Educator Spotlight: November 2013

Educator Spotlighteducator spotlight

Announcing the November 2013 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 Catapult colleagues in recognition of the positive impact they have on children and schools throughout the country. They are our very own shining stars!

  • Rebekah Smith – Coach – Westminster, CA
  • Dorothy June Lynch – Literacy First Consultant – Winter Garden, FL
  • Sarah Glaser – Teacher – Chicago, IL
  • Marnie Lourenco – Teacher – Worcester, MA
  • Kristin Huapaya – Nursing Supervisor – Lakewood, NJ

Rebekah Smith – CoachRebekah Smith

Orange Co, CA

University of California at Irvine – Education/Theater
Masters in Cross Cultural Education

What is your prior teaching experience?

I began teaching at the elementary level.  During that time, I acted as the ETAP (Elementary Teacher Assistant Principal) in charge of state testing and supporting teachers in the area of assessment.  I was also assigned the role of the school site coordinator/trainer for new curriculum in Science and Social Studies as well as a program that focuses on the whole child, teaching students life skills.  From there, I made a leap to high school to teach freshmen and senior English.  In addition, I spent a few evenings at the Adult Education School teaching English as a second language. I feel blessed to have experienced classroom teaching at these various levels.  It has helped me gain a clear vision of where our students come from, where they are headed, and to share which teaching strategies are appropriate at each level with teachers. 

Why did you decide to become a coach?

As many teachers, I have always loved to learn.  When I became a teacher, the district where I worked offered a plethora of professional development opportunities and I enrolled in every one of them!  I found myself soaking up each idea and strategy and bringing them back to my classroom.  However, I noticed that this is not always the case.  Some of my colleagues would attend the seminar and have aspirations of using the ideas presented to improve student learning, but there was a disparity between the goals made at the workshop and classroom implementation.  When I found out about Catapult and their vision for professional development coaching, I knew that this was the missing piece!  In fact, I remember interrupting my Catapult interviewer to exclaim with enthusiasm that coaching is what has been missing from effective professional development and what so many teachers have been looking for.  Luckily, my interviewer forgave my interruption, realized our shared vision, and welcomed me into the company.

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

I have found that the vast majority of teachers really want what is best for their students.  They want to provide the best education possible and be the best teachers they can be.  Coaching supports this aspiration by ensuring protected time to meet with someone with the same vision and spend time reflecting, planning, and collaborating.  As a coach, I feel like I can be a vessel jumping through the walls of the classroom and helping teachers get out of the mindset that they are an island, solely responsible for educating their students.  I get to help teachers reflect on their instruction, guide them in exploring new ideas, model various strategies, answer questions they may have, and help build their confidence as valued educators.

What is your most rewarding Catapult Learning coaching success story?

I have had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful teachers during my years as a Catapult coach.  One group that stands out is a school in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who came to us last year full of very dedicated teachers with very little professional development.  The principal asked that we focus on the nuts and bolts of teaching, focusing on having clear objectives and encouraging student engagement.  Throughout the year, I met with teachers individually and at staff meetings as well as modeling in their classrooms.  By the end of the year, teachers had moved beyond their initial goals to unpacking Common Core Standards and using these as their objectives, explaining these to their students as well creating and implementing Essential Questions to correlate.  Teachers latched on to the strategies I suggested and began to include formative assessments during each lesson to drive instruction and encourage student engagement.  When reflecting on the year, they compared themselves to the ingredients of cake in need of a recipe.  Because of their openness and desire to best service their students, I was able to be that recipe.  In fact, when the principals were asked to speak at the end of the year dinner for our schools, the principal said that they reviewed their lessons through the lens of “before Rebekah” and “after Rebekah.”  Schools like this make all of the hard work worth it.

Dorothy June Lynch – Literacy First ConsultantJune Lynch

Winter Garden, FL

East Carolina College and University of South Florida:
Master of Arts in Elementary Education and Administration

How did you become a Literacy First consultant? 

Dr. Bill Blokker recruited me as consultant in 1998.  I have been a Literacy First/Catapult consultant for 15 years.

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

I am very passionate about the successes I have seen in “three-year” schools.  I have witnessed amazing changes in schools’ cultures, in the professional development and efficacy of teachers and principals.   As a result, students have benefited academically. 

What is your greatest Literacy First consulting success story?  

When teachers first begin to implement new processes, some are to say the least, reluctant.  I will never forget one fourth-grade teacher who was most challenging during the first year of implementation and didn’t mind being negative in staff development sessions and during school visits.  On the eighth day of training, in front of all of her colleagues, she asked for permission to speak.  Of course, that was the first time she had “asked for permission” so I was wondering what she was going to say.  She shared, “As you know, I have not embraced Literacy First because of the tremendous change that I would have to undertake in my teaching.  Well, now we are ending our three-year process.  I must tell you that I have been shocked as to what my students have learned and are capable of doing.  I would have never believed it possible.  I just wanted to share that.”  By this time tears were in my eyes. 

What have you learned from your experience as a consultant?

I have learned that people need “tender loving care.”  When someone is not rising to meet the challenge of change, fear and a lack of confidence can be the reason.  Telling someone how it is done is not enough.  Sometimes consultants have to roll up their sleeves and actually help individuals plan, teach, and reflect on lessons so that they are more confident to take risks.

I dearly love working with teachers and principals over a long period of time.   For example, I have worked for nine years in Johnston County, North Carolina and fifteen years in Lake County, Florida.  Over those years, I have made the most precious friendships and hopefully have helped educators to be even more successful.

Sarah Glaser – TeacherSarah Glaser

Chicago, IL

University of California, Berkeley

Why did you become a teacher?

I have always wanted to teach because I love to share what I know and help others learn. I found that I have a knack to be able explain things to others in a clear way and had been encouraged by others to go into teaching. Besides teaching in Sunday school and being a T. A. in graduate school many years ago, my most recent teaching opportunity came about when I had to help one of my own children with his reading. It was after that that I was asked by the school principal to contact Catapult about the open position at our school. I have found that the more I teach, the more I love it.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I like the camaraderie and positive team spirit among the teachers and our supervisor. My supervisor is available to help me with immediate needs and is there to maintain the positive relationship between Catapult and my principal. Also, Catapult provides many materials such as books, magnetic letters and math manipulatives. The Achieve Reading lesson plans and the new Common Core based reading and math guides are especially useful and help lessen prep time.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

I had a 5th grade student who had fallen behind in math. Somehow, difficulty recalling the multiplication facts had interfered with his learning new concepts and how to carry out calculations such as long division. We worked on learning the facts (he knew a few mnemonics) and started with multiplying numbers. We went on to division and then on to fractions. He caught on very quickly to everything I taught him. HIs class grades reflected his new math ability and his standardized test scores in math improved dramatically. I worked with him when he was in 6th grade, and his standardized test scores were above average.

What have you learned from your students?

I have learned different things from my students. I have learned to be more patient, slow down and to just listen. I’ve learned better ways and different ways to manage my classroom. Since I have a wide variety of students with different needs and abilities, I always have to figure out new and more effective ways to teach them. Often my students like to share what they know, and they ask questions which prompt me to search for answers and find out about that subject. So, I’m always learning from them in different ways.

Marnie Lourenco – TeacherMarnie Lourenco

Worcester, MA

Boston University, History/Sociology;
Roger Williams University, MAT

Why did you become a teacher?

I have always loved learning, and I have always loved working and volunteering with children.  Teaching allowed me to combine the two loves.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I appreciate the small group instruction model.  This allows my students to feel more comfortable asking questions and taking risks that they might not attempt in a larger classroom.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

My favorite moments with my students usual involve watching them realize their abilities.  One student that I worked with last year had low self-esteem and completely doubted herself.  She also suffered from test anxiety and would panic and “go blank” during testing.  We had been working on the skills while also working on her confidence.  I made sure to constantly remind her to calm down and take her time with the material.  It took a while, but after one Geometry test, she ran to my classroom to let me know that she knew she did okay because she could hear my voice telling her to “calm down and take her time”.  She ended up passing the course and could not wait for the start of Catapult this year.

What have you learned from your students?

I learn from my students daily.  I know that I have to be focused on them and learn their responses.  Each student is an individual and will handle situations uniquely.  I have learned the importance of learning their signs so I know when they understand material and when they do not, but they may not want to ask for clarification.

Kristin Huapaya – Nursing SupervisorKristin Huapaya

William Patterson University
BS of Nursing
Registered Professional Nurse

How long have you been with Catapult Learning?

I began my career at Catapult Learning in 2009.

To which Schools are you assigned and what service do you provide there?

I am assigned to schools throughout NJ, with a focus on central and southern areas of the state.  I provide nursing services to students K-12th grades, such as health record maintenance, vision and hearing screenings.

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

My time with Catapult Learning continues to heighten my love of nursing.  It is an awesome feeling to know I am a part of our students health and well-being as well as helping them to achieve their educational goals.

What is your most recent Catapult Learning success story?

Nursing Services were afforded the opportunity to participate in a local health fair.  We used this platform to highlight the specific health needs of the students in out schools.  The children enjoyed the demonstration of the glo-germ kit which highlighted the importance of hand washing.  The parents also appreciated the life-saving information on food allergy and epi-pen use.  The fair was a huge success.  What better way to show how Catapult Cares.

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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