USF Alumna LaShawn Frost entered the education profession after being inspired through volunteer work at a Sarasota County teen parent program. Since then, she's advanced her career into impactful leadership roles and serves as principal at Booker Middle School in Sarasota, Fla.
To celebrate her dedication to the field and her partnership with USF, Frost was recognized as the 2021 recipient of the College of Education’s Spirit of Partnership Award, an award given to an individual who has created and sustained partnerships with the College and the community to help move the College’s mission forward.
After spending one summer volunteering in a Sarasota County teen parent program, LaShawn Frost quickly realized her plans to become an attorney were about to change.
In the years that followed, Frost joined the education field as a school counselor and a later conversation pushed her to advance her career further.
“The superintendent of Sarasota at the time had actually walked up to me and said, ‘I’m not sure if you ever thought about this, but I see you as a leader in our school district,’” Frost recalled. “I did not wait. I had heard about USF’s program in Educational Leadership, so I quickly applied and got accepted.”
Frost graduated from the College of Education with her M.Ed. in 2004 and earned a position as school principal at Booker Middle School, a Title 1 school in Sarasota, Fla.
Since arriving at Booker nine years ago, the school has been named a College for Every Student (CFES) Pathways School of Distinction based on its performance during the 2017-18 school year. In 2019, Frost was also recognized for her accomplishments and was named Sarasota’s School Principal of the Year.
Today, she’s received another accolade as the 2021 recipient of the College of Education’s Spirit of Partnership Award, an award given to an individual who has created and sustained partnerships with the College and the community to help move the College’s mission forward.
“My reaction had been, ‘Wow, what a wonderful opportunity to be recognized in this way,’” Frost said. “As principal at Booker Middle School, it had been my vision and my desire to work collaboratively with community partners, organizations and the university as a whole.”
In her role as principal, Frost has worked hard to set high expectations, while also inspiring children to believe in themselves. This work often comes in the form of strong partnerships with community organizations and the university.
Each year, she collaborates with College of Education faculty at USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus to host Project SAIL (Summer of Arts Integrated Literacy), a middle school transition program that connects incoming sixth graders at Booker with USF pre-service teachers to help them retain what they learned before summer break and prepare for the next school year. The project, Frost shared, serves a two-fold purpose.
“For at least six years, rising sixth graders who go through the SAIL program understand the importance of starting middle school in a way that allows them to be the best they can be,” Frost said. “On the flip side, it gives aspiring teachers at USF the opportunity to work with Title 1 kids, allowing them to look at how they can scaffold and implement curriculum in the classroom.”
Frost also partners with USF through other initiatives, such as improving teaching strategies through the Center for PAinT, the Florida Center for Partnerships in Arts-Integrated Teaching at USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus. Through this collaboration, teachers receive professional development and arts-integrated pedagogy. Student-centered projects are also being developed at the center.
“We are discussing this whole idea, of not only integrating the arts in the curriculum, but also looking at how we can integrate a diverse curriculum so that all students could learn and be inspired by what people who look like them actually accomplished in this world,” Frost said.
As she reflects on her time at USF, Frost recalled two professors who served to guide her in her academic and professional path.
She recognized Marie Byrd, EdD, an associate professor in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at USF's Sarasota-Manatee campus and Janice Fauske, PhD, a previous associate professor in the program, as the mentors who had the greatest impact on her during her studies at the university.
“Dr. Fauske had shared that in 10 years, from the time I was in school, it would be difficult to find administrators because the role of an administrator would change,” Frost said. “While administration has changed from managing to being an instructional leader, a coach and a facilitator, I will tell you—USF prepared us for the challenge.”
Outside of her duties as principal, Frost serves on the Art Schools Network Board, a nonprofit organization that provides resources, support, and networking opportunities for leaders in arts schools like Booker. She’s also the board chair for Girls Inc. Sarasota, an organization that partners with schools to teach girls to be strong, smart and bold.
With more than 20 years in the education profession, Frost has learned that the academic success of a school is dependent on a leader who endures. Having a passion for education and the community, she says, is what keeps her going.
“My transition into education put me on the path to success,” Frost said. “I’m in a career that not only allows me to impact tomorrow’s leaders, but it also inspires me to see that this is not just a career to me. It’s also a mission.”