Students at USFSM can guarantee themselves a job through internships and by signing a contract.
While some college students might be scrambling to find a job after graduation, elementary education students at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee will be guaranteed jobs with the School District of Manatee County if they choose to sign a contract with the district.
USFSM student Camye Dudovitz was shocked Aug. 13 when the university announced the new hiring program that would ensure she would have a job when she graduates in December.
“I was totally surprised and just caught off guard,” Dudovitz said. “They started talking, and my immediate reaction was just tears. Tears filled my eyes because I was a little bit confused at what it really meant, but it’s just everything that you hope for.”
Dudovitz and 11 other USFSM students have signed long-term substitute contracts with the School District of Manatee County that would allow them to start working right after graduation. Once their degrees are conferred by the state, they can become full-time teachers in the school district.
“We are very happy for our students because we spend two years with them through courses and internships, and we see them develop,” said Marie Byrd, the university’s school of education director.
Genelle Zoratti Yost, the School District of Manatee County’s deputy superintendent of instructional services, said the program will “enhance our pool of qualified applicants.”
“These are individuals who will be interning in a district they’ll become familiar with,” Zoratti Yost said. “They’ll understand the district’s mission and vision and support that as they educate our students.”
To participate in the hiring program, USFSM students must successfully complete three internship levels, which means they work at assigned schools starting at two half-days per week in the first level to five days per week in level three. To enter the final internship, students must pass Florida teacher examinations and fulfill other requirements necessary to become a teacher.
Dudovitz said the university has prepared her for the education profession and sometimes refers to the internship program as an education boot camp.
“It’s so intensive, and you’re surrounded by education majors, teachers and staff,” she said. “And you’re immersed in the schools.”
Linda Bryan-Beachler, a lead fifth grade teacher at Freedom Elementary School, said in her 20 years of serving as a mentor to interns that she has never had a student in the third internship not be ready to become a teacher after completing the program.
Zoratti Yost and Byrd said the program can help with the district’s teacher-shortage problem. After the interns signed contracts last week, the district’s number of teacher vacancies decreased to 12 positions.
Zoratti Yost said in early August the district only had 11 vacancies but that after teachers left for other school districts before school started, vacancies rose to about 25 positions during the first week of school.
Dudovitz is currently interning as a first grade teacher at Braden River Elementary School, and she asked to be placed in a school in the Lakewood Ranch area to teach first, second or third grade.
USFSM student Justin Pelletier said that through his internships, he has enjoyed learning about different schools and their cultures to see which would be the best fit for him.
Pelletier, a current intern at Freedom Elementary School working with Bryan-Beachler and fifth grade teacher Jennifer Roberts, said working with the two teachers at the same time allows him to see different perspectives and styles of teaching that can help guide how he wants to teach.