Pictured: Bell Creek Law Academy Teacher Charles Leadingham played the role of a Supreme Court Judge during the Supreme Court Teacher Institute Moot Court Competition.
Hillsborough County, FL — Bell Creek Academy law teacher Charles Leadingham attended the Florida Supreme Court Teacher Institute in February 2019. Selected teachers from throughout Florida participated in the Florida Supreme Court Teacher Institute held annually at the Florida Supreme Court. The Institute, successfully implemented for over two decades, provides a unique opportunity for Florida middle and high school teachers to experience the state courts and the administration of justice using a case study approach. Teachers began the institute on opening night by participating in a simulated Supreme Court oral argument activity serving as attorneys and Justices. They also experienced the appellate process using a variety of constitutional issues and strategies.
Leadingham stated that he was “surprised about how accessible the Supreme Court Justices were the whole week and how hands-on they worked with the Institute participants.”
Teachers learned throughout the week about the structure, function, and jurisdiction of the state courts; the role of judges in our constitutional structure; judicial decision making and the appellate process; and many other topics related to the judicial branch. Teachers explored the trial and appellate courts throughout the program spending time with judges, attorneys, and mentor teachers. Faculty for the institute include all seven Florida Supreme Court Justices throughout the week. In addition to participating in presentations with the Justices, teachers learn to incorporate a variety of critical thinking and constitutional application strategies in the classroom.
Teachers explored the Florida Constitution through a scavenger hunt activity and quiz show, learned about the differences between state and federal courts, and examined the selection processes for trial and appellate court judges. Teachers also observed a mock motion to suppress hearing in the circuit courts as well as a real oral argument in the Florida Supreme Court. They explored the jurisdiction of the various levels of the courts and the role of the courts in interpreting and applying the law. Throughout the institute, teachers were divided into groups and assigned roles as part of a culminating appellate exercise. Upon graduation from the institute, teachers received certificates signed by the Justices and have been designated as Florida Supreme Court Teaching Institute Fellows. The Institute is a hands-on, model professional development program implemented since 1997.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience that every social studies and law teacher in Florida should attend if given the opportunity,” said Leadingham. “Working at the very heart of the justice system in Florida gives teachers a new perspective that they can take back to the classroom and effectively give to their students.”
Bell Creek Academy is located at 13221 Boyette Road in Riverview, Florida. The middle/high aims to provide its students with a well-rounded college preparatory and career exploration education, through a challenging academic program supported by technology, on-site learning experiences via local business and the opportunity to tie classroom learning with the real world of work. The school is supported by Charter School Associates.