Lattices and Leadership

By Dorina Sackman

Florida’s 2014 Teacher of the Year

When I was named one of four finalists for the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, many at the Florida Department of Education could tell you that the entire building heard my screams of joy upon hearing the news. After I got the call from Commissioner Pam Stewart, I remember instinctively screaming in my New York accent, “We did it! We did it! Oh my Gawd, Florida teachughs! We are on the MAP!”

I immediately called the department’s Teacher of the Year program coordinator and exclaimed, “We did it!” Her calm, but confident response shocked me. “YOU did it because you always think of our teachers first. That’s a leader!” A Leader?  Me? But I’m “just” a teacher…

I love teaching

And there was my moment of Zen.

“Just.” A word all teachers must remove from their vocabulary when describing who we are (and you know you’ve said it). We are not “just” teachers, we are educators! We must use our expertise, hands-on experiences in the classroom and voice to elevate our profession.

Just look online at any educational organization’s upcoming conference and you’ll see at least one session featuring teacher leadership. From national to state to local conferences, attendees are learning about these new “buzz words” focusing on teacher leadership.

But what does it all mean?

Well, that’s where you come in. The definition is subject to one’s own interpretation, and so I ask you, what does teacher leadership look like? What does it mean to you? Is teacher leadership something of interest to you? At present, what are your options at your school and/or district to help you remain in the classroom, but also be a teacher leader? Why do you think there is such an increased awareness of the need for teacher leaders?

Too often, teachers have nowhere to go in their profession as far as advancement. Many of us are thirsty to do more for student success, but have no desire to go into administration. Yet, it is the traditional ladder we must climb: teacher to dean to assistant principal to principal and so on. If your goal is administration, there still needs to be a shift from the outdated ladder of growth to a more modern lattice.

A lattice, as mathematics teachers know, is a multi-dimensional structure that extends infinitely in any direction. For gardeners, a lattice is a structure that provides growth in many different directions; exactly what we need in education; more choices to get involved, share ideas, innovate (not Marzano’s innovate, your innovate) and research.

I see us all as the roses blooming on that lattice, spreading beauty via our strength in numbers and our healthy desire for growth. Together we can lead and grow, so our students can do the same.

Supporting a Brighter Future for Florida’s Students

By Pam Stewart, Commissioner of Education

I hope each one of you had a restful spring break. Although it is an exciting time to be an educator, the many changes Florida has implemented during the past few years to improve student outcomes can sometimes seem extensive.

shutterstock_174981833Last week we announced that the American Institutes for Research (AIR) was selected to develop Florida’s new statewide assessments for the next school year. I chose AIR because I believe that it is the best option for Florida’s students.

I’ve met with countless Florida educators who have asked that our new tests provide a more authentic assessment of our students’ grasp of the Florida Standards. Just as you are employing interactive activities to boost student learning in your classrooms, I believe we need an assessment that allows students to write and respond in non-traditional methods.

This test will focus less on finding the right answer and more on demonstrating higher order thinking skills. You have my commitment that students, educators and parents will be able to preview samples of new question types by taking practice tests that will be made available for anyone interested in reviewing them.

We have already received several questions from Florida educators regarding specific aspects of the assessment, and I encourage you to continue to email us your questions. You are the best advocate for your students, and I am grateful for your tremendous efforts to prepare your students for success, both inside and outside the classroom.

Florida’s Top Teacher a National Finalist for Fifth Straight Year


National Teacher of the Year finalist, Dorina Sackman, answers questions during the Governor’s Education Accountability Summit in August 2013.

For the fifth year in a row, the Florida Department of Education/Macy’s Teacher of the Year is a National Teacher of the Year finalist. Dorina Sackman, Florida’s 2014 Teacher of the Year, was named one of four finalists for the prestigious award today by the Council of Chief State School Officers. She joins educators from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia contending for the national award. The winner will be announced in April.Governor Scott said, “Florida teachers are the foundation of our education system and provide critical help in preparing students for success in life, a career and in college. I had the honor of meeting Dorina this past year at our first annual Teacher of the Year Summit, and was pleased to award her as the Florida Teacher of the Year. I congratulate Dorina on this great honor and look forward to working with her and all of Florida’s teachers as we make Florida the best education system in the nation.”

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Dorina Sackman for being named a National Teacher of the Year finalist,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “Florida has a long history of outstanding educators and I am pleased that the Sunshine State is again included for this prestigious honor.”

Dorina Sackman is an 8th grade English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Advanced Placement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher at Westridge Middle School in Orlando, and has been an ESOL teacher for more than 15 years. She was named Florida’s Teacher of the Year and Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education in July 2013. She serves as an education advocate and goodwill ambassador representing educators throughout the Sunshine State.

Continue reading here.

Governor Scott’s Letter to Parents Regarding Exceptional Student Education

Dear Teachers,

Please see the following letter from Governor Rick Scott to parents regarding Senate Bill 1108 related to Exceptional Student Education services. The letter will be distributed by the governor’s office and the Florida Department of Education in a variety of ways and we have requested school districts provide this letter to parents during IEP meetings. If you or your parents have further questions regarding this letter, please contact us at

Governor Scott’s Letter to Parents Regarding Senate Bill 1108

Florida KidCare: A Helpful Resource for Your Classroom

Since healthier kids miss fewer days of schools and perform better in the classroom, you may find some of these resources helpful to share with your classroom parents.

Find Priceless Peace of Mind at an Affordable Cost 

When our little champions are healthy and happy, it can be easy to let the thought of health coverage get lost in the shuffle. However, it’s when the unexpected happens that the benefit of health coverage can prove its true value.

That dental appointment when your son falls out of a tree and chips his tooth? That emergency room visit when your little girl needs stitches? Florida KidCare has you covered!

With Florida KidCare, health insurance coverage can be one less thing to worry about. Florida KidCare covers children from birth through age 18 and includes doctor visits, immunizations, dental care, emergency care, prescriptions and much more. Many families pay as little as $15 or $20 a month, and most pay nothing at all.

It’s no surprise that healthy kids miss fewer days of school and perform better in the classroom. Florida KidCare coverage provides less sick days for your child (and more peace of mind for you!)

Households not eligible for subsidized coverage may be eligible for the full-pay option. Regardless of your circumstances, Florida KidCare has a coverage plan that is just right for your family.

What’s keeping you from applying today? Visit or call 1-888-540-5437 for more information. Don’t forget to also download the ‘FL KidCare’ iPhone and Android app for program information, application assistance locations and directions, comic strips, success stories and much more!

School Spotlight

successSouth Walton High School’s Walton Youth Leadership United had the pleasure of visiting Emerald Coast Middle School’s fifth and sixth graders during lunch and Butler Elementary School’s fourth graders during PE on September ninth to present the Success Pledge. The pledge is a promise each student makes to do well in school and believe in his or her own abilities and talents.

First, Brooke Pierson addressed the student body and explained what the Success Pledge is. Then, the students presented a skit about the importance of school. Sammy the Seahawk made a guest appearance as the inspirational “tutor” and explained that the world is full of possibilities when you believe in yourself and do well (succeed).

The success pledges were on neon card stock and signed and kept by each child. Their hands (and sometimes forearms or foreheads) were stamped (“super student”), and everyone received a green and white “I AM A SUCCESS!” bracelet, courtesy of ECMS, since the Stingrays and the Bears will be future Seahawks in years to come.

Hopefully this will be one of many events upon which the local schools can collaborate. The SWHS Success Pledge was signed during open house. Each Seahawk pledged to succeed and be leaders not only for the school, but also for those children who admire them and aspire to be like them.

Pam Stewart Named as FL Commissioner of Education

The State Board of Education unanimously voted to name Pam Stewart as the Commissioner of Education. Board members expressed confidence in Stewart’s ability to work through the critical education issues facing Florida.

“I’ve had a chance to work closely with Pam,” said State Board Chairman Gary Chartrand. ”I think we are at a critical time, so we are going to look to her to work diligently to see us through these issues. There is a lot of work to be done and I am fully confident of her ability to make the right decisions for Florida’s children.”

“I appreciate the support of the Board and I can assure you I am cognizant of the times we are in and the critical nature of the work,” said Commissioner Stewart. “I’ve spent 32 years in public education and I remain fully committed to the students of Florida. This is the time to look forward and get this critical work right for our students.”

Blast Back To School STEM Event at NASA 2013

"I am excited to be speaking to the future in this room today"

Dorina Sackman “I am excited to be speaking to the future in this room today”

"You can achieve your dreams"

Dorina Sackman, 2014 TOY “You can achieve your dreams”

Dorina Sackman in front of the American Flag; part of the International Space Station exhibit.

Dorina Sackman in front of the American Flag; part of the International Space Station exhibit.

A NASA official speaks to students from Edgewood JR/SR High School.

Hortence Diggs A NASA official speaks to students from Edgewood JR/SR High School.

Listening closely to the wonderful words of encouragement and motivation from the NASA speakers.

Edgewood 8th grade Students Listening closely to the wonderful words of encouragement and motivation from the NASA speakers.

Accountant, Maria Bland;  Merritt Island Park Ranger, Nancy Corona; Launch Engineer, Jeff Lelko. Chemical Engineer, Jonathan Partridge; Psychologist, Lisa Stephany.

NASA Career Panel Accountant, Maria Bland; Merritt Island Park Ranger, Nancy Corona; Launch Engineer, Jeff Lelko. Chemical Engineer, Jonathan Partridge; Psychologist, Lisa Stephany.

NASA Career Panel

He has flown in three shuttle missions.

Astronaut Fred Gregory He has flown in three shuttle missions.

"Every time I got bored with what I was doing I changed jobs.  Never stop achieving."

Fred Gregory “Every time I got bored with what I was doing I changed jobs. Never stop achieving.”

The panel answered questions from the audience.

The panel answered questions from the audience.

Rocket Garden Scavenger Hunt

Students participated in a Living In Spsace Workshop, took a tour of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, worked in a Rocketry Lab, and went on a Rocket Garden Scavenger Hunt.

Students participated in a Living In Space Workshop, took a tour of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, worked in a Rocketry Lab, and went on a Rocket Garden Scavenger Hunt.

FDOE’s Single Sign-On Project

Todd Clark photo

By Todd Clark, FDOE’s Director of Race to the Top Assessments

What is Single Sign-On?

How many times have you had to click a “Forgot Password” link on a website? As the number of online services and resources grows, more and more people have to come up with ways to remember more and more login credentials. At the Florida Department of Education, we’re looking for ways to make access to our services more efficient and user-friendly.

As part of Florida’s Race to the Top grant award, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) has developed a simpler way for Florida educators to be able to access statewide resources requiring login credentials – a single sign-on! The FDOE Single Sign-On project (FDOE SSO) not only allows users to reach several resources with one set of credentials, it also provides a central place for district administrators to set the roles and access levels for its users.

The solution is designed to be scalable, so that additional applications can be added over time – and that will be the real power of the solution. Educators will have the ability to access even more resources without having to remember additional passwords.

The first six integrated statewide resources are:

• Florida School Leaders

• eIPEP (electronic Institutional Program Evaluation Plans)

• CPALMS (Collaborate Plan Align Learn Motivate Share)

• Florida Interim Assessment Item Bank and Test Platform (IBTP)

• Progress Monitoring Reading Network (PMRN)

• English Language Arts Formative Assessment System

How Does Single Sign-On Work?

As the Department began working with school districts to determine how to implement the project, representatives from districts recommended that the state’s solution provide two options for districts – a “federated” solution and a “hosted” solution. Districts that select the federated solution will establish a trust relationship between their district’s network and the FLDOE SSO system. This will allow district users to access both their district system and the state’s resources, all with the same login credentials.

Districts that select the hosted solution will set up accounts for their users with login credentials that are issued by FLDOE. These credentials will be different from the credentials that educators will use to access their local instructional information systems, but will still allow one set of credentials to get to several statewide resources.

In both cases, federated and hosted solutions, district administrators will determine who will have active accounts and the permissions for each user in their district. The advantage of having one central place to designate active accounts and to set user permissions is that it prevents the need to set up accounts and permissions for multiple resources in different places. It also provides one site for adding and removing account access.

Do I Have Access?

FDOE is working with school districts to integrate them into the state’s SSO solution by the end of the year. District administrators will advise staff when groups are activated and provide instructions of how to access FLDOE SSO.

As of August 20, 2013, school districts with SSO access are:

Hosted          Federated

Alachua        Brevard
Bay                Charlotte
Citrus            Escambia
Columbia     Hillsborough
DeSoto          Polk
Dixie              Santa Rosa
Duval             Seminole
Flagler           St. Lucie

What’s next?

This project is just getting started. Additional school districts are being added each week. We expect the transition to single sign-on to provide easy and secure access for Florida educators. We appreciate your patience and your feedback as we work through the integration process.

More information is available online at this site:

You may also send questions and comments to this e-mail address:

Guest Post from Dorina Sackman, FL 2014 Teacher of the Year

I recently moved into a new house. It is in a quiet neighborhood consisting of homes with lawns and landscaping so perfectly manicured, it almost looks as if they are painted onto the properties. Being the new kid on the block, I know I have a lot of work to do on my not-so-lovely land but I live by the phrase “incremental is monumental”. Therefore, I am sure my curious neighbors are appreciative of my weekend green-thumbed attempts to emulate their HGTV “after photo” homes. From my efforts, folks politely began introducing themselves, welcoming me into “their” neighborhood. However, each family that came by with their genuine salutations also came with inquiring minds that always asked the same, shall I say…forward questions, “How can you stand living in this house with the backyard being an elementary school? I mean, doesn’t that drive you crazy hearing those kids screaming and yelling every day?” “Those loud buzzers going off every hour?” “That old air conditioner going on and off like a train passing through?” “And those teachers? Ugh! Those teachers and their voices belting out ‘Jimmy?! Sarah? Talisha!?’ Ugh!” “What about those custodians yelling to each other on radios and walkie talkies in Spanish… or whatever language they speak?” And how can you stand that all of it goes on until 5 o’clock when day care is over?!” “How do you stand it, Dorina?” Before I knew it, a group of my new neighbors, standing with dogs on leashes and kids in strollers on my freshly weeded walkway engaged in a “Complaint Fest” of the noise pollution that is…a public elementary school.

It is a school that is directly behind my home, where, when sitting outside on the screened in patio, I can see the gridded orange roofs of the building meshing with the lush, green Florida plant life. Every morning, with the bright sun as my visual alarm clock through my bare window, I wake up and go outside with my cat and coffee. We sit and watch the dew glisten on top of the screened in porch like our own Swarovski display as each drop slowly falls into the pool. It is picturesque and I need no music for this morning ritual. This is because I am a teacher. The very things about which my new friends are complaining are the familiar and comforting melodies a teacher hears every So as their dialogue continued, my thoughts about where I live surrounded me, muting their negativity and making me smile contently.

My backyard is an elementary school where the sounds of children laughing, talking, giggling is not only a symphony in a teacher’s ears but the very sound that fuels their energy to continue to do what educators do so well. The buzzers are a teacher’s queues to ensure our children are being taught every subject in a fun, orderly, and timely manner. The air conditioner is like a soothing fan at night, relaxing sound ensuring teachers that they (and their colleagues way over in those portables) have electricity and cool air blowing in their second homes…their classrooms. The teachers “screaming” students’ names are safety nets and life jackets that let me know children are being accounted for, cared for, protected and loved. The custodial staff, in their melodious Spanish or any other beautiful language is the duets or quartets of individuals holding down the fort, without whom, that noisy a/c would be working or those gates locked and secured so our children are safe. And this continuous song, on repeat until 5 pm or even longer, is the reassurance that children are not alone, rather, in the best hands…a teacher’s hands, whilst their parents are hard at work making sure they have the means to provide for their children. It is all the pieces, the instruments, the melodies and the players that make up this incredible sound I call, education.

I am quickly drawn back to my freshly weeded walkway, and my positive thoughts interrupted by, “So, Dorina? Tell us. How DO you live behind an elementary school?” I smiled, took off my gardening gloves, wiped my brow of the sweat and dirt symbolizing my successful Saturday morning of my landscaping efforts, and said, “I have had the honor of being selected as Florida’s State Teacher of the Year. This year I will not be in a classroom educating our Florida children. When not travelling around the state as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador to Education, I will be working from my home office, the back room of my house that faces the school, the orange roof, and the a/c unit. To me, all of which you complained about is my connection to my heart and soul, my happiness, what I love the most in this world besides chocolate and my family…being a teacher.

So, my new friends, I CHOSE this house for its exact location. I hope one morning you will have coffee with me in my backyard, see the sun through the Florida trees and orange roof of the school, see the crystals on my screen, and hear the beautiful sounds through the heart and ears of a teacher. After all, the music we hear every day lives in our hearts …right there with our students.
Have a great year, everyone! May you enjoy the everyday melodies of being a teacher and B.E.L.I.E.V.E.