Six educators and community partners from throughout the Tampa Bay region were selected for a new award presented by the University of South Florida (USF) College of Education’s Undergraduate Program Committee (UPC) in celebration of their contributions to undergraduate education at USF.
The Excellence in Undergraduate Education Community Partner Award is a new award established by the UPC to celebrate members of the community who have served as dedicated collaborating teachers, mentors and facilitators to students in the College of Education.
Read more about each of the six recipients below.
Dorothy Brana — First Grade Teacher at Lake Magdalene Elementary School
Dorothy Brana is a first-grade teacher at Lake Magdalene Elementary School and has been a collaborating teacher to pre-service teachers in USF’s Early Childhood Education program for nearly 10 years. She also participated in USF’s Collaborating Teacher Connect event, where she shared her experiences and advice for newer collaborating teachers. This year, Brana retires from the teaching profession after 49 years in the education profession.
“My goal while working with interns was to help them develop mutual respect between parents, teachers and students,” Brana said. “At this point, they can strive to make learning a collaborative activity resulting in successful learning for all involved. I have thoroughly enjoyed the mutual learning experience working with interns.”
Julie Chappell — Graduate Teaching Assistant for USF’s Early Childhood Education program
Julie Chappell has served as a university supervisor for three years and works with students both on-campus and in the field. She supervised students in USF’s Early Childhood Education program during their final teaching internships in Spring 2020 and Spring 2021 and helped maintain the quality and integrity of the program's final internship during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Much of my motivation comes from the desire to support the field of education, which includes having kind, skilled, accepting, knowledgeable teachers,” Chappell said. “My favorite part of supervising has been sharing my own teaching experiences with my interns. Being a former teacher has kept me grounded to what the interns are experiencing.”
Stephanie Kraft — Teacher Fellow at Bellamy Elementary
Stephanie Kraft is a teacher leader and collaborating teacher fellow at Bellamy Elementary. She works closely with students in USF’s Elementary Education undergraduate program to ensure they are provided with maximum learning opportunities while in the field.
“I am a product of USF’s Elementary Education program and I want to give back to the program that allowed me to work in my dream field,” Kraft said. “I love to share positive energy with my interns and show them that every student can reach their highest potential.”
Mary Marrs — Pre-K and Special Education Instructor at Pizzo Elementary
Mary Marrs has worked as a mentor for the Exceptional Student Education undergraduate program for more than 15 years, supporting USF undergraduate interns and providing them valuable feedback.
“My colleague and partner teacher introduced me to the USF partnership,” Marrs said. “After I attended support sessions, I knew I wanted to help new teachers in our profession! I believe in passing the torch in education so that professionalism and enthusiasm for teaching continues for our children.”
Denise L. Polojac-Chenoweth — Coordinator of Secondary Education Undergraduate Student Internships
Dr. Polojac-Chenoweth is the coordinator for the Secondary Education undergraduate student internships. She focuses on the individual needs of students and works to make internships more reflective of what students need to learn before they enter a classroom as a teacher.
“At this point (in my career), I realized that I certainly could continue to make a difference in the lives of my students. However, I could impact even more students’ lives by helping to prepare the future teachers to make the same or even greater impact on the lives of their students that I had,” Polojac-Chenoweth said. “My role as Coordinator of Secondary Internships has provided me the opportunity to work with and share my experiences with the future of our profession.”
Cindy Sofarelli — Vice President of Advancement and Community Engagement for Metropolitan Ministries
Cindy Sofarelli gives her time every fall semester to speaks with USF undergraduates in the "Survey in Exercise Science" on personalities and how to work better as a team.
“I have lived in Tampa for just over 20 years and have always admired all that USF does to strengthen our community,” Sofarelli said. “Training and facilitating has always been a passion of mine, so when given the opportunity to share with students at USF, I jumped at the chance! In a growing world of technology communication, I also feel we need to foster the human spirit and teach the importance of building stronger interpersonal relationships.”