By Tanya Arja
USF Education Dean Robert Knoeppel, representing deans from top Colleges of Education across America, recently surprised Superintendent Jeff Eakins with the nationwide 2019 Excellence in Educational Leadership Award.
Dean Knoeppel presented Eakins with the prestigious honor at the June 25 meeting of the Hillsborough County School Board in Downtown Tampa. The University of South Florida nominated Eakins because of his work supporting the needs of school leaders, teachers and students’ in the Tampa Bay area—in particular, working to make sure new teachers and school leaders graduating from Tampa Bay’s colleges and universities are prepared for the needs of today’s schools.
“What I see when he speaks to the community is his real love and passion for what he does,” Dr. Knoeppel said as he presented the award. “He models for us kindness and respect. And when Jeff says ‘all’—he means ‘all.’ He’s an inspiration to all of us.”
Eakins was chosen for the 2019 Excellence in Educational Leadership Award by the University Council for Educational Administration. UCEA is an association of colleges and universities that are committed to advancing the work of preparing educational leaders for the future.
For the past five years, USF and Hillsborough Schools have partnered to provide an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership program for current administrators in Hillsborough, with an emphasis on turnaround school leadership.
This grant-funded program provides tuition and books for administrators who desire to pursue a research-based approach to improving schools and to improving their practice to better serve students. At the end of the Ed.S. program, administrators develop a capstone project designed to address a current school or district issue.
Eakins started his career as an elementary school teacher 33 years ago and has served as Hillsborough County Superintendent for four years. Dr. Knoeppel has served as Dean of the College of Education at USF for one year, continuing a long career in education leadership.