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UNF and Clay County schools partner to build educator pathways

UNF students helping students from Clay County DistrictThe University of North Florida and Clay County District Schools (CCDS) are working together to renew the teacher pipeline and improve student achievement.  

UNF’s College of Education and Human Services (COEHS), the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS) and Clay County schools were awarded in 2022 a $7 million grant for Project PREP (Partnering to Renew the Educator Pipeline) to help address the critical teacher shortage and create equitable teaching outcomes for every student. The group authored an article about their partnership, recently published in the Southeastern Regional Association of Teacher Educators (SRATE) Journal.   

The article outlines the project’s four goals, which include preparing diverse teachers to graduate and obtain high-need certifications; retaining teachers in high-need schools; preparing school leaders to develop teachers and build a positive school environment; and developing a systemic approach to foster equitable teaching outcomes.   

Project PREP integrates five components to support diverse educators with a focus on high school student interest in education, initial teacher learning, early career professional learning, teacher leadership as well as school and district leadership professional learning.   

Within the article, the authors share insight into PREP’s components and highlight two featured activities during the first year of partnering, Project PREP Summer Bridge and PREP Teacher Leadership Certificate Cohort.  

Clay County District School teacher talking with a UNF studentThrough Project PREP’s Summer Bridge program, a week-long, overnight stay experience on campus, CCDS high school juniors and seniors engaged in a range of activities to develop their skills in community engagement, reflection and working with diverse groups. Support staff included current COEHS teacher candidates, graduates of the COEHS teacher preparation program and a CCDS elementary school teacher.   

UNF and CCDS faculty also partnered to design the inaugural PREP Teacher Leadership Certificate Cohort, a graduate experience that builds teacher leadership and education. 

The authors for this article include 13 faculty members from the UNF COEHS, with Dr. Rachelle Curcio serving as the principal investigator for Project PREP and Drs. Diane Yendol-Hoppey, Megan Lynch and Lunetta Williams as co-principal investigators. Other contributing authors include four CCDS partners and Kutztown University of Pennsylvania's dean of Education Rebecca W. Burns.   

While their first publication describes some of PREP’s initial activities, the project continues to move ahead with ventures like a collaboration between the COEHS Elementary Education program faculty and CCDS to reimagine a yearlong internship for undergraduates majoring in Elementary Education.  

This internship experience will further delve into the CCDS literacy needs during the 2024-25 academic year. The first cohort of early career teachers in CCDS will begin this summer during a two-day Summer Institute.  

Project PREP is funded through the U.S. Department of Education, Teacher Quality Partnership, through 2027. 

Read “Bridging Gaps in the System: Project PREP’s Transformative Approach to Educator Development” in the SRATE Journal. Or, for more information about Project PREP, visit the COEHS website.