The Coalition for Creating and Sustaining Innovative Schools exists to support and encourage transformative models of education, whether in schools or other types of learning environments.

The purpose of the Coalition is two-fold:

  • To conduct, compile and disseminate research on starting and sustaining innovative schools and learning environments.
  • To provide consultations and assistance to support the development of new schools, schools in transition and existing innovative schools, and learning environments.

Helpful Links

Overhauling the Transmission Model of Education
with Alfie Kohn | Webinar recorded on July 22, 2020
This presentation by Alfie Kohn, author of What to Look for in a Classroom, explains why the traditional “bunch o’ facts” model of instruction, with its emphasis on memorizing right answers and practicing skills, is virtually guaranteed to fail. Participants are invited to consider how teachers of all ages and all subjects can become more successful at helping students make sense of ideas for themselves — and with each other.



To provide research-based support for new, existing or transitioning schools and learning environments to promote innovative approaches for facilitating students' optimal learning and development.


  • Conduct research on innovative schools and learning environments and what is involved in creating and sustaining them.
  • Provide technical assistance to those interested in the difficult process of opening a new school or transitioning a school/learning environment to a new paradigm of learning, or sustaining existing innovations in schools and learning environments, whether the schools be private, public, pilot, lab, or charter or learning environments, such as science centers, museums, non-profit education centers, and more.
  • Serve as a research repository on school change, school models and innovative schools and learning environments, with a focus on showcasing best practices which will include creating and housing technical assistance guides for those interested in starting and sustaining innovative schools and learning environments.
  • Communicate relevant research and news concerning innovative schools and education. This will include dissemination via a strong social media presence (Blog, Twitter, Facebook), conference attendance and presentations, and publications in both academic and practitioner-oriented outlets as well as interactive webinars.
  • Connect educational organizations with UCF students to facilitate research that benefits both the organization and the student, thereby generating research opportunities for UCF undergraduate and graduate students


To help ensure that schools/learning environments that support students' optimal learning and development exist in every community in the U.S.


Advisory Board

Partner & President at Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, Orlando. As the founder of the Orlando office for Little, a global, multi-disciplinary architecture and design firm known for delivering breakthrough ideas that improves people’s lives, Mr. Hair has been responsible for design direction, day to day operations, business development and strategic growth of the office since 1999, the office recently being recognized by the Orlando chapter of the AIA as the 2017 Firm of The Year. Serving on the board of the non-profit A Gift for Teaching since 2014, and as Board Chair since 2016, his focus has been on bringing design thinking strategies to bear towards solving for challenges in the delivery of equal opportunities in learning for every child in our community. A former adjunct faculty member and School of Interior Design advisory board member at the International Academy of Design, Jim remains dedicated to volunteerism with active roles on the Community Engagement Council for Urban Education at UCF, IIDA Student Mentor for Seminole State College, guest critique/reviewer and sponsor/mentor at UF City Lab Graduate School of Architecture for senior thesis reviews and student competitions & sponsor/mentor for the NAIOP/UCF College of Real Estate. An advocate for the design of Immersive Learning Environments that enable learning spaces to be student centered, he is currently leading design teams to deliver breakthrough projects for a potentially Net-Positive Energy STEM High School for Osceola County (The NeoCity Academy) as well as a STEM oriented innovative K-8 learning environment for the Galileo School for Gifted Learning.

Tomas Jimenez-Eliaeson is the Design Principal for the Charlotte Community Practice Group, and a Partner at Little, an industry leading architecture and design firm with more than 400 professionals in six locations across the USA and China. He leads a team of architects and designers dedicated to educational, cultural and civic projects including academic institutions, cultural facilities, performing arts centers, and libraries.

Tomas is a member of the AIA, NCARB, A4LE, and is a LEED Accredited professional. Originally from Spain, Tomas received a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Houston and a Master Degree in Architectural Design from the University of Texas at Austin.

Tomas is focused on projects that fuse typological redefinitions and environmentally conscious design with leading-edge technology and innovation. He is highly passionate about the future of education and has written about the Immersive Learningscape, an approach to the design of educational facilities that

respond to 21st century skills, innovation and trans-disciplinary collaboration. He is also researching the relationship and connectivity between learning and workplace in the future, and the role of Neuroscience and Wellness in the design of the Learning Ecosystem. He has presented at various National and International conferences, including the AIA National Convention, NEOCON World’s Trade Fair, A4LE International Conference, Innovate Conference in Brazil, and ASB Unplugged in India.

Dr. Cavilla earned his education doctorate from UCF with a specialization in gifted education. His areas of research include how to maximize student success through the infusion of social-emotional learning, which includes helping students learn skills such as empathy, self-regulation, and curiosity in the everyday classroom setting. His expertise also includes how to better identify and support both underachieving and dual-exceptional students, such as those who are both gifted and learning disabled or who are both gifted and on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. He entered the field of education in order to make a positive impact on society and has touched the lives of thousands of students from kindergarten to the graduate level having held various roles, including fifth grade teacher, high school English teacher, university professor as well as a school-based administrator in both public charter and private schools in Florida and California. Prior to entering the field of education, Dr. Cavilla ran a graphic design business for over a decade. When not busy helping to shape today’s youth and their teachers, Dr. Cavilla enjoys traveling the globe to new and exciting places, flying around the Bay Area in his single engine plane, and exploring culinary delights in his home city of San Francisco.
Matthew has spent 45 years in the public school system, including 27 years as an educator. For the last 19, Matthew has founded and directed The Walden Project, an innovative internationally recognized public school program where students follow Thoreau's dictum of living deliberately and consciously. Meeting outside through Vermont's four seasons, the curriculum emphasizes student choice, as well as writing, environmental studies, and the social sciences. Matthew is also the Founder and Director of The WIllowell Foundation and serves on the board of a number of other non-profits, including the New England Young Writers Conference. Matthew has received a B.A. in English/Psychology, an M.A. in Education, and an M.S.W. from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Prior to his work in education, he served as a writer, actor, and director in Just Kidding Production Company.

Community Partners

Michelle Nunez is the Principal and CEO of Galileo School for Gifted Learning, a high-performing, A-rated, and research-based K-8 public charter school in Seminole County, Florida.  Galileo serves students who want to learn in a nurturing environment for gifted and talented students and those who want to learn in a gifted learning environment that will challenge and motivate them to pursue their passionate interests in service to others.  Mrs. Nunez came to Galileo in 2012 after spending 7 years serving as an administrator at both Teague Middle School and Sanford Middle School.  Prior to that, she was a high school Social Studies Teacher and coach of many sports at Colonial High School in Orlando, Florida.  Mrs. Nunez is a graduate of UCF, receiving her Master's Degree in School Administration and a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology.  In her spare time, Mrs. Nunez can be found running, biking, swimming, or hanging out with one of her amazing four children.

Sonn Sam, Ed. D is the Regional Director with Big Picture Learning, a national and international network of schools committed to activating the potential of schools, systems and education through student-driven, real-world learning.  He has been an innovative educator for over 15 years serving in the capacity as teacher, principal and district lead. In alignment with BPL’s mission, Sonn has mastered and provides coaching around student-centered learning practices such as Personalization (Student Voice & Choice), Advisory Systems & Structures, Interest-Based Learning, Internship Program (Real World Learning) and Authentic Assessments (Exhibitions/Portfolios).  As a current resident of central Florida, Sonn is passionate about helping his community reimagine what schools could be. In his downtime, he enjoys spending quality time with his beautiful wife and three children.

Michael Meechin is the Principal of the award-winning NeoCity Academy. Mr. Meechin has spent his career working with schools in Central Florida and metropolitan Atlanta. Mike serves on the Advisory Board for the Future of Educational Technology Conference, one of the largest technology conferences in North America. He also is a member of the State of Florida AVID Principals' Collaborative and is a Fellow of the Florida Department of Education Brian Dassler Leadership Academy. In 2018, Mr. Meechin was named the Florida Innovative Principal of the Year by the Florida Council of Instructional Technology Leaders.

Nancy Chrisman is the President and CEO of Emergent 121, a WBENC certified Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) specializing in business optimization and leadership performance, based in Jacksonville, Florida. An accomplished senior executive and entrepreneur with national presence, Nancy brings over 25 years of successful strategic development and tactical leadership experience within the industrial, healthcare, and nonprofit sectors. Nancy serves as an instructor for two ICF accredited coaching schools and is continually developing new educational content for entrepreneurs and their teams. She is accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and as a Certified Higher Ground Leadership® Coach by the Secretan Center. Nancy is married to her wonderful husband; Eric and they are blessed with two beautiful children. When not spending time with her family, Nancy enjoys reading; singing; listening to a variety of music and supporting causes for which she holds a passion.

For Students

Research Opportunities


Literature review on principles related to Coalition's pillars. Graduate students, contact us for more information.


We also sponsor research and service internships between UCF graduate students and local schools or learning centers. Email us to receive a list of research or service requests from schools. Then, if one fits your interests, let us know, and complete the following Student-School Internship Agreement. We will let you know if your internship is approved as soon as possible. You can seek to get course credit for this with your program through classes on internships, independent studies or independent research. Contact your program coordinator to see if this experience will fit in with your program requirements.



Coalition faculty are available for consulting.


Coalition faculty and graduate students are available to conduct research that aligns with the CCSIS mission and vision. Contact us to discuss sponsored research and grants.

We also provide a service to our partner organizations where we invite our graduate students to work on select research proposals that we receive. In order to submit a proposal for consideration, complete this form.


Coalition faculty are available for professional development and training to schools, districts, and learning centers.


Coalition faculty are available to conduct workshops on a variety of topics.

Contact Us

The Coalition for Creating and Sustaining Innovative Schools is located on UCF’s main campus in Orlando.


College of Community Innovation and Education
Education Complex
12494 University Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816