Educator Spotlight – March 2015

Educator Spotlight

educator spotlightAnnouncing the March 2015 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!

  • Pam Bradley – Literacy First Consultant – Tulsa, OK
  • Cheryl Broaden-Polk – Teacher – New Orleans, LA
  • Diane Heischober – Teacher – Virginia Beach, VA
  • Jenn Jarmula – Teacher – Chicago, IL
  • Kimberly McLaughlin – Teacher – Burlington, NJ
  • Barbara Silver – Teacher – Tampa, FL
  • Kim Tapia – Teacher – Denver, CO
  • Sarah Turk – Teacher – Riverside, CA

Pam BradleyPamela Bradley – Literacy First Consultant

  • Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma State University; Northeastern State University; Rogers State University (formerly Claremore Junior College)

How did you become a Literacy First consultant? 

As a middle school principal in Broken Arrow Public Schools (OK), I had the opportunity to experience the value and success of this process firsthand when our site implemented Literacy First.  When I mentioned retiring, both Linda Everett, our consultant, and John Scroggins suggested that I work as a consultant, and here I am!  I had the privilege to train under the incomparable Sherry Davis and Bill Blokker, who both demonstrated how challenging but worthwhile, purposeful, and fun this role can be.

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

This job allows me to travel. It allows me to learn from and with diverse people to encouragingly influence their role as teachers and/or leaders. It keeps me on my “mental toes.”

Serving as a consultant requires me to model heart and fortitude. It pushes me to grow as a person, not just a coach. With each job, I’m tasked to do something different . . . something significant. I’m forced to work hard, put my best foot forward, and to exude a “can-do” spirit—despite the attitude of others.

As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”  Being a consultant allows me to demonstrate to others that together, we can!  What’s not to love about that?

What is your greatest Literacy First consulting success story? 

I think my greatest story lies not just in one school, a lone district, or a single person. Success lies in the investment to this process. Therefore, building the capacity of the many leaders and teachers with whom I work is what matters most.

More specifically, I’ll share two such situations. First, as I consider the many teachers with whom I’ve been privileged to work, I recall how they painted the Before and After scenarios of their classrooms. Going from too much teacher-talk to effective and collaborative student engagement (through a change in instructional practices) these teachers observed both increased student achievement and fewer discipline problems.  Through this transformation, these teachers literally cheered out loud during our coaching conversations, while others were moved to tears by the triumphs they experienced.

A second example of success includes the growth of a very passionate high school instructional coach in North Carolina. Through our work together over the three-year implementation process, her skills and knowledge of Literacy First helped to sustain its implementation during a difficult leadership change. She continues to champion this cause, influencing the leadership toward the continuation of much-needed training and a fidelity to this process.

What have you learned from your experience as a consultant? 

I’ve learned the importance of staying abreast of research regarding best instructional and leadership practices as a MUST in helping all to best serve students. I’ve learned there is always much to learn!  As I always say, “It’s okay not to know . . . but it’s NOT okay not to grow.”  That message includes me! I’ve learned complex change is not for the faint-hearted. It is a long, hard but necessary process. It takes time, needs attending to, requires perseverance, involves coaching, necessitates urgency, and takes courage. But in the end, it’s the students who win. Isn’t that why we do what we do?!

Cheryl Broaden-PolkCheryl Broaden-Polk – Teacher

  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • B.A. Elementary Education, Dillard University/Southern University of New Orleans

Why did you become a teacher?

Becoming a teacher was my destiny. As long as I can remember I have always wanted to be an educator. In my mind nothing could compare to the appreciation and the sense of accomplishment that I see emanating from students who are striving to achieve the most basic educational skills. The reward for me is priceless!

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love the way each and every student embraces everything that is taught to them, and how they hunger for more. Their quest for learning is truly amazing. I know that what I am doing for them makes a difference in their lives because at the end of each session they never want to leave the classroom, or students who are not being tutored are constantly asking to be placed in the “Catapult Room.”  They love coming to the Title I classroom. The Achieve Curriculum is designed to meet the diverse needs of the learners that I interact with each day.

What is your greatest teaching success story?

My greatest Catapult Learning success story is when one of the young ladies in my ELA Tutorial Session came to me stating that she would never be able to understand the parts of speech. She had very little self-confidence when it came to identifying the parts of speech in any sentence. With the principal’s permission, I held a very special session with her, twice a week, on my off days. The young lady and I would stay after school on my scheduled work days sometimes until five-thirty in the evening. Thereafter, other students joined the special session. After a few weeks not only did the young lady overcome the challenge but she gained so much confidence within herself to meet any challenge that she encountered. She entered and won the local spelling bee at her school and went on to the national spelling bee. While she did not win the national bee, she is a winner!

What have you learned from your students?

I have learned from my students that we are all purpose driven. Motivation, hard work, and persistence are the keys to overcoming any challenge(s). My students are what Catapult’s  mission states: Achieving Beyond Expectation.

Diane Heischober1Diane Heischober – Teacher

  • Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • B.S. Elementary & Special Education, Northeastern Illinois University; M.S. Education (concentration in Reading), Old Dominion University

Why did you become a teacher?

I didn’t start out wanting to teach. I was interested in studying Archeology, but after some thought (reality check) and encouragement from family and friends, I decided to major in education. While I enjoyed teaching in a regular classroom, I wanted to specialize in reading. Reading was an important part of my childhood. Our home was filled with books of every genre, and my earliest memories involve my dad reading to us. We belonged to book clubs and visited the public library or bookmobile every Friday. I wanted to share my love of reading and create an environment where reading was not just fundamental, but fun and rewarding.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

Working for NESI, a part of the Catapult family, has given me the opportunity to share my love of reading with children in differentiated small-group settings. I’ve been able to work with students of varying ages and backgrounds and create an environment where literacy flourishes. Having a wide variety of materials and equipment, integrated technology, and supportive professional development has helped make this possible. Additionally, I have truly enjoyed the collaborative nature of the Title I program as students, parents, and teachers work together to support learning. Over the years, I have been very fortunate to work with and for wonderful educators; their support, expertise, and friendship have been and continue to be a wonderful part of NESI.

What is your greatest teaching success story?

Throughout my 30 plus years with NESI, I have seen so many children grow in confidence and ability. One of my goals as an educator has been to help students develop a belief in themselves and their own abilities. A few years ago, I received a note from a parent. In it she thanked me for helping her daughter feel good about herself and her ability to succeed. She quoted Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” She ended her note saying, “You have given my daughter a life-long gift. You made her feel confident and able.”

What have you learned from your students?

I have learned perseverance. So many students have experienced difficulty learning to read, yet they persist. They try different strategies, practice, redo, and push past hurdles. I think of these children when I’m faced with an obstacle and want to quit. Their positive attitude and determination inspire and motivate me.

Jenn JarmulaJenn Jarmula – Teacher

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • B.S. Communications, English & Education

Why did you become a teacher?

Teaching is sort of the family business. Almost everyone in my family is a teacher (we even marry teachers), and I’ve always knew at some point I’d also become a teacher. I don’t think there’s a more satisfying feeling, professionally, than seeing a student’s response to achieving success academically, especially students who have struggled in school in the past. I also love that everyday is a little bit different.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

What I most like about working for Catapult Learning is that our student groups are small, and I’m able to get to know my students very well. This allows me the opportunity to better evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and tailor lessons to best serve them.

What is your greatest teaching success story?

This past December, my Title 1 students worked really hard on grammar. As a result, all of the students passed both their English final exams and the semester.

What have you learned from your students?

The biggest thing that I’ve learned from my students is that success needs to be measured not by other people’s accomplishments or standards, but rather by the results you achieve for yourself based on your unique abilities and talents.

Kimberly McLaughlinKimberly McLaughlin – Teacher

  • Burlington, New Jersey
  • B.A. Elementary Education (with certification for Teacher of the Handicapped), Rider University

Why did you become a teacher?

When I was ten years old, I helped a neighbor who had a daycare business in her home. She took in a baby girl who was neglected. I helped nursed the baby back to good health and teach her to reach some milestones that she was lacking. Ever since that moment I felt compelled to help children. The gratification I feel as a teacher is overwhelming.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

The things that I love the most about teaching for Catapult Learning are the “a-ha moments” when a student realizes that they understand a skill. I also enjoy working in the small groups, which give me the opportunity to focus on individual needs and really get to know each students personality.

What is your greatest teaching success story?

Working through Catapult Learning at St. Paul School in Burlington, New Jersey, I have followed several students from kindergarten through eighth grade. One student in particular came to visit me after she went on to high school. She greeted me with a big hug, told me that she missed me, and I was the best math teacher.

What have you learned from your students?

I have learned that every student is unique in their learning abilities and they require different methods of teaching.

Barbara Silver1Barbara Silver – Teacher

  • Tampa, Florida
  • B.S. Early Childhood, Elementary Education, and Educational Leadership

Why did you become a teacher?

I knew from the time I was a little girl that I would be a teacher. Both of my parents were teachers. I always enjoyed working with children and was always chosen to spend time with kids. I left teaching for more than ten years, but realized that I was born to be a teacher. So I returned to teaching and it grew into a rewarding and worthwhile career path.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love the structure of the program, combined with the freedom and flexibility to plan interesting and engaging lessons. I wanted to work part-time and Catapult enabled me to stay involved in education during the years following my retirement as a school administrator. I love the camaraderie I feel with my Catapult colleagues. The support I receive from my Area Manager, Amber Myers, has been a real plus.

What is your greatest teaching success story?

This year I am working at a school for students with special needs. Many of the students are on the Autism spectrum. My greatest success has been in working with some eighth-grade students who have difficulty explaining their thoughts and reasoning in math or reading. By rephrasing questions as needed, by modeling, and with a good deal of patience and persistence, these students are making steady progress. Since I have spent most of my career working with elementary school students, learning to work with adolescents—and the more advanced concepts and skills they need to learn—has been a positive experience for me and my students.

What have you learned from your students?

My students have taught me how to be clear in my explanations. They have taught me how to be patient. I was always a flexible thinker, but really had to put that skill to good use to succeed with my students. Above all, I’ve learned to work with the whole child, because it’s only by understanding what makes a child “tick” that they can learn.

Kim TapiaKim Tapia – Teacher

  • Denver, Colorado
  • B.S. Business Administration & Management/Elementary Teaching Certification K-6, College of Santa Fe

Why did you become a teacher?

I was influenced to become a teacher by my third-grade teacher.  She inspired me to learn and work hard.  She never gave up and saw the ability in all of her students to learn.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love that I get to work one and one and in small groups with my students.  It allows me to really get to know them and personalize my teaching strategies.

What is your greatest teaching success story?

I work in a treatment facility school were the kids have been traumatized sexually, emotionally, and physically.  It is difficult to build a relationship with them.  This one student in particular did not like me at first and did not want to come and work with me. I was persistent and worked really hard to get to know him and gain his trust. He went from not wanting to work with me to him asking his teachers if he could come see me.  Whenever he was having a bad day, he would request to work with me.  He went up two whole grade levels in math in one year.  Other teachers would ask me, “How did you do it?  He treats you with so much respect.”

What have you learned from your students?

I have learned that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

Sarah TurkSarah Turk – Teacher

  • Riverside, California
  • M.A. Education, Brandman University

Why did you become a teacher?

I’ve always loved helping/teaching others, and I take no greater joy then watching a child learn and take pride in their own accomplishment. I call it the “light bulb” moment!

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I previously taught in full-size classrooms and, although I loved it, I always carried an extra space in my heart for my struggling students. Catapult Learning allows me to work with smaller groups of students who not only need but also want the help. Helping students fill in the “gaps” of education is a job I love and take pride in.

What is your greatest teaching success story?

I do not have one single event I want to share, but rather a moment that happens throughout. When my students’ thinking processes begins to change and they are no longer asking me basic questions, but are instead asking about the very difficult, multi-concept, end-of-chapter questions, this is when I feel the success of our program.

What have you learned from your students?

My students teach me something new every day. They remind me that every student learns at a different pace and sometimes it takes a different wording of a lesson or idea to get through to them. They teach me that we all come from different back grounds and experiences and we should embrace those and use them to help us succeed.

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