Childhood Education

Elementary Education Program

The first course offerings for an Elementary Education Bachelors Degree began in the fall of 1960. An elementary education major, Barbara Holley Campbell, was the first student accepted to USF in 1960. One of the first two graduates in the College of Education was an elementary education major.

In 1964 the elementary education program was coordinated by Dr. Elmo Moretz. By the mid to late 1960s there were three separate programs (later called departments) early childhood, elementary, and reading education. In 1972 the elementary and early childhood departments merged and in 1982 the reading department joined them, and it was named Childhood/Language Arts/ and Reading (CLAR). The name was changed to Childhood Education in 2002.

The first faculty members had offices on the second floor of the Chemistry Building. Among the early faculty that remained in one of the three programs for ten years or longer included Drs. Jeanette Aegans, Martha Lou Austin, James Chambers, Lea Dubois, and Les McClellan. When Dr. Jean Battle was appointed Dean of the College of Education he established nine programs; one was elementary education. The program was comprised of a core group of faculty that focused on internships, methods courses, and language arts; however, elementary education students took courses that were taught by the other program areas of art, reading, math, music, social science, physical education, and curriculum and instruction. In 1967 James Chambers was appointed Chair of the Elementary Education Program, and he continued in this position for many years.

An innovative approach to teacher education that had a heavy emphasis on internship was initiated, “The Cluster Team Approach. “ Majors were required to intern in the schools each semester; however, there was no full-time final internship. Teams of elementary education majors (20 to 35 students) were assigned an elementary faculty member to supervise them. Dr. Bob Shannon helped to plan and implement this program. Subsequently, Drs. Leon Graebell and Lea DuBois were insturmental in making the program highly successful. Elementary education majors had the option of following a traditional program that involved only the final full-time internship or the innovative program. In the 1970s, Drs. JoAnn Long and Dan Purdom who had a curriculum specialization and taught elementary education majors the curriculum course for many years, revised the elementary education program that is still in place in 2007. This program has also been implemented on all the regional campuses including St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Ft. Myers, and Lakeland. This innovative elementary education program involves a part-time internship two mornings a week, three hours each day, during the first semester of students’ junior year. In the third semester in the program, their senior year, students have a second internship that consist of interning four mornings a week for three hours each day. The team leader is also the students’ advisor. A traditional final full-time internship is completed during their final semester in the program.

In the 1970s undergraduate elementary education majors were given the opportunity to complete one semester of their program in the British School System. Dr. Shannon began this program and continued it for a number of years. In the 1990s Dr. Ron Linder resurrected the program but structured it somewhat differently. Presently, faculty in the Childhood Department alternate this teaching assignment.

During a time of teacher shortage in the mid 1970s, Drs. Leon Graebell and Jean Linder implemented the Teachers’ Aide Program that resulted in an elementary education degree for individuals employed as teacher aides. The aides were pre-qualified by county administrators based on their outstanding performance in the classroom.

In the early 1990s professional development schools (PDS) were a popular movement. Dr. Susan Homan initiated a PDS at Centennial Elementary School in Pasco County. Kathy Oropallo and Ann Hall followed her as on-site supervisors. In this program, students and their supervising teachers took one methods course each semester at the school site. They also had an internship each semester. This program continued for five years. Kathy Laframboise used a similar model at Cypress Creek Elementary School in Hillsborough County. Presently, Pizzo Elementary School located on campus and the Patel Charter School are actively used as PDS schools by elementary education majors. In addition, the Early Learning Center on campus is used by early childhood majors. The Early Learning Center was conceptualized and started by Ronald Linder, a longtime faculty member in early childhood.

During the 1980s and 1990s the Childhood Department graduated more elementary and early childhood education teachers than all of the other state universities combined. Although the numbers were large, high quality was maintained. In 2006 the Childhood Department had an undergraduate student enrollment of 625 students on the Tampa Campus, 175 on the Sarasota campus, and 154 students on the Lakeland Campus making a grand total of 954 students.

Reading Education Program

In 1966 a masters degree in reading education was developed with Martha Lou Austin as the program chair. Martha Lou initiated the planning of this program. When Alvin Lowe joined the faculty in 1966, he assisted her. The reading masters degree certifies teachers to work with students in grades one through junior college. Dr. Lowe brought to the program planning a background in secondary education and Martha Lou’s background was elementary education; therefore, a program that proved exceedingly popular was formed. The following year, Dr. Phillip Pfost became the coordinator of the reading program. Additional early faculty members that planned and taught the courses in the program included Frank Freshour, Lois Michaels and Fronsie Keiter. The first student that received a Masters Degree in Reading Education was Patricia Waydovich. In addition to Drs. Austin and Pfost, Drs. Donald Neville and Alvin Lowe chaired the Reading Department.

Early Childhood Education Program

In 1968 the Early Childhood Program was created with Dr. Michael Auleta as the coordinator. Early faculty members in the program who developed the course contents and got the program started included Drs. Betty Brantley, Shirley Kaufmann, Ronald Linder, JoAnn Long, and Harland Merriam. They developed and implemented a Masters in Early Childhood Education and also offered courses that enabled teachers with certification in elementary education to add certification in early childhood by taking two additional courses. Some students chose to do that prior to receiving their bachelors degree, but many teachers already in the field selected to return in order to add the certification. In the 1990s certification requirements for teaching age three to grade three changed, and the early childhood undergraduate degree involved two years of course requirements and internships.

Regional Campus Programs

On the regional campuses, language arts/reading faculty members were usually hired as the first anchor faculty members because of their diversity in teaching many of the required courses and their ability to work with interns. These faculty members were always a part of the Tampa campus department—Reading, Elementary, Early Childhood, CLAR, or Childhood. The Tampa campus was given primary responsibility for selecting the faculty and they attended faculty meetings on campus. Annual reviews and promotion reviews were done by peers in their department on the Tampa campus. Regional campus faculties had many added responsibilities, and the range of courses they taught in a given year far exceeded that of Tampa campus faculty. They implemented undergraduate elementary or early childhood programs with the same requirements as those on the Tampa campus.

Early faculty members on the St. Petersburg campus were Drs. Gene Towery and Sonia Helton. In 1992 Dr. Helton became the coordinator of the program and remained in that position until 2004. Masters Degrees for department programs were also offered on the regional campus with some of the courses taught by Tampa faculty.

Dr. Barbara Clarke with a reading/language arts specialization, became the first department anchor at the Sarasota Regional Campus in 1978. To promote life-longer learning through an interest in professional organizations, Dr. Clarke encouraged undergraduate elementary education majors to join the campus Student Reading Council that she sponsored. They were the second college in the nation to have this organization.

Drs. Carolyn Spillman and Josephine Polito were the first anchor faculty from the Childhood Department on the Ft. Myers campus. In spite of the distance, they regularly attended faculty meetings on the Tampa campus. Dr. Marjorie Wynn was the first faculty member from the Childhood Department that was assigned to the Lakeland campus. She also remained closely connected to the Tampa faculty and persuaded Tampa faculty to come the Lakeland campus to teach graduate courses.

Although both the Ft. Myers and St. Petersburg campuses are now autonomous, the faculty on those campuses made a positive impact on the programs offered in the present Childhood Education Department.

Graduate Programs

Elementary, early childhood, and reading masters degree programs began in the mid 1960s and have been consistently popular through the years. Programs have been revised to meet current trends and/or to meet the needs of the area schools and students. For example, there was a Plan II reading masters program that enabled secondary education graduates to receive a masters in reading. In the 1990s Nancy Anderson spearheaded the development of an elementary masters program for graduates from fields other than education.

In the 1990s Drs. Susan Homan and Jim King implemented a masters and a masters plus 14 hours program entitled Accelerated Literacy Learning. The focus of the program was instruction in how to provide one-on-one instruction to at-risk beginning readers. The original model for this program, developed by Marie Clay from Australia, was called Reading Recovery. Teachers who took the masters plus 14 hours program became teacher trainers in their schools. Drs. King and Homan took the program to 14 school districts in the state.

On the St. Petersburg campus Dr. Helton developed an elementary education masters degree with a math and science emphasis. Drs. Margaret Hewitt and Kim Stoddard who had a special education specialty, developed a 5-year masters degree. Students in this program took undergraduate and graduate courses in both elementary education and special education. Upon completion they were certified in both areas.

Enrollment in the masters degree programs offered in the Childhood Education Department has soared over the years. The enrollment in 2006 was 248 students, one of the largest masters degree programs in the college.

Advanced Graduate Programs

In the mid 70s, an Ed. D. and Ph. D. program in reading education was started with Dr. Donald Neville as the director. At about the same time Early Childhood and Elementary Education began Ed. D. and Ph. D. programs with Dr. JoAnn Long as the director. Subsequent advanced degree coordinators have included Drs. Evelyn Searls, Janell Klesius and Susan Homan. Initially, the doctoral students were primarily former graduates and other teachers who lived in the large surrounding metropolitan area. In 2006 the Childhood Education Program had about 42 students who were seeking Ed.D or Ph. D. Degrees in reading or early childhood. Approximately fifty percent of the required undergraduate elementary or early childhood methods courses in the Childhood Department were taught by a doctoral student. All graduate assistants were required to take a course entitled Mentoring and College Teaching. Teacher assistants were mentored by a regular faculty member who teaches the course they are assigned.

Community Outreach Programs

The Reading Masters Degree that was initially developed in the 1960s used a clinical model to guide the development of course requirements. Therefore, for assessing and tutoring students in reading education, a reading laboratory was established. Students in the community with reading deficits were provided a free reading assessment followed by one-on-one tutoring, if needed. The College of Education Reading Center Directors over the years included Drs. Martha Lou Austin, Lois Michaels, Fronsie Keiter, Evelyn Searls and Janell Klesius.

In 1979 Dr. Ron Linder initiated the Children’s Festival that continued under his leadership until 1997. With the support of other college department areas, this one-day event was a well-attended, fun, and learning-filled day for children and their parents. For a young college, this event demonstrated to other educators and lay people in the community that the faculty members in the College of Education were creative, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic educators. In 2006 a college committee chaired by Paulette Walker resurrected the Children’s Festival.

A community outreach event implemented by the CLAR Department was the Young Authors’ Conference. Dr. Wendy Kasten, a faculty member on the Sarasota campus, started this conference on that campus in the early 1990s. Subsequently, Dr. Gloria Houston began the Young Authors’ Conference on the Tampa campus. Children in the nearby counties were selected in their schools to come on campus to share with other young authors and USF faculty the book they had written. They also attended writing workshops conducted by professional writers. Drs. Barry Morris and Jennifer Schneider assumed the role of director of the Young Authors Conference on the Tampa Campus in subsequent years

Research and Publication

In the 1980s and until the present, research and publication in referred professional journals has been a necessity for receiving merit pay, tenure, and promotion. That was particularly difficult for faculty in this department because funding was often not adequate. The assignment time given for a pre-internship team was not commensurate with the actual time required to supervise and advise teams of up to 40 students assigned to schools throughout the county. Research assignments were also rare. Other departments that had lengthy internships were similarly affected. Many senior and retired faculty feel that the research status the university enjoys today was built on the long hours of unassigned research and publishing they did.


From the beginning the faculty in the programs that presently make up the Childhood Department valued having a strong relationship with students. The team approach in which one faculty member worked with a group of students for three semesters enabled that to happen. In addition, building school relationships was important. Faculty members partnered with schools’ personnel—teachers and administrators. Many faculty members returned to the same schools for years with their pre-internship teams. The relationships built in the schools facilitated the unique final internship program in which many of the students are supervised by former principals in the nearby school districts.

This history of the department has not focused on individual accomplishments of faculty members. Only activities that involved program and department endeavors have been included. The senior and retired faculty members are proud of the legacy that we built, and are proud when programs continue and grow.

Elementary, Early Childhood, Reading, CLAR or Childhood Department Chairs

  • Elmo Moritz- Elementary
  • James Chambers – Elementary/Childhood
  • Mike Auletta – Early Childhood
  • Ed Uprichard – Elementary
  • Phil Pfost – Reading/CLAR
  • Don Neville – Reading
  • Ed Uprichard – Elementary
  • JoAnn Long – Elementary/Childhood
  • Leon Graebell – Elementary/ CLAR
  • Mary Olson – CLAR
  • Phil Pfost – CLAR
  • Shirley Raines – CLAR
  • Frank Freshour – CLAR
  • Steve Graves – CLAR
  • Kathy Laframboise and Priscilla Griffin – CLAR
  • Jane Young – CLAR
  • Marcia Mann – Childhood
  • Lou Carey (Interim) – Childhood
  • Roger Brindley- Childhood

Childhood Department Faculty

The following faculty members made a contribution to the elementary, early childhood, reading, CLAR, and/or Childhood Department for at least 25 years:

  • Chambers, James
  • Clarke, Barbara
  • Freshour, Frank
  • Goforth, Frances
  • Helton, Sonia
  • Homan, Susan
  • Klesius, Janell
  • Linder, Ronald
  • Lowe, Alvin
  • McClellan, Les
  • Schwartz, Carol
The following faculty members of the reading, early childhood, elementary, CLAR, and/or Childhood department spent at least ten years making a contribution in the department:

  • Anderson, Nancy
  • Austin, Martha Lou
  • Barkholz, Gerald
  • Brantley, Betty
  • Brindley, Roger
  • Dubois, Lea
  • Fleege, Pam
  • Frye, Barbara
  • Fountain, Juanita
  • Graebell, Leon
  • Graves, Stephen
  • Griffith, Priscilla
  • Hall, Ann
  • Hanley, Patty
  • Hewitt, Margaret
  • Kasten, Wendy
  • Keiter, Fronsie
  • King, Jim
  • Laframboise, Kathy
  • Linder, Jean
  • Long, Jo Ann
  • Mann, Marcia
  • Merriam, Harland
  • Micklo, Stephen
  • Morris, Barry
  • Neville, Donald
  • Pearcey, Walter
  • Pfost, Phillip
  • Polito, Josephine
  • Schneider, Jennifer
  • Searls, Evelyn
  • Shannon, Robert
  • Spillman, Carolyn
  • Swarzman, Joyce
  • Towery, Gene
  • Wynn, Margie
  • Zielonka, Paula

Additional Photos

Thumb of a black and white group photo Thumb of a black and white group photo
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