University High Graduate Taking a Lead, Making a Difference in Fort Lauderdale

picture of Isabel Astacio

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (Oct. 1, 2021) – Isabel Astacio, a 2020 University High graduate, has become the senior student team leader at Nova Southeastern University’s Fischler Academy Educational Skunk Works project. Astacio is coordinating a series of projects focused on developing innovative solutions to issues identified in the K-12 educational system.

Now in her junior year at NSU, Astacio was originally hired under the federal work-study program to help develop and implement Shark Speak, an English language acquisition project for elementary school children in Broward County Schools. Now as the senior team leader, she is coordinating a team of education majors tackling problems such as applying fifth grade math, a mentorship program for students in juvenile detention, and a presentation for high school students, “I Wish I Had Known Before I Went to College.”

Astacio is a music and education major enrolled in NSU’s Fischler Academy. According to the website, this is a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s degree program designed for traditional first-time-in-college students who wish to become teacher leaders. The program is an experiential, project-driven, mastery-based program combining cutting-edge teaching pedagogies in a highly personalized learning environment. “My time at University High School made me look forward to going to college and the possibilities available to me. I feel fortunate to have found such a rewarding opportunity at NSU that is preparing me to be a teacher," said Astacio.

Modeled after the legendary Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, known for tackling projects mostly thought of as impossible, the Fischler Academy students speak with teachers and principals asking where the difficulties are in teaching students. They then work as a team to come up with creative activities and lessons to improve upon the problem.  

Two of the issues identified included 1) applying fifth grade math skills to real world situations and 2) helping English language learners get up to speed to understand basic instructions given by their teachers. The Fischler Academy students have developed and implemented pilot programs for both these areas. It is an exceptional experience for our future teachers to work directly with practicing teachers and the students having difficulty and it also benefits the school system, providing additional resources in problem areas,” said Daryl Hulce, special projects coordinator at NSU’s Fischler College of Education.