Over the past twenty years, Don Pemberton has founded and led three of Florida’s most innovative education improvement initiatives:
- From 1986 to 1995, he was the President of the Pinellas Education Foundation, one of America’s earliest and most effective public-private urban education partnerships. In that capacity he forged powerful working relationships with the region’s leading educational, corporate, civic and labor leaders, many of whom he recruited to serve on his board. The innovative programs and collaborations they developed enabled tens of thousands of public school students to advance their educational, artistic and cultural development. The signature initiative of his tenure with the Pinellas Education Foundation was the creation of Enterprise Village, a model, hands-on free enterprise program that has been replicated in numerous communities in the country and world.
- Moving to deepen the impact and broaden the scope of his work, Don founded Take Stock in Children, a statewide organization to ensure the academic success and college enrollment of children living in poverty. Integrating academic, career and personal support for middle and high school youth, he created a statewide organization, guaranteeing college scholarships for more than 17,000 children. To run this rapidly expanding enterprise, Don attracted a team of outstanding educators and administrators, and built hands-on, working ties to a succession of governors, mayors, education commissioners, and CEOs of Florida’s major corporations. He was President of Take Stock in Children from 1995 to 2002. During his tenure, Take Stock in Children was selected as the top mentoring program in America by the National Mentoring Partnership.
- Don now leads The Lastinger Center for Learning at the University of Florida’s College of Education, an educational innovation incubator dedicated to developing, field-testing and scaling new models to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Through his work with educators, parents, students, researchers, philanthropies, educational organizations and community leaders, he is developing a series of national prototypes, including:
- Algebra Nation, a statewide teaching and learning system designed to connect students and teachers into a dynamic network of engaging algebra resources and supports that improve student mastery of Algebra 1. Algebra Nation is currently utilized by over 250,000 students and 6,400 teachers across Florida and is expanding to other states.
- Early Learning Florida, a custom-built professional learning system of early childhood educators in Florida. Early Learning Florida offers engaging, research-based courses and supports that significantly improve teacher practice and child outcomes.
- Winning Reading Boost, a 36-step, 90-day program that develops the most struggling students into fluent readers through intensive phonics instruction that infuses music, movement, rhythm, incentives and community support into a unique, motivating learning experience.
The University of Florida Lastinger Center innovations have been disseminated to communities throughout the country and internationally.
Raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil by American parents, Don returned to the United States to continue his education; he earned a B.S. from Ohio State and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of South Florida. For a decade, he taught and counseled children of all ages, many of whom faced serious challenges. He came to understand that in order to address the issues in his students’ lives more comprehensively, he had to assume a new set of leadership roles. Since then, he has dedicated his life to the development of institutions and innovations that advance the success of our most vulnerable children, while providing society’s most powerful leaders and institutions with effective means to participate collaboratively in this endeavor.