Lake County Schools is celebrating Ashley Ellixson, the first student to complete the four-year teacher preparatory program at the Tavares High School Teaching Academy.
The academy was launched in 2017-18 in partnership with the University of Central Florida in response to a nationwide teacher shortage that continues to have school districts competing for the best teachers to instruct students. One solution, Lake leaders decided, was to grow their own.
Through the academy, students complete an advanced, hands-on curriculum in preparation for a career in teaching. After high school, they may continue with their post-secondary education at UCF, complete internships in Lake schools and are guaranteed a job interview with the district, where they can start their career in education.
Ellixson will graduate May 27 as the first student to complete the full program. She’s already signed a “promise letter” that also will bear the signature of Superintendent Diane Kornegay, who oversaw the formation of the academy.
“The School Board of Lake County, Florida, promises an opportunity to obtain an instructional position once you become eligible for teacher certification, according to the requirements established by the State of Florida,” the letter reads. It goes on to promise that the district will 1) keep in touch with her from high school commencement through college graduation; 2) provide practicum and student teaching internships if she majors in education, which she plans to do at UCF; 3) provide resume building and mock-interviewing opportunities for her, and 4) will consider part-time or intermittent job opportunities for her.
“This is an exciting moment for Ashley and for our program,” said Bonnie Watkins, a Career and Technical Education teacher who leads the academy at Tavares High School. “We developed the program from an idea and a dream. Now, we are seeing that dream being fulfilled through Ashley. We are going to support her every step of the way, and we look forward to the day when she returns to us to interview for a full-time position. We hope many more will follow in her footsteps.”