Larry Plank was a scientist at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission before he was a teacher. And before he was a distinguished teacher and teacher mentor, he was a struggling new teacher, adapting to the very different culture of a school and district.
Larry never forgets those early days, and the challenges facing new teachers. The memory of those early days helps him to be an effective mentor to new and beginning teachers at T.R. Robinson High School in Hillsborough. And, now that he is an instructional teacher leader, helps him to see the potential and promise in new teachers.
He is a shining star and integral team member in the Council’s Teachers and Teaching Initiative (TTI) program generously funded by the Wachovia Foundation. He started as a mentor in the program’s 2005. Since that time he has mentored 16 novice teachers. The Council established the Mentors of Distinction program, a first Florida program, to recognize and promote effective teacher mentoring, also offering the services of these Mentors to other schools and teachers throughout the state.
Another reason for Larry’s and the mentees success is his insistence on quality instruction from day one. Classroom management is a priority for new teachers, but Larry also concentrates on instructional quality from day one. He believes in a team approach. He has enlisted other veteran teachers to help the novices develop lesson plans, study student performance data, work as a collaborative group. Together they deliver rich and interactive learning, stretching the potential of the students—learning and building off each other. Larry believes that the veteran teachers can also learn form the fresh ideas of the novices.
Larry is the department science chair at Robinson. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from FSU and both a Master’s degree in Biology and a Specialist’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida USF. He is enrolled in a doctoral program at USF in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on the induction and mentoring of new science teachers.
He was named Robinson’s Teacher of the Year, B.E.S.T. Mentor Teacher, Sigma Xi Science Teacher of the Year for Hillsborough County, Endeavor Academy Technology Leader in Science, and Accomplished Teaching Academy graduate. He has presented at the Southern Regional Council on Educational Administration’s conference, the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference, and at this year’s Florida Department of Education Leadership Academy.
To learn how you can get involved, please call the Council for Educational Change, 954.727.9909