UCF Consortium hosts Virtual Professional Learning Community sessions in response to COVID 19

Consortium for Future Educators @ UCF

The past several months have gone by in a blur for the world as rushed plans were created in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. There were many questions that surrounded education. How would we transition to an online learning platform? How would we ensure all students had equal access to devices and the internet? How would we reach students’ social-emotional needs?

Another challenge facing school districts was how to best support teachers. The short turnaround time that brick and mortar districts had to transition into online schools was a daunting task! How would professional development be facilitated? How would the delivery be and when/how would they require teachers to complete the training?

As districts began implementing a plan, the initial focus was on core classes rather than electives. Among the courses that were not initially supported were high school teaching academies. Most of Florida’s high school teaching academies and Grow-Your-Own initiatives include high school students and elementary or middle school students who partner together to provide experiential learning in the area of classroom teaching. This provided a limited availability of responses for existing high school teaching academy lead teachers who were most likely isolated as a single person within any given school district in Florida, and therefore had no “team” to collaborate with who share the same restraints and curriculum requirements.

Three years prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the University of Central Florida’s College of Community Innovation and Education partnered with the School of Teacher Education to create a consortium that would support high school teaching academies in an effort to begin preparing, encouraging, and engaging more teacher candidates.  In efforts to continue the strong partnerships already created, the consortium team developed a plan to launch a series of virtual professional learning community sessions designed to provide a space for partners to collaborate. Each Friday in April, UCF faculty hosted “lunch and learn” sessions that included lead teachers from high school teaching academies around Florida, district administrators, and Florida Department of Education representatives.

After the end of each informal virtual session, a plan was developed for future sessions. Meeting topics included virtual teaching strategies and lesson ideas, social emotional check-ins with students, teacher self-care, and other resources that teachers could implement in this new teaching environment. In response to the needs of the participants, an online collaboration platform was created to allow teachers to upload and share resources with one another. The goal is that this site will continue to support teachers at all levels and serve as a resource hub for high school teaching academies.

As we continue to plan for the unknowns of the next school year, we are confident that collaboration does not need to cease just because of our current situation. The relationships that have been established via UCF’s Consortium for Future Educators with high school teaching academies across the state of Florida provides a perfect opportunity for support during the global pandemic. The framework may look different, but partnerships keep us connected!

For more information please contact us. We look forward to the collaboration.

Marni Kay, Stephanie Luke, and Shane Trenta are faculty at the School of Teacher Education, College of Community Innovation and Education, University of Central Florida.

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