MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — There's a new partnership between the Manatee County school district and the University of South Florida that's aimed to help ease the teacher shortage.
It's benefiting new teachers like Hope Gratzer.
“Right now, I’m just getting to a lot of the goodies I recently got,” she said while unpacking some classroom decorations for her first year of teaching.
“It's really important to me for the classroom to feel like a fun, warm, inviting space,” she said.
Gratzer has waited a long time for this to happen.
“I essentially knew from a very young age that I wanted to teach,” she said.
She will teach ninth-grade English at Southeast High School in Bradenton.
“It’s a way to step into another world. It makes us more well-rounded. Reading can be so so good for the mind and soul,” she said.
Gratzer is one of 10 teachers that were hired by Manatee County Schools after graduating from the University of South Florida in May.
It’s a new partnership between USF and the county, aimed to reduce the teacher shortage.
Students work a paid internship in a classroom while still undergraduates. After graduation, they can sign a one-year teaching contract with the school district.
“This classroom is extremely special to me," Gratzer said. "I shared it with my mentor while I was interning. Now that it is my room, it feels like the torch has been passed on."
The English education major says choosing this route was a no-brainer.
"That opened up the door so much. We were the only paid interns out of every one of the interns at USF because we were in Manatee County,” she explained.
That experience gave her a jump start to her career.
“I’ve fallen in love with this school, I love the staff, I love the students, “she said.
And she made a friend.
Shelbi Berner was also part of the internship program – she’ll teach social studies this year.
“I said, 'Oh it's not just me, I can have a buddy.' It shows that Manatee County is doing something about the teaching shortage,” she said.
As Gratzer begins her new career, her dedication is clear.
"I’ve been non-stop lesson planning,” she explained.
There are more than 300 new teachers this year in Manatee County and 10 graduated from the USF partnership.