Educator Spotlight – September 2014

Educator Spotlight

educator spotlightAnnouncing the September 2014 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!

  • Susan Humes – Teacher – Portland, OR
  • Gayla Gower – Literacy First Consultant – Tulsa, OK
  • Trish Kohs – Teacher – Chicago, IL
  • Bill Chatzivasiliadis – Academic Counselor – Chicago, IL

Photo, Susan HumeSusan Humes – Teacher

  • Portland, OR
  • B.S. Education, WOSU; M.S. Education, Lesley University

Why did you become a teacher?

I became a teacher because it always felt so natural to help others in class. I enjoyed being the one who could assist the teacher if a classmate didn’t fully understand. I have had several opportunities to take a break from teaching while I had my daughter and when I studied for my Masters. Both times I missed the classroom so much. Spending my days working with students just seems to be a good fit for me.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I enjoy the smaller class size and being able to offer my assistance when the students don’t quite “get it.” I have met some great teachers and I love my students. It makes my day when I see the light bulb go on when we are doing our math facts, or when one of the younger students reads a book solo. What’s not to love about that!

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

I had a seven-year-old student who had just come to Oregon from Mexico. She had never been to school before. She didn’t know her letters or numbers. She was so far behind – it was very sad. It wasn’t long before she was showing us all just what she was capable of learning. She quickly learned her letters and began reading before the end of the year. She proved to be an excellent math student. She had a good math sense and easily caught up with her peers. She was so proud as were her teachers.

What have you learned from your students?

Perseverance and Patience! It can be tough to be the student who has to go to Catapult and work on things that other students already understand, but the students persevere and make gains. It takes teamwork and when the students give it their all, it makes it much easier.

Photo, Gayla GowerGayla Gower  – Literacy First Consultant

  • Tulsa, OK
  • B.A. Elementary Education, Oral Roberts University

How long have you been a Literacy First consultant?

I started coaching/consulting with Literacy First in fall 2001- so that makes 13 years now!

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

Throughout my time with Literacy First, I’ve worked with many schools all over Oklahoma. Most recently I’ve been working with elementary schools in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. This is a school district with a lot of positive things going on, so I feel blessed to be able to help an already-great district become even better! I enjoy doing professional development with many teachers across the district, but my favorite part of my job is being able to go into the schools and work directly with the teachers and students. Modeling lessons, meeting with PLCs, and helping teachers set and reach goals are the most rewarding parts of my job.

What have you learned from your experience as a consultant?

It is important for me to see myself as a difference maker in this world. As a classroom teacher, I felt that I was making a positive impact on the future every day. Stepping out of the classroom, I was concerned that I would not be able to feel that same passion. However, after doing my first professional development class with a group of about 40 teachers, that all changed. I looked at the group of teachers before me and realized that each of them represented at least 20 students in that school year alone. And if I could make an impact on their teaching, I could be reaching countless students across the careers of each of these teachers! I could potentially be reaching tens of thousands of students across the span of my career. That’s the kind of thing that gets me up in the morning!

Photo, Trish KohsTrish Kohs – Teacher

  • Chicago, IL
  • Elementary/Early Childhood Education, Saint Xavier University

Why did you become a teacher?

I enjoy working with children, especially children in kindergarten through third grade. I also became a teacher because I knew that each new day would bring with it a new challenge.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love working with the small groups of students. I have always enjoyed all of my students, but truly enjoy working with the students who have difficulty with learning. It is very rewarding at the end of the year when I look back to September and recall all of the progress my students have made.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

I had a student a few years ago who never enjoyed reading because she struggled so much with her reading. Her group was very small so we really were able to spend time on all areas of reading. When I met with her parents at the Spring Parent-Teacher Conferences, they had told me that thanks to me their daughter loves to read and they make weekly trips to the public library.

What have you learned from your students?

I have learned so much from my students and so much about them. What stands out in my mind is that they love to share their own experiences especially during reading class. They often like to associate themselves with story characters. I feel that my students like to share life experiences in my class because they know that many students share the same struggles.


Photo1, Bill CBill Chatzivasiliadis – Academic Counselor

  • Chicago, IL
  • M.A. Community Counseling, Governors State University

How long have you been with Catapult Learning?

I’ve been with Catapult Learning since June 2008.

To which Schools are you assigned? Tell us a little about the service you provide to the students there?

I am assigned to Santa Lucia, New Hope Lutheran, Our Lady of Snows, and Saint William, in Chicago. I provide individual and group academic guidance and counseling to students, K-8, who are experiencing academic failure as well as related developmental, behavioral and /or learning disabilities, and other environmental, emotional and behavioral challenges, as it impacts their ability to learn. I provide ongoing consultation to classroom teachers, school administration, and parents. Other issues I’ve addressed in academic counseling include: emotional distress, lack of motivation, test anxiety, distractibility, lack of focus, time management / organization, study skills, stress management, procrastination. Finally, my work is focused on three tasks: empower the student, build basic learning skills, and change negative stories about learning and how we learn.

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

This work is my calling and purpose in life. It reflects my priorities, values, and commitment to empower students to maximize their strengths and minimize their limitations.

What is your most recent Catapult Learning success story? What is your greatest Catapult Learning success story?

A first grader with poor coping skills to deal with anxiety related to completing his class work, would frequently cry and disrupt the learning environment, causing his teacher to be increasingly concerned and frustrated. Within six months this student stopped using crying as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, and his class participation improved considerably. Currently in second grade, he continues to make progress and catch up to the task of learning age-appropriate academic skills.

A third-grade student from a bilingual home environment had some learning delays in phonics, word recognition, and comprehension. She was encouraged to increase her home reading time and effort, and within three months, she was named the student with the “most improvement” in her classroom. To date, she continues to make progress in her ability to read independently with no further need for outside intervention.


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