Construction began on the $11 million Teaching Academy on August 29, 2001. By September of 2003, the UCF teaching Academy was complete with a design to prepare a new era of highly qualified educators with the intention of excellence in education, lifelong learning, and a hub for partnership. The intention of excellence is further symbolized with the famous Hand sculpture displayed in front of the Teaching Academy. The sculpture is rumored to be a symbol of the path to enlightenment sought at the academy, which houses 18 classrooms, several labs and offices. The offices are located on the fourth floor, where there are more than 50 work stations. Furthermore, the facility is equipped to accommodate about 7,000 students at one time.
One notable program, named after a former state senator, the Toni Jennings Exceptional Educational Institute, began as a family’s plea for help. It was not uncommon for public school teachers to not have certification to teach students with exceptional needs. Insight into the lack of teacher certification caused one family to approach lawmakers and the University of Central Florida with a plan to change standards. The result was a proposal to add an exceptional education component to the already planned Teaching Academy. Finally, the Toni Jennings Exceptional Educational Institute was created to develop educational opportunities and support for children and adults with special needs.
Several other programs reside within the Teaching Academy, but two others stand out in excellence, the HAPPY hour professional development program and the Lockheed Martin/UCF Academy for Mathematics and Science. The first program, HAPPY Hour, a professional program dedicated to education students, provides hour workshops that feature university faculty and k-12 personnel who share their expertise in areas of interest to aspiring educators. Finally, the Lockheed Martin/UCF Academy for Mathematics and Science is a partnership aimed at improving mathematics, sciences and technology education in the Central Florida area. This partnership serves as a model for the educational reforms proposed by both national and state agencies by providing schools in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties with teacher-leaders who initiate reforms in mathematics and science.