2018 News

USF College of Education announces recipients of 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards

Distinguished Alumni Awards | USF College of Education

TAMPA, Fla. (September 27, 2018) – The University of South Florida (USF) College of Education is proud to announce the recipients of the College’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Each year, the USF College of Education is proud to present our Distinguished Alumni Awards in conjunction with the USF Homecoming events, which will take place Oct. 14-21. Join us on Friday, Oct. 19 for our Distinguished Alumni Awards Reception as we honor this year’s recipients.

The reception to recognize this year’s recipients begins at 4 p.m. in the College of Education Rotunda with the awards presentation to begin at 5 p.m. in TECO Hall.

Joe Tomaino, MA `71 — Dean's Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award  

Joe Tomaino | College of Education | USF

The recipient of the Dean's Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award is recognized as a community member who has demonstrated long-term contributions, achievement and service within education or a related profession — on a local, state, regional, national and/or global level.

Joe Tomaino holds a master’s degree in distributive and marketing education from the College of Education. He served USF in various roles throughout a tenure lasting nearly 50 years. Tomaino joined the university as Assistant Director of USF’s Career Center from 1966-1970, and later went on to serve as the Executive Director of USF’s Alumni Association from 1970-1985.

A longtime advocate on behalf of the university, Tomaino also served as USF’s Director of Development from 1985-1996 and as the Director of Major Gifts for both the College of Education from 1997-2002 and for USF Athletics from 2002-2015. Throughout his career, he has been recognized with multiple awards such as Outstanding USF Administrator Award and the Distinguished USF Alumnus Award.

Prior to his time at USF, Tomaino and his wife Joann were Peace Corps Volunteers in Chili from 1964 to 1966. A continuous contributor to the Tampa Bay community, Tomaino currently serves as a member of the College of Education’s Dean’s Circle Advisory Board and as an Advancement Advisor at Cristo Rey Tampa High School.

Erin Santiago, `92 & MA `94 — Spirit of Partnership Alumni Award 

Erin Santiago | College of Education | USF

The Spirit of Partnership Alumni Award is presented to an individual who has gone "above and beyond" in their service to the College of Education, and we express our deep appreciation for those who have created and sustained partnerships within the community and the college to achieve the mission of the College of Education.

A two-time graduate of the College of Education, Erin Santiago has not only served as an educator of young minds, but as a mentor to aspiring educators in the university’s teacher preparation programs.

Santiago is an exceptional student education teacher at Pizzo Elementary, a grades K-6 school located on the southernmost corner of the USF Tampa campus. She is well known in the Hillsborough County Public Schools district for her expertise in early childhood education, her leadership at the school and district level, and her advocacy for her students and their families.

In 2000, Santiago was selected to participate in the College of Education’s Professional Practice Partner program, an initiative developed to facilitate teacher mentoring, coaching and feedback skills to support pre-service teachers at USF. Since participating in this initiative, Santiago has been involved in partnership work with the College of Education such as providing placement opportunities for Master of Arts in Teaching students and providing mentorship and feedback to aspiring educators in the College’s undergraduate programs.

“Our experiences with Mrs. Santiago are consistent with her performance in other aspects of her life,” said Betsy Doone, PhD, an instructor in the College of Education’s Exceptional Student Education program. “She is professional, responsible and mature and shares joyfully of her time and talents. As one of the best early childhood teachers we have worked with, whenever we have a teacher candidate in need of professional modeling and visual support of implementation practices, we send him or her to observe Mrs. Santiago.”

Alex La Spina, `09 — Young Educators Alumni Award

Alex La Spina | College of Education | USF

The Young Educators Alumni Award recognizes a graduate of the university who received their degree within the past 10 years and who is 35 years of age or younger. The award recognizes the work of a graduate who serves as an exemplary leader in the field of education among their peers and in their community.   

Alex La Spina graduated from the College of Education in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She serves as a 5th grade teacher at Learning Gate Community School, a tuition free public charter school in Lutz, Fla. La Spina joined the faculty at Learning Gate as a first-year teacher fresh out of USF and has advanced to the role of team leader for her grade level.

Referred to by her students and their parents as “Ms. Alex,” La Spina has made a lasting impact on the students in her classroom, who have gone on to develop a passion for science and mathematics, in part because of her teaching.

“Ms. Alex has a wonderful rapport with staff, students and parents,” said Michelle Mason, Principal at Learning Gate Community School. “Her ability to connect with her students and her talent at teaching simple concepts, as well as more advanced topics, are both truly superior.”

For more information, please contact:

Elizabeth Engasser
Director of Communications
University of South Florida College of Education
(813) 974-8723

About the USF College of Education: 

Home to more than 2,200 students and 130 faculty members, the University of South Florida College of Education values high-quality education and excellence in research, teaching and learning. Through innovative research opportunities, hands-on field experiences and community partnerships, the College of Education provides the resources students need to become world-class educators, researchers and leaders. The USF College of Education is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and is fully approved by the Florida Department of Education.