2022 Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship Awarded to Middle School Teachers


Two outstanding public school teachers are about to begin the professional learning experiences of their careers as the latest teachers to be awarded the Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship.

Stephanie Montoya, a 31-year science teacher who has taught at Lavilla School of the Arts for 21 years, will be embarking on the trip of a lifetime to bring science and civic engagement to life for her students.

Montoya will be joining the Earthwatch Institute where she will be working alongside scientists doing environmental research. Along the way, she will be sharing her experiences with her students and will engage them in local conservation efforts.

“I’m eager to get my students involved in it,” said Montoya. “That is one of the things I’ve done in the past is try to get the kids excited about science and excited about the real world and working in science.” 

Scott Fretz, an 18-year teacher at Duncan Fletcher Middle School, will also be studying conservation efforts – as well as history -  when he travels to Badlands National Park in South Dakota, thanks to the Edelman Fellowship.  “It’s one thing to learn something in training or from a book, but when you go on a field trip, that’s where that deep-level learning takes place,” said Fretz. “That’s what this is all about – taking that deep-level learning and sharing it with students.”


These learning experiences are made possible by philanthropists Cindy and Dan Edelman, who established a permanent fund at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida to provide professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers in public and charter schools in Duval County. Dan Edelman initiated this fellowship, which will exist in perpetuity, to honor his wife Cindy, an impassioned public education champion. The Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship is intended to identify and reward excellence in teaching and support a program of professional development or research, providing up to $6,500 per teacher or $10,000 per teacher team. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) administers the fellowship in partnership with The Community Foundation. 

Cindy Edelman, a former art history educator who has been deeply involved with JPEF since its inception ten years ago and who chaired its Board of Directors in 2012 and 2013, personally visited the winners in their schools to make the announcement.

“When I was teaching AP Art History, my husband Dan saw how important professional development was to my growth as a teacher. As a result, several years later, he surprised me by creating this fellowship, which recognizes the need for public school teachers in Duval County to have opportunities for professional growth. Key aspects of this opportunity are the professional development it affords teachers and the impact it has on students, the schools and the wider community,” she said. “Having The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund as partners has also added to the high quality of the experience.”

A selection committee comprised of the Edelman family, former teachers and community leaders select the Fellows each year. Past Fellows have planned projects around culturally responsive teaching practices; a Spanish immersion trip to Puerto Rico to better serve English Language Learners in Northwest Jacksonville; studies in young adult literature at the Advanced Placement (AP) Literature Summer Institute in Oxford, England; learning alongside a nationally renowned phonics expert at Columbia University in New York City; and developing equity-conscious teaching practices at the National Center for Urban School Transformation Symposium in San Diego.

Teachers who would like to learn more about the eligibility criteria and consider applying for next year’s fellowships can visit jaxpef.org/edelman.

“JPEF is honored to be part of this incredible opportunity for public school teachers in Duval County to bring their leadership to the next level,” said JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune. “When we invest in teachers, we invest in children and a brighter future for Jacksonville.”

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About the Jacksonville Public Education Fund

 The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is an independent 501(c)(3) organization that is working to close the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color in Duval County. We believe public schools in Duval County have made tremendous progress over the last ten years, but we cannot stop working until every student is prepared for success in college, career and life. Because great people make great schools, we invest in developing and equipping school leaders, teacher leaders and parent leaders with best practices in school quality. For more information: www.jaxpef.org. 

About The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida

The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, Florida’s oldest and largest community foundation, works to stimulate philanthropy to build a better community. The Foundation helps donors invest their philanthropic gifts wisely, helps nonprofits serve the region effectively, and helps people come together to make the community a better place. Now in its 56th year, the Foundation has assets of $482 million and has made approximately $550 million in grants since 1964. For more information: www.jaxcf.org.




of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.