Polk State College has received a 2019 Innovation of the Year Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College for Establishing Leaders in Teacher Education (ELITE) – a program that is jumpstarting careers in the classroom to fill local workforce needs in partnership with Polk County Public Schools.
The League’s Innovation of the Year Award honors innovations that are capstone achievements in implementing programs, practices, partnerships, policies, and activities that improve an institution’s ability to serve students and the community. Award recipients will be recognized at the 2020 Innovations Conference in Seattle from March 1 to March 4.
“Polk State’s ELITE Program continues to receive national attention for its innovative approach to filling a local workforce need and I hope that it inspires similar partnerships between state colleges and local employers to meet the needs of their communities,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “We are honored to receive this award from the League, which highlights the hard work of our faculty, staff, and partners who have made this opportunity possible for our students.”
“We are very proud of our partnership with Polk State and the ELITE Program, but most of all, the steps the School District and the College took together to continue ensuring high-quality public education for Polk County.”
Polk County Public Schools
Polk State partnered with Polk County Public Schools to launch ELITE in August 2018, creating a seamless pathway from high school, to college, to employment for aspiring educators.
The need for qualified educators continues to grow locally, statewide, and across the country. Polk County Public Schools, the county’s largest employer, started classes in August 2018 with nearly 100 teacher vacancies.
“Polk County Public Schools, like school districts across the nation, faces an ongoing teacher shortage. We decided the solution was right here, in our community,” Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said. “We are very proud of our partnership with Polk State and the ELITE Program, but most of all, the steps the School District and the College took together to continue ensuring high-quality public education for Polk County.”
As Polk County’s only public postsecondary institution offering state-approved teacher education preparation programs, it was critical for Polk State to partner with the School District to create a workforce pipeline of quality teacher candidates to lead local classrooms.
“Congratulations to Polk State on receiving an Innovation of the Year Award for implementing this innovative way to support individuals who want to become teachers by providing an efficient pathway to careers in the classroom and helping to address teacher shortages within the community,” said League for Innovation President and CEO Rufus Glasper.
Students from Bartow, Haines City, and Ridge Community high schools make up the first ELITE cohort who started the program this school year. Students will complete teacher preparation courses and Polk State Associate in Arts degrees through dual enrollment and early admission at no cost to them.
They will then transition into Polk State’s Education baccalaureate degree program, putting them on an affordable fast track to completing bachelor’s degrees and Florida teacher certification. ELITE focuses on rigorous coursework and multiple field experiences to ensure that the partnership creates quality teachers.
ELITE graduates will be immediately eligible for employment with Polk County Public Schools.
ELITE has already seen great success, receiving the Chancellor’s Best Practice Award and national attention from CBS This Morning, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), and the Lumina Foundation.
“I am grateful to everyone involved in the ELITE Program for bringing this innovative concept to life,” Falconetti said. “With the quality of our programs and our graduates, we are positive that we will create successful leaders for our local classrooms.”
“Congratulations to Polk State on receiving an Innovation of the Year Award for implementing this innovative way to support individuals who want to become teachers by providing an efficient pathway to careers in the classroom and helping to address teacher shortages within the community.”
League for Innovation
President & CEO
About Polk State College
Located in Winter Haven, Florida, and established in 1964, Polk State College is a multi-campus institution serving more than 16,000 students with Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Science, Associate in Arts, and Associate in Science degrees, as well as a wide range of certificate and workforce training options. The College also operates three charter high schools.
Polk State’s advantages include small class sizes; hands-on learning; dedicated faculty; day and night classes; online options; affordable tuition; excellent financial aid; and a diverse community and vibrant student life, including fine arts opportunities, clubs, and intercollegiate athletics.
About the League for Innovation in the Community College
The League for Innovation in the Community College (League) is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to cultivate innovation in the community college environment. The League hosts conferences and institutes, develops print and digital resources, and leads projects and initiatives with almost 500 member colleges, 100 corporate partners, and a host of other government and nonprofit agencies in a continuing effort to advance the community college field and make a positive difference for students and communities. Information about the League and its activities is available at www.league.org.