Educator Spotlight – December 2017


Educator Spotlight 

Announcing the December 2017 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!

  • Nora Patterson – Teacher – New London, CT
  • Samantha Popel – Teacher – Norwalk, CT

Nora Patterson – Special Education Teacher

“Ms. Patterson’s classroom is comprised of grade 6-9 students with special education classifications that have historically impacted their ability to access general education curriculum. She puts in many hours to create meaningful lessons that motivate her students to engage in their academics. Her students have demonstrated the ability to excel both academically and socially with the structure and support that Ms. Patterson provides.”   – Samantha Cronin, Education Director, High Road School of New London Middle/High

  • New London, Connecticut
  • University of Rhode Island, Communicative Disorder; Southern Connecticut State University, Special Education

Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher because I love getting to know students over the course of a year and watching their progress. When I worked as an early intervention teacher, some of the students I worked with would only be with our program for a few months before they transitioned into preschool. It was hard getting to know a student in such a short period of time and then not being able to continue to be a part of their progress. Being a special education teacher and working with the same students for an entire year allows me to really get to know each of my students individually. Tracking goals and keeping data over a school year is so interesting to look at, and I can see the progress my students are making. I also became a teacher because I love working as a team and learning from my colleagues. Everyone is working together and supporting each other to create the best environment possible for the students. 

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning? 
I love the behavior level system we use here at High Road. I think that it is an excellent way for students to be held accountable for their actions and to also motivate themselves to succeed. The level system is a great tool to teach our students that they are the ones responsible for if they move up or down.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
This year I have been successful using hands-on projects during science and social studies to engage my students. Our science and social studies classes are at the end of the day, and it can be very hard to motivate my class to attend to the lessons because they are tired and ready to go home. During our World History class, we made a Mayan Hot Chocolate recipe during our unit on ancient South American civilizations, and for Earth Science we made a model of an animal cell using jello and candy. The students were excited to participate, and hands-on projects have been a more engaging way for everyone to make connections to the curriculum without using a text book.

What have you learned from your students?
I have learned that my students are resilient, and that it is important to be patient with them. Some students who are having a bad day may be able to still focus on their school work and not let their bad day get the best of them, while others who are having a bad day may take a week or longer to handle it. I have learned that even if my students are going through a tough time and it seems like they will never bounce back, if I am patient and give a student the support they need, they are able to make their way back up.

Samantha Popel – Special Education Teacher 

“Samantha has started the Reading Buddies Program for our school with our high school students and elementary students. Within this program her high school students are paired up with a student from our elementary classroom. The high school students will read to their assigned elementary student and they encourage the younger students to read.”   – Lindsey Russo, Operations Manager, and Ronda Turcotte, Education Director, High Road School of Norwalk

  • Norwalk, Connecticut
  • BA in Hispanic Studies with a concentration in Childhood and Special Education; MS in Special Education with a concentration in Emotional and Behavioral Disability (projected, Spring 2018)

Why did you become a teacher?
I have always had a passion for seeing others succeed. Working with children is something I have always dreamed of doing. I can proudly say I’m living the dream. The feeling I get in seeing every small achievement my students accomplish is one I cherish every day. In every bad situation, I like to find the good because my students need to see that they are capable of making positive changes in their lives and choices, and more importantly, that they have the support to do so.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning? 
I love that working for Catapult Learning allows me to provide my students with what they need, when they need it; be it an incentive, emotional support, someone to talk to, someone to calm them down, a job, an appropriate education, a solution to a problem, being a Catapult Learning employee allows me to provide each one of things and more.

What is your greatest teaching success story?
My greatest teaching success story would have to be my first few months teaching high school at High Road School of Norwalk. When I was offered the position as the high school teacher, I was shocked, excited, nervous, and happy, all at the same time; I was also feeling completely unprepared. With the support of all of the staff, I was able to grow in my position and take on all of the new responsibilities the job entailed. I have enjoyed getting to learn more about adolescent education and getting to know each of my students in the process. I have learned so much about something I never thought I would ever explore, and I’m grateful that it has helped me achieve more than I thought I could.

What have you learned from your students?
My students have taught me to strive in order to succeed. When presented with an opportunity I wasn’t prepared to take on, I took it anyway. I wanted to push myself to succeed despite an education concentrated in lower grades, just as I push my students to do things they think they can’t. My students achieve many milestones despite the countless obstacles they may face. They teach me to see the potential in every situation and keep trying. 


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