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October 14, 2005

Jennifer Fennell
(850) 245-0413

Florida Teachers Named to USA Today's All-USA Teacher Teams

TALLAHASSEE — Governor Jeb Bush and Education Commissioner John L. Winn today announced that Dana K. Kelly of Southwest Elementary School in Lakeland and Joseph Underwood of Miami Senior High School were named as members of the 2005 All-USA Teacher Teams, a teacher recognition program by USA Today.

"Teachers such as Dana Kelly and Joseph Underwood represent Florida's quality educators," said Governor Bush. "We have thousands of Florida teachers just like them to thank for the tremendous rise in student achievement. They have demonstrated their commitment to teaching in a way that motivates students to learn and encourages academic achievement."

Each October, USA Today honors individuals and instructional teams as representatives of outstanding K-12 educators nationwide. The All-USA Teacher Team was selected by a panel of judges from nominees across the country. Educators were nominated by school administrators, parents, students, colleagues or family members. Teachers were then asked to describe their schools' and students' needs and how they go about meeting those needs. All-USA Team members will receive trophies and share $2,500 with their respective schools, with each teacher receiving $500.

"Florida has a tremendous need for exceptional teachers," said Commissioner Winn. "Studies show that, aside from parents, teachers have the most impact on students. This recognition underscores how essential a quality educator is to student achievement."

Dana Kelly teaches gifted students at Southwest Elementary School in Lakeland. She has been teaching for 29 years and helps students develop leadership skills through service learning projects with local agencies to teach "real world" skills and compassion. Joseph Underwood teaches TV production, moviemaking and entertainment law at Miami Senior High School. He has been teaching for 21 years, beginning his career teaching science. His passion for theater led him to teach drama, TV production and develop a curriculum for entertainment law.

Betty Lacayo and Maria Domazet Cranmer, fifth grade inclusion teachers at Mariposa Elementary in Port St. Lucie, and Sheila King, a music teacher at Apollo Elementary School in Titusville, received an honorable mention.

Criteria for the All-USA Teacher Team were developed in coordination with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Middle School Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the National Education Association.

For more information about USA Today's All-USA Teacher Teams, visit

Dana Kelly
Southwest Elementary, Lakeland, Fla.
Gifted, grades kindergarten-5
Years full-time teaching: 29
Nominated by: Lois DeRosa, colleague
She: Helps students to develop leadership skills through hundreds of service learning projects with local agencies to teach "real world" skills and compassion. During a canned-food drive, for example, students practiced thinking and math skills by collecting, sorting and boxing the food; Expanded the school's gifted program to serve 20% more students who don't qualify by state rules but who consistently perform in a superior academic range; Creates individual programs based on students' test data, interest surveys and educational plans so that students can learn in their own way and at their own pace; Makes academics meaningful with real-world problem-solving skills such as charting hurricanes, time-dating fossils and researching ocean depths; Formed a Japanese club, established county's first elementary chess team and provides an opportunity for students to certify in adult CPR each year; Facilitated a student council that has dispensed more than $45,000 in grants for service projects; "She teaches the "alpha" group and doesn't just enrich them in terms of their academics," says principal Ellen Anderson. "The child is learning academic skills while helping others."

Joseph Underwood
Miami Senior High
TV production, moviemaking, entertainment law, grades 9-12
Years full-time teaching: 21
Nominated by: Benny Valdes, assistant principal
He: Started at Miami High in 1984 as an athletic trainer teaching three science classes; his passion for theater and for students led him to teach drama and then TV production, to develop a moviemaking course and last year, write a curriculum for an entertainment law class; Understands more Spanish than he speaks but gets the real language that matters to hardworking immigrant parents: opportunity for their children.

"Every time I tried to do something in my life, there was someone behind me who said, 'You can do this. You will do this. I will get you what you need to succeed.' I want to be that person for my students," Underwood says; Reeled in more than $350,000 in grants to equip studios, enable students to film or videotape school activities. Most popular first assignment: make a family history home video as a holiday gift to parents; Uses scriptwriting, interviewing, computer graphics, film and video editing skills to teach reading and writing, helping boost standardized test scores; Arranges scores of internships in film, TV, graphics, public relations and communications for students, leading many graduates to college scholarships and jobs in media. "His attitude is to show us what professionals will expect of us. And he always knows we can do it," says Araceli Hernandez, 16. "We are his pride."

Although he has won more than $350,000 in grants to equip Miami High's studios and enable students to film or videotape school activities, Joseph Underwood sees his job teaching TV production and moviemaking as primarily finding a way to unlock the potential in every student.

Underwood was a salesman and an actor who had never considered teaching until 1984 when his father-in-law, a Miami High administrator, suggested he try being an athletic trainer. Underwood fell in love with teaching and discovered the motivating power of passionate interest.

With the vast majority of his students coming from immigrant families, Underwood uses TV and movie production not only to work on language and writing skills but also to expand career possibilities. And he tries to light the spark in others. He finds internships for scores of students, such as Alexander Rescaglio, 17.

"My sophomore year he pulled me aside and told me he sees something in me. . . . He saw that I could do this," says Rescaglio, who is working on the media website for the Orange Bowl Committee. "He gave me my future. He gave me an opportunity, and I took it."

Honorable Mention:

Florida: Betty Lacayo and Maria Domazet Cranmer, Mariposa Elementary, Port St. Lucie, fifth grade inclusion; Sheila King, Apollo Elementary, Titusville, music.

Team members were chosen in a two-step process from teachers nominated throughout the country. Judges considered how well teachers define and meet their students' needs, and most important, the influence they have on students and learning.