College of Education students intern regularly at local schools.

40th Anniversary in Focus: USFSM, local schools enjoy rich collaboration

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: May 04, 2016

Editor’s note: The story here is part of a series of 40 stories commemorating USF Sarasota-Manatee’s 40th anniversary this academic year. For more about USFSM’s history, please visit

Thanks to agreements with the Sarasota and Manatee school districts, aspiring teachers at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Education (COE) can gain valuable classroom experience before starting their teaching careers.

These agreements represent one area of cooperation between USFSM and the local districts. Another is the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in which USFSM, the districts and other organizations collaborate to improve reading levels in children pre-kindergarten through third grade.

But perhaps the most innovative partnership yet involves the arts. Specifically, USFSM is partnering with the districts to infuse the arts, from drama to drawing, into academic lessons to improve student outcomes.

This unique program, which has the backing of USFSM’s Center for PAInT (Partnerships for Arts-Integrated Teaching), also benefits teaching candidates because they get to work firsthand with the districts’ students.

“Through arts-integrated learning, all learners are engaged in the creative process, which offers a universal pathway to learning,” Dr. Helene Robinson, assistant professor in the College of Education, said.

Crossing subject specialties and grade levels, the program has garnered broad support in recent years, with numerous grants awarded both to USFSM and the districts.

In October 2014, the Department of Education awarded Sarasota County $1.2 million to implement “Elevate with Arts Integration” over four years. This program aims to strengthen student performance in reading, writing, math and science through arts-infused instruction at four Title I elementary schools.

Similarly, in June 2013 the Manatee Community Foundation’s Leslie and Margaret Weller Fund awarded $42,000 to fund a collaborative project between the Center for PAInT and the Manatee school district. Last April, the grant was extended by $35,000 and the G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School was chosen to collaborate with the Center.

For six months last year, faculty from Rogers and USFSM – Dr. G. Pat Wilson, interim-dean of the College of Education, and Drs. Brianne Reck, Marie Byrd and Helene Robinson, all of the College of Education – worked on the initiative, called Project EAGLE (Early Arts-Guided Learning Experiences).

Their intent was to prepare a team of Pre-K teachers and USFSM teaching candidates to integrate art into lessons and assessments that meet Florida and district standards for public school students. Local teaching artists Judy Levine and Lori George facilitated the lessons.

“The support of school Principal Latrina Singleton allowed for the development of a solid foundation for communication throughout the project’s duration,” Dr. Byrd said. “The students, USFSM scholars and the teachers all benefited from this collaborative effort.”

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