Catapult Learning Educator Spotlight: April 2013

Educator Spotlighteducator spotlight

We are extremely excited to announce our honorees for April 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!

  • Jack Gesalman – Teacher – Westmoreland County, PA
  • Cambra Koczkur – Teacher – Denver, CO
  • Yehudit Plopper – Teacher – Lakewood, NJ

Jack Gesalman – Teacherjack-gesalman-headshot1

  • Westmoreland County, PA
  • Shippensburg State University, Secondary Ed. Mathematics

Why did you first become a teacher?

I became a teacher because through my work in scouting I found that I enjoyed teaching children of middle and high school age and was good at it.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I enjoy the one-on-one (or one-on-small group) opportunities to work with particularly high school-age young people. I particularly enjoy doing SAT and ACT prep as well as homework support in algebra, trig and calculus.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

Since I have been teaching with Catapult Learning since it’s founding and before that with its previous companies for twenty years now, there have been lots of successes. One of the most recent successes was a third quarter seventh grade transfer student whose previous teachers had given him a calculator and told him he would not be able to do math. I have worked with him for over three years. He is in now in the 10th grade passing geometry and can do fractions, decimals, multiplication and division, find LCM and GCF, etc., faster than other students in his group. He has math confidence now.

What have you learned from your students?


Cambra Koczkur – Teachercambra-kozckur-headshot

  • Denver, CO
  • Lubbock Christian University, BS Social Work

Why did you first become a teacher?

I became a teacher because it is one of the most influential roles a person can play in the development of a better society. I open up life options for every child I teach, and I give them the power to choose a life that is different from the often dysfunctional models they have seen before. I go to work with a sense of purpose everyday, and I leave with the feeling that I have made a difference. To me, nothing is better than that.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love working with students individually and in small groups. It gives me the opportunity to specifically target a student’s needs in ways that were difficult as a classroom teacher. I receive a daily thrill from watching high school students begin to understand concepts they have struggled with since elementary school.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

Several of my students have achieved growth of two to four grade levels in their testing this year, but my greatest successes were in helping kids gain confidence in their ability to learn. When a student learns a concept they were convinced they could never understand and then continues to move beyond that concept to increasingly complex skills, they begin to gain a sense of control over themselves and their education. That sense of control, of power, is a lesson they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

What have you learned from your students?

I have learned the importance of unmitigated honesty from my students. My high school students respond better to instruction when they know that I will tell them the truth without trying to soften or skirt it. If an eighteen-year-old comes to me with a third grade math level, as happened more than once this year, I tell them what the tests say. Later, when I tell them they have made great growth or that they should be proud of themselves or that they will understand a concept with a little more work, they are willing to believe me. These kids have taught me to be brave about truth telling, and that is a lesson I try to carry into the other areas of my life.

Yehudit Plopper – Teacheryehudit-plopper-headshot

  • Lakewood, NJ
  • Adelphi University
  • Reading Specialist

Why did you become a teacher?

I like working with children. I wanted to be able to make a difference in a child’s world. I wanted to help give them the keys that would help them succeed in life. As a remedial teacher I can give students skills that they are missing and won’t get from sitting through school.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love the camaraderie of working with other teachers and being able to share ideas and learn from them. I feel one of the greatest parts of working for Catapult is having the privilege of working under my supervisor, Mrs. Faige Verschleiser. She has taught me so much and gives me that guidance and support that I need to help me succeed with my students.

What is your greatest Catapult teaching success story?

One year I worked with a student who could not master her ABCs. She was resistant to help, and was difficult to work with. Throughout the year, I worked hard to find the means to get through to her. Thank G-d, slowly but surely I succeeded and by the end of the summer she was reading. We also developed a great relationship and I was able to help strengthen her confidence along with her academic skills. She told me that when she grows up, she wants to teach “in a trailer” too.

What have you learned from your students?

I have learned to persevere even when situations are tough. My students are all struggling in the classroom. Yet, they still work hard and try to do well. They don’t give up, and I feel empowered by them, to try different teaching methods until together we find ways to succeed.

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. Trude Hayes April 22, 2013 Reply

    I have known and worked with Jack Gesalman for more than 19 years. He is, by far, the best math tutor. He deserves this recognition and honor.

  2. Lilian Valenzuela April 22, 2013 Reply

    Congratulations to all the winners!

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