2020 News Stories

Faculty & Staff Notes: Fall 2020

The College of Education's faculty members are actively engaged in research and other scholarly activities, including service to the University, the community, and the field of education. Learn about the accomplishments and achievements of our faculty and staff during the Fall 2020 semester.

To submit information for a future issue of College of Education Faculty and Staff Notes, please contact Elizabeth Engasser at eengasser@usf.edu.

Vonzell Agosto Book Cover

Associate Professor Vonzell Agosto, PhD, co-authored a book that was published in October, titled “Making A Spectacle: Examining Curriculum/Pedagogy as Recovery From Political Trauma.” Edited with Megan Ruby (Oklahoma State University), Michelle Angelo-Rocha (University of South Florida), and Mark Hickey (Oklahoma State University), the book examines curriculum and pedagogy as a tool for recovery from political trauma and healing. The book is publishd by Information Age Publishing.

Professors Ilene Berson, PhD, and Michael Berson, PhD, delivered an invited presentation in November for the US Embassy in Warsaw, Poland in collaboration with the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. In their presentation, Drs. Michael and Ilene Berson shared their expertise on “Developing Young Children’s Identity and Empathy with Holocaust Testimony.” The presentation was given to more than 1,000 polish educators as part of the online international conference, “Emotions and History: How to Talk about Difficult Topics at School.”

Deanna Bullard, PhD, Interim Assistant Dean at the St. Petersburg campus, was honored with the Golden Apple Award in November. The award, presented by the USF St. Petersburg campus Ambassadors, is presented to employees who demonstrate a commitment to student success and have made a significant impact in a student’s life.

Deirdre Cobb Roberts Book Cover

Professor Deirdre Cobb-Roberts, PhD, co-authored a book that was published in October, titled “Mentoring as Critically Engaged Praxis: Storying the Lives and Contributions of Black Women Administrators.” Edited with Talia Esnard from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, the book seeks to interrogate the structures that affect the perceptions, experiences, performance and practices of Black women administrators in higher education. The book is published by Information Age Publishing.

USF Preschool student listening in a classroom

Instructor Victoria Damjanovic, PhD, received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of the USF Preschool for Creative Learning to provide financial assistance and other resources to USF students who are parents of preschool-aged children. The project, “Childcare Access Means Parents in School” includes funds to provide partial tuition assistance for children enrolled at the PCL whose parent is a USF student and classified as “Pell-eligible” as determined by their financial aid status. The project will take place over four years beginning in November 2020.

Heather Duncan, PhD, Interim Assistant Dean and Director of Teacher Education and Clinical Practice at the St. Petersburg campus, was honored with the Golden Apple Award in November. The award, presented by the USF St. Petersburg campus Ambassadors, is presented to employees who demonstrate a commitment to student success and have made a significant impact in a student’s life.

The Helios STEM Middle School Residency Program was a recipient of USF’s 2019-20 Student Success in Academic Excellence Award. Led by Associate Professors Cheryl Ellerbrock, PhD, and Eugenia Vomvoridi-Ivanovic, PhD, the program provides a supportive environment for prospective teachers to build professional networks through cohort groups, faculty interaction, and intensive coursework and field experiences in Hillsborough County Public Schools. Students in the program engage in more than 1,200 hours of clinical experiences in three middle schools to prepare them for teaching mathematics in a middle school setting.

Assistant Professor Ann Marie Gunn, PhD, and Assistant Professor Susan Bennett, PhD, received a grant from the Tampa Bay Community Foundation, titled “PLAY: Partners in Literacy Advocacy for Youth.” The project funds the selection and distribution of multicultural children’s literature to children who attend the PAL Center in St. Petersburg. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the project was designed and implemented as an emergency-funded literacy program because of the challenges as schools quickly shifted to virtual instruction. The project’s goals are to increase access to books and to facilitate comprehension and motivation support for home-based reading.

Instructor Jane Govoni, PhD, was re-appointed to the TESOL Standards Professional Council for the 2020-21 academic year. The Council advises the TESOL International Association on the implementation of its strategic direction as it relates to educational standards relevant to the profession of English language teaching, English learners, and English language teacher training (ESOL).

Additionally, Dr. Govoni presented on ways to demystify the concepts of applied linguistics for teacher candidates at five virtual ESOL educational conferences: Washington TESOL, Louisiana TESOL, Maryland TESOL, Minnesota TESOL, and Florida Sunshine State TESOL.

Jenifer Hartman, PhD, and Karina K. R. Hensberry, PhD, authored a study, "University First-Time-in-College Students’ Mathematics Placement and Outcomes: Leadership Response to Local Data." Conducted in collaboration with Radford Janssens from the USF College of Arts and Sciences, the study was published in the Fall 2020 issue of “Educational Leadership Review,” the premier scholarly journal for International Council of Professors of Educational Leadership.

Instructor Nic Martinez, PhD, was featured in an article from Health Magazine titled "The 5 Best At-Home Boxing Workouts, According to Health Editors." In the article, Martinez shares about the physical and mental benefits of the sport. In addition to his work as an instructor of exercise science at USF, Dr. Martinez is also a pro boxing performance coach.

Rebecca Ogletree, Accreditation Coordinator at the USF St. Petersburg campus, received an award from the Florida Association for Career and Technical Education (FACTE) in October for outstanding service, leadership to teacher preparation and dedication to the professional organization. Ogletree serves as a member of the FACTE executive board.

Assistant Professor Alexandra Panos, PhD, received the Area 4 Chair Award at the Literacy Research Association’s 70th Annual Conference in recognition of her publication, “A Troublesome Reality in Literacy Research about Climate Change.” The award was presented to Dr. Panos along with James Damico from Indiana University and USF graduate student Katharine Hull.

Sanghoon Park AECT Award

Associate Professor Sanghoon Park, PhD, received the AECT LED 2020 Outstanding Publication Award for his publication, “Building a structural model of motivational regulation and learning engagement for undergraduate and graduate students in higher education.” The study was published in “Studies in Higher Education” and explores the structural relationships between motivational regulation strategies (MRSs) and engagement moderated by academic level and learning environment.

Classroom Caffeine homepage screenshot

Assistant Professor Lindsay Persohn, PhD, launched a new podcast titled “Classroom Caffeine.” The podcast includes conversations with senior-career education researchers to ask them what they want teachers to know about their research. With new episodes airing weekly, Persohn says Classroom Caffeine will feature some of the most influential scholars in the field of literacy. The first four episodes are now available at www.classroomcaffeine.com.

Stephen Rushton

Associate Professor Stephen Rushton, PhD, received the 2019-20 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. Administered by USF's Office of the Provost, the award recognizes excellence, innovation and effectiveness in teaching in USF's undergraduate programs. Recipients of the award demonstrate exemplary commitment toward students and their success and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Laura Sabella, PhD, Director of the Office of Field and Clinical Education in the College of Education, was featured in an article published by WalletHub that discusses the best and worst states for teachers. In the article, Sabella shares about challenges teachers face in the field, how local officials can attract and retain high-quality educators and how beginning teachers can determine where to settle for the start of their education career.

Literacy Studies faculty members Jenifer Jasinski Schneider, PhD, Lindsay Persohn, PhD, and Aimee Frier, PhD, received the Area 9 Chair Award at the Literacy Research Association’s 70th Annual Conference in recognition of their publication, “We are in a book! In Defense of Books, Children, and Reading.” The award was presented to the research team, which also included USF students and alumni Stephanie Branson, MA `03, Sarah Pennington, MA `10 & PhD `16, Julia Hagge, PhD `16, and Rebecca Powell, MA `07 & PhD `18.

 Associate Professor Ruthmae Sears, PhD, was a co-author on a research article published in “Mathematics Teacher: Learning and Teaching PK–12,” a new practitioner journal from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The article, “Enhancing and Transforming Virtual Instruction,” reviews the previous 11 Front-and-Center articles published this year through the lens of the Substitutions, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition (SAMR) model, a framework that classifies the integration of technology into instruction. Sears is also an associate editor of the research journal.


Assistant Professor Sara Smith, PhD, was featured in a story by Spectrum Bay News 9 about her patent-pending application, Multimedia Augmented Reality Vocabulary Learning (MARVL). The augmented reality application uses the latest technology to support learning words in a new language by creating immersive, dynamic experiences to enhance vocabulary learning for all levels of students, including young children. This technology provides resources needed for increasingly diverse U.S. classrooms and allows teachers to deliver optimized vocabulary instruction for all students.

Instructor Cindy Topdemir, PhD, was featured in a story produced by The Florida Channel about SAT and ACT scores in Florida and the uncertainty students face regarding standardized testing scores and college admissions during the coronavirus pandemic. The story was featured as part of “the Capitol Update,” a weekly review of Florida state government news.

Literacy Research Association

Faculty and graduate students from USF’s Literacy Studies program gave multiple research presentations at the Literacy Research Association’s 70th Annual Conference. Held virtually this year, the LRA Annual Conference brings together individuals who share an interest in advancing literacy theory, research, and practice to engage in research and dialogue pertaining to literacy and related topics.