Catapult Learning Educator Spotlight: March 2013

Educator Spotlighteducator spotlight

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

The Educator Spotlight is 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. They are our very own shining stars!

  • Carolyn Brookes – Literacy First Consultant – Tampa, FL
  • Esther David – Teacher – Lakewood, NJ
  • Jason Murphy – Teacher – Milwaukee, WI
  • Lila Morriss – Counselor – Chicago, IL
  • Michelle Kozakiewicz – Coach – New York, NY

Carolyn Brookes – Literacy First Consultantcarolyn-brookes-headshot

  • Tampa, FL
  • University of South Florida – Elementary Education, Nova University- Educational Leadership, Rollins College- Early Childhood Education

Why did you become a Literacy First Consultant?

Call it destiny. . .My soul was yearning for the opportunity to leave my comfort level and open for new experiences and opportunities. The very day I decided to risk that, Paula Whittier approached me about the possibility of working with Literacy First and encouraged me to send my resume to Bill Blokker. The following week I was part of the weekend training in Dallas, and the rest is history.

I truly believe I was guided to become part of this dynamic organization. There is not a day that has gone by these 14 years that I am not grateful that I found such an outstandingly talented and passionate group of professionals, and I am even more grateful that they invited me to join them to help carry forward the vision of accelerating learning and increasing student achievement for all students.

What do you love most about being a consultant?

I love being able to witness the miracles that are occurring in schools across the country as a result of the hard work and dedication of teachers and principals. A teacher once told me “Teaching is the hardest job that I ever loved.” It is challenging – and the fact that I can be a part of helping and supporting them in their important work is very rewarding.

What is your greatest Literacy First consulting success story?

As I think about the successes I have witnessed, it is difficult to pinpoint just one as being the greatest. Over the years I have watched as teachers have become more and more intentional in their teaching and more and more articulate in the explanation of why they are doing what they are doing based on what they know about the students they are serving. To me, that is what it is all about!

What have you learned from the professionals with whom you work?

I have had the opportunity to watch as teachers and principals have worked closely together to successfully ensure that every child succeeds. In watching them, I have seen the importance of the fourth “R” in education: Relationship.

“Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic” are all important, but with the foundation of positive relationships based on honest communication and trust, I have seen seemingly impossible goals reached!

Esther David – Teacherlinda-esther-david-2-headshot

  • Lakewood, NJ
  • Adelphi University, Special Education

Why did you first become a teacher?

I love children – seeing them grow and flourish gives me a sense of fulfillment. I enjoy learning about the world around me and imparting this feeling to my students.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

The professional atmosphere is evident in all they do. The Catapult Learning workshops and hands-on supervision have helped me grow as a teacher.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

At my first session of the summer tutoring program, I was confronted by an angry defiant student whose mother had to scout out the neighborhood to find his hiding place. When I finally got him settled down in his chair, he pulled out a wire cutter and proceeded to cut an empty soda can into thin spirals. Sitting at the edge of my seat, I was petrified he would hurt himself and felt rather helpless since the spirals were too sharp to grab away. However at each lesson he became more and more interested in reading. It became a pleasure to watch him get involved in the stories – analyzing characters’ motives and relating their feelings to his own. At the end of the summer, this boy took a picture of me which he wanted to keep as a memento.

What have you learned from your students?

I learned to believe in myself as a teacher. My students’ enthusiasm is contagious and motivates me to reach even higher. My students continuously teach me never to give up even when the going is rough.

Jason Murphy – Teacherjason-murphy-headshot-03-15-2013

  • Milwaukee, WI
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, English

Why did you become a teacher?

I became a teacher because I saw the value of understanding the world around us, how learning can make us better and happier people. I wanted to share that love of learning with others.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love the relationships I am able to build with students in small groups, and I love that the focus of the program is primarily on the students and their achievement and growth.

What is your greatest Catapult teaching success story?

My greatest successes as a Catapult Learning teacher are the times when students are so clearly motivated, engaged, and proud of the learning that took place in a class. One student in particular this year said that my class was his favorite because his reading has improved. He now looks forward to reading for the first time in his life.

What have you learned from your students?

Students teach me daily about seeing the world in new and different ways. They often surprise me with the depth of their answers or the unique ways they see the world.

Lila Morriss LCSW – Counselorlilas-photo

  • Chicago, IL
  • Loyola University, Counseling

How is working for Catapult Learning important in meeting your professional goals?

My professional goal as a counselor is to utilize my strong dedication to children’s emotional development and their educational needs. After retiring from the public school system, Catapult has allowed me to do “counseling” and make a difference in many children’s lives. Although I focus on academic counseling, I have a wealth of outside resources that families can depend upon for on-going clinical support.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning success story?

A 6th grade student experienced the sudden tragic death of her Mother (only parent). They were living in a homeless shelter. The Title 1 children I worked with struggled as to how to express their support. They felt uncomfortable expressing themselves or being around her, because she was always teary eyed and withdrawn.

I discussed the “Do’s” in dealing with a death of a loved one. Do’s; just listen (an open mind and closed mouth) offer a hug or a hand on the back, just “be there”, offer support and acceptance. As a group, we discussed what to say to someone who was not ready to talk such as, “I’m here for you when you need me”. Sometimes just knowing you have the love and support of friends helps. Kids spoke freely during this discussion and it helped them clarify feelings of loss and assisted them in communicating their feelings.

I had the children make a book that they designed and put their feelings into pictures and words. For one student who had difficulty in writing and reading (but extremely creative), I suggested he make an origami rose, which went into the book. Everyone eagerly participated and couldn’t wait to present it to her. The girl cried and hugged her friends. Everyone felt better! Her struggle with the loss of her only parent will go on, but she is comforted by her friends’ everyday at school.

Michelle Kozakiewicz – Coachmichelle-kozakiewicz-headshot-mar13-e1363898957659

  • New York, NY
  • Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Elementary Education

What is your prior teaching experience?

I taught for the Diocese of Greensburg, PA for 15 years before joining Catapult Learning. I have taught for Catapult Learning for the past 8 years.

When did you decide to become a coach?

When the opportunity to coach came about, I was excited to work with teachers. I didn’t view it as leaving the classroom but as another way of helping students develop.

Why do you feel coaching is a valuable professional development experience for teachers?

Teachers, at the present time, have so much responsibility with their classrooms from implementing the Common Core to classroom management issues. They need that extra boost of a coach to help them grow as educators while realizing their full potential as teachers.

What is your most rewarding Catapult coaching success story?

I have enjoyed helping teachers understand the Common Core State Standards. Helping them write units and use them in their classrooms has been a great part of this job!

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!

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


  1. Amy Hildebrand March 23, 2013 Reply

    Congratulations Michelle! Michelle has been a mentor to me since I started teaching with this company. She has a great connection with the students and faculty and I have learned a lot from her!

  2. melanie April 1, 2013 Reply

    Congratulations Carolyn Brookes!!!! Nice to be working with you once again. You were such a great mentor and inspiration to me when you were my teacher at UCF.
    Melanie Stewart (Jackson) Orlando, FL

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *