University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee



Educator Signing Day

College of Education’s Signing Day honors graduates starting teaching careers in Sarasota, Manatee

By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing

Educator Signing Day events at USF Sarasota-Manatee on April 29 were a celebration of the accomplishments and ambitions of graduating students starting their teaching careers in the Sarasota and Manatee school districts.

Riley Hamilton was one of seven College of Education graduates who signed agreements to teach in Sarasota County Schools during the morning ceremony in the Selby Auditorium. She said she appreciated the words of support from USF and Sarasota County Schools officials and Ronnique Major-Hundley, a USF alum and Sarasota County’s 2023 teacher of the year, who offered the new teachers advice gleaned from her 30 years as an educator.

“It makes us feel really special,” Hamilton, who spent the past year as an intern at Phillipi Shores Elementary School in Sarasota, said of the event. “It helps for USF faculty members to hear that we are thankful.”

signing day riley hamilton

College of Education student Riley Hamilton receives her teaching contract from Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Terry Connor during Educator Sign Day at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

This was the first-ever signing day event for teaching graduates heading to Sarasota County Schools and the second for new Manatee County teachers. USF officials said the events reflect the strength of the partnerships between the College of Education and the school districts as they train, recruit and develop teachers needed to fill vacancies in classrooms.

In a ceremony that resembled college decision events for high school athletes or the NFL Draft, Hamilton and her classmates accepted promises of a teaching position in the Sarasota school district. Where exactly they will work during the 2024-25 school year will be decided after the district makes other personnel decisions.

In all, the district is hiring nine USF graduates. The other students honored at the Sarasota event were Megan Blevins, Jasmine Braden, Kelsey Levering, Brittany Long, Maezi Marrs and Deniz Webb. Each of the students spent the past year as a teaching intern in Sarasota, earning $15 an hour from the school district thanks to the support of the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation of Sarasota.

Cheryl Ellerbrock, the Sarasota-Manatee campus dean for the College of Education, said the USF graduates deserved the fanfare that marked Educator Signing Day.

“They made the choice to dedicate their lives to children,” Ellerbrock said. “They will be forever blessed to work with the amazing children in our community.”

Other dignitaries at the Sarasota event included USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook and Anthony Rolle, dean of the USF College of Education, as well as Sarasota Schools Superintendent Terry Connor, two members of the Sarasota School Board and other school district officials.

There were similar festivities later in the day for nine USF graduates already working for or starting their teaching careers with the Manatee School District this fall.

signing day

Thomas Burt, left, and other College of Education graduates who signed contracts to teach in the School District of Manatee County during Educator Signing Day.

Thomas Burt, who started at Ballard Elementary School in Bradenton in November and received his master of arts in teaching from USF in December, signed a contract to continue working at Ballard next year as a third-grade teacher. Like the others honored during the Manatee event, Burt was recognized by name, walked a red carpet and had the chance to pose for photographs with USF mascot Rocky D. Bull and other dignitaries, including Dean Rolle and other USF faculty; Manatee Schools Superintendent Jason Wysong and other administrators, principals and staff; and the students’ families.

“It was a pleasant surprise to get that kind of recognition,” said Burt who thanked College of Education faculty members and his colleagues at Ballard for helping him secure a strong start to his career.

Other USF students who signed contracts with the Manatee School District and their schools were Camden Beverly (Bayshore Elementary), Korissa Erdman (Southeast High), Avery Rath (Bayshore Elementary) and Peighton Reeves (Tillman Elementary). Taylor Campbell, Sydney Melvin, Sofia Morales and Diana Rodriguez are waiting to learn where they will teach in the district.

Holbrook said Educator Signing Day highlights the important connections the College of Education, and other programs at USF Sarasota-Manatee, have built with the surrounding area.

“It is fabulous to see our graduating teachers go out into the community,” Holbrook said during the Manatee County event. “You are taking on a job that is so incredibly important because it is our teachers who help our children grow.” 

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