District to host Homegrown Institute in July for teachers

The Florida Union Free School District will host its first Homegrown Institute, a professional development opportunity for teachers in the district and surrounding districts to work with expert consultants in math, literacy, technology, inquiry and science.

The Homegrown Institute will take place over three days, July 12-14, with three, two-hour sessions each day. On Tuesday, July 12, all will gather for an opening keynote address. The funding for this program is from the federal American Rescue Plan.

“Over the past school year, I have had the privilege of sitting alongside teachers and administrators as we have worked to better understand the unique needs of our students and to discover the steps necessary to close the gaps and strengthen instruction at every level,” said Florida Superintendent Larry Leaven. “Teachers and administrators have spent countless hours reading, studying, planning and implementing the new learning and have made significant shifts in the way we approach literacy, mathematics and instructional practices across curricular areas.”

Click here to view the full schedule of presentations.

Teachers in the district have worked throughout this past school year with Anne Burgunder, a mathematics consultant who will present at the Homegrown Institute.

“Anne’s particular passion has always been improving student and teacher competence in mathematical practices,” said Mr. Leaven. “Throughout her time in Florida, Anne has gained the highest regard and utmost support of the teaching staff and has helped to lead mathematics learning throughout the entire community.”

In addition, elementary math consultant Corrine Berthiaume and Leah Mermelstein, an eminent literacy consultant, will participate in the sessions.

“Corrine will focus on the unique needs of our early mathematicians, ensuring a solid foundation is in place for all learners,” said Mr. Leaven. “Leah has collaborated with our literacy cohort and elementary teachers to help develop a comprehensive writing curriculum and articulate the critical connection between reading, writing and word study.”

Greg Kulowiec will focus on intentional use of technology and creative instructional design. Renee Dinnerstein returns to the district to continue her inquiry work with our primary team. Rounding out the consultants is Liz Mirra who will be working with our science teachers, unpacking the next generation science standards, developing labs, connecting writing with science, and much more.

“I am certain that the collective leadership of our learning partners will provide each of us with much to consider as we continue to hone or skills,” said Mr. Leaven.

Mr. Leaven has opened the Homegrown Institute to staff at neighboring districts, including Warwick, Chester, Greenwood Lake and Goshen.


Consultants’ biographies


A woman with chin-length dark hair, with light streaks in the front. She is wearing orange round glasses and a light pink sweater and scarf. She is smiling.Anne Burgunder is widely regarded as a teacher’s teacher. For the last 15 years she has served as a clinical professor of math education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education where she teaches mathematics methods courses and mentors student teachers in the field. A life-long scholar and researcher, Burgunder studies the various methods and systems for teaching and learning mathematics employed by other cultures. She especially enjoys working with pre-service in in-service teachers. She feels that it is critical to break the cycle of fear and anxiety that surrounds mathematics teaching and learning and help both teachers and students redefine mathematics so that it more aligned to the subject as a discipline.


A woman with shortr dark hair smiles. She is wearing a sleeveless dark shirt with a white print on it.Corinne Berthiaume has been an educator in NYC elementary schools for close to 15 years. She has worked as a classroom teacher and a math coach since 2017 and as in education consultant with Metamorphosis Teaching Learning Communities. In 2015, Corrine had the honor of becoming a Master Teacher at Math for America. She also participated in the New York State Aim High NY initiative in 2016. This group reviewed the Common Core Learning Standards and set the stage for the Next Generation Standards, which were later implemented by New York State.


A headshot of a man with a beard and mustache. Very short hair. He is smiling.Prior to becoming Technology Director at Triton Regional School District in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Greg Kulowiec was a lead EdTechTeacher, as an instructor and presenter. Greg brings a dynamic and thoughtful approach to technology integration with an emphasis on the powerful nature of how these devices can be used in the hands of students to reveal unique perspectives, understanding, and capabilities. Greg is an authorized Google Education Trainer and has presented at MassCue, NCSS, MASCD, and the EdTechTeacher iPad Summits on topics ranging from the integration of social media in the classroom to collaboration with mobile devices. He blogs regularly at The History 2.0 Classroom as well as Free Technology for Teachers. Greg holds a degree in Sociology from St. Anselm College, Manchester, NH where he was also a four-year scholarship basketball player and team captain. Prior to these experiences, Greg spent eight years as a high school history teacher and one year as a technology integration specialist. Greg can be found on Twitter @gregkulowiec.


A headshot of a woman with chin-length light hair. She is wearing a black shirt and necklace.Renée Dinnerstein (@RDinnerstein) has 50 years experience as an early childhood educator, having taught in both Italy and in the United States. She is a past member of the Columbia University Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project Early Childhood Reading ‘think tank,’ and has worked as an Early Childhood Staff Developer at Bank Street School, Dalton School New York, and Dalton School Hong Kong. She was a lead staff developer in the New York City Department of Education, where she helped write the New York City Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Standards. Visit her online at investigatingchoicetime.com.


A headshot of a woman with longer curly hair smiles. She is wearing an orange shirt and large chunky necklace.Leah Mermelstein is a well-known expert and author on the teaching of writing, reading, and language development. She is a sought-after keynote speaker at national conferences, admired for her close study of students’ writing and reading development. As a literacy consultant, she works closely with school districts, teachers, and students, helping develop and deliver quality and cohesive literacy instruction and curriculum. She holds a master’s degree in Cultural Diversity and Curriculum Reform and aspires to ground all of her work in creating equitable access to children and families. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.


A woman with shoulder-length light brown hair smiles. She is wearing a pink shirt and scarf.Elizabeth Mirra is the math and science instructional coach at Springfield High School. She also works with districts throughout the state providing professional development and supporting the development and implementation of science curriculum. She was the 2011 recipient of the prestigious President’s Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. Liz was involved in reviewing and providing feedback on the Next Generation Science Standards throughout their development.