Educator Spotlight – October 2015

Educator Spotlight

educator spotlightAnnouncing the October 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 colleagues in recognition of the positive impact they have on children and schools throughout the country. They are our very own shining stars!

  • Megan Delander – Teacher – Scottsdale, AZ
  • Tammy Dillard – Literacy First Consultant – Purcell, OK
  • Becky Gunther – Teacher – Portland, OR
  • Anne Kasdorf – Teacher – Milwaukee, WI
  • Amanda Miles – Academic Counselor – Chicago, IL

Megan DelanderMegan Delander – Teacher

  • Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Special Education and Elementary Education, Arizona State University

Why did you become a teacher?
I wanted to become a teacher in high school after volunteering as a teacher’s aide in one of the special education classrooms. After seeing students grow not only in their academics but their confidence, I was hooked!

What do you love most about teaching?
I love my students. Each day there is new and exciting challenges and we are able to take those challenges and learn how to conquer them together. I also love my team here at Sierra; we all work together to ensure every student’s success. Everyone is always willing to collaborate and make a plan, which can be seen in the classrooms and hallways.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
Since this is my first year teaching at SESI-Catapult Learning, I am still waiting for my success story, but I cannot wait!

What have you learned from your students?
I learn things from my students every day. But the most important thing they have taught me so far is to appreciate even the smallest achievements. Every day there are reasons to celebrate, and they are helping me see those reasons so we can celebrate together. And in recognizing those achievements, it has made my class a strong community that supports one another and holds each other to high standards.

Tammy DillardTammy Dillard – Literacy First Consultant

  • Purcell, Oklahoma
  • B.S. Elementary Education, M.Ed. Curriculum Supervision and Instructional Leadership, SOSU and University of Oklahoma

How did you become a Literacy First consultant?
I began my relationship with Literacy First as a participant in training in 1998. I have since had the opportunity to support the implementation at my own school and in a number of schools around the state.

What do you love most about being a consultant for Literacy First?
The impact on students and watching their development as readers is the most gratifying part of the work. Second to that, I treasure that relationships built with fellow educators pursuing common goals.

What is your greatest Literacy First consulting success story?
My greatest success story has been in watching the impact on the elementary school in Purcell (where I am the administrator). Our team has proven time and again that Literacy First works.

What have you learned from your students?
So many things, but probably most important is that the thing that matters most is the people. I don’t believe anyone sets out to resist or be less than successful.  Fear, insecurity, and simply not knowing manifest themselves in ways that can be tricky to deal with. Start with the premise that everyone is working for the best interest of the student, and the challenge seems more obtainable. 

Rebecca GuntherBecky Gunther – Teacher

  • Portland, Oregon
  • B.A. and M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction, University of Washington

Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher to inspire children to learn and to become lifelong learners.

What do you love most about teaching?
I love the interaction with the students in the small group setting. I like to see their eyes light up when they make a connection or are successful.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
Last year I was able to help a young man graduate from high school. He became the very first person in his entire family tree to graduate from high school. It was a very proud moment for all of us at graduation watching him walk across the stage and receive his diploma.

What have you learned from your students?
My students have taught me that if you are having fun you learn better, faster, and are a more-willing participant.

Anne Kasdorf 2Anne Kasdorf – Teacher

  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • B.A. Elementary Education and M.A. Curriculum & Instruction, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Why did you become a teacher?
I didn’t start out wanting to teach, but got into education in a round-about way. I’ve always loved working with children (I’ve been babysitting since I was 12), and after several jobs outside the education world, I was offered a para-professional position. From there I decided I had many skills to offer students and teaching was where I needed to be.

What do you love most about teaching?
I love that Catapult Learning not only offers me the chance to teach, but to work with small groups of children and focus on just reading and math. I am also thrilled that I am allowed to teach and offer a wonderful technology component in conjunction with my lessons!

What is your greatest teaching success story?
I have 2 favorite Catapult stories.

First, after reading The Mask of Red Death with a middle school group, I found out several members of that group used the “colored room” concept in some of their creative writing projects that they were working on. I was impressed not only that they took this concept with them, but that they had expanded it in a different way so that each story was individual and unique to the student. Once they had finished their stories, they asked if they could read them to me. I was honored and excited to be their audience, and was quite impressed with their finished products!

Second, after teaching a lesson on context clues (again, to a middle school group), the classroom teacher informed me that my students not only knew what to do, and what they were looking for, but said, “Ms. Kasdorf just taught us this, and we have to do it the way Ms. Kasdorf showed us!”

What have you learned from your students?
The main thing I’ve learned from my students is that not only do they WANT to learn, they want to be respected! I know that not every student learns or reacts to situations the same way. It is my job to reach and teach them in a way that they will understand and be successful at (be it major or minor). I’m positive, though, that I learn just as much from them as they do from me!

Amnda MilesAmanda Miles – Academic Counselor

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • B.A. Sociology with minor in Psychology, North Carolina Central; M.A. Elementary School Counseling, Chicago State University

How long have you been with Catapult Learning?
I have been with Catapult Learning since September 2005.

To which Schools are you assigned? Tell us a little about the service you provide to the students there?
I am assigned to Holy Angels Catholic School in Chicago. This school year we merged with St. Elizabeth School.

I provide individual and small group counseling sessions to students in grades 1–8 as a supplementary service to Title 1 instruction. Services are designed to assist in addressing barriers that interfere with academic progress. Referral to academic counseling may be done by the Title 1 staff or classroom teacher, school administrator, or parent in consultation with the counselor. Some of the issues that I have addressed in academic counseling are: low or failing grades, time management, lack of motivation, difficulty with organization, homework completion strategies, and test anxiety. Other issues that I have addressed in academic counseling are: problem solving, educational planning, exam preparation, study skills, and transition to high school. I also serve as a referral agent to help students and their families to receive assistance from agencies outside of the school.

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

My professional goal at Catapult Learning is to help students, parents, and teachers by gathering information about student abilities and achievements so that appropriate decisions can be made regarding educational placement. Therefore, it is critical that all of these components come together so that the students can have the best possible outcomes with regards to their academic success.

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

A first grader exhibited disruptive behavior in the classroom that affected his academic progress. I consulted with the Title 1 staff, parents, and the classroom teacher, and we collaborated to develop a behavior management plan for this student. The behavior management plan listed desired behavioral objectives that were monitored for a specified period of time. As a result of this plan, the student’s academic progress improved and his behavior was less disruptive.

A group of 7th graders needed to improve grade-level study skills and test-taking skills. They also needed to use study skills to prepare for both State and Federal Constitution exams with a passing grade of at least 70%. In our group sessions we developed a study plan to improve study skills as we prepared for the exams. The study plan closely focused on reading comprehension, vocabulary skills, and critical-thinking skills. Packets of study information were sent home to the student’s parents with the instructions to monitor daily effort and compliance with study topics. As a result of this study plan, 4 out of 5 students passed the test on the first attempt. As a result of their efforts, these students have vastly improved their critical thinking skills in core subject areas as well as standardized test preparation.


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