University of South Florida

College of Education

Tampa | St. Petersburg | Sarasota-Manatee


Presenter during TLA celebration

USF Pasco PDS Network Teacher Leader Academy celebrates fourth cohort of graduates from school-university program

Through a 5-year partnership between USF College of Education and Pasco County Schools, the Professional Development Schools (PDS) Network Teacher Leader Academy (TLA) program graduated their fourth cohort of teacher leaders.

USF College of Education and Pasco County Schools work collaboratively to create a cross-disciplinary approach to preservice and inservice teacher education that leverages the expertise and talents of faculty, graduate students, and PK12 teachers and administrators to impact outcomes for educators and their students. The primary goal of this PDS Network is to transform individual school sites into connected schools that form a network of professional development schools across feeder patterns from elementary, middle, and high schools.

Beginning in 2018, this partnership included 9 schools through 3 feeder patterns (elementary, middle, high schools). Each school identified 2 teachers to participate in TLA. Over the course of the partnership, the network had a total of 54 teachers participate in a customized curriculum that builds teacher leadership capacity while engaging in action research inquiries aligned to their school improvement goals.

“The Teacher Leader Academy gets teachers to interact outside of their classroom”, said Jennifer Jacobs, associate professor. “It’s an opportunity for teachers to make an impact on their grade level, their school and the community.”

TLA is a one-of-a-kind program that takes USF’s Teacher Leadership for Student Learning graduate certificate program and tailors the curriculum directly to teachers participating in the program. Courses are taught by USF professors and school-district leaders in a format that allows for close collaboration, team building, and the discussion of issues teachers face in their schools on a daily basis. The customized program is collaboratively designed with the participating school district in order to develop high-quality teachers through the principles of teacher leadership. “I started TLA with my definition of leadership, which is about empowerment and inspiring others”, said Mari Powers, Dr. John Long Middle School 6th grade teacher. “I still believe this, but through the TLA experience I learned an important aspect of leading is of coaching and creating a shared vision.”

Presentation given at TLA celebration

During the celebratory event, teacher leaders shared their inquiry projects and ways in which the program impacted their personal and professional development. “I found my confidence as a teacher”, said Stephanie Benson, Weightman Middle School 8th grade teacher. “I realized my passion is being in the classroom. Mentoring is important to me and a powerful part of the TLA experience.”

There were several previous graduates of the Pasco and College of Education PDS Network TLA that attended the event. Katelyn MacElroy, instructional coach at Watergrass Elementary and cohort 3 graduate, shared that this program better prepared her for the next step in her career.

In addition, being the program connected her with other educators that made an influence on her learning and development.

Representatives from Pasco County Schools district leadership attended the event to hear the work of the teacher leaders conducted at their school sites. Dr. Monica Ilse, assistant superintendent of high schools and Kim Poe, assistant superintendent of elementary schools both engaged in discussions with the teachers to learn more about their initiatives and how they can share ideas with other schools.

Discussion taking place at TLA celebrationg

The Pasco Education Foundation has been a major contributor and support to the success of this partnership. “If it was not for the foundation, the impact of this program would not have been possible”, said Jennifer Rinck, Ph.D, Director of Community Relations and Engagement.

USF College of Education is engaged with other TLA programs across the local region and continues to have conversations to expand outreach with more school districts. Amy Guzzo, Zephyrhills High School math teacher shared, “This program taught me about leadership, but more importantly, I learned that just one person can make a big impact within a school for students.”

TLA Group Photo

For more information regarding the USF College of Education Teacher Leadership Graduate certificate or Teacher Leader Academy programs, contact Dr. Jennifer Jacobs at

Return to article listing

About the USF College of Education:

As the home for more than 2,200 students and 130 faculty members across three campuses, the University of South Florida College of Education offers state-of-the-art teacher training and collegial graduate studies designed to empower educational leaders. Our college is nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and our educator preparation programs are fully approved by the Florida Department of Education.