A message from Al Groccia, Professor of Mathematics, Osceola Campus
I can truly say that my sabbatical was a life-changing learning experience. The experience contributed to and enhanced my teaching and professional effectiveness by changing my perspective on how I saw the world — it allowed me to think big!
I used to think that I was a good teacher because I shared, learned and connected with my colleagues at Valencia. Now, I believe that I should be sharing, learning and connecting with my colleagues, not only at Valencia, but throughout the state, nation and world.
First of all, the sabbatical application really made me think about what inspires and renews me. After contemplating, I discovered that traveling to new places and meeting and interacting with people who have the same passion for education that I do have that effect.
During spring 2015, I visited 18 educational institutions in six states: Florida, Hawaii, California, Texas, Oregon and the District of Columbia. Each visit was special and amazing in its own way. I met incredible individuals and experienced some wonderful educational programs, mainly in mathematics education and especially in developmental education. I was able to share my experiences and learn from various educators, support staff, administrators and students.
As a result, I am in the process of creating a website to detail my experiences. The website will contain my visit details, contact information of those I visited, reflections, photographs and best practices. My hope for the website is to better connect educational institutions to improve learning for our students.
What I noticed was many common educational issues and great work being done, but I did not witness consistent, efficient communication among educational institutions. I hope to help improve communication among educational institutions through creating connections among them and to invite educational institutions to visit Valencia — all in an effort to improve student learning. In my opinion, visits should be a common practice; but due to time conflicts and lack of clear channels for visits, they do not occur as often as they should. I hope to address this issue.
In addition to my educational visits, I experienced other learning opportunities. One was to attend and present at the Hawaii International Conference on Education.
To fund my sabbatical, I was fortunate enough to be selected for an endowed chair, which allowed me travel to the conference and, from there, start my sabbatical visits. I used my normal pay for the trips and expenses.
For colleagues considering a sabbatical, I say go for it! It can change your life and make you a better instructor and individual. You have the opportunity to be renewed and grow. Plus, you enhance student learning through your experience.
My sabbatical did not end when I returned to teaching. Instead, it was the beginning of a new focus in my career to continue my work of visiting colleges and connecting passionate individuals to help improve learning for our students. I cannot say thank you enough for this amazing opportunity, and I will take what I have learned and do my best to improve student learning — not just for my students — but for all students.
Applications for sabbatical leave for the 2017 – 2018 academic year are now being accepted through Friday, October 16, 2015. For more information, click here.