Educator Spotlight: June 2013

Educator Spotlighteducator spotlight

Announcing the June 2013 Educator Spotlight honorees! Congratulations to our educators as they end another great school year.

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!

  • Baila Willig – Teacher – Brooklyn, NY
  • Ashia Lewis – Teacher – Jacksonville, FL
  • Candice Morris – Teacher – Morristown, NJ
  • Bonnie O’Neal – Consultant – Broken Arrow, OK
  • Rosemary Kuznicki – School Counselor – New Alexandria, PA

Baila Willig – Teacherbaila-willig-199x300

  • Brooklyn, NY
  • MS, Special Education

Why did you become a teacher?

I became a teacher because it has been my dream since I was a young girl. I remember sitting my younger sister outside my bedroom door and pointing out the fifty states on a pretend map of the USA on the back of the door!

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love the protocol of direct teaching, guided learning and independent work; it really works. The scripted lessons helped me get started as a new teacher and the wonderful materials and manipulatives provided us, help me in my teaching on a daily basis.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

I am committed to teaching my students to accept diversity and different learning styles among their peers. I once had a fourth grade student who struggled terribly with rote memory. While the rest of the class knew their multiplication tables, she could not remember them. I needed to proceed to teach division, and so I provided her with a multiplication chart to use for division, as needed. Another girl in the class questioned me as to why this student was allowed to use the chart. I answered her in front of the entire class, “Because she needs it to help her with division, and if you need it, I will give one to you too.” Neither she, nor anyone else in the class ever again questioned accommodations to weaker students. If students learn when they are young to accept others’ needs and differences, they will hopefully continue to do so as adults.

What have you learned from your students?

I have learned that children are naturally motivated to learn, and appreciate a teacher who makes that learning fun and stretches their minds in an age-appropriate way.

Ashia Lewis – Teacherashia-lewis

  • Jacksonville, FL
  • University of South Florida, B.A. Interdisciplinary Social Science with a concentration in Economics and African-American Studies

Why did you become a teacher?

Six years ago in April 2007, my 20 year old brother was murdered by an 18 year old boy, on a week day, during the day. During the trial the 18 year old young man said something that was profound. He said in all of his life he had never encountered a person that he mattered too, his mother was in prison for kidnap and murder, and his grandmother abused him so he had been tossed around in foster care.

It’s my belief that after your parents, teachers are the next in line to validate your existence. I became a teacher to remind kids that they are MY future and they matter, hopefully preventing another senseless crime.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

What I love most about teaching for Catapult Learning is we service nonpublic schools. I am able to give quality instruction, in a small group environment, to children who would not otherwise get it.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

My greatest success story is last year I started with a young man who could talk circles around any politician, great debater or professor. He was able to hide his inability to read for his entire school career by making jokes, charming the teacher, or having a smart girl-friend. He didn’t even know how to write his name legibly even though he was a sophomore. This school year, as a Junior, after being in Catapult Learning Title I program with me, he is now reading and writing at a solid 6th grade level. Some may say that isn’t high but to get a child that was destined to end up in the penal system to enjoy reading, voluntarily complete assignments and THANK me for caring enough not to let him slip through the cracks, that is monumental.

What have you learned from your students?

What I have learned from my students is it never too late to learn and that I don’t know everything no matter how much education I have.

Candice Norman – Teachercandice-morris

  • Hopatcong, NJ
  • Centenary College- English and Elementary Education;William Paterson University- Special Education

Why did you become a teacher?

I wanted to be a teacher forever because overall, I love children. I started babysitting at a young age and since then, I knew I wanted to work with children somehow. It wasn’t until the start of college that I realized I could make an impact in the world by spreading my passion for learning.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

Overall, the reason why I work for the company is my fellow teachers and my great supervisor, Laurie Christopher, who took a chance on me and hired me almost three years ago. Of course another reason is the wonderful students I get to work with everyday.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

Watching one of my students who I have had the opportunity of working with for two years, graduate from 8th grade. She was accepted to an elite all-girls school and I couldn’t be more proud of her. I feel that I played a small part in all her success and wish her nothing but the best in the future.

What have you learned from your students?

My students are the reason why I do what I do. I have gone through some tough times in my life recently and I owe it all to my students for getting me through it all. Just getting up in the morning and knowing that I have students who care and appreciate me says so much. Just seeing their smiling faces each day and knowing that I am helping them with their academics is the greatest gift I could ever ask for.

Bonnie O’Neil – Literacy First Consultantbonnie-oneal

  • Elizabeth City, NC
  • James Madison University: BS in Special Education and Elementary Education;East Carolina University: MAED in Reading and Elementary Education

How did you become a Literacy First consultant?

Twelve years ago, my now good friend and fellow consultant Mary Mleziva was working in my school in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. She learned that I had previously worked as a regional reading and writing consultant for the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction and invited me to dinner. As they saying goes, “the rest is history.” In five short months, I had my first job as a Literacy First consultant in Greensboro, North Carolina. I am so thankful for the many opportunities I have had to broaden my professional impact.

What do you love most about being a consultant for Literacy First?

I attended an International Reading Association conference in 1995 and was fortunate to hear Margaret Mooney, an international reading expert. Her presentation focused on the skills needed to be an effective reading teacher. At that time, I was an instructional coach in my district. I kept my notes from that presentation and have often referred to them. A critical point she made was, “A program can move a student up three points higher on a standardized test; an effective teacher can move a student 15 points.” As a consultant, I share and model skills, strategies and a variety of teaching practices that will enable secondary educators to become more successful teachers of their content. I do not leave teachers with a program that they will put away on a shelf to collect dust. I love knowing that they have learned effective teaching techniques to use for the remainder of their careers.

What is your greatest Literacy First consulting success story?

It is difficult to pick just one, but I suppose my work at Coronado Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas would be first on my list. Four years ago, I made my first visit to the school. The culture of the school was unhealthy and there was deep resistance to change among some of the staff members. Jewell Ragsdale, the new principal, had previously been an elementary Literacy First principal. He knew that the Literacy First process would not only enhance student achievement but would also improve the school culture. During the first year, the school worked mostly on improving lessons by following the Anatomy of a Lesson and ensuring active student participation. Teachers worked hard to change how they planned and implemented effective lessons. In the years that followed, Coronado Middle School continued to implement different parts of the Literacy First Process. Their process for Monitored Independent Reading Practice (MIRP) became a model for other schools in the district. I could not have been more pleased when reading achievement performance on the Kansas Sates Assessment improved over 15% at the end of our second year. I value the time I spent with the administrators and teachers of Coronado Middle School and am proud of the improvements they have made during my tenure.

What have you learned from your experience as a consultant?

Each of my professional development sessions begins with the establishment of norms using the acronym ROPES. The E in ROPES stands for equal. I tell the teachers and administrators that we are all EQUALS in our quest for improving student achievement and that we can all learn from each other. That has held true in every training session and in every school visit I’ve made in the 12 years I’ve been a consultant. I now have a treasure chest of ideas and strategies I have gleaned from the talented school folks with whom I work. I love being the conduit for knowledge shared among teachers across districts and states.

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!


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