Teachers selected for the 2024 Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship

Teachers will use fellowship to bring knowledge to students, colleagues


From Boston to Hawaii to Malta, Duval County educators are crossing the globe to obtain information and develop exciting curriculums for their students, thanks to the Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship. Housed at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida and administered by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF), the fellowship provides opportunities for teachers to develop their own professional learning opportunities that will enhance their classroom teaching and benefit their school community. 

About the Fellows

Mandarin Oaks Elementary School teacher Debbie Scarbrough. Ms. Scarbrough will use the fellowship to attend a ZotArtz event to learn more about providing quality inclusive art for the exceptional education students at Mandarin Oaks. “These students have multiple disabilities ranging from physical, emotional, sensory, developmental and educational,” she said. “I would attend a ZotArtz event where I would be trained on using adaptive art materials. These ZotArtz art tools allow them to be in control of the creative process rather than hand over hand.”

She notes that the tools also help students develop their motor skills, social skills, ability to stay on task, and sensory processing. At Mandarin Oaks Elementary, students of all abilities work on art projects together, and Ms. Scarbrough said this project will show students that everyone can create art. In addition, she plans on sharing what she learns with other art teachers in Duval County.

Marissa Hein and Aida Oliver at Alimacani Elementary School. The teachers are attending a conference in Malta to gain practical, comprehensive knowledge about Universal Design for Learning (UDL)/multi-sensory learning, to create and implement meaningful lessons for ESE students and to provide professional opportunities for other teachers. 

“Working with students, whether it is students with disabilities or general education students, the key to success is problem solving to meet each individual's needs,” the teachers said in their application. “That is why UDL and multi-sensory learning is ideal for all students; it allows teachers to design lessons that are inclusive. This approach encourages teachers to be creative and develop inclusive exercises with various ways for the students to show comprehension of the material.”

Chet’s Creek Elementary teacher Christine Bell. Ms. Bell will host a three-day training seminar for 24 individuals, led by Jessica Fredericks, employee of Polk County School District and official trainer of DRUMBEAT: Building Resilience Through Rhythm, Discovering Relationships Using Beliefs, Emotions, Attitudes and Thoughts to help students and members of the community heal from the effects of trauma. 

She notes that DRUMBEAT DRUMB has consistently produced data showing a 50% reduction in behavioral referrals and a 30% rise in attendance among the students who have participated in the program. 

“My primary goal is to give trauma informed schools an effective tool to help their students heal, and to move the focus away from ineffective punishment and toward building their students into strong leaders in our classrooms, schools, and communities,” she said. 

Titoya Murphy, Jacintha Dasi, and Alicia Hinson of Northwestern Legends Elementary School. The team of teachers will travel to Boston, Mass., to attend the Engineering is Elementary (EIE) professional development program at the Museum of Science to acquire new engineering modules and insights that they will share with colleagues through direct implementation in their classrooms and collaborative discussions. 

A significant part of their fellowship project is the creation and utilization of a survey to measure student engagement in math and science, complemented by video reflections from students to capture their experiences and thoughts on the curriculum. 

In their application, the teachers said, “Our project, centered on the Engineering Is Elementary (EIE) curriculum, will specifically address the needs of our lowest performing students by engaging them in hands-on experiences and fostering an environment of active student discourse. This approach is designed to help these students better conceptualize and understand the problem-solving process, making abstract concepts more tangible and accessible.”

Highlands Elementary School Teacher Kevin Dunbar. Mr. Dunbar plans to leverage his background in library science, media production, and journalism to deepen his expertise in the science of reading to support teachers, enhance literacy scores, and develop engaging, literacy-focused content and programing.

Through the fellowship, he will attend an on-line course offered by the AIM Institute of Learning and Research and the Reading League conference in Charlotte, N.C. and share what he learns with fellow teachers. He also intends to create multimedia content designed to support and enhance literacy development among students.

He noted, ‘My project targets uplifting low-performing students by making learning more engaging, relevant, and closely tied to real-life scenarios, while also improving their access to quality educational resources.”

Edward White High School teacher Lien Amin. Ms. Amin will use the fellowship opportunity to create local STEM immersive experiences, promote diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, and foster long term academic and career goal aspirations for her students.

She said, “According to a 2021 National Science Foundation report only 10% of the STEM workforce were African Americans. Educators must work together to demolish systemic barriers inside and outside the classroom. This fellowship will help me in solving issues regarding exposure and inequitable access to STEM educational spaces for minoritized students as well as fight issues of environmental racism.”

Through the fellowship, she will travel to Hawaii to work with researchers at the Hawai’I Wildlife Fund, where they create new innovative ways to protect plants, animals, corals reefs, and ecosystems. With this experience, she will be able to create immersive experiences for her students to use in local conservation efforts.

About the Fellowship

These learning experiences are made possible by philanthropists Cindy and Dan Edelman, who established a permanent fund at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. The fund provides professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers in public and charter schools in Duval County. Dan Edelman established the fellowship in the name of Cindy Edelman, a former art history educator who has been deeply involved with JPEF and who chaired its Board of Directors in 2012 and 2013. Dan recognized how important professional development was to Cindy. The fellowship focuses on giving public school teachers in Duval County professional growth opportunities.   

A selection committee comprised of the Edelman family, former teachers and community leaders select the Fellows each year. A key component of the Fellowship is the impact the experience will have on students, schools, and the wider community.

“Our selection team is primarily interested in an applicant’s creativity, originality, and the teacher’s intent, including how they will use their learnings to impact their students, fellow teachers and school environment,” said Mrs. Edelman. “We look for transformational applications, those that go beyond the traditional, those that have the power to change a teacher’s practice.  We feel as though this group of awardees exemplify what the fellowship was created to accomplish.”

“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.”

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





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