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Helping Children Reach Their God-given Potential

posted on June 30, 2015, under Conference, Education by

Frank Runnelsby Frank Runnels, Vice President
Florida Conference Office of Education

I once attended a lecture highlighting the life of Thomas Edison and his most successful invention, the light bulb. The speaker stressed the value of learning to embrace failures as opportunities and developing perseverance as a talent for success. Also of note, Edison conducted more than 10,000 failed experiments before he achieved his ultimate success.

In reality, Edison never set out to create a light bulb. His purpose was to help people see in the dark, and I ultimately came to view Edison’s success in that purpose as the real triumph. Likewise, the staff of Florida Conference’s Office of Education believes its purpose goes far beyond the oversight and management of an education system. Instead, it is grounded in a belief that “every child has the right to reach their God-given potential,” which has become our department’s motto. This conviction fuels our passion, drives our mission, and motivates us to be and to do. It is best realized in our commitment to grow teachers, nurture students, support educators, and live Christ’s love.

Jeremy Davis, literacy teacher at Sawgrass Adventist School in Plantation, participated in this summer’s Reader’s Workshop. The training event incorporated student volunteers including Maggie Dehlinger, a third-grader from Forest Lake Education Center in Longwood. (Photo: Luke Evans)

Jeremy Davis, literacy teacher at Sawgrass Adventist School in Plantation, participated in this summer’s Reader’s Workshop. The training event incorporated student volunteers including Maggie Dehlinger, a third-grader from Forest Lake Education Center in Longwood. (Photo: Luke Evans)

We intentionally trust God to create a climate where Excellence in Education is again defined by the greatness of the One who is with us, in us, and for us. The outgrowths of this paradigm challenges students through a wealth of talented teachers, cutting-edge strategies, and meaningful content. We strive to produce learners who have truly been with and experienced Jesus (Acts 4:13). This, in turn, will produce an enduring culture where Christ is vividly portrayed as the Master Teacher and the One who is ever lovely, powerful, and present.

As a result, our moral imperative is to “value others the way our Heavenly Father values us.” A value not only grasped through curriculum, professional development, and initiatives, but that which also must be lived daily within the context of purposeful interactions and interpersonal relationships.

First seen within our education system, this value must then be extended into the communities where our schools exist. While we are grateful for the unparalleled support we receive from our Conference leadership, pastors, churches, hospitals, and constituents, we rejoice and praise God all the more for what He is doing through the lives of our colleagues who are helping students make decisions to follow Jesus. They tirelessly guide future leaders to understand and accept the sufferings with Christ to be of greater value than anything this world can offer (Hebrews 11:24-25).

That, to me, is the Gospel in education, and that purpose will invigorate and sustain us. The good news is that Christ is all, and He is with us! He is seen throughout our system—specifically in our students who will take His message to the world through academic prowess and purpose-driven careers.

I encourage your support, prayer, and commitment of your lives to these children who God will bless and use to light up this world with His glory. Please covenant with us in this journey to create a culture of innovation, character development, collaboration, civic mindedness, and academic, spiritual, and social excellence. This will uplift Christ while exposing the enemy for who he really is in this world—a liar and the defeated one!

The current issue of Florida Focus contains incredible stories occurring within our education system. These stories will also be available through the Florida Conference news feed. While I trust you will be inspired by new buildings, projects, committed leaders, and possibilities for the future, I hope most of all you see the imprints of our Savior Jesus Christ, our founder, foundation, and our all and all.

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Indigo Christian Academy Opens CREATION Hideout

posted on June 30, 2015, under Education by

by Stacey Tol

Indigo Christian Academy Principal Kari Wasmer and students Mariah Deavers, Quentin Fender, and Moses Silveira cut the ribbon that opened the new CREATION Hideout playground. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Indigo Christian Academy Principal Kari Wasmer and students Mariah Deavers, Quentin Fender, and Moses Silveira cut the ribbon that opened the new CREATION Hideout playground. (Photo: Martin Butler)

As the newly-cut red ribbon floated to the ground on April 20, CREATION Hideout, a new play area at Indigo Christian Academy (ICA) in Daytona Beach, officially opened for business.

CREATION Hideout is aptly named. The nature-inspired play area occupies a shady spot in the school’s woods and was made possible by a Florida Hospital grant designated for projects inspired by CREATION Health. This concept is developed and used by Florida Hospital to educate people on eight key components of health and wellness:

Choice
Rest
Environment
Activity
Trust
Interpersonal relationships
Outlook
Nutrition

Calina Gibbs and her Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students stop for a photo at the CREATION Hideout playground. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Calina Gibbs and her Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students stop for a photo at the CREATION Hideout playground. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Four years ago, ICA staff, led by Principal Kari Wasmer, worked with Florida Hospital and Florida Conference to interweave an emphasis of health and wellness into the school curriculum, culture, policy, and very fiber of ICA—becoming the pilot CREATION Health Adventist school.

Two years later, Florida Hospital set aside $1 million for worthy projects that embodied some or all of the CREATION Health principles. Learning of this, Daytona Beach Church Pastor Jerry Wasmer wrote a three-part grant proposal for ICA. The proposed outdoor learning environment included a nature-inspired play area, an outdoor classroom, and raised beds for a vegetable/herb garden.

Florida Hospital approved the project and gave more than $119,000 to fund it. Soon after, preparation and planning for the playground began. Bulldozers thinned the woods and cleared underbrush that surrounded the church and school.

Jerry and ICA Principal Kari Wasmer began working with Playworld Systems to create an original design for the play area. The final version included a small climbing wall, a slide, climbing steps, a bridge, and lots of lookouts and hideouts to feed kids’ imaginations.

The equipment pieces, designed to resemble stones, logs, and foliage, were manufactured in the United States from a polymer that gets neither too cold nor (critically for Florida) too hot to the touch. Two special panels of the playground were cut to match Jerry’s artistic renderings.

Kindergarden through second-grade students enjoy the CREATION Hideout playground’s climbing wall. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Kindergarden through second-grade students enjoy the CREATION Hideout playground’s climbing wall. (Photo: Martin Butler)

In early April, flatbed trucks, bulldozers, and cranes arrived at ICA to turn the planning into a reality. Students and teachers watched with fascination as multi-ton pieces were moved into place. In little more than a week, the work on CREATION Hideout and the outdoor classroom was completed.

With excitement in the air, Kari welcomed those gathered: ICA students, staff, and parents; Florida Conference representatives: Martin Butler, Communication Director, and Sandra Doran, Associate Superintendent of Education; and Daryl Tol, President/CEO of Florida Hospital Volusia/Flagler Market and of Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach. Following Jerry’s prayer of dedication, the ribbon was cut and CREATION Hideout officially opened. In moments, the play area became a happy buzz of activity.

The third part of the project proposal, the vegetable garden, is on the near horizon but not yet complete.

If you find yourself in the Daytona Beach area, take a walk in the woods behind ICA. Have a seat on one of the logs. Breathe in the pine-scented fresh air. Find rest. It will be good for your soul!

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Teachers Leave Legacies After Heartfelt Farewells

posted on June 30, 2015, under Education by

by Candy Bedford

When a study unit on sea life came up in Adele Jennings’ science class, she took her students on a shallow-water wading trip to Charlotte Harbor where nets filled with samples of ocean life drove the lesson home. (Photo: Adele Jennings)

When a study unit on sea life came up in Adele Jennings’ science class, she took her students on a shallow-water wading trip to Charlotte Harbor where nets filled with samples of ocean life drove the lesson home. (Photo: Adele Jennings)

What makes an Adventist school a success today? There are probably several contributing factors, but certainly one of them is the longevity of special teachers.

When new students look forward to a teacher their parents had, it speaks volumes about that teacher’s influence. Such is the case with two of the teachers at Port Charlotte Adventist School (PCAS). Sadly, we are saying farewell to Adele Jennings and Sandee Lawrence.

Adele Jennings

Adele Jennings

Adele Jennings, or Miss J as the students call her, recently finished her 43rd year of teaching. With a great love for God’s second book—nature—her classrooms have enjoyed bird watching around campus, butterfly tents, and raising baby chickens and chipmunks.

“What stands out most are all the blessings God has given me,” says Miss J as she thinks back over the years. “My goal for every child I have taught is that they know Jesus. It is a privilege to give our hearts to Jesus every morning and walk with Him throughout the day.

“What does the future hold for me? I take pictures of wild birds and will be doing more of that. I would love to get involved in giving Bible studies.” Recently at Port Charlotte Church, Miss J and her class of Kindergartners used sign language as they recited Psalm 91 from memory.

Sandee Lawrence

Sandee Lawrence

Sandee Lawrence is no stranger to Florida Conference. Born in Minnesota, her family moved to Florida where she graduated from Forest Lake Academy in 1966. After teaching assignments in other areas, she permanently moved to Port Charlotte in 1986 and began her legacy at PCAS, often managing multi-grade classrooms. Sandee has also held the position of vice principal over the years and acting principal in the absence of an administrator.

Outside of school, Sandee was involved with Liberty Voices from Walt Disney World and has made several professional CDs. She is also active in Port Charlotte Church’s music ministry. After retirement and 45 years of shaping young minds, she plans to pursue other activities such as traveling, community volunteer work, more music, and lots of reading.

“Even though you may be leaving us at Port Charlotte, Sandee and Miss J, you will long be remembered as the spiritual women that you are and for the guidance you freely gave during your careers. It is with heartfelt love and gratitude that we send you off to officially retire, but your legacies will live within our walls for years to come.” —The Staff and Students at PCAS

Randall ClausOn to Oregon!
Randall Claus, fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Port Charlotte Adventist School (PCAS), is currently on a 50-day, 3,900-mile bicycle journey from St. Augustine, Florida, to Medford, Oregon. Inspired by the Sager family’s mid-1800s journey along the Oregon Trail, Randall’s motivation is to meet new and interesting people, get some fresh air and exercise, and, most importantly, raise funds to purchase interactive white boards for PCAS classrooms. Follow Randall’s progress of tales and photos from his journey at http://www.ontooregon.com/

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New Kitchen House Coming to Orlando Junior Academy

posted on June 30, 2015, under Education by

by Ken Langdon, reprinted with permission from Edible Orlando

This artist rendering depicts the 3,000-square-foot Kitchen House and garden planned for Orlando Junior Academy.

This artist rendering depicts the 3,000-square-foot Kitchen House and garden planned for Orlando Junior Academy.

Construction will soon be under way on the new Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden at Orlando Junior Academy (OJA), thanks to generous contributions by the Emeril Lagasse Foundation and Florida Hospital for Children.

Designed in partnership with Midtown Architecture Studio and HuntonBrady Architects, the 3,000-square-foot, environmentally sustainable Kitchen House will be on East King Street, across from the OJA campus.

With a large veranda opening onto a 2,000-square-foot garden, the new facility will include a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen with four cooking stations. The entryway will be a reception area and retail store that will sell products such as jams and pickles made by the students.

The new facility will include a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen with four cooking stations.

The new facility will include a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen with four cooking stations.

Chef Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant in College Park has been the mainstay behind the project since 2011. He will oversee the Kitchen House & Culinary Garden’s teaching and cooking operations along with Sarah Cahill, a certified raw food chef who has worked with Fonzo on the project since its inception.

Fonzo began his work at OJA seven years ago by providing healthy and delicious school lunches to the school’s 200 or so students, which led to the edible schoolyard and a cooking class. He now teaches a full day of classes once a week, incorporating the school’s curriculum into culinary lessons by teaching elements of math and science through food and cooking. His students are involved in each step of the process, from planting to harvest, and then cooking the foods they grow, including practical hands-on culinary experience.

OJA’s new Kitchen House & Culinary Garden is expected to open Spring 2016.

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The Joys of Teaching in a Small School

posted on June 30, 2015, under Education by

by Sandra Doran with Nancy Pinter

Naples, Florida, is known around the world for its warm, sunny beaches, high fashion, and yachts anchored in watery avenues behind spacious homes. But its greatest treasure is found not along the pristine shoreline or in the upscale shopping area, but on a quiet street on the west end of town: Naples Adventist Christian School. One day after school, I spoke with Nancy Pinter who was then the upper-grades teacher, and she told me about the joys of teaching in a small school.

Sandra Doran: Did you always want to become a teacher? Tell me a little bit about your background.

Nancy Pinter: I had a very troubled childhood. At the large public schools I attended, I felt invisible. I never thought the teachers cared or noticed the bad things happening in my life. Somehow, I found my way into Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University) and began studying to be a doctor. Through the love and support of some wonderful Christian people, God came to me in a very powerful way, and I began to wonder, “What do I do with all this? What do you want for my life, God?”

SD: Up to this point, you had never even thought about becoming a teacher?

NP: No. Never. But over spring break, I visited my sister who was teaching school. Suddenly, I felt as if all of heaven was singing. It was almost like a giant light bulb was turned on above my head. I remember thinking, “So this is what it was all for.” I changed my major to education and have been teaching for many years. I can honestly say that I have never had a bad year of teaching. Even when I’ve been warned that I was going to have a bad class, it has never happened. I have loved every single teaching experience I have ever had. It’s just amazing. I still pinch myself and think, “I get paid for this? This is my job?”

SD: Wow! That’s incredible! You must truly love children.

NP: I thrive on the energy of kids. I have my best ideas when they are with me. I love to have kids after school with me. I can stay focused better with kids around. Their very presence stimulates me.

SD: And you feel that energy and connectedness more keenly when you are teaching in a small school?

NP: Most definitely. When I began my career in Pennsylvania, I was offered a position at the local Adventist school teaching two grades. Instead, I chose to commute 60 miles each way with a four-year-old and seven-year-old so my children could have a one-room school experience. My own kids are nontraditional, and I didn’t want them in a traditional environment. I’ve never regretted that decision. This was the absolute best thing I could have done for them. And in terms of my own career, I learned to love everything that a small school has to offer.

SD: Have you ever taught in a large school?

NP: Yes, and I quickly discovered it wasn’t for me. There’s this glamour thing about wanting to be in a big school. I fell prey to that like anybody else. I ended up with 75 sixth graders, and I was dying under the workload. I taught reading, but I never had the chance to figure out most of their reading levels. With the departmentalized model, I was just moving kids in and out of the room all day. The schedule drove everything. I would plan all these things I wanted to do, but I could never do them. There were so many things happening every day that were out of my control. In a one-room school, I always feel like I am the one who is accountable. I know I will have these kids again next year. There is no putting off what they need.

SD: So the small school setting offers you the chance to run your own show, and plan a flexible schedule that meets the needs of the kids?

NP: Yes, definitely. Let me tell you about a boy I had in my room one year. Before joining my eighth-grade class in January, he spent the first semester in reform school, having faced suspension after suspension and, ultimately, arrest. He was stuck in a cycle, unable to break the patterns of his life. When he was released from reform school, his family asked if I would accept him into my classroom. From the day he came here, I could never even imagine that this kid was in any trouble. The small school setting allowed me the luxury of getting to know him; I was able to treat him like a person worthy of respect, and he returned the favor. I’ve discovered something: the kids who have never had goodness shown to them are the ones who treat you the best. It’s like they are basking in something they’ve never known before.

SD: The old patterns are gone?

NP: Yes. He had a parole officer here once a month to check on him. The boy was in eighth grade, and he didn’t know how to subtract. Where else but a place like this is he going to be able to stay after school and get help? He didn’t have to deal with what he had to deal with before. There was no one to impress. It was a small school, and we were there for one another.

SD: That’s another thing you like about small schools? The lack of pressure to conform?

NP: That’s one of the things on my list! (See sidebar, below.)

SD: Do you think you’ll spend the rest of your career in the classroom?

NP: I’ve been encouraged to go into administration. I’m not interested. All I want to do is hang out with kids. I want to hear what they think. Kids are always going to be kids. I’m not naïve enough to think I can change that. I’ve scaled down my expectations. I used to think I would go out and change the world. That’s God’s thing. But you know what? I can change a kid’s day. I can provide an emotionally safe place for students. As an adult, I can take the time to hear what young people have to say. That is good enough for me.

Reprinted with permission, The Journal of Adventist Education,® v77n3 (2015), pp. 12-14

Sandra Doran, Ed.D., is an Associate Superintendent of Education at Florida Conference. She has taught on every level from preschool through graduate school and provides training and resources for teachers around the country.

Sandra Doran, Ed.D., is an Associate Superintendent of Education at Florida Conference. She has taught on every level from preschool through graduate school and provides training and resources for teachers around the country.

Nancy Pinter, B.S., recently completed 30 years of teaching. She has taught every grade from kindergarten through high school. Teaching math to struggling students is her passion, and she has completed master’s level courses in teaching algebraic principles to elementary students. In June 2014, she relocated to teach at Harrisburg Adventist School in Pennsylvania.

Nancy Pinter, B.S., recently completed 30 years of teaching. She has taught every grade from kindergarten through high school. Teaching math to struggling students is her passion, and she has completed master’s level courses in teaching algebraic principles to elementary students. In June 2014, she relocated to teach at Harrisburg Adventist School in Pennsylvania.

Nancy’s Top 10 Reasons to Love Small Schools

  1. I can begin a school year and not take three weeks getting to know my students’ math, reading, and writing levels.
  2. Students learn to take care of themselves. I make it a rule to never do for them what they can do for themselves—and with only 10 students, tasks can get done in an efficient and timely manner.
  3. Children are like gas molecules—they fill whatever “container” they are in. I am fascinated how a classroom of 10 can feel like a classroom of 25. In a small school, children can express themselves more freely. Those who sat in a corner and never asked questions in a large classroom often will chatter away about themselves in a small one.
  4. I get to teach many subjects. Some people love to just teach one subject. Not me. By teaching science, math, literacy, Bible, and social studies, I stay fresh and interested.
  5. I know the names of every one of my students’ parents, their dogs, cats, birds, siblings, and what they got for Christmas.
  6. Students learn more real-life people skills. Do you only socialize with people who are your own age? In a small school, students learn to live with people older and younger than themselves.
  7. Students learn to work out their differences. In a larger classroom when my students had fights, they just moved on to another group. In a small school, you don’t have another group to go to, so you work it out.
  8. Students feel less of a need to be cool. After all, when there are only three seventh- and eighth-graders, who are you trying to impress? Many young people turn their lives around in a small school. It is a wonderful place to grow up slowly.
  9. I can grade every math problem and read every sentence my students write. In everything students do, there is a message: this is who I am, this is what I care about. I don’t miss any of those revelations.
  10. You are not a slave to someone else’s schedule. If you and your class think math is better in the afternoon for that day, you can do it!
  11. Okay, I couldn’t stop at 10! One-on-one time has to be the greatest reason. Most teachers don’t teach because of curriculum and methods; they teach because of children. A small school is the best place to get to know, teach, mold, mentor, and love children.
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Deltona Adventist School Hosts Health Fair

posted on April 20, 2015, under Education by

by Michelle Velbis

Fourth-grader Luke Velbis (left) and third-grader Gabriel Johnson served as greeters at the first annual Deltona Adventist School Kids Care Health Fair. (Photo: Michelle Velbis)

Fourth-grader Luke Velbis (left) and third-grader Gabriel Johnson served as greeters at the first annual Deltona Adventist School Kids Care Health Fair. (Photo: Michelle Velbis)

“It was exciting to have this opportunity,” said Deltona Adventist School fifth-grader Samantha Medina, referring to the Kids Care Health Fair hosted March 15 by third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. “Usually adults would do something like this. It made me feel like I can do even more things than I thought I was capable of.”

In the classroom, I teach my students that, although they are young, they can make a big difference in the world. Since we were learning about health, hosting this event was the perfect time to join these two concepts and make them applicable.

The students were involved every step of the way, from brainstorming the name for the event, to writing phone scripts, making phone calls for donations, making and mailing the flyers, researching and constructing their health exhibits, set up and take down, and writing thank-you letters.

“I learned teamwork,” said fifth-grader Collin Velbis, “by participating in a group, sharing ideas, and working together to accomplish our project and help teach people about health.”

Deltona Adventist School students in grades 3-5 displayed their project exhibits at the Kids Care Health Fair. (Photo: Michelle Velbis)

Deltona Adventist School students in grades 3-5 displayed their project exhibits at the Kids Care Health Fair. (Photo: Michelle Velbis)

In our technology-driven society, personal communication skills are becoming obsolete. “Kids, these days don’t usually want to communicate person to person, especially with adults,” said fifth-grader Joshua Sierra. “We learned how to communicate with adults during this project.”

There were door prizes, healthy food samples and recipes, a Florida Hospital Fish Memorial representative with handouts and goodie bags, a nurse practitioner conducting blood pressure screenings, and exhibits with hands-on activities and research by the students.

“It felt really good to do this health fair,” said fourth-grader Satrese Franklin. “A lot of kids don’t get an opportunity like this, and I am thankful.”

“All the activities were geared toward creating a learning environment for the students,” said Principal Manny Barajas. “They planned the activities and provided opportunities that promoted a healthy mind, body, and lifestyle.”

“The students took their jobs very seriously,” commented attendee Gizelle Best. “They stayed by their stations the entire time to educate guests about their projects. I was most impressed by the enthusiasm they showed during the entire event.”

The parents also appreciated watching their children’s excitement about learning. “The Kids Care Health Fair demonstrated our children’s understanding and concern for health-related issues,” said Lizette Sierra, mother to Joshua. “It showed the students that they are never too young to be involved.”

As an added benefit of the fair, the students are now more aware of their health decisions such as diet and exercise. “If you stay healthy, by making good food and exercise choices, your body will reward you,” said fourth-grader José LeGrand.

As a teacher, my best reward from this experience was hearing the students say, “I love science now!”

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Florida Teachers Gain New Skills

posted on August 27, 2014, under Conference, Education by

by Sandra Doran

From left: Eudora Stephens and Brenda Trim (Beryl Wisdom Adventist School in Orlando) and Grant Iverson (Walker Memorial Academy in Avon Park) participate in Florida Conference’s first-ever iPad training event held this summer. (Photo: Richard Howard)

From left: Eudora Stephens and Brenda Trim (Beryl Wisdom Adventist School in Orlando) and Grant Iverson (Walker Memorial Academy in Avon Park) participate in Florida Conference’s first-ever iPad training event held this summer. (Photo: Richard Howard)

More than a dozen teachers chose to spend one week of their summer vacation at Walker Memorial Academy in Avon Park learning new ways to use technology, according to Frank Runnels, Florida Conference Vice President for Education, who made the experience possible. “These people did not have to be there,” says Runnels. “Our teachers’ enthusiasm and eagerness to learn new things is just incredible.”

Florida Conference’s first-ever iPad training was conducted by veteran science teacher Gordon Davis and his son, Ethan, who holds a degree in Media Communications from Full Sail University in Orlando. “The whole purpose of the course is to help teachers understand three key points,” says Davis. “First, the ultimate evidence of learning is creation. Second, the best assessment is the creative product. And finally, students should be producers rather than consumers.”

With this philosophy as his guiding directive, Davis taught teachers to “mash apps,” combining tools to provide students with exciting avenues for their creative energies. Teachers gained new ways to engage students using popular iPad applications such as Explain Everything, iMovie, Capture, iMotion HD, GarageBand, Pages, and Numbers.

“I can’t wait to put all this into practice in the classroom,” remarked Winter Haven teacher Vicki Turner as she worked on a project alongside others from small and large schools. “My students are going to love it!”

Throughout the week, teachers proudly showcased their own projects, demonstrating that the best way to learn something is to delve in, try it, and then teach it to someone else.

The technology class was just one of four classes offered by the Office of Education this summer. Nearly 50 teachers packed up their own classrooms and put in another week learning iPad skills, gaining Responsive Classroom (Positive School Climate) techniques, shadowing a mentor teacher in Biology Field School, and discovering new Trends in Education.

“In Florida, teacher training is of paramount importance,” says Runnels. In addition to the local training, more than 70 teachers pursued course work this summer on the graduate level.

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Congratulations FLEC Tech Cadets Robotics Team: 2014 National Champions

posted on August 15, 2014, under Education by

The Tech Cadets Robotics Team from Forest Lake Education Center became the 2014 Adventist Robotics League National Champions at Sacramento Adventist Academy, California. Front row from left: Valex Evans; Kassiene Cossia; Michael Scribner. Back row from left: Robert Henley, parent sponsor; Joshua Lower; Christopher Berger; Jason Morgan; Alyssia Sampson; Andrew Otanes; Rosalee Taylor, teacher sponsor. (Photo: Jessica Lower)

The Tech Cadets Robotics Team from Forest Lake Education Center became the 2014 Adventist Robotics League National Champions at Sacramento Adventist Academy, California. Front row from left: Valex Evans; Kassiene Cossia; Michael Scribner. Back row from left: Robert Henley, parent sponsor; Joshua Lower; Christopher Berger; Jason Morgan; Alyssia Sampson; Andrew Otanes; Rosalee Taylor, teacher sponsor. (Photo: Jessica Lower)

by Rosalee Taylor

Forest Lake Education Center (FLEC) Tech Cadets Robotics Team became the 2014 Adventist Robotics League National Champions at the annual competition at Sacramento Adventist Academy in California. The Tech Cadets achieved this award by winning first place honors in three categories: Robot Performance, Robot Design, and Team Core Values. They also won second place in the Team Project category.

“FLEC Robotics is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiative designed to celebrate invention and knowledge,” says parent sponsor Robert Henley. “Students work together to design, build, and program robots using Lego Mindstorms kits.”

The Tech Cadets research project developed a device they named Sparky to perform a series of tasks:

An Adventist Robotics League judge reviews the performance of Forest Lake Education Center’s Tech Cadets Robotics Team. (Photo: Edwin Garcia)

An Adventist Robotics League judge reviews the performance of Forest Lake Education Center’s Tech Cadets Robotics Team. (Photo: Edwin Garcia)

  • Detect wild fires.
  • Send a text message to homeowners.
  • Call the fire department at a homeowner’s request.
  • Set off a sprinkler system installed around the property perimeter.

With expressed interest in Sparky, Tech Cadets next goal is to apply for a patent. Several firefighters who saw a demonstration of Sparky indicated they would be interested in purchasing such a product.

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MagaBook Students Launch Miami Initiative

posted on March 21, 2014, under Conference, Education by

by Les McCoy

Year-end MagaBook team members with coordinator Les McCoy, center. (Photo: Joe Holloway)

Year-end MagaBook team members with coordinator Les McCoy, center. (Photo: Joe Holloway)

The 2013 year-end school break yielded another stellar job by Florida Conference’s student MagaBook team. Two of the program’s four leaders, Anwar Bowes and Fabian Dzul, led 24 students who solicited $36,000 in donations with $25,000 allotted for scholarships.

The students contacted 40,000 people in the Miami area and were the first part of Florida Conference’s Mission to the Cities initiative. They distributed more than 2,800 books and gathered 50 Bible study interests.

The young people, mostly college students from six universities, shared many experiences. One student, Luis Ramos, saved a family’s house from burning down. People were fighting the fire with buckets of water, but when Luis silently prayed, “Lord, please put this fire out,” it was immediately extinguished. The family told Luis that his visit saved their home.

First-time canvasser Joalicia Lopez, with many tears, was ready to leave the program after her first day. One of the first individuals she approached was extremely rude to her. After prayers and encouragement from her leaders and fellow students, she stayed. With God’s help, Joalicia was one of the top students in this winter’s program.

The MagaBook program especially thanks Miami Temple Church Pastor David Monsalve and the members for their kindness in hosting the students during the year-end canvassing program.

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Tampa Adventist Academy Teacher Honored

posted on September 13, 2013, under Education by

by Garla Johnson

Florida Governor Rick Scott presented a Shine Award to Tampa Adventist Academy Vice Principal Merili Wyatte. The award recognizes teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty in pursuit of educational excellence. (Photo: Meredith Hall)

Florida Governor Rick Scott presented a Shine Award to Tampa Adventist Academy Vice Principal Merili Wyatte. The award recognizes teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty in pursuit of educational excellence. (Photo: Meredith Hall)

Merili Wyatte, vice principal, kindergarten teacher, and special needs coordinator at Tampa Adventist Academy (TAA), was presented the Shine Award at a recognition ceremony held August 6 during Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Cabinet Meeting. The award was created by the Governor to highlight teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty in pursuit of educational excellence.

“I am very proud that Merili Wyatte was the recipient of this prestigious award,” says Glen Baker, TAA principal. “Mrs. Wyatte epitomizes the very best of Adventist education in the classroom where her love for children, commitment to excellence, and caring Christian example touch the lives of many students each day.”

Carol Thomas, Ph.D., from the Step Up For Students Program in Tampa, nominated Wyatte for the Shine Award because of her outstanding commitment to elevating the educational experience for each and every child.

Wyatte has taught at Tampa Adventist Academy for 13 years with a total of 17 years in education.

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