Catapult Learning Educator Spotlight: February 2013

Educator Spotlighteducator spotlight

Catapult Learning has long recognized that our teachers, coaches, specialized services professionals, and consultants are the foundation upon which our company stands. We literally wouldn’t be here without their tireless efforts to help struggling students succeed! We thank them for all that they do each and every day.

In May 2012, we introduced the Catapult Learning Educator Spotlight where we honored some of our most dedicated teachers and education professionals. They are our very own shining stars!

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

We are extremely excited to announce our honorees for February 2013!

  • Maggie Flood – Teacher – Chicago, IL
  • Mary Mleziva – Literacy First Consultant
  • Leilani Echezabal – Teacher – Miami, FL
  • Sr. Brigid Layden – Teacher – Milwaukee, WI

Maggie Flood – Teachermaggie-flood-headshot-150x150

  • Chicago, IL
  • MA Elementary Education, National-Louis University

Why did you become a teacher?

The thought of becoming a teacher was the only thing that ever truly excited me when I thought about my future. I have always enjoyed working with and being around children. Three years removed from completing my Masters in Education, I am positive that I made the right choice. I look forward to going to school every day and working with my students. They make me want to push myself to be a better teacher and role model. I am so grateful that I get to do something with my life that I can honestly say I love and am passionate about.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

Being a teacher for Catapult offers a lot of unique experiences. One of my favorite aspects of being a Catapult teacher is that I am able to work with students in every grade level. I enjoy walking around my school and knowing names and faces in every classroom I walk into. I also get to teach reading and math curriculum from Kindergarten to 8th grade. Although at times this can be challenging, I know I am a more well rounded teacher going forth having taught students in a wide spectrum of content and ability. Another aspect of being a Catapult teacher that I really enjoy is having the opportunity to work with the same students year after year. It is quite rewarding when you get to see your students grow throughout the year. Having had some of the same students for nearly two years now, I’ve gotten to see their development on a much greater scale.

What is your greatest Catapult teaching success story?

I can’t pinpoint one specific instance that would be my greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story. I can, however, pick out a few things that happen over the course of the year that make me feel like a success. The first would be, when I get an email or call from a parent about how much they have appreciated having their child(ren) in Catapult. I always get great pleasure in knowing that parents are seeing the benefits of Catapult and that they are happy to have their children participate in the program. Another successful moment for me is when a classroom teacher tells me that they have seen great improvement in a student since starting the Catapult program. I know that sometimes for classroom teachers it can be hard to give their students away 2-4 times a week to another teachers. It validates the program to see that the teachers are seeing an improvement with just a little bit of reinforcement. A third feeling of success for me is when I open the classroom door and my students are excited to see me. It is a wonderful feeling to know that students look forward to working and learning with me. I feel the most successful when I can encourage students to embrace their learning with excitement.

What have you learned from your students?

I learn from my students every day. They teach me about television shows, where to shop or the best place to have a birthday party. Most importantly though, they teach me how to be understanding and think outside of the box. I have learned to understand the different needs of my students. Some students may be more hands on with their learning, while others prefer to verbalize what they have learned. I know some children may need a few more breaks or a more personalized form of direction. My students have taught me to understand that they are all unique in their personalities and learning styles. My students have also taught me to be more creative. They interpret stories and lessons in ways I would have never thought of. They inspire me to try and make a lesson more exciting and memorable.

Mary Mleziva – Literacy First Senior Consultantmary-mleziva-headshot

Why did you first become a Literacy First Consultant?

I was invited to join the Literacy First Team 17 years ago by Dr. Bill Blokker, the CEO of the company. We began working with school districts across the country to improve reading comprehension and literacy.

What do you love about being a consultant?

I have a passion for excellent teaching and learning. My job allows me to provide research-based strategies and materials to teachers and administrators for their professional growth. Through cognitive coaching and collaborative dialogue, I am also able to share leadership approaches that assist student learning and mastery of content.

What is your greatest Literacy First consulting success story?

Working with teachers and administrators allows me to share in the joy of seeing students succeed. I have had the pleasure of helping schools move from low performing to academic victory. Everyone; teachers, students, principals, and parents feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. You can’t ask for a better job with greater rewards!

What have you learned from your students?

My students, who are teachers and principals, have taught me that failure is not an option. They will work a problem from every angle until it’s solved. They never, ever give up on their students and will do whatever it takes to help each and every one. Teaching is a calling. These are people who love kids and learning. It is a blessing to support them in any way possible.

Leilani Echezabal – Teacherleilani-fiu-hooding-ceremony1

  • Miami, FL
  • MS Higher Education Administration, BS Elementary Education – Florida International University

Why did you become a teacher?

There is a bible verse that writes, “If your gift is serving, devote yourself to serving others. If it is teaching, devote yourself to teaching others” (“Those who can teach, let them teach”). I believe that I am called to be a teacher as an act of service to others, especially children.

Before becoming a teacher, I was studying to become a nurse for two years at the university before it was time to declare a major. I dreaded going to science classes and the labs. I had to choose between two careers: Nursing or teaching. Nursing is what my mind wanted since it seemed financially rewarding and teaching is what my heart wanted which I knew it would be intrinsically rewarding. Little did I know at that time, how rewarding teaching truly is! I chose teaching because I know it is my calling. Not only do I enjoy it, but I’ve been given the grace to do it in excellence. I am happy going to work every day knowing I’m part of making a difference in a child’s life. I am convinced that the rewards of teaching are endless and priceless.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

Variety; Catapult Learning allows me to work with students varying in age, grade level, and academic performance. Throughout the four years with Catapult, I have been given the opportunity to teach reading/math for kindergarten and first grade while teaching writing/study skills for the higher grades including middle school. Not only does Catapult allow me to work with a variety of students, but also on a personal level which I find teaching to be more effective. For the reading and math classes, the class sizes are smaller and more intimate than the regular classrooms which make it easier to tend to the individual needs of students. Many of the students enrolled in the program need a smaller group ratio in order to receive the time and attention they need, especially those with special needs.

What is your greatest Catapult teaching success story?

The following story proves that when everyone does their part, a child’s success is possible. I remember having a conference with K’s mother, homeroom teacher, and the principal. K was a first grade student in my class at the time. I remember the mother crying as she mentioned K’s “down” depressive mood which I had also noticed. I remember how K used to tell me he hated reading because he was not good at it. I suggested to his mother to read with him for a few minutes before bedtime as “quality family time.” I also allowed him to take the book I was going to introduce the next day in class in order for him to gain familiarity with the content. The next day, K had a big smile on his face entering my class. He raised his hand during discussion questions and began to gain self-confidence. At the end of class, he mentioned that he likes “story time” with his mom since it was his only time to be with her because of work. K passed the first grade and his reading improved significantly by the end of the year. As a teacher, I could have not done it alone. By having the regular classroom teacher do her part, the parents doing what they can do, and the student trying his/her best, as a team, we can make a difference.

What have you learned from your students?

I have witnessed my students wanting to help me whenever they can such as erasing the board, passing out books, or collecting papers. I had noticed that students are willing to help the other students with special needs or disabilities. I also realized how the higher level readers in my class enjoy helping those who struggle more. I concluded that most children always seem ready and eager to help when the opportunity arises. I learned from my own students to embrace your own uniqueness and celebrate each other’s differences. I also learned to help one another whenever you get the chance. It is not about competing, but about succeeding together.

Sr. Brigid Layden – Teacher

  • Milwaukee, WI
  • MA Learning Disabilities, Clarke College

Why did you become a teacher?

I believe that teaching is very much “in my blood” and that the gift I have received from God, I need to give as a gift. I find that teaching is such a wonderful way to relate to, and help, people become joyous, confident, and capable persons who are ready and able to strive to be, and do, all they are called to do in life. It is also a great way for me to be creative because I’m always examining where the latest learning block is and figuring out what I can do to get them to understand the concept by approaching it from a new angle. I find that, while my body leaves the classroom each day, my mind rarely does. It is still reminiscing and delighting over the surprising/fun things the children have said/done, the things I can’t wait to share with someone about the happenings, and the plans I’m working on to make things work better for the children.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I appreciate the small groups and being able, generally, to teach for mastery. I love working with students who couldn’t keep up and finally giving them the time and tools to learn the basics they felt were so overwhelming for them in their regular classrooms. I love the light that goes on in their eyes and bodies when they GET IT. It is fun to teach them some “tricks” to connect with and understand the material.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

One of the success stories I’ve had with a Title I student was with a little boy who was shy, very solemn, and way behind in math. After teaching and reteaching the concepts he had struggles with, giving him time to think, and showering him with praise, encouragement and special challenges, he moved from being a frightened, lagging math student to becoming a quick, confident, and successful student who was up to grade level by the end of the year. He also got to the point of being able to express his thoughts and feelings with me. That was a great break through for him.

What have you learned from your students?

As far as “things” go, I must say that, because of their insights, it’s not uncommon for me to learn new ways to do familiar old things and new ways to think about topics. Many times the children teach me things they have learned about topics that we are currently taking in class. I am always amazed at the freshness and depth of their thoughts, but what I learn from the way they “are” is even more impressive. They are thoughtful, kind, loving, appreciative, and open to learning and growing educationally. They persevere through things that are hard for them and complain very little. I love to be enlightened and enriched as they share their customs and culture. I can truly say that I receive as much from the children, their gifts, and their personalities as I give to them. They are beautiful, strong, young people.

Thanks again to all of this month’s honorees! You can thank them too, please leave your comments for our educators below!


  1. Julia Hutchinson February 24, 2013 Reply

    Thanks to Sr. Brigid for her caring service to our students. It is teachers like Sr. who make education work for our students. A recognition well earned.
    A true Catapult success story.

    • Anne March 1, 2013 Reply

      Congratulations Sr. Brigid — a well deserved honor!

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