USFSM alum Wendy Turk is teaching at Ashton Elementary School in Sarasota.

USF Sarasota-Manatee education graduates in high demand

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: October 19, 2018

SARASOTA, Fla. (Oct. 19, 2018) USF Sarasota-Manatee’s School of Education is celebrating a milestone: All of its spring 2018 graduates who sought employment have found permanent teaching jobs.

Director of the School of Education Dr. Marie Byrd said staff and faculty learned recently that all of the graduating students who interviewed at local school districts are now employed as teachers. The class consists of 36 graduates with bachelor degrees in elementary education or interdisciplinary education and seven with masters of art in teaching degrees.

USFSM’s School of Education, United Way Suncoast benefit local students

Dr. Marie Byrd

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Dr. Byrd, noting that while it’s not unusual for most graduates to be placed quickly, 100-percent placement is rare.

She cited multiple factors – strong relationships with principals, population growth and turnover due to retirement – but said the high demand isn’t new and comes as local school districts are increasing teacher salaries. The School of Education produced nine graduates the year before and all of them were quickly employed, she said.

“We received multiple calls and emails from area principals looking for qualified prospects, but because we had only nine graduates that semester, we could not field all of the open positions at that time,” Dr. Byrd said.

That so many positions were filled this time around is a positive, she said, adding that schools in Manatee and Sarasota are competing with schools elsewhere to fill vacancies.

“The area principals seek our graduates because they know they are highly qualified to enter their classrooms,” said Dr. Byrd. “We have very strong partnerships with Sarasota and Manatee counties.”

Many students were hired before graduating, she said. Under the program, students who complete all requirements of their internship and of the elementary education program can entertain job offers. That’s what happened to Wendy Turk, now a first grade teacher at Ashton Elementary School in Sarasota.

“I completed my Clinical III internship and midway through my student teaching placement, I was offered the opportunity to take a long-term substitute position for the remainder of the school year,” she said. “Then I was offered a position with the school as a first grade teacher.”

Turk said she’s thrilled to be teaching and considers herself fortunate to be at Ashton. She competed with dozens of other applicants for the permanent first-grade teaching position.

“Since I had already been at the school, first as an intern and then a substitute for half a school year, it was such a wonderful moment to have all those familiar teachers welcoming me to their team,” she said.

Turk said she was inspired to pursue a career in education by her second- and fourth-grade teachers, Mrs. Veltz and Mrs. DeChelbor, respectively. Now she hopes to pass on to her students what she learned from them as well as her USFSM professors.

“The professors at USFSM are so supportive and are always there to help you learn and grow as an educator,” she said. “Teaching is an incredibly complicated, nuanced and challenging task, but also rewarding and exciting, and USFSM’s School of Education gave me the best preparation to enter the classroom that I could have hoped for.”

To learn more about USF Sarasota-Manatee’s School of Education, visit

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