Educator Spotlight

We are starting the new year off with a fantastic group of dedicated and talented educators from across Catapult Learning.

Announcing the January 2018 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!

  • Samantha Becker – Special Education Teacher – Athens, GA
  • Stephanie Castillo –  Teacher – Houston, TX
  • Eugenia Fernandes – Special Education Teacher – Providence, RI
  • Shahna Guenther –  Special Education Teacher – Philadelphia, PA
  • Bob Shaw – Teacher – Oroville, CA
  • Miriam Spector – Teacher – Jacksonville, FL
  • James Terry – Teacher – Philadelphia, PA

Samantha Becker – Teacher
Science, Social Studies, Special Education 

“Ms. Becker consistently puts forth effort and performs her job well. Her hard work gives the students she works with the support they need and allows general education teachers to focus on their classrooms. Ms. Becker is always willing to help, be it a student or co-worker.  She works relentlessly and is a major contributor to the team in the Learning Center.   –  Christopher A. Blazi, Director, CCSD Learning Center, Clarke County Georgia

  • Athens, Georgia
  • St. Bonaventure University, Elementary, Special, and Early Childhood Education

Why did you become a teacher?
Growing up I watched as my brother struggled in school because of his disability. I watched as he and his friends were not given the help that they needed. Even from a young age, I knew that I wanted to be more like the teachers that I had—ones who put in a lot of time to work with me and ones who put the students first. I wanted to help others around me while being able to create fun and educational lessons.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
I enjoy getting to work with a supportive staff who shows their dedication to the students. The staff work together to support in the classrooms and help to make a difference in students’ lives.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
This past fall there was a student who came to our center who was known for never completing his work, leaving class, and using his size to get where he wanted. When he first arrived, he refused to do more than to sit at his desk with his head down. He would not talk to any of the staff and would not follow directions. Every day I would sit near him and work with him to answer questions. There were times where the two of us would sit for over an hour working on the same assignment. Every class I was with him, I encouraged him to do just a little more than the day before. I would pull him out of class to work with him on his quizzes and tests. After a few months he began to interact more with the staff. He no longer attempted to walk out of class and he worked on his work for whole periods at a time. He asked for assistance when it came to his tests and quizzes and began having healthier friendships with his peers.

What have you learned from your students?
My students have taught me that everyone needs someone to believe in them. I have always had a supportive family who encouraged me to teach. But they didn’t always support some of the choices I had to make, such as moving states away from home. Some of the students come from very rough home lives that have an impact on their education. Yet each one has one person that they look to in a time of need. Being as independent as I am, I sometimes forget that I need to have someone to support me as well. And even more, someone to believe in me. I fully believe in all of my students and work to teach so that my students believe in me as well.

Stephanie Castillo – Lead Teacher
Title I Reading and Math 

“Stephanie is a fabulous intervention teacher at Odyssey House. She demonstrates a spirit of excellence by serving the social-emotional and instructional needs of at-risk students.  She is a team player who services a lead teacher and is our Part D coordinator of all three Part D facilities. Stephanie maintains a positive and professional demeanor; a willingness to help “in a pinch” when needed, and is very reliable. She is a big help to our team!” – Terez Tyson, Title I Program Supervisor, Houston

  • Houston, Texas
  • Houston Baptist University, BA in Psychology with minor in Sociology

Why did you become a teacher?
I love working with kids. I enjoy being able to see the different ways they learn things and how their educational success bleeds out into other aspects of their lives. It’s a blessing for me to be given the opportunity to encourage each of my students and help them realize their own potential. The teachers that I remember the most are the ones who took the time to get to know each of their students and tried to meet their individual needs. I hope to be that kind of teacher to my students.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
I love that Catapult allows me to meet the students where they are. So often students are lost in the large classroom setting, but when they’re pulled out for small-group sessions, I’m able to more easily see the needs of each of my students. I can also take the time to take a step back and slow down the lesson. Catapult Learning provides all the structure of a classroom setting and structured curriculum with enough flexibility to help every student individually.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
It’s difficult to isolate one moment as the greatest success story because I’m incredibly proud of all my students. However, one story that stands out to me has to do with a student who had a lot of behavior problems. He would often act out and sometimes refused to come to tutoring sessions altogether. I was patient and kept working with him. He eventually left the school, and I wasn’t sure if I had helped much because he was quite a handful. Some months later he ended up returning to the school. When he saw me he greeted me and out of nowhere said that he was never going to forget the math I taught him. My heart melted as I reminded him that he deserved all the credit for learning the concepts.

What have you learned from your students?
I have learned that building rapport is incredibly important in the learning environment. When students know that I’m invested in them personally, they find their comfort zone and are more ready to learn and ask questions. My students have taught me that they are prepared to meet me where I am by providing equal amounts of energy and enthusiasm to each lesson.


Eugenia Fernandes – Special Education Teacher
Middle School 

“Being nominated as Teacher of the Month requires the individual to not only work extremely hard, each and every day, but also requires someone to notice the passion that they must exude. Each school day, Eugenia Fernandes demonstrates her natural ability to educate students that have not had much success in their previous years of school. Not only is she present each school day, with rarely taking days off, she is here on the weekends, planning and organizing, so that each of her students is provided the best possible education. I am extremely proud of her. She is a mother, a colleague, a trustworthy individual, with most importantly being an outstanding Special Educator.” – Emily Garcia, Operations Manager, High Road School of Providence

  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • Special Education K−8

Why did you become a teacher?
To answer this, I have to go back to the third grade. I had a teacher, Mrs. Michaud, who was such a caring and inspiring individual. I remember sitting in her class and just being amazed at the way she encouraged and guided us every day. She treated every student with the upmost respect and saw potential in us when we didn’t see it ourselves. I took a piece of her teaching with me all the way to and through my college life and even when I started teaching here at Catapult Learning four years ago.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
There are several things that I love about being an educator at Catapult, but the one I love most is the close family-like environment that gets created among staff and then trickles down to the students. Many of our students unfortunately do not always have a positive or encouraging home life, and it feels great to be a part of something that they look forward to.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I don’t have one particular success story but I love seeing the positive progression in students’ behavior and academic levels from the beginning to the end of the school year; seeing students who may have struggled so much when they first entered our program but who then work very hard to get themselves on level and achieve their academic goals. I have had several students come to me at the end of the school year and tell me how much they appreciated my strict but caring ways of teaching.

What have you learned from your students?
One thing that I have learned from my students is how resilient children really are. Some of them face some of life’s toughest battles but they still come to school every day to get an education to try and better themselves. My students have also taught me how to have lots and lots of patience!

Shahna Guenther – Teacher
High School English

“Shahna Guenther has been an outstanding teacher at High Road School of Philadelphia since our official opening at the start of the 2014−2015 school year. In addition to teaching four sections of high school English, Ms. Guenther manages a special education caseload of 20 students, supervises the iReady assessment cycles, and administers the required quarterly Fountas and Pinnell reading assessments to all high school students. She does all of this with efficiency and utmost integrity.” –  Keith Kerrin and Marcetas Henley,  High Road School of Philadelphia

  • Philadelphia, Pa
  • Rowan University, Secondary Education, English, Psychology; St. Joseph University, Masters of Special Education

Why did you become a teacher?
I developed a passion for learning from my late paternal grandfather who was an educator and life-long learner. I also developed a passion for teaching through my maternal grandmother who was also an educator. I watched my aunts have successful teaching careers and extended family members also have successful educational administration careers. I guess you can say education was in my genes. I always knew that I wanted to teach but I was unsure of what grade levels and subjects. I graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with Language Arts and Secondary certifications because I knew that I could utilize different subjects and interests to teach language art skills. I essentially get to teach all subjects at the secondary level by incorporating student interests and important topics by making lessons that utilize language arts skills in those readings. I get the best of everything in my opinion!

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
I love that I was influenced to continue my education and work for my master’s degree. Many districts do not have the money to help support their teachers continue their education. At Catapult, every single person is motivated to continue their education and advance in their careers. Had I not been in this company, I may not have had the opportunities that I’ve gotten to continue my education.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
There are multiple success stories that I can think of but most of them revolve around the relationships and rapports I make with students. I had one particular student who I was able to create  a special bond with during her senior year of high school. After graduation, she had a baby girl. While in labor, she wrote me a letter because she stated I was the person who she could talk to about anything and calm her down in times of trouble. It really touched my heart knowing that I became such an important influence in her life. I keep in contact with her and push her to continue her education and become successful in whatever it is that she does.

What have you learned from your students?
In my four years of teaching students with emotional behavioral disabilities, my patience has continued to grow. When I first started, I felt like I took every issue that came up personally. I am not perfect but I have grown.

Robert Shaw – Teacher
SDC for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

“Bob came to us as retired teacher not yet willing to stop working with kids. Upon hearing that we were opening an Autism classroom, he came to me and said, ‘ I want it, I will go back and get my added authorization.’ And he did! Bob is a tireless worker who has the students’ best interests at heart.  –  Sheila M McCarthy, Director, Sierra School of Butte County

  • Oroville, California
  • Bachelor of Arts in Creative Arts, Masters of Science in Special Education 

Why did you become a teacher?
I was raised by a teacher. As a high school student, I found that I had the ability to help other students who were struggling to grasp and learn concepts. My algebra teacher would send students to me when he/she was having difficulty and the teacher was unable to explain it to them.  I love that “Aha!” moment  when a student finally gets a concept with which he/she has been struggling.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
The leadership and staff at my school site. My director fosters and encourages creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to meet the needs of our students. Also, our director has built an awesome staff that works well together and works hard to serve our students.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I was working with a senior in high school who had an obvious undiagnosed learning disability in math. We worked one-on-one to learn the concepts he would need to know to pass the high school exit exam. He had taken the math section twice and failed it both times. In early spring he learned that he, being a student with an IEP, would not have to pass the exit exam to graduate. However, when it was offered for the final time during the school year, he chose to take it again. He wanted to pass the exam and graduate just like all his friends.  He took it for the third time and passed it. He was, and all of us were, ecstatic.

What have you learned from your students?
To not forget the joy of learning.  Also, to try to always have fun as we are learning.

Miriam Spector – Teacher
Title I Reading and Math

“Miriam Spector relentlessly promotes academic achievement and excellence for each student. Her interactive word wall encourages students to use the wall to find or review new terms and reinforce their classroom skills and strategies. Her students add to the wall and search to find new additions posted by other groups.  It is exciting to enter her classroom and observe the various ways students use the word wall: as a tool to learn, reinforce vocabulary and concepts, question, explore, or simply to read the remarks or additions from others. Great job, Ms. Spector!” – Barbara Brichford, Supervisor, Duval County/St. Augustine Diocese, Duval County

  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Rutgers State University, Ed. M. in Elementary Education/Early Childhood

Why did you become a teacher?
I believed in sharing my passion for teaching, determination, and dedicated commitment with students, and in providing differentiated instruction to reach unique learning styles and needs of all children.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
I love utilizing personalized small-group instruction—including gradual release of responsibility model—to create a positive, academically challenging learning environment for students that enhances their confidence, inspires exploration, and celebrates their individuality

What is your greatest teaching success story?
My greatest teaching success story will have to be about a student who was so timid, shy, and doubtful of his ability to be successful. He came in one day and asked whether he could be “teacher for a day” to proudly share with the other students what he had learned. He felt on top of the world when the other students and I told him what a great job he did!

What have you learned from your students?
Listening to my students, empowering them with educational choices, and letting them know that their opinions count are as important to teaching as how to read, write, or do math. It helps them grow and maximize their strengths in a diverse community of learners. Also, they have taught me that a caring, nurturing, and patient attitude on my part was a recipe to our(!) success.



James Terry – Teacher

“James Terry’s enthusiasm and positive attitude has had a direct effect on all students and staff in the building. His classroom management and rapport with his students in unmatched. Our students love him because he is fair, consistent, hardworking and authentic. Our staff appreciate him because of his ability to communicate, motivate and help others. He always puts his students first, and is constantly coming up with new strategies to teach and motivate the students. James has been an inspiration to all and we are so happy that he is part of the Anthony Wayne Academy family.” – Bryan Freberg and Glenn Walrath,  Anthony Wayne Academy

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
  • Penn State University, (Major: Rehabilitation and Human Services)

Why did you become a teacher?
I believe quality teaching and enthusiastic learning is the backbone to create a positive society. Having a meaningful impact in my community is something I am passionate about. Having the opportunity to provide lifelong skills and knowledge is priceless.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?
Since I have joined the Catapult team I have received a great amount of support from staff in the building and throughout the company.  This has shown me that teamwork really does make the dream work. The welcoming, helpful atmosphere is something I truly love about going to work each day. Having a strong, knowledgeable team gives you the confidence to make a positive impact in our school.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
One of my greatest teaching successes is witnessing one of my ninth-grade students return to her home school with great success after making much progress and rising above adversity in the program.

What have you learned from your students?
I have learned from my students that no matter the obstacle in life, giving yourself the opportunity to learn and grow is always available. Life is not judged by where you start, but where you finish.