the Madeleine Maraldi Awards

for Teaching Excellence

Howe School of Excellence Nominees & Administration

Staff Bios (click to open)

  • Catherine Brtis

    Step into Ms. Brtis’s kindergarten classroom and you won’t be able to resist learning!  Ms. Brtis is a former AUSL resident and is in her 3rd year of teaching at Howe School of Excellence.  Each day she greets students with a warm smile and a hug.  She is committed to creating a learning environment that is both rigorous and fun.  As a lifelong learner herself, she wants to instill that trait in all her students.

    In her classroom she uses the EngageAUSL curriculum to meet the varying needs of her students.  She does this by devoting a large portion of her day to small groups. This allows her to meet the needs of her struggling students, while pushing those who excel to the next level. Small groups also allow her to create stronger relationships with her students and hold them more accountable for their learning.

    Ms. Brtis works closely with her grade level partner and cluster team to truly understand the EngageAUSL curriculum.  She is always seeking out answers, and working with others to better understand the curriculum. This year, she opened up her classroom to work with a CKLA consultant to enhance her instruction. Through the work with the consultant, she has developed an even deeper understanding of how important it is to implement the curriculum with fidelity.

    In addition to everything she does in the classroom, Ms. Brtis tutors several of her students that are still struggling to meet grade level standards.  She has also helped to lead cluster meetings as well as literacy Professional Development at her school.  Ms. Brtis knows that each of her students deserve nothing but the best when it comes to their education.  She is determined to provide that to each student that walks into her classroom.

  • Kenyatta Horton

    Upon entering the 8th grade wing of Howe School of Excellence on any given morning, you'll see Ms. Horton greeting her students with hugs and fist bumps.  Ms. Horton has built a solid foundation with her students that encourages and promotes respect and responsibility for all students.  It is her deepest passion to produce students that will become catalysts for change in their local and global communities, which is why she exposes her students to rigorous and high quality instruction daily. She plans her whole group instruction using engageAUSL.  Ms. Horton uses backwards mapping when planning her lessons to ensure that students will master the common core learning standards.

    In every lesson students have the opportunities to grapple with complex text, answer text dependent questions, use academic language, and ground their answers in evidence from the text. Middle schoolers are very opinionated and want to have a voice in their education.  Therefore, Ms. Horton provides them with a myriad of opportunities to turn and talk, have in class debates, and participate in Socratic Seminars. Ms. Horton's students have been able to show mastery on several of the common core learning standards through the use of the Engage curriculum for whole group instruction and ANET passages for small groups.

    Ms. Horton is always willing and ready to learn new strategies to perfect her craft.  Her classroom is always open for visitors.  The passion, commitment, and dedication to learning is contagious from Ms.Horton and her students.

  • Taylor Prochaska

    Ms. Prochaska is our 4th grade ELA Mentor Teacher. She is committed to rigorous instruction, using the Engage AUSL curriculum and texts as the starting point for challenging activities and discussions. In addition to commitment to her own classroom, Ms. Prochaska is committed to school wide implementation of rigorous instruction. She has led meetings and professional development around Engage AUSL task analysis, backwards planning and curriculum mapping.

    Not only does the Engage AUSL curriculum guide her instruction, Ms. Prochaska is a reflective educator, using student data to inform her teaching. This data allows her to adjust teaching in both whole and small group settings. Not only do Ms. Prochaska's small group lessons meet students where they are as readers, she also pushes them to grow toward and beyond grade level mastery. In addition to building on students' mastery of reading and writing standards, small group meetings stress students’ ability to participate in and lead discussions, focusing on their skills as speakers and listeners.

  • Samiena Singleton

    In Ms. Singleton’s classroom, expect nothing less than an engaging and rigorous, respectful environment where students thrive.  She has taken her personal mission of student education and expanded it to cultivate authentic and data-driven instruction.  She manages her classroom with rigor and high expectations and creates a positive environment for learning.  Under her guidance and careful management, students are taught to work independently, stay organized, and self-assess ensuring that they become life-long learners.  Ms. Singleton puts an emphasis in the classroom on small group instruction from the first week of school, guaranteeing that her students are receiving targeted and well differentiated instruction.

    Her use of engageAUSL as well as other outside enriching resources has increased her students’ growth and begun to close the achievement gap at Howe.  Through the Engage Curriculum, Ms. Singleton’s students are showing mastery of many of the most difficult standards in the Common Core.  Ms. Singleton’s students display respect, character, and most importantly a love of learning that can only come from a well-respected and devoted teacher.

  • Daphne Sherrod & Keri Mendez,


    At Howe School of Excellence, "We Expect Excellence Everyday!"  Daphne Sherrod and Keri Mendez are considered the dynamic duo of the AUSL network with 35 collective years in education. They have both served at Howe School of Excellence for nine years. Their commitment and dedication to the families of North Austin have made Howe a trusted foundation of values and academic strength. Parents are confident in their ability to ensure successful outcomes for their children.

    Since their time as co-principals they've worked tirelessly to maintain the standard of excellence entrusted to them by their leader and former principal, Dr. Keisha Campbell. Their efforts have led the school out of habitual probation with the state of Illinois.  Additionally, they have achieved Level 1 status with the City of Chicago for the past 2 years.  "Although our students graduate and move on, they never leave the Howe family!"