Eleven teachers selected for the inaugural Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship

We're investing in teacher leadership in partnership with The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida.


Eleven outstanding public school teachers are about to begin the professional learning experiences of their careers as the first winners of the Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship.

Two individual teachers and two teaching teams from public schools in Duval County will pursue summer studies to improve their teaching skills and spread their knowledge to other teachers. Projects include 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.

Principal Paula Findley of San Jose Elementary School was thrilled to learn her teachers will travel to San Diego through the fellowship.

“I’m so proud of my teachers for being resourceful to extend their learning beyond our campus. Teacher collaboration is an essential element for quality instruction and increased opportunities for improvement. These four teachers began with a book study to dig deep into strategies that will impact student achievement. The level of synergy created from this collegial feedback and analysis of our daily practice has been huge. Equity and access are a key function at San Jose Elementary with our large, diverse population. Our vision is that all students can learn. No child will be left behind. No exceptions. No excuses. I am excited for our team to bring back strategies that will enhance our way of work to empower our students to be little readers that become future leaders.”

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 several of the winners in their schools this week.

“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. We were beyond thrilled with the quality of applications, both individual and team, that we received this inaugural year, and look forward to staying in touch with the winners. They all have planned exciting journeys outside of Jacksonville to strengthen their teaching skills and to become stronger teacher leaders within their school communities. We could not have been happier with their responses upon learning of their selection and know that they will share their learnings with the greater community. 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 selected the four projects out of more than 20 applications. 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.”

About the fellows



Denisha Campbell is a third-year speech pathologist who works across three Title I schools in Northwest Jacksonville: Pine Estates Elementary, North Shore Elementary and Brentwood Elementary. To address a growing need she sees in the district, Ms. Campbell will be taking an immersive expedition to Puerto Rico so that she can better serve the needs of English as a Second Language (ESL) students in her schools. Ms. Campbell’s immersion in a Spanish speaking environment will be complete, including enrolling in a school that specializes in teaching Spanish, working with teachers at the school, and staying with a host family that will expose her to the culture of the island and help build a cultural competency that will help her better serve her students in Jacksonville. Ms. Campbell will also approach this project with an eye on documenting the experience in a way that can be shared with her colleagues in her schools and across the district as an in-service that focuses on cognition, culture and bilingualism.

Denise Harbin is an English Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts with 33 years of classroom experience. She recognizes that to best meet the needs of her current students she needs to think outside of the box. As a bridge-builder, Ms. Harbin recognizes that she needs to know how to teach the classical literary canon while also engaging harder to reach students with contemporary Young Adult novels that these students enjoy. To help her build this unique set of skills, Ms. Harbin will cross the Atlantic to attend AP Literature Summer Institute in Oxford, England where she will attend a variety of workshops that will equip her to better lead her students and fellow teachers. This experience will also benefit the entire ELA department as Ms. Harbin has a comprehensive plan to share her learning and experience with her team in a way that will push them to improve their plans to better reach all students.


Chets Creek Elementary teachers Carly Fisher, Debbie Harbour, Michelle Ellis and Julie Witt recognize that their school is changing and that their students have different needs. To that end, the team of teachers designed a project to attend The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Phonics Institute at Columbia University. Lucy Calkins has long been recognized as one of the top experts in reading instruction and her summer institute experience will lead the Chets Creek team in a deep dive into new Units of Study in K-2 Phonics. Further, the Institute is presented in a way that will equip Ms. Morris, Ms. Fisher, Ms. Harbour, Ms. Ellis, and Ms. Witt to lead the 33 K-2 ELA teachers at Chets Creek in comprehensive professional development before the 2020-21 school year.

San Jose Elementary teachers Caran Mullins, Gisell Bacerra, Adrienne Lodico, Jennifer Eavenson and Ali Clark designed a unique project to better serve students in a school that is incredibly diverse by developing an equity-conscious team of teachers at the school. Ms. Mullins, Ms. Bacerra, Ms. Lodico, Ms. Eavenson and Ms. Clark have been working to better understand issues of access and equity this school year, but as their study progressed, they quickly realized that there was not only a lot more to learn but also a great opportunity to share what they learn with their colleagues across their school. To maximize the potential of this fellowship, the San Jose team has designed a comprehensive plan that will take them to the National Center for Urban School Transformation Symposium as well as participating in school site visits, conducting equity audits, and continuing their studies in school-level professional learning communities. This work will ultimately involve the entire faculty of San Jose and will be shared across the district once completed.


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