Educator Spotlight – December 2014

Educator Spotlight

educator spotlightAnnouncing the December 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!

  • Lynn Colley – Teacher – St. Louis, MO
  • Rebecca Holt Fine – Teacher – New York, NY
  • Tiffany Layton – Literacy First Consultant – Welch, OK
  • Nicole Martin – School Counselor – Bucks County, PA
  • Sue Nath – Teacher – Hamilton, NJ
  • Sarah Wooldridge – Teacher – San Francisco, CA

Lynn ColleyLynn Colley – Teacher

  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • B.F.A. Theatre, University of Evansville; M.A. Theatre, Washington University, St. Louis; P.G.C.E. Education, University of Glamorgan, Wales, UK

Why did you become a teacher?

I always wanted to be a teacher; it’s how I learn best!  I think one of my skills is seeing other people’s gifts and I like being a part of fostering those skills and interest. I also believe that it is a way to give back to my community.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love the philosophy that the company embodies—that everyone can learn and that all individuals deserve a top-quality education. I love the support system that is in place in our region and I really love my team!

What is your greatest teaching success story?

I have been lucky enough to work with a group of three boys since last year. I can see such growth in all of them, and I am sure that if they continue working as they are, they will be testing proficient very soon! Already their classroom teacher has remarked that they often receive the highest grades on tests (in Math, in particular), and after mid-point testing, two have shown increases by 12 and 21 percentile points since their pre-tests. I can also see a more systematic approach to their work that was lacking last year when we first began working together. I find that very exciting!

What have you learned from your students?

My studenyts have taught me a number of things, but I think this year, in particular, they have reminded me how important it is to be persistent and positive.  I have a number of students who are so vulnerable that they put up a very hard front, and they can be challenging for teachers and administrators. I have found that by persisting and maintaining a positive attitude, they start to welcome coming to see me and doing the work.

Rebecca Holt FineRebecca Holt Fine – Teacher

  • New York, New York
  • B.A. Psychology and Spanish, Trinity College; M.A. Multi-ethnic Education, University of Washington, Seattle; Teaching Certificate, Pacific Oaks College Northwest, Seattle

Why did you become a teacher?

In the second grade, I knew that I wanted to be Ms. Irving when I grew up. Even though I struggled with reading, I loved school and learning from her. My undiagnosed reading disability as a child has always provided me greater empathy for children who struggle with learning. It is what provides me continued motivation to serve children and their academic needs.

My career took many twists and turns until I decided to pursue teaching. I worked in Spain orienting U.S. teenagers to cultural differences prior to their year-long exchange program. I lived in Brazil and worked with street children teaching them origami and life skills. I was a Spanish medical interpreter for the growing Hispanic population in Seattle.  All along I was always drawn to children.  It was a day at the clinic interpreting in 2002 that I realized that I was spending more of the down time paying attention to a patient’s children than to the patients themselves. That is when I realized my heart was in directly serving children. I have been teaching ever since.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love it when students tell me what they got out of my lesson, when they tell me what they understand that never made sense before and seeing students believing in themselves and their efforts. Catapult Learning’s pull-out program gives me the autonomy to do what is necessary to help them learn within the parameters of the learning objectives. It is ultimately the most creative job to do every day, to design a lesson that will reach the most reluctant students and get them excited about what they can learn and do.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

Four years ago I met Yolanda, a first grader who knew her letters but couldn’t read, write very much, or count to 20. Her speech was limited and unintelligible for the most part. Yolanda had medical problems since birth, including skin burns on her hands and heart surgery in the beginning of first grade. She had a second-grade sister who always made the highest honor roll. Her sister was very loving and affectionate with Yolanda as if she needed a lot of extra attention. The mother always expressed her concern about what “to do with Yolanda.” She was grouped with other Catapult Learning students who were in second grade who encouraged her and let her see herself doing more advanced work. Yolanda was always very persistent and diligent in her learning. She was highly motivated and proud of her progress. She always asked for more problems. Slowly she learned to read and improve her mathematics. She repeated the second grade and started to perform closer to grade level and gain more confidence.  Finally at the end of second grade she made the honor roll. During third grade she solidified her confidence and was consistently on the honor roll. Today she is in the fourth grade, is reading above grade level, and is able to comprehend stories at the fifth-grade level. She asks me for special projects and is curious what math the older fifth graders are learning in our group. She is easily the greatest success story of my students. She is goal-driven and plans to be a heart doctor when she grows up. I have no doubt about her getting there.

What have you learned from your students?

The student who is the hardest to teach is always the one who teaches me the most. My students have taught me to be patient, humble, to slow down, to take pauses, to listen, and to not be afraid to be an authority figure in their lives. I have learned to love many, many children. I have learned that it is my job to figure out how best to teach children and how best to get them to learn.

Tiffany Layton1Tiffany Layton – Literacy First Consultant

  • Welch, Oklahoma
  • B.S. Early Childhood Education, Oklahoma State University; M.S. Reading (Reading Specialist certification), Northeastern State University; M.S Educational Leadership (forthcoming May 2016), Pittsburg State University

How did you become a Literacy First consultant? In 1999, I went through both the Literacy First Primary and Intermediate trainings. During that time, I taught third grade, used many of the Literacy First strategies with my students, and saw first-hand the impact the Literacy First process had on student achievement. In the fall of 2000, I was given the opportunity to teach second grade in a Literacy First full-implementation school. Arlene Frame was our consultant, and I was privileged to work closely with her. During our coaching visits, I often spoke with Arlene about the possibility of becoming a Literacy First consultant. She referred me to Dr. Sherry Davis, and in May of 2002, I went through consultant training. I began training and consulting that summer.  The rest, as they say, is history.

What do you love most about being a consultant for Literacy First? There are so many things I love about being a Literacy First consultant. I love traveling to new and different places, meeting new and different people, working with school leadership teams as they implement each stage of the process, and having the opportunity to coach teachers as they strive to meet their student achievement goals.  However, for me, the best part of being a Literacy First consultant is knowing that I have the opportunity to positively impact the success of hundreds of students each year.

What is your greatest Literacy First consulting success story? Several years ago, I was working with a school in North Carolina. One of the teachers in this particular school was diametrically opposed to implementing Literacy First. She felt that she was meeting the needs of her students through her current methods of instruction, she and was affronted that she was being asked to implement small-group instruction. Furthermore, she felt that literacy stations were a complete waste of instructional time. During the first year of coaching this teacher, I felt fortunate if she let me in her classroom rather than slamming the door in my face. My mission for that year was to build a relationship with that teacher.  I made a point of seeking her out, asking her opinion, and leaving positive notes for her each time I was in the building. Midway through the year, I convinced her to allow me to do a demo lesson in her classroom. Little by little, she began asking for feedback. At the beginning of the second year, she invited me into her classroom to share what she had planned for small-group instruction and literacy stations. In December of that year, I received a Christmas card from her, and each visit thereafter, she always invited me to sit in on a lesson with her class. It has been several years since I have worked with her school, but I still receive a Christmas card from her each year.

What have you learned from your experience as a consultant? Take the time to build relationships and celebrate the small stuff. In order to impact instruction, you must first invest in people.

Nicole MartinNicole Martin – School Counselor

  • Bucks County, Pennsylvania
  • B.S. Behavioral Health, York College; M.S. Counseling Psychology, Holy Family University

How long have you been with Catapult Learning?

This is my eighth year as a school counselor for Catapult Learning.

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

I am assigned to St. Andrew School, located in Newtown, Pennsylvania. I routinely consult with administration, teachers, and parents regarding the academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs of students. I offer individual counseling, small-group counseling, and classroom developmental guidance lessons that focus on topics such as self-esteem, friendship skills, decision-making skills, and study/organization skills. If a student is struggling academically, I can observe in the classroom and/or administer a learning assessment. This screening is a collection of tools that identify a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses.

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

Working for Catapult Learning has been both a challenge and a reward. One of the most important professional goals I seek to attain each year is to attain measurable goals in the many areas of counseling. I rely on the cooperation and feedback from students, teachers, and parents to help attain this goal. Knowing that I have the opportunity to make a student feel empowered and successful is the root of my value as an educator. Catapult Learning gives me that opportunity each day that I enter the school building.

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

My most recent Catapult Learning success story was offering a small counseling group for students who need organizational and study skill support. I have received emails from parents thanking me for helping their child identify how he/she learns best and tailoring skills to meet those needs. Teachers have observed slight improvement in the students’ organization habits after five group sessions.

My greatest Catapult Learning success story was receiving a letter from a parent of a former eighth grade student who I counseled for organization skills. The student had strong academic capabilities, but his grades did not appear to reflect that due to missing assignments, lost materials, etc. The student was accepted into a competitive high school and his mother wrote to me one year later, thanking me for the tips, tools, and motivation that I gave him to stay focused, stay organized, and prioritized.

Sue Nath (2)Sue Nath – Teacher

  • Hamilton, New Jersey
  • B.A. Elementary Education, University of Northern Iowa

Why did you become a teacher?

I grew up in a household of teachers where I learned that teaching is one of the most rewarding occupations. I love working with children.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I work with wonderful Catapult teachers, administration, staff, and students at Trenton Catholic Academy. They make me look forward to coming to work each day.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

I do not have one specific success story, but many little things I count as successes. Children who beg to be on my “list” to come to the trailer for class, students who seek me out for extra help, or seeing the reaction of a student finally understanding a concept they had been struggling with are among my daily successes. Having worked for Catapult for 17 years, I find that my biggest personal success is seeing children I have worked with since first grade graduate from high school or even college.

What have you learned from your students?

I have learned a great deal from working with my students. My students have taught me compassion, perseverance, the ability to appreciate small things, and most notably, the importance of laughing. When I go to school functions and see the students who struggle with schoolwork being leaders in music and sporting events, it reinforces that each student has their own special gifts and talents.

SWooldridgephotoSarah Wooldridge –Teacher

  • San Francisco, California
  • B.A. Journalism, University of South Carolina; M.A. Education, Antioch University

Why did you become a teacher?

In addition to my love and admiration of children, I am very interested in helping students to learn and discover what they want to do with their lives. I feel that an education is essential for success.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love working in small groups and focusing directly with the students. I also love working with classroom teachers. All of the classroom teachers and principals that I work with love Catapult Learning.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

My greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story is a student that I have worked with since kindergarten. He is in third grade now. When I first met Angel, he was literally shaking because he was so scared. He did not speak a word of English. We would go the playground on our breaks and throw a ball back and forth, which I think that was a comfort to him. When he was in 2nd grade, his classroom teacher told me that Angel is the first person in his family to learn to read. I hope that I had a role in this. Angel has two little brothers and assures me that he is teaching them to read also.

What have you learned from your students?

My students are inspirational. For example, after we read a passage, I love to get their feedback and opinions on the story.It’s always interesting to get a different perspective.Also, in math, it is interesting to get ideas on different ways to solve a problem


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