Investing in Our Future: The Cindy Edelman Fellowship

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The Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship is administered by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, which Cindy helped found in 2009 as a high-capacity local education fund that conducts research and leads innovative efforts to improve educational outcomes in Duval County. She served on the board of JPEF for a decade, including as its chair.

“When we invest in teachers, we invest in children and a brighter future for Jacksonville.”

Several years ago, Dan Edelman wanted to find a way to honor his wife, Cindy, on a milestone birthday and reached out to The Community Foundation for help. Cindy Edelman is a former teacher, an education champion and a dedicated philanthropist who served as the chair of the board of trustees of The Community Foundation from 2010-2011. She was also the co-chair of the 10-year Quality Education for All Initiative.

“One of our greatest joys at The Community Foundation is to guide donors through the process of creating legacy gifts that are most meaningful to them,” said Nina Waters, President of The Community Foundation. “It became clear in conversations with Dan that Cindy’s passion for teaching would be at the center of this gift.”

When she was a teacher of Advanced Placement Art History at the Bolles School, Dan saw how important professional development was to her growth as a teacher. At Bolles, Cindy was able to pursue any learning she felt she needed to better serve her students.

Working together, Dan and The Community Foundation staff came up with the idea to create a fellowship that would support professional learning for teachers in district and charter public schools. It would allow Duval County’s brightest teachers to craft the professional learning experience of their dreams, and then bring the learning and inspiration home to their students.

In 2017, the Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship was born. It allows individual teachers or teams of teachers to design a learning experience and seek funding up to $6,500 per teacher or $10,000 per teacher team to make it possible. Even more generously, Dan Edelman endowed a fund at The Community Foundation to support it in perpetuity.

Cindy was entirely surprised. “It’s the most beautiful gift I’ve ever received, because it’s impacting teachers,” she said. “Teachers give so much of themselves, and it just seemed like it was a wonderful way to give back.”

Fellows have put their elevated teaching skills to work.

Denisha Campbell: A speech pathologist with newfound goals

In 2020, Denisha won the Edelman Fellowship to take a Spanish immersion trip to Puerto Rico. The speech language pathologist was rotating between several public schools in Duval County, working with Hispanic students, and she wanted to communicate better with her students learning English. After her trip, she put together a hands-on workshop for other teachers in Duval County in partnership with Mayo Clinic’s Simulation. Today, she is pursuing a PhD in speech language pathology at Florida State University, and has been selected for a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English abroad. “Through the Edelman Fellowship, I’ve been able to build my networks, complete what I set out to do, and I now have a better idea of how I want my professional career to aid in the fight against achievement gaps.”

Scott Fretz: Traveling for a deep-level of learning and teaching

As a gifted teacher at Duncan Fletcher Middle School in Jacksonville Beach, Scott traveled to the Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, the Minutemen Missile Historical Site, and the Museum of Geology to learn about geology, history, and culture in the Western United States. He brought his learning, videos, and experiences home to enrich his curriculum in Global Scholars, a gifted middle school course. “It’s one thing to learn something in training or from a book, but when you go on a field trip, that’s where that deep-level learning takes place. That’s what this is all about—taking that deep-level learning and sharing it with students.”

Stephanie Montoya: Real-world science makes a grand presentation

Stephanie, a science teacher at LaVilla School of the Arts, located downtown, was selected for the Edelman Fellowship in 2022 to bring real-world science into her classroom. She joined the Earthwatch Institute to conduct research on sharks and reef life in Belize, spending a week with indigenous Maya fishermen to learn how culture and conservation intersect.

She brought her learning back to the classroom with a research project on sharks. Her students then presented their findings at the Riverside Arts Market (pictured at the top).

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