2008 Edison State College publication Changing Lives. Her students know little if any English and many come from impoverished backgrounds and struggle to find faith in themselves. Maria uses gardening as a way to illustrate the way people can grow and develop. Inspired by her example, Maria’s students yearn for a college education and a better life. Congratulations, Maria, for making a difference in the lives of your students.

Tallahassee Music Specialist Recognized as Music Educator of the Year

Martha B. Stanley has been selected as the recipient of the 2009 Music Educator of the Year by the Florida Music Educators Association. Mrs. Stanley is a music specialist for grades K-5 at Hartsfield Elementary School in Tallahassee, and has been a music educator since 1972. This award is given in recognition of outstanding merit in the teaching of music, and is awarded annually to the individual who has served his/her students, community, and profession in an exemplary manner. To read the full story, visit

Manatee County School Wins National Football League Challenge

Tara Elementary School in Manatee County was recognized for its participation in the National Football League (NFL) Play 60: What Moves U Challenge, a physical activity program. Fifth graders at the Bradenton school pledged to exercise 60 minutes daily for 30 days. All 110 students participated in this challenge and kept daily records of their activities. To learn more, visit

Florida Teachers Awarded NASA Fellowships

The NASA Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project awards one-year fellowships to 40 educators annually. This year, 10 of the 40 recipients were Florida educators. Congratulations to the following teachers selected for this award:
  • Jennifer Diaz, Irving and Beatrice Peskoe Elementary, Miami-Dade County
  • Julie Gabrovic, Weckiva Elementary, Seminole County
  • Christopher Harvey, Edward H. White High School, Duval County
  • Christina Hill, Azalea Middle School, Pinellas County
  • Amy Lund, Oakland Park Elementary, Broward County
  • Tara Powers, Rosenwald School, Seminole County
  • Lesa Roe, Leesburg Elementary, Lake County
  • Amber Thibedeau of Sunrise Elementary, Brevard County
  • Michelle Tucker of Castle Creek Elementary, Orange County
  • Marc Turull of Oak Hammock K-8, St. Lucie County

Educators accepted into the project will be exposed to current NASA science and will be supported in translating the information for use in classrooms. The goal of the project is to ensure that teachers across the country can use the discoveries that NASA makes on a daily basis to inspire the next generation of explorers, scientists, engineers, and astronauts. For more information on this project, visit

Upcoming Professional Development Opportunities

Florida Math and Science Day

The Office of Mathematics and Science at the Florida Department of Education is pleased to announce the second annual Florida Math and Science Day on May 1, 2009.  The theme for 2009 is Space Exploration.  Florida K-12 teachers are invited to submit lesson plans related to the Space Exploration theme. Visit for complete details.

Visit for a complete list of upcoming professional development opportunities.

Scholarship and Contest Opportunities for Your Students

Nominate A Child for Kohl Kids Who Care Scholarship

Do you know a stand-up student? This year, through the Kohl's Kids Who Care® Scholarship Program, Kohl's Department Stores plans to award more than $350,000 in scholarships and prizes to recognize the selfless acts of more than 2,000 youth ages six through 18 who are making a difference in their communities. Nominations are currently being accepted through March 15, 2009. For more information, visit

The 2009 Florida Missing Children's Day Statewide Fifth Grade Essay Contest

In an effort to promote safety awareness among Florida’s children and encourage them to think proactively of ways to keep themselves safe from any person who would harm them, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse Advisory Board is sponsoring an essay contest. Fifth graders across the state are being asked to write an essay based on the statement, “The choice is yours…make it a safe one.” Full details can be found at

Seniors: Explore Your Options

The Go Higher – Get Accepted campaign is a joint undertaking of the Florida Department of Education, Florida’s 28 community colleges, and, Florida's student advising Web site. In its third year, the campaign aims to increase the number of high school seniors who aspire to go to college. Go Higher - Get Accepted events offer seniors hands-on assistance to examine their career interests, decide on a program of study, and apply for admission and financial aid. All of these activities can be done online at For more information on the campaign and a complete listing of events throughout the state, visit

Service Hour Opportunities

Youth Service America (YSA) seeks to improve communities by increasing the number and the diversity of young people serving in substantive roles through public mobilization campaigns; incentives and recognition; tools, information, and training. This year’s recognition of Global Youth Service Day, Youth Changing the World, will take place over a period of three days, April 24 – 26, 2009. For more information, visit

Did you know?

Did you know...that Florida’s education ranking jumped from 14th to 10th in the nation, and its overall grade improved from a C plus to a B minus, according to the 2009 Quality Counts: Portrait of a Population report? The report, issued annually by Education Week, tracks state policies and performance across key areas of education and assigns each state with an overall letter grade to signify their education standing in the nation. This improvement builds on last year’s drastic improvement that took Florida from 31st in 2006 to 14th in 2007. Read the complete story at