PALMETTO -- It takes a special person to be able to teach a class of first graders.
University of South Florida Adjunct Professor Melinda Lundy says such a person must be organized enough to formulate a detailed class plan and stick to it, wise and persistent enough to learn the way to reach every child, patient enough to explain things with great enthusiasm and energetic enough to make it all fun.
Although Lundy had no way to assess the potential of all of the education majors who got their degrees during the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee 2014 Spring Commencement at the Bradenton Area Convention Center Monday, she could vouch for one.
Kaleigh Lundy, 23, Melinda's daughter, who is already working at Virgil Mills Elementary School in Parrish, not only got her bachelor's in the USF-SM College of Education Monday, but was also awarded the 2014 Golden Bull Service and Outstanding Leadership Award given to a student who has extraordinary leadership, community and university involvement and academic success.
Bradenton's Christopher Davis, 35, who served more than 14 years in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper and senior intelligence analyst in Special Operations, was named Outstanding Graduate.
Ryan Stulman of the College of Business won the Paul Searles Webecke Award presented to the most outstanding student in the Master of Business Administration program.
Ernest Scott, an instructor of
criminology and a 30-year law enforcement veteran, was named Outstanding Professor.
Kaleigh Lundy, who got her own primary education at Moody and Bashaw elementary schols, Palmetto Christian School and Palmetto High, was among 330 seniors who applied to graduate Monday. Nearly 200 graduates attended the ceremony.
The graduates included 42 master's degree candidates and 286 bachelor's degree candidates.
On April 28, Kaleigh Lundy started as a long-term substitute in a first grade classroom at Mills, taking over for a teacher on maternity leave.
"It's an awesome feeling having my own class," said Lundy, who has a picture of herself teaching her stuffed animals when she was a youngster. "I can honestly say that with everything I got from USF, I was very prepared to walk in that class."
Lundy said having a mother who was also a teacher at Moody, Bashaw and Rowlett elementary schools in Manatee County from 1994 to 2007 certainly helped.
"From my mom I learned work ethic and the need to be very thorough," Lundy said.
Lundy had three internships, at Tillman, Braden River and Mills elementary schools.
She regularly made use of her college notes. In fact, she reviewed notes she had taken in a Classroom Management class at USF before her first day at Mills in her new post.
"We had to come up with a plan and I found that paper and followed it," Lundy said. "First grade is very step by step. You have to have the whole day scheduled down to the minute."
After a week, Lundy loves interacting with the children.
"First graders are so funny," she said. "They are young but they absolutely absorb everything and when they learn something, their faces just light up and it makes you light up inside."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.