Each semester at UCF, approximately 1000 teacher candidates venture into schools in the community to continue gaining hands-on experience in classroom environments while bringing with them the latest approaches and developments in the education field. Chief among the goals of these future educators is to be as inspiring as the teachers who helped them succeed and encouraged them to pursue education themselves.

One individual who knows the power and importance of inspiration is First Premier Bank founder and philanthropist Denny Sanford, who spoke at a recent convocation for UCF’s education students in their final semester of interning. The ceremony served as an introductory presentation and semester kickoff for the students, as well as an opportunity to hear from Mr. Sanford about his experiences with teachers that motivated, challenged, and encouraged him.

Mr. Sanford has made education one of the premiere causes he supports, both through the creation of two education-focused programs and through his support for the next generation of teachers. The Sanford Inspire Program was established with the goal of providing innovative resources that help teachers become inspirational classroom leaders. This teacher-education effort provides materials to prepare and train teachers and enhance classroom interactions, and they are made available free of charge in order to foster the goal of continuous improvement. In addition, the Sanford Harmony Program seeks to strengthen relationships and champion positive interactions between boys and girls – efforts that have beneficial impacts for social, emotional, and academic success. These efforts are on top of ongoing philanthropic projects in other fields, including the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute here in Florida.

“I was delighted that Mr. Sanford accepted my invitation to address our student teachers,” interim Dean Grant Hayes told us. “His visit was a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn how he personally has benefited from having inspirational teachers – educators and role models who helped him see and achieve his potential. And our future teachers also heard about how his enthusiasm for teaching and inspiring students led to the creation of both the Sanford Inspire and Sanford Harmony programs. These influential programs are helping educators find new ways to engage students and enhance not just academic achievement but the social and emotional aspects of learning as well. Mr. Sanford’s background and his experiences with great teachers offer our students a unique perspective on their chosen career path, and shows them how their work can inspire future generations to even bigger and better things.”

The UCF College of Education and Human Performance has been invited to be an inaugural member of the Sanford Inspired Higher Education Consortium, and a team from the college will be traveling to California in February to participate in the first summit.

Mr. Sanford’s visit coincided with several hundred UCF student teachers beginning their final semester of internship before graduation. Student teaching is just one of the ways UCF College of Education and Human Performance students engage their experience in the community, which also includes undergraduate research opportunities and offering counseling assistance for students and families at area schools. For additional information about CEDHP programs, events, and partnerships, visit the website.