Announcing the April 2017 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!

  • Lavinia Aguiao – Teacher – Beltsville, MD
  • Jennifer Grier – Teacher – Philadlephia, PA
  • Corey Jett – Teacher – Harrisburg, PA
  • Angelo Passinisi – Teacher – Hartford, CT
  • Paulina Rodriguez – Teacher – Chicago, IL
  • Sr. Susan Wade – Teacher – Chicago, IL

Lavinia Aguiao – Teacher

Ms. Aguiao is someone who, when she observes a need for the school, steps up and tries to provide a solution. She now leads the ACI (Assessment, Curriculum, Instruction) programs at our school.”  – David Clarke, High Road Upper School of Prince George’s County

  • Beltsville, Maryland
  • Studied Human Relations (Psychology & Sociology) with a minor in Women’s Studies

Why did you become a teacher?
Our educational system is set up to have the rich succeed and the poor be oppressed. I want students to have a teacher who understands the injustices in the world, and who will truly prepare them for the next step. I want to give my knowledge and have our next generation be greater than the last.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?
What I love the most is the seeing a behavioral plan being properly implemented. When we implement the behavior program, and do it consistently, the students really grasp the importance of changing their approach to academics. I love our staff, and think we do a great job motivating the students. It makes a difference when we have a common goal in mind, and a plan to put it into action.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I had a student who struggled with writing, especially in her warm-ups, and made a lot of grammatical mistakes. I taught tenth-grade English, and she was writing equivalent to a third grader. Every time she wrote a warm-up, she would have the first, second, and final draft. After four months of continuously correcting, and rewriting, she showed improvement. Going into January she was down to rewriting her warm-up once. When I showed this student how many red markings she had in the beginning of the year compared to how many she had five months later, she started to cry. She said that no teacher had ever given her concrete proof of her improvement. Although my students constantly show growth in reading and writing, it showed me how important it is for them to know that. As educators, we play an important role on their academics along with their social knowledge. Her being able to see that you can improve, and that there is proof, gave her inspiration to work on her reading as well. We need to give students a balance of nurture and discipline so that they will grow.

What have you learned from your students?
I have learned how to be more patient with my students. There are many times that I have to remember that many of our students are bringing outside problems into the school. Instead of getting frustrated with them, it is a teaching moment for them. We have to show them that when something is frustrating us, we cannot take it out on those around us. It can hurt their professional and personal relationships. Whenever I feel frustrated, I have to be self-aware that we are examples to our students. I know that I must be the best version of me, and show the importance of understanding and patience so they will mirror that behavior.

Jennifer Grier – Teacher

“I’ve known Ms. Grier for five years and never have seen someone more passionate for what they do. Parents and guardians know she is always there for them and their children. This is evident through her willingness to arrive early to meet a parent and stay late to ensure any child is picked up from school so they arrive home safely.” —Michael Esposito,  Program Director

“Ms. Grier’s instruction and classroom environment, including classroom management, is unrivaled by many. She continuously demonstrates strong instructional practices and makes the learning for her students engaging and worthwhile. She works independently and does whatever it takes to get the job done correctly and with satisfaction to all involved. She has the skills to diagnose problems, pose viable solutions, and implement the strategies to solve the problems.” —Edward McLaughlin, Director of Instruction, Anthony Wayne Academy

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Studied Secondary Education (University of Phoenix)

Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher to give back to my community. I want students to have a fair chance at education and teaching with a strong emphasis on behavior allows students that fair chance.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?
What I love most about working for Catapult Learning is the employee morale. When calling or emailing any systems within the company, I always feel welcomed.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
My greatest teaching success stories happens four times a year when our students transition back to their sending school. I enjoy seeing my kids smiling and confident after they have brought into the program. We turn every “I don’t want to be here” statement into an “I don’t want to leave here” command.

What have you learned from your students?
I have learned PATIENCE! No matter how long it takes, the program works.

Corey Jett – Teacher

“I became aware of Mr. Jett’s passion for his field and job when parents were requesting his support for meetings outside of school premises. One of our student’s parents asked that he attend the meeting at the children and youth building over our directors because she felt he knew her daughter the best. Mr. Jett cleared his schedule after hours to attend and be a family and school support.”  —Jermaine Nichols, Sr., Director of Operations

  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Studied Leadership of Educational Organizations (M.Ed)

Why did you become a teacher?
I wanted to be in a position where I could help mold young minds and give them the truth about life.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?
The students and the staff. I have always wanted to help the students that are considered “at-risk.” The world may throw them away, but I say that every child is salvageable.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I don’t think that I have reached or lived it yet.

What have you learned from your students?
My students taught me one valuable lesson: they have feelings too.

Angelo Passinisi- Teacher
“Angelo has been with High Road Schoolsfor almost seven years, beginning as a paraprofessional and moving up to a certified special education teacher. Within the past year, Angelo has worked some amazing magic in his classroom. He has developed incentive plans that target specific behaviors and increase academic engagement in his classroom. He has fully embraced differentiated lesson planning and creating cohesive student plans. He is a leader within our school and the entire region.” —Jennifer L. Johnson, Program Diretor, High Road School of Hartford Primary

  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • Studied Special Education

Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher because I like helping. Working with our population of students, I get to help on a minute-to-minute or day-to-day basis. The gains that our students can make are huge and I love teaching something new. Watching the light bulb go off and their eyes light up is personally very rewarding. I also love to see the difference that positive role models can make.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?
I love the flexibility in teaching content that relates to my students. I use the students’ likes and make their education as fun as I can. I use their interests to push them in ways they don’t even know they are going.  I also value the behavior model; I feel it assists in redirecting behaviors to keep a student in the classroom or gives them the flexibility to leave and vent. Using the system appropriately can change the dynamic of a room in seconds.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I have an eighth grader who has been with me for three years, and in that time I have watched him learn how to read. He started off by asking how to spell every word he wanted to write down. Then he transitioned to a 500+ word bank that he would use independently. After that he started a functional word series that teaches him environmental words/signs/foods etc. He came in just a few weeks ago and told me he was reading words at the grocery store to his grandpa. It chokes me up even writing it now that I helped this student learn to read and function independently.

What have you learned from your students?
I’ve learned more personal skills in six years working with the students and am very proud of it. They have taught me how to conduct myself: how to be patient, equal, and look at life through someone else’s eyes. That in turn has made me realize that I am a foundation for many of my students, their role model, and they might not even realize it. They have also taught me that every one learns in a different way and being flexible with instruction is very important. Lastly, I’ve learned to be open and to try new things, thoughts, or ideas.

Paulina Rodriguez – Teacher

“Paulina enjoys working with students to help build their knowledge and understanding.  She is able to meet school and company needs and has been a welcome addition at schools. Administrators and staff appreciate her efforts with students. Paulina enjoys seeing the growth and confidence develop in her students.” —Laura Roule, Supervisor, Catapult Learning

  • Chicago, IL
  • Studied at Northeastern Illinois University

Why did you become a teacher?
In my opinion, the best place to make a difference is in the classroom. Guiding and providing students with the foundation skills that will lead them success is what attracted me to become an educator.

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?
The number one thing that I love about teaching for Catapult Learning is the small class setting. Many of my students do not participate in their regular classes. Nonetheless, they come in to my classroom eager to participate. I am glad they feel comfortable and confident to participate in my classroom.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
In the last three years, I’ve been blessed to encounter many “teaching success” moments. A moment that comes to mind is with all my junior high math classes. The classroom teacher and I have made it a goal this year to work very closely together, in order to guarantee progress within our students. Many of my students have asked for copies of their math notes from my class and I have made a copy for them to take home. The classroom teacher has recently told me that many of my students have succeeded in their math test and their work says, “Ms. Rodriguez’s way.” This happens in all of the junior high math classes. I was very happy to hear that they take my notes and use them for their classroom work. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons that make Catapult a success in the classroom. Teachers working together to create progress that leads to success.

What have you learned from your students?
The number one thing that I have learned from my students is to listen. We organize our lessons based on common core and the results of state tests. We reflect and base their progress on “exit tickets,” class test, and independent work. The truth is we should ask our students to reflect on the way we teach and how we can improve for them. I have asked for my students’ input regarding certain lessons and to my surprise they’ve had constructive criticism. At the same time this has also helped our relationship evolve. They feel comfortable asking for help and feel confident participating in my class.

Sr. Susan Wade – Teacher

“Sr. Susan has distinguished herself over the years for how highly dedicated she is to both the staff and students at her school. What sets her apart is the tremendous amount of time she devotes to her lesson planning. Sr. Susan truly believes that all her students can experience success if she properly implements those lessons according to plan. Additionally, her willingness to help her peers in this area has made her a real asset to our Title I staff here in Chicago.”  —Jeffrey Lobo, Catapult Learning/NESI Supervisor

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Studied Special Education/Elementary Education

Why did you become a teacher?
From an early age, I just knew that I wanted to become a teacher.  I enjoyed “playing school” with my younger brother and watching him learn new skills.  As a high school student, I spent time volunteering in various elementary classrooms. Interacting with the children, parents, and teachers was a source of joy for me. I enrolled in the college of education to make a difference in my little part of the world.  Thirty-eight years later, I would not change a thing.  Teaching is a vocation and no two days are alike.  

What do you love most about teaching in your current position?
I love every minute that I spend teaching my NESI students and watching them succeed. The small group setting is ideal for providing differentiated instruction.  Looking for new ways to model a skill and to have students practice using it can be challenging as well as fun. There are four words that I will never get tired of hearing a student say. They are, “I get it now.’”

What is your greatest teaching success story?
My greatest success stories are the students who no longer need the NESI program because they have gotten up to speed in reading and/or math. Assessments show that they have improved. Their classroom teachers indicate that they are mastering the objectives.  My greatest success stories are also the students who have reached a new height. Like the third grader who recently demonstrated that she can write a paragraph with a main idea and detail sentences.

What have you learned from your students?
Every day I learn something new from my students. You never really know a subject until you start teaching it. My students have asked questions which have caused me to delve deeper into a topic. But most significantly the students have reminded me of the importance of perseverance. They continue to practice skills despite some difficulties and not being successful right away. They have shared their dreams for the future. Perseverance may very well be the key for the realization of these dreams.