Meet Dr. VU!

Dr. Shari Valencic-Ursel has been a career educator of gifted students. She is in her 18th year of teaching, currently instructing in the 1st grade gifted program at Venice Elementary School in Sarasota County, Florida.

Shari recently completed her doctorate degree in the field of educational leadership at Argosy University. She defended her dissertation in July, 2008, on The Impact of Professional Learning Communities on Gifted Education Professional Development. Working with and training teachers to improve their practice and self-image has become a passion equal to teaching bright children for Shari. She is a popular presenter at local, state, and national teacher conferences, and is president of VUtopia, Inc., a private educational consulting business. Shari has developed and teaches several Florida Gifted Endorsement courses for both Sarasota County and private professional development companies.

Shari attended the University of Notre Dame and is also graduate of Southern Connecticut State and Nova Universities. Her teaching background includes training at New York's Bank Street School, action research work with renown gifted researcher Dr. John Feldhusen, and numerous teaching awards, including Pine View School's Elementary Teacher of the Year (1996), the Florida Association for the Gifted's Teacher of the Year (2005), and national Magic Tree House Teacher of the Year finalist (2007). Shari is a founding board member of the Florida Gifted Network, founding member of the Sarasota Association for Gifted Education (SAGE), and was recently appointed to the state board of the Florida Association for the Gifted (FLAG).

Shari has taught in Venice Elementary's gifted program for the past six years. She is also involved in a host of school activities including her positions as chairperson of the School Advisory Council, cochair of the Science Fair, and editor of the school newsletter, The Tom Tom Talk. Within the school district, Shari is a professional development instructor for Florida's Gifted Endorsement courses and a professional learning communities chairperson and candidate mentor for the district's cadre of 160 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs). Shari was one of the first six NBCTs in the district, achieving certification in 1999, and is the first Sarasota County NBCT to seek recertification.

Shari was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and still visits family and friends there each year. While there, she especially likes to ride roller coasters at Cedar Point, attend Cleveland Indians ballgames, and relax on her favorite Lake Erie islands, Catawba and Put-in-Bay on South Bass. Her family relocated to Florida in 1981, where she graduated as valedictorian of both Epiphany School's class of 1983 and Cardinal Mooney High School's class of 1987. In college, Shari helped found SCSU's chapter of Delta Phi Epsilon sorority and was sweetheart of Yale University's Sigma Chi fraternity. She and her daughters, Tali and Mariska, live in downtown Venice with their faithful hound, Cappy. They enjoy finding shark teeth and other fossils on Venice's beaches, marathon Yahtzee games, discovering new music for their iPods, and eating gelato.