Educator Spotlight – May 2016

Announcing the May 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!

  • Kimberly Badessa – Teacher – Hamilton, NJ
  • Delores Evans – Teacher – Dayton, OH
  • Cassandra Fajardo – Teacher – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • Katarzyna Gielniewski – Teacher – Chicago, IL
  • Brianna Grondin – Teacher – Scottsdale, AZ
  • Kate Johnson – Teacher – Detroit, MI

Kim Badessa – Teacher

Kim Badessa1Kim is always looking for ways to improve her program and further assist her students succeed. Usually high school students do not want to be pulled out for additional help. Kim’s classes are ALWAYS full! Kim continues to work side by side with our CST team to make sure all of her students are receiving the correct services, accommodations, and modifications. Kim emails and makes phone calls to parents during her own time! I cannot say enough about how dedicated she is to her students and the Catapult Program.”  – Judy ThummBorst, Area Manager, Central/South NJ, Catapult Learning

  • Hamilton, New Jersey
  • Special Education, Trenton State College (TCNJ)

Why did you become a teacher?
I wanted to help children, and I understood what it was like to struggle in learning since I also having learning disabilities.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?I love the opportunity to help the children succeed through Catapult Services. I assist in all areas and I enjoy working with the teachers and students throughout the year.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
Every time one of my students does well in a success story for me. However, I met a student when I first started who was not doing well at all and did not enjoy learning. Throughout the year of working with him, he made honor roll and actually took a personal interest in his education and enjoyed doing his work. He has now transferred to a public school and he has continued to do well and still reaches out to me.

What have you learned from your students?
I have learned that everyone is different and needs to be treated as such. Some days they need a little from me and other days they need a lot; whatever they need, I am there to give it to them. I ABSOLUTELY love my job and “my kids.”


Delores Evans – Teacher

Delores Evans1Delores is a former principal and Leader of Principals for Dayton Public Schools. Upon retirement she wanted to get back into the classroom and work with students again. She is highly respected at Immaculate Conception School for her knowledge, professionalism, open communication, and commitment to her students. She goes above and beyond what is required. She put in endless hours before school, after school, and on weekends.”  – Sue Ann Marie Korb, Catapult Learning Ohio Instructional Supervisor

  • Dayton, Ohio
  • B.S. in Elementary Education, M.S. in Education, Specialist in Education Administration

Why did you become a teacher?
My first interest in teaching came from teaching Vacation Bible School as a sixth grader. That experience led me to join FTA (Future Teachers of America) in high school. My interest in intervention was a result of seeing the majority of my cousins placed in special education programs. I questioned their placement, because I knew they were capable of handling situations, I couldn’t begin to understand. I also knew they lived in deprived situations with little parental support. I was driven to help struggling students with potential to achieve beyond their circumstances.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?
Catapult has allowed me to return to my foundational experiences as a young beginning teacher. I have an opportunity to connect with children and families of students who are working against the odds, yet I know can be successful.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I am excited about the sixth- and seventh-grade students who began with struggling with reading and math, and now they are monitoring their own work with Option C and have improved in all content areas. One of them no longer qualifies for services. What a great problem, a student tests too high to continue IEP services.

What have you learned from your students?
I have learned that children are unique, yet similar. They need encouragement, support, and individualized help. Once they trust you, they give you their best. Who could ask for more?


Cassandra Fajardo – Teacher

Cassandra Fajardo1When you walk down the hallway to Cassandra Fajardo’s Title I classroom you are apt to hear poems being recited, singing or snapping of fingers. This is because Cassandra develops a variety of learning tools to help her students remember their skills. She will also “dress up” in a variety of attire to demonstrate a skill or help her students “picture” the literature they are reading. Cassandra puts the FUN in learning and her students respond enthusiastically. It is evident from observations that Cassandra puts in more than the expected planning time into her lessons – going the extra mile to help her students learn!”     —Fran Banner, Broward Supervisor, Catapult Learning

  • Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  • B.S. in Communications, Florida Atlantic University; currently pursuing a degree in Environmental Science

Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher because I love being creative. I enjoy utilizing that creativity to engage learners and to increase their understanding in new ways. Teaching keeps me on my toes and pushes me to think outside the box to make lessons interesting.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?
The thing I enjoy most about working for Catapult is the resources it provides to schools. By allowing small groups of learners to have access to supplemental learning strategies and materials, schools are more cognizant of what works and what doesn’t in order to further learning.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
My greatest success is when students work hard to learn a skill and then gain the confidence to continue to meet learning goals.

What have you learned from your students?
I’ve learned to bring some fun into learning and that student’s love variety. I sometimes think back to when I was in elementary school and if I had a Ferris Bueller-type of teacher, I probably wouldn’t like school very much. So, I try aim for a combination of routine, learning and varied teaching styles.


Katarzyna (Kasia) Gielniewski  – Teacher

Kasia G Pic1Kasia has performed at an exemplary level as a Title I teacher at St. Edward over the years. Her dedication to her students is evident from the moment that you step foot in her classroom. She makes herself available to both her students and parents after school on a daily basis. Her willingness to grow the program at St. Edward is a testament to the difference that she knows Title I is making for her students as evidenced by increased test scores. Kasia also has allowed new teachers to observe her, so they can better understand the reading instruction associated with the NESI program.”  – Jeffrey Lobo, Catapult/NESI Program Supervisor

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • B.S. in Elementary Education (concentration in Literature), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher because from an early age I knew I wanted to help children. Originally, I thought I would be a pediatrician, but my life experiences showed me another path. I started to seriously consider teaching as early as eighth grade when I was selected to help some struggling Kindergarten students every Friday afternoon. Once I got into high school, I tutored struggling elementary school students from the grade school next door. I loved the satisfaction of knowing I helped a child understand their lessons and knew I wanted to pursue a degree in education.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?The best part of teaching in my current position is the ability to teach so many different groups of children. It is quite refreshing to be able to switch groups and subjects every 40 minutes. Every group requires the use of different teaching styles and approaches to learning. What works for one group does not necessarily work for the next, but the fun is in discovering what works for each group and using that to make learning a fun adventure for all.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
My greatest success was convincing a group of junior high girls to stay for Title I class after the dismissal bell to work on math. When the girls first began with me in the fall they flat out told me that could not do math. I was determined to prove them wrong. They stayed with me all year long for three days a week, working on homework and questions that arose during regular math class. By the end of the year my girls were pulling C’s and B’s. Some of them became so confident that they went on to tutor some of my younger math students. It was satisfying to break the stereotype in their minds that “girls can’t do math.”

What have you learned from your students?
As a person, I have learned to be more patient and understanding of my students. I have learned to really listen to each one and to hear not only what they say out loud, but also what they don’t do and say and why that is. As a teacher, I have been pushed to find new ways to make lessons meaningful to every type of student. I have had to think creatively about my presentation of lessons, as well as the guided activities we complete together.


Brianna Grondin – Teacher

Brianna Grondin1Ms. Grondin is a passionate special education teacher with a unique understanding of our nonverbal autistic population at Sierra Academy of Scottsdale. This is evident when any professional, parent or staff member enters her classroom. This unique classroom environment is a model with all the components required to ensure that autistic students are successful.”  – Debra Watland, Director, Sierra Academy of Scottsdale

  • Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Communication Sciences & Disorders; Special Education

Why did you become a teacher?
I love working with children. My passion has always been working with children who have special needs. I was doing in-home speech therapy, but I missed working in a school, particularly in the classroom. I got back into the classroom, and I can’t picture doing anything else. I love discovering and capitalizing on the unique ways in which each student learns.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?
I love the sense of family we have within our school, as well as within the company. I feel very supported even outside and above our small school. We have a large support system that is vested in the success and growth of our students, as well as our staff.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
Last year, I had a student who was extremely afraid to go outside, due to a fear of insects. He would get upset and have anxiety every time we had to go outside. I was trying to think of ways to help him understand that the insects would not hurt him. I tried everything. Social stories, books, videos, I tried it all. Eventually I thought of trying a “magic spray” that he could spray while walking outside. I got an empty spray bottle, filled it with water, confetti, and glitter. I labeled it “Stay Away Bug Spray.” We started going on walks every day. He brought the spray and every time he was scared, he would spray it. Eventually, I limited the number of times he was allowed to spray on each walk. Eventually, I decreased his use to only once just prior to going outside. After a while, he didn’t even need the spray. Although it might seem like a small success, It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done, helping him to be able to enjoy the outdoors without an overwhelming anxiety.

What have you learned from your students?
My students teach me just as much as I teach them. Every day is a learning experience. The greatest and, some of the most valuable lessons, have been about myself as a person and teacher. I have my students to thank for this. They continue to provide lessons for me in patience, understanding, compassion, humility, and love.


Kate Johnson – Teacher

Kate Johnson1Ms. Johnson consistently goes out of her way to help her students, the teachers in her building, and her co-workers. She is always willing to lend a hand or spend extra time with a student that needs her assistance. Ms Johnson is a valuable asset to her school, as well as our Catapult Learning team.”  – Ellen McGahey, Area Manager, Catapult Learning

  • Detroit, Michigan
  • B.S. in History and Outdoor Recreation Management, Northern Michigan University; Elementary Education Teacher Certification, Wayne State University

Why did you become a teacher?
I have always enjoyed working with and teaching children. I get joy and satisfaction in watching my students learn and grow as individuals. I enjoy that every day is a little different.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?
What I enjoy most is the small groups we work with. It allows me to focus on each individual student. It allows me the ability to tailor my lessons to best address their needs. I also love working with my fellow teachers. I love sharing ideas and working together to help our students.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I do not have just one success story. My greatest success comes from all of my students who are able to gain confidence in their abilities.

What have you learned from your students?
My students have taught me a lot over the years. That when students are able to express their thoughts and knowledge by sharing their different approaches, standard lessons can get pretty exciting. I’m learning right along with them.

2018-08-18T05:25:44+00:00May 31st, 2016|