Florida’s Commissioner of Education visits Stavros Center

Greeting Pam Stewart: Left to Right: Vasti Torres, Dick Puglisi, Pam Stewart, Tracee NorrisFlorida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart stopped by the Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education to discuss issues facing educators across the state. Stewart was in Tampa to surprise Diane McKee, a teacher from Williams Middle Magnet School, with the news she's a Teacher of the Year finalist.

Stewart took time from her busy schedule to talk about education in Florida and answer a few questions from the Stavros Center Advisory Board. She talked about the improvement in Florida's education ranking, the increase in per-student spending and the rapid growth of STEM programs in the state. In the last 5 years, participation in STEM programs in Florida has increased by 47%. Stewart emphasized the importance of STEM education and the opportunities a STEM based education creates.

"We have an influx of STEM jobs and there aren't enough qualified workers to fill the position," said Stewart. "But more than ever, we have kids that are graduating and able to do whatever they want to do. We even have more people passing the AP tests now than were taking them just a few years ago."Pam Stewart Florida's Commissioner of Education speaking to the Stavros Center Advisory BoardStewart was encouraged by the upcoming legislative session that will consider the largest education budget and largest per-student spending amount in state history. She also talked about the sweeping changes to the state's education system and the importance of providing necessary support for schools. "Change is important, change is necessary," said Stewart. "The change in assessment has been a real challenge. What we do to support folks during that change is very, very important."

Stewart praised the USF College of Education for its hands on programs that prepares students for the classroom with real-life on the job experiences as part of their studies. It was also a bit of a homecoming for Stewart, she's a USF College of Education alum and got her start as an elementary school teacher in Hillsborough County. One of Stewart's former professors, Dr. Dick Puglisi, also serves as the director of the Stavros Center.

"I am so proud of Pam Stewart. She was a wonderful student; smart, assertive and committed to becoming an excellent teacher" said Puglisi. "I am so pleased that I have had the opportunity to see what a stellar educational leader she has become. "

Keep up with all the latest from Commissioner Stewart as she travels around the state promoting education by following her Commissioner's Blog.