Announcing the March 2016 Educator Spotlight honorees! Congratulations to our educators.

The Educator Spotlight is a monthly feature on our Catapult Corner Blog. The educators that are highlighted are nominated by their colleagues in recognition of the positive impact they have on children and schools throughout the country. They are our very own shining stars!

  • Susan Couch – Teacher – Fort Worth, TX
  • James Costello – PD Consultant – Los Angeles, CA
  • Carol Foley – Teacher – Cooper City, FL
  • Emily Garcia – Teacher – Providence, RI
  • Pamelialisa Greer – Teacher – Detroit, MI
  • Connie Miles – Teacher – Dayton, OH
  • Shari Siegel – Teacher – Peoria, AZ
  • Suze White – Teacher – Richmond, VA
  • Tifarah Williams – Teacher – Chicago, IL

Susan CouchSusan Couch – Teacher

Sue’s passion for teaching is evident in everything she does with her students. You can see it when she is teaching during her questioning techniques and in the learning activities she has planned. It comes across in the fantastic work samples that are on display in her classroom. It is apparent when her students walk into her room. Sue is also present at all meetings and is always willing to share her successes and tips with other teachers.”  – Misty Delgado, Program Supervisor – Texas, Catapult Learning

  • Fort Worth, Texas
  • B.S. in Special Education, B.S. in Interior Design, M.S. in Educational Psychology, Oklahoma State University

Why did you become a teacher?
I love children. When I was in high school I belonged to a teen group that worked with people with disabilities teaching them to swim at the YMCA. We also planned and attended dances and parties for them. I decided that I wanted to teach special education students, and did so in the public schools for sixteen years.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
I love the students, the small groups and the schools where I teach! The students and I enjoy the curriculum and I find that I can be creative and still use it as my core.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I’m not sure that I can choose one success story. I celebrate all of those students whose test scores improve! I also celebrate those students who become more self confident. They are all, “my greatest teaching success story”, but not mine alone. The teaching successes that I experience are a group effort, including the students, parents and classroom teachers.

What have you learned from your students?

I learn something new from my students, everyday that I’m in class! They have taught me a lot about themselves. They have taught me to appreciate and enjoy every minute that I have with them, and make me want to find many new exciting ways to help improve their reading and math skills!

James CostelloJames Costello – PD Consultant

James goes above and beyond in his role to support teachers, students, and schools along with his colleagues. He is always sharing something he has found, learned, or created with the rest of our team. It is evident in everything that he does that he has a passion for making a difference for our students and schools.”  – Lee Anne Housley, Jessica Bianculli, and Sue Gerenstein, Catapult Learning

  • Los Angeles, California
  • History, University of California at Los Angeles

What is your prior teaching experience?
I taught six years as a K8 special education teacher as a resource specialist. I then taught six years as a history teacher in high school as well as varsity football coach and head ice hockey coach. Ten of the twelve years of my teaching were in schools with over 90% free and reduced lunch programs.

Why did you decide to become a coach?
I gave many PDs to my staffs as a teacher and also presented at the National AP Conference, which I enjoyed quite a bit. One of my former colleagues was coaching at Catapult Learning and sold me on what a great experience it is to coach the programs we support!

Why do you feel coaching is a valuable professional development experience for teachers?
I feel coaching is a valuable experience for teachers because teacher always want practical applications to help their students. When you are able to work so closely with teachers (often one-on-one), they can see the value in your support. For example, in a PD we can suggest a particular strategy and model it with the adult learners, but some teachers might not see how it applies in their classroom. When working with the teacher more directly, we can co-plan a lesson, I can model it with their students, or I can observe them try the strategy and give feedback. The coaching model helps ensure the transfer from theory to practice. I have seen this first hand with the Core Instructional Model (CIM) because use of formative assessments took many coaching visits to implement.  The first phase of coaching was to just get them in the classroom often.  From there we were able to have teacher select measurements that gathered the proper data.  Finally, we worked on how to use the data to monitor and adjust both in the lesson and after the lesson is complete.   This gradual implementation approach is true of all facets of the CIM implementation.  In all honesty, coaching is so successful because it allows the consultant to work within the individual teacher’s ZPD, which we all know maximizes growth.

What is your most rewarding Catapult Learning coaching success story?
The Catapult Instructional Model implementation in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is a two-year program.  I have to say every day on the campuses the second half of year two is a success story because the cultural shift is remarkable. For quantifiable success, I will say one of my school’s summative data has them ranked as the second highest school in terms of overall student growth in math among the 150+ schools measured. This is due to the relentless pursuit of academic learning time of the staff. Seeing how proud the principal and staff were of this accomplishment felt just like my students emailing me their AP passing grades. Like true educators, they celebrated their success and immediately began evaluating their ELA practices to try and match their math growth scores!

Carol Foley – Teacher

“Carol is always willing to help others get the job done in spite of her full schedule at her Title I school. She is always willing to go above and beyond her job expectations to help students and help other Catapult Learning teachers.” – Fran Banner, Supervisor, Catapult Learning

  • Cooper City, Florida
  • B.S. in Administrative Studies, Nova University; numerous teaching and childcare courses

Why did you become a teacher?
I love the help children learn and wanted to experience the joy of making a difference in their educational lives.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
I love being able to have interactions with the school staff, parents, and children.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I cannot recall an individual success story. I found the more I gave, the more I got, which comes as happiness when I interact with children. I consider each class a success when I see their inquisitive search for answers to questions, their enthusiastic responses, and their unconditional love.

What have you learned from your students?
From my students, I have learned to realize the value of providing a variety of ways for students to share what they know and can do. I’ve learned to trust my own observations and judgments about them.

Emily Garcia – Teacher

“Emily has demonstrated that she is an exceptional communicator and gifted teacher. She is a highly dedicated professional who knows how to motivate her students to become as independent as possible. Both in the classroom and in front of parents and case managers, Emily possesses the gift of being able to make information clear and understandable. It should go without saying that and she is a remarkable talent, with an ability to reach various types of students in many different ways.”  – Caitlin Caliri, Director, High Road School of Providence & New England Academic Regional Facilitator

  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • Elementary Education

Why did you become a teacher?
I have wanted to become a teacher since I was in the fourth grade. My fourth grade teacher was an influential person in my life, and till this day, I am still in contact with her. I do believe that providing an education to children and young adults provides a solid foundation to their lives. Teaching provides me the opportunity to help students, care for students, and learn from my students. In the past five years, I have gained so many experiences from the students I work with at the High Road School of Providence. They continue to amaze me each and every day, and this is what motivates me to continue to be the best teacher I can be.

What do you love most about teaching at High Road School?
Teaching at High Road School is a non-traditional approach to teaching that I absolutely fell in love with. The programs that have been designed within our schools not only support the students with various disabilities, but set them up for success. I believe in our program, and what we do here, and I love that I am challenged each day. Each day is different, and this allows me to gain teaching experiences that I feel that I would not be able to get teaching somewhere else. I truly admire the professionals within this company, and I am honored to be part of such an amazing community of educators.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
Within the past five years, there were numerous moments that could be considered as success stories. With working with the population I do, I am able to teach students who not only are forced to deal with adversity on a daily basis, but who live in urban settings, where too often, violence is present. Recently, a student of mine was accepted into Johnson and Wales University, receiving an $11,000 academic scholarship per year. When he handed me the letter, he acted as if it were no big deal. I immediately started to tear up. I was so proud of him! At that moment, I knew that my hard work and dedication had paid off. I cannot wait to see how successful he becomes in the future.

What have you learned from your students?
My students have taught me more than I could have ever imagined. My students have taught me about hardship and overcoming it. As a school community, we have overcome the loss of one of our beloved students due to violence. Through this experience, my students taught me about the reality of their lives, and how often, violence plays too important of a role. My students have taught me that respect is important to them, and once you have gained their respect, they are some of the most loyal individuals I know. I am honored to work with the students at the High Road School of Providence. I feel as though they teach me just as much as I teach them, and for that, If eel extremely fortunate.

Pamelialisa GreerPamelialisa Greer – Teacher

Ms. Greer goes above and beyond for her students. She does her best to motivate them to be successful in everything they do. For Title I Month, she encourages them to read as often as possible. She motivates them with prizes and encouragement. Ms. Greer has taken an active role in her building and developed great working relationships with the principal and staff.”  – Ellen McGahey, Area Manager, Catapult Learning

  • Detroit, Michigan
  • M.Ed. in Language Arts and Reading, Marygrove College

Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher because I love the art of learning, to share my knowledge with others, and to serve those who need me.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
What I love most about teaching for Catapult is the awesome team I’m a part of. We work well together. If I need anything help is a telephone call, or an email a way. I’m thankful I work for a company that meets the needs of their students, parents, and staff.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
My greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story was a student that had almost given up on learning. He had no excitement about school and learning until he met me. The student had been retained, and was at-risk of being held back again. I challenged the student to do and be better. I praised his every success, no matter how big or small. The student gained confidence, started turning in all lessons on-time, and being a leader in class. He passed to the next grade with his class. He was later placed in his correct grade. His parents told me,” it was my pushing that led him to his academic success.”

What have you learned from your students?
I have learned from my students to be prepared for anything, and to always be ready to teach. A teachable moment can happen anywhere and at any time.

Connie MilesConnie Miles – Teacher

“Connie is a true professional and goes above and beyond to provide her students with quality instruction. She loves teaching and displays this enthusiasm in all that she does. Connie is passionate about making her lessons relevant and student centered. Students are excited about learning and this is observable by their participation, on task behavior and learning success.”  – Sue Ann Marie Korb, Ohio Instructional Supervisor, Catapult Learning

  • Dayton, Ohio
  • B.S. in Elementary Education, M.Ed. in Curriculum and Supervision, Gifted Education, Wright State University

Why did you become a teacher?
I was fortunate to have a number of very special teachers in my school experience. Even at an early age, I could tell that these remarkable people had a passion for teaching and were able to “infect” me with their love of learning. I decided that I wanted to become that kind of teacher. My teachers must have seen the spark they ignited in me as I was given many opportunities to help in classrooms and tutor students. Those kinds of experiences motivated me to become a teacher.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
There are a number of things I enjoy about teaching for Catapult Learning. I love the small class sizes which allow me to get to know my students and their needs more fully. I enjoy the collegiality I share with my fellow Catapult teachers. We share ideas, materials, and best practices regularly. I also appreciate having a supervisor who is the model of effective and caring supervision. I’ve never worked with anyone more perfect for their job.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
In my 40+ years of teaching, there have been many successes, some large and some small. I’m sure that is why I have taught so long. They come when that “aha moment” crosses the face of a child who has been struggling and you know he truly understands, or when that difficult student that you have been trying to reach asks to have lunch with you. Successes arrive in the form of an invitation to a graduation of a student you had long ago. Each success, large or small, is rewarding and appreciated.

What have you learned from your students?
My students have taught me so many things. I have learned to NEVER take myself too seriously, that I don’t have all of the answers, that learning new things is still a lot of fun, and that kindness, patience and a sense of humor can improve most any situation.

Shari Siegel Sierra Academy of ScottsdaleShari Siegel – Teacher

“Ms. Siegel is to be commended for her positive nurturing attitude each and every day. Even though the students in her classroom have learning challenges with academic, social or sensory based difficulties, Shari customizes her daily activities and lessons to ensure that each student’s unique needs are being met. Thus each student succeeds and is highlighted with their success through positive feedback as a spotlighted student. This has heightened the student’s motivational levels propelling them forward to make academic gains.”  – Debra Watland, Director, Sierra Academy of Scottsdale

  • Peoria, Arizona
  • Dual Masters in Education K-12 and Special Education, University of Arizona

Why did you become a teacher?
I became a special education teacher because I have a special place in my heart for teaching children with disabilities. I love when a student gets a concept that they thought they would never learn. I enjoy learning new ways to help “level the playing field” for kids with disabilities.

What do you love most about teaching for Sierra Academy?
The team work, collaboration, and dedication for each of our students.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
One of my students came to school shy, withdrawn, and with a negative outlook towards school. Her growth academically and socially has been huge. She now has made many friends and loves coming to school.    

What have you learned from your students?
I have learned that no matter how difficult the task at hand may seem I need to keep trying until its complete.  

Suze WhiteSuze White – Teacher

“Suze consistently delivers innovative, research-based, differentiated instruction. Her knowledge of reading and math best instructional practices, as well as strong organizational skills help her to plan for meet the needs of each student in her Title I groups. In addition to being a passionate teacher, Suze serves as Parent Involvement Coordinator for her region. In this role, Suze strategically plans based on feedback about what works from Title I teachers and parents of Title I students.”  – Sue Sparks

  • Richmond, Virginia
  • B.A. in Intellectual Disabilities K-12, Lynchburg College; Masters in Elementary School Principal, Virginia Commonwealth University; Reading Specialist, Longwood University

Why did you become a teacher?
For me, teaching is a job which provides me the opportunity to continue to grow and change, solve new mysteries each day and be a part of a process which will help children become productive adults.

What do you love most about teaching for NESI?
Working for NESI has given me the opportunity to grow professionally.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
My greatest success is hearing about students who were once struggling readers, and have gone on to become successful students in both high school and college.

What have you learned from your students?
I have learned from my students that it is hard to predict when a lesson will be successful or not, so I need to be well prepared, but also flexible.

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Tifarah WilliamsTifarah Williams – Teacher

“Tifarah enjoys working with students to help build their knowledge and understanding. She demonstrates great flexibility as she has successfully been placed at multiple sites during her time with Catapult. She has been able to meet school and company needs and has been a welcome addition at schools. She enjoys seeing the growth and confidence develop in her students.”  – Laura Roule, Supervisor, Catapult Learning

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • M.A. in Elementary Education with Middle School Endorsements in Language Arts & Social Science, Saint Xavier University

Why did you become a teacher?
I was definitely influenced by my sixth-grade teacher, Ms. Thompson. I also volunteered mentoring middle school students, and the experience motivated me more to become a teacher.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
I love the small groups and the resources Catapult provides.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I had a third grader who wouldn’t talk and by fourth grade he was asking me how I was doing.

What have you learned from your students?
To stay on my toes!