Educator Spotlight: May 2013

Educator Spotlighteducator spotlight

Announcing the May 2013 Educator Spotlight honorees! Congratulations to our educators as they end another great school year.

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!

  • Jennifer Dillman – Teacher – Schuylkill County, PA
  • Cathy Elston – Teacher – Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Jean Griffin – Teacher – Orlando, FL
  • Lorraine Hansen – Nurse – Bayonne, NJ
  • Kathy Lindberg – Teacher – Jupiter, FL
  • Jasmine Morales – Teacher – Chicago, IL
  • Larry Porterfield – Teacher – Greensburg, PA
  • Angela Purrin – Teacher – Schuylkill County, PA
  • Peggy Gautreaux Rivers – Consultant – New Smyrna Beach, FL
  • April Roberson – Teacher – Jacksonville, FL

Jennifer Dillman – Teacherjennifer-dillman-headshot

  • Tamaqua, PA
  • Elementary Education K-6/ESL Program Specialist

Why did you first become a teacher?

I became a teacher because I always loved working with children. I wanted a career in which I thought I would be able to make a difference with whatever it was I was doing. I had a few teachers who were absolutely amazing at their career and I aspired to be like them.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

What I love most about Catapult Learning is that the program tailors to the students’ specific needs. I love the variety of teaching materials and methods that we use and I believe that the program is the most beneficial to the students because of these reasons.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

My greatest teaching success story just happened about a month or so ago. A student had been struggling with long division, and finally after countless times of demonstrating to the student how to solve the problems, it just all of a sudden seemed to “click” to him and he was so excited and happy that he was able to remember how to solve the problem! It was a great feeling to see him finally get and remember the procedure to solve long division!

What have you learned from your students?

I’ve learned from my students that perseverance pays off. Even when things seem too hard for them, my students don’t ever seem to give up. Sure, they may become frustrated, but they are always willing to keep trying!

Cathy Elston – Teachercathy-elston-headshot-may2013

  •  Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Mathematics, Science, and Content & Methods

Why did you first become a teacher?

Like a lot of teachers I’ve talked with, I didn’t so much become a teacher but believe I was born a teacher. From my earliest memories, I can remember lining my stuffed animals up in a row and teaching them how to read.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

What I love most about teaching for Catapult Learning is being able to use my creativity to differentiate my instruction to meet each child’s needs.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

My greatest success story with Catapult Learning is with a 4th grader that I teach both in a group and in an individual setting. At the beginning of the year, this child really struggled with reading even simple words, thus his confidence was extremely low. By using reading strategies, whisper reading, buddy reading, phonic lessons, word families, picture cards, and by finding books at his level and interest, he has greatly improved his reading. He now comes in my room with a smile and is excited to read.

What have you learned from your students? 

I learn from my students every day. I have learned there are many unique and individual ways to solve a problem. I have also learned to listen carefully to what the student is showing and telling me.

Jean Griffin – Teacherjean-griffin-headshot-may2013

  • Orlando, FL
  • Flagler College, BA in Communications. Emphasis on Public Relations/Advertising

Why did you become a teacher?

After working in a private school for six years I decided I had a lot to offer students. I came to realize how many events in my life prepared me for teaching. As a child my education did not come easy for me so I can identify with many of my struggling students and help them find solutions while building confidence. In addition, I have a son with learning differences so I can identify with parents and help them find hope for their child’s future. Furthermore, my business background helps me identify with principals and supervisors in this wonderful business of educating our future leaders. I have to say the acting classes even paid off! A little drama in the classroom keeps things lively and enjoyable for all of us.

Looking back, it has taken a long time to get here but I needed all those life experiences to bring me to the best career ever!

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

My favorite part of teaching for Catapult Learning is working with small groups of students with academic needs in a wide range of grades. I value the time with them and I’m so thankful I don’t have carpool and cafeteria duties that take me away from that teaching time. As I explained to a friend recently, “I’m not surviving in the classroom…I’m thriving!”

In addition, I place a high value on the leadership style of my Catapult Learning supervisors. Out of all the bosses I’ve had in my varied careers, these ladies are at the top of the list. They are a large part of why I love teaching for Catapult Learning. Thank you Spring Malone and Lisa Mallard!

What is your greatest Catapult teaching success story?

As I reach the end of my second year with Catapult Learning it has been a million little things that add up to my greatest success story. Simple things like hearing students say, “Oh, I get it now!” I celebrate those moments. I count it a success when my fifth graders ask to take a book home because they don’t want to wait until next week’s class to find out what happens next. I count it a success when other students stop me in the hallway and ask how they can join my classes or the student who started the year in tears because the work was hard but ended the year confident and looking forward to learning more.

What have you learned from your students? 

While teaching at a Muslim school a couple days a week, I have learned that kids are kids no matter what culture or part of the world they are from. They have taught me to see a larger, world picture of education.

Lorraine Hansen – Nurselorraine-hansen-headshot

  • Bayonne, NJ
  • Nursing RN, BS, MA, and CSN

How long have you been with Catapult Learning?

13 Years

To which schools are you assigned and what service do you provide there?

I am the school nurse at All Saints Catholic Academy in Bayonne.

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

Each day I work in a position I enjoy, helping to keep the students I serve safe and healthy in an environment conducive to that goal, with professionals and peers who have the same ideals. I enjoy the constant support of supervisors who are there at any time. I, with each daily experience, hope to convey to the children I serve, good health and safety practices.

What is your most recent Catapult Learning success story?

Over these many years of service I really can’t think of just one story in particular. I just hope that at the end of each day I am glad those I have cared for in that time period, left my office and my care better than they came, even if it was just for a band-aid.

Kathy Lindberg – Teacherkathy-linberg-headshot-may2013

  • Jupiter, FL
  • University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Elementary Education.

Why did you first become a teacher?

I have always been a person who enjoys helping others. As a little girl I liked to play “school’ with my sisters. I looked at teaching as an exciting profession, where each day is different from the day before.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I enjoy teaching in small groups. I feel that I can really focus on what individual student needs are. Small groups give me the opportunity to teach on a much more personal level. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the students for several years. It’s wonderful to hear them say “I want to go with you again next year!”

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story? 

Overall it would be the changing attitudes students had for math or reading. Starting out the year saying how much they disliked a certain subject and ending the year with a sense of accomplishment and success.

What have you learned from your students?

If you keep lessons interesting and motivating then the students will look forward to learning.

Jasmine Morales – Teacherjasmine-morales-headshot-may2013

  • Chicago, IL
  • Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Early Childhood Education

Why did you first become a teacher? 

I became a teacher because I loved working with children and so many of my role models are educators. Also because of my big brother, Devon, who inspires young people everyday.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love the fact that Catapult recognizes the children who are at risk, and that our program is designed to bridge the achievement gap and build self confidence in the process. I love the fact that I can make a difference in the lives of children. I am an advocate for my students through Catapult. I am so honored to work for a company that can help children feel confident about learning.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story? 

When I begin each new lesson, I decide exactly what it is I want my students to know or be able to do, my joy comes from the children that say, “I love math now because of you”, or the many letters I get from students who tell me thank you for teaching me. My eighth graders are so proud that they can go to ninth grade and feel like they can keep up with the math curriculum. That makes me feel like I have made a difference in their education. Math is not a talent… but a skilled learned.

What have you learned from your students? 

I have learned patience (over and over again!) I have learned that everyone is capable of learning but not everyone learns in the same way. I have learned humility; they have taught me that I am always a student and we never stop learning.

Larry Porterfield – Teacherlarry-porterfield-headshot-may2013

  • Kittanning, PA
  • Elementary Education

Why did you first become a teacher? 

My focus on becoming a teacher developed from my love of working with children. The opportunity to be a Math-only teacher was presented to me and I jumped on that chance since Math had always been my favorite subject and strength in school.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning? 

I love the following aspects of teaching for Catapult Learning – flexibility, working in different schools with students and staff members who I like and enjoy, and helping students learn at a pace that enhances their learning and stretches their capabilities in Math.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story?

I would like to believe that I’ve had success with all of my students. My greatest sense of satisfaction comes from running into former students who tell me how well they are doing in Math now thanks to my work with them.

What have you learned from your students? 

Over the years I have learned the importance of being patient and how giving students the time, appropriate work and directions needed on a meaningful and personalized level of instruction creates a tremendous environment of trust and learning.

Angela Purrin – Teacherangela-purin-headshot-may2013

  • Tamaqua, PA
  • Kutztown University, Elementary Education with a Concentration in Mathematics

Why did you first become a teacher?

From the time I was a little girl I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. While I was in elementary school I had a lot of influential teachers and I wanted to be the same. I always admired teachers that took a special interest in a student that needed extra help. I strive to be the type of teacher willing to do everything I can to help a student learn the best way they can.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning?

I love the small class size and being able to get to know my students. The benefit of having a small class is being able to know and understand how the student learns. By knowing this, I am able to adapt my lessons to their learning style. My students and I form a great teacher-student relationship and I believe that by doing so they feel comfortable and relaxed in our classroom enabling them to learn with comfort.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story? 

I’I’ve had a student for the past three years and she has always struggled with Math. This is the last year that I will have her and as I look back on the progress she has made I am very happy. Although she still needs help she has come very far in the past three years. She can now recognize if she gets a problem wrong and goes back through the steps to figure out where she made her mistake. She isn’t so dependent on a calculator to do computation for a problem and she will always ask if she needs help or is unsure. This was not always the case when I began teaching her. I think since becoming part of Catapult she has gained confidence in her ability and we have been able to teach her basic skills that she missed along the way.

What have you learned from your students? 

My students are great! I’ve enjoyed them so much and they taught me what makes a good teacher. My students respond to someone who enjoys their job and cares for them. They taught me that even though they may struggle in school they still are happy kids. As an adult, when things go wrong I don’t always see the bright side of it. My students remind me that there always is a bright side and to be happy for it.

Peggy Gautreaux Rivers – Literacy First Consultantpeggy-rivers-headshot

  • New Smyrna Beach, FL
  • University of Central Florida, BS Elementary Education, MS Administration and Supervision, Doctorate Educational Leadership

How did you become a Literacy First consultant?

I am one of the 5 original senior consultants who accompanied Bill Blokker on two trips to California to visit Bill Honig and CORE, which resulted in the development of Literacy First in 1997.

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

I love seeing the positive results of our work with improved instructional strategies implemented by teachers and their excitement with the success of their students.

What is your greatest Literacy First consulting success story? 

In Florida the DOE grades schools based on student growth on the FCAT. One school I worked with had a strong leadership team and when I began Literacy First training they were a “D” school. Each year following they improved a letter grade and at the end of year 3 they became an “A” school! It was very exciting and rewarding to be a part of their success.

What have you learned from your experience as a consultant? 

I have learned that principals and teachers are working harder than ever to ensure their students reach their maximum potential for success.

April Roberson – Teacher april-roberson-headshot

  • Jacksonville, FL
  • CSU Domiquez Hills, BA Sociology/Psychology; Central Michigan, MS Administration; Capella University EdD Leadership and Administration (projected completion date June 2015)

Why did you first become a teacher? 

I went into education for several reasons: I love learning; I love becoming an actress when I act out my lessons; I love kids. In addition, I realized that being a teacher is about making an impact, an impression, an indelible mark, and teaching truly affects the future generations. As a teacher, what I say, what I do, and how I do it will stay with students and they in turn may pass it along to their own children in some way, shape, or form. I believe that as a teacher I am touching many lives of the future far beyond just my students – lives of people my students come in contact with. Therefore, indirectly my personal style of teaching defines the course of the future as well.

What do you love most about teaching for Catapult Learning? 

I love the small-group teaching environment that compliments both the caliber of students I teach and the promotion of individualized (group) instruction through the Student Plans. In addition, I love the Catapult team with whom I work, from my supervisor to my fellow teachers. It has been my experience that an organization, department, section is a reflection of its leadership, and our supervisor is the epitome of professionalism. Our teachers are an extension of that leadership as we serve as a resource for one another.

What is your greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story? 

My greatest Catapult Learning teaching success story would have to be the year I taught reading at the Youth Crisis Center (YCC). The Youth Crisis Center is one of the largest and best-known providers of services for runaway, displaced and troubled youth and their families. Working with the youth in this residential program was gratifying as an educator, as I was able to engage these students academically despite their current life circumstances. My role in their lives changed daily, but I contribute my success with them and their academics to one thing, and that was the ability to establish respect at the beginning by let them know I was going to respect them and in return I hoped that they could respect me. I was able to build their confidence and self-esteem through my reading assignments. One in particular was an assignment given by an English teacher in the book, The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake. I assigned the students a writing assignment which they would write an essay titled “What does my face say to the world?” This assignment allowed students to work on the total student in regards to both their academics as well as personal traits (physical and mental) that affect their academic success. This assignment fostered trust and personal safety in the classroom for the troubled students that indirectly supported the programs at YCC.

What have you learned from your students? 

I have kept up with the times. I learn current trends, good and bad. New slang (always good to know 🙂 !)

I have learned patience (over and over again!)

I have learned that everyone is capable of learning but not everyone learns in the same way.

I have learned humility.

They have taught me that I am always a student. I never stop learning.

I have learned to find love in my most challenging student.

You dig deepest to find the greatest rewards.

Catapult Learning has long recognized that our teachers, coaches, specialized services professionals, and consultants are the foundation upon which our company stands. We literally wouldn’t be here without their tireless efforts to help struggling students succeed!

Thanks again to all of this month’s honorees! You can thank them too, please leave your comments for our educators below!

John Fergus

1 Comment

  1. Melanie Stewart May 27, 2013 Reply

    WTG Jean Griffin, wonderful write up and so happy to have you on our Catapult team! Congratulations!!!!!

    Melanie Stewart

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