The S4 team is dedicated and passionate about helping students in grades 6 through college freshmen develop winning study skills to achieve their full potential. Our teachers are highly-experienced and know how to engage and motivate their students.
Michelle was inspired to create Successful Study Skills for Students (S4) by observing the challenges of her two sons as they transitioned into pivotal grades: ninth and sixth, one in public school, and the other in an independent school, and each a distinctly different learner. In talking with educators and other parents, she realized how common these problems are among students across all school environments. Discussions with a diverse group of highly experienced educators led Michelle to spearhead and develop the S4 evidence-based study skills system that promotes time management, organization and other executive-functioning techniques to successfully teach students how to learn more and better. The highly interactive S4 program, has been attended by close to 4,000 students in their efforts to achieve greater educational potential. S4’s suite of programs now includes two study skills workshops: Essential Study Skills and High School and Beyond, a new writing workshop, 12 Ways to Start a Sentence, private tutoring and coaching services, professional development, and parent workshops.
The success of the S4 program has made Michelle a sought-after speaker who presents the S4 principles and concepts to school faculty and administrators, parent and community groups and associations all over Fairfield, Westchester, and New Haven Counties, and into New York City.
Prior to founding S4, Michelle worked in various capacities in media including The Associated Press, USA Today, People magazine and Showtime Networks. She has long participated as a volunteer at her two sons’ schools. Michelle received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College.
With over 30 years of experience in marketing, strategic planning, and business development across multiple disciplines, including education, Virginia is a successful entrepreneur with a sincere interest in student development and academic achievement. Her involvement in the field of education includes her long-term association with a number of educational and non-profit institutions. Specifically, Virginia has served on the board and as board chair of the Pequot Library in Southport, CT; as a board member of Pomfret School, Pomfret, CT; as a current board member and former board chair of the Fairfield Country Day School in Fairfield, CT; and as a current board member at Eagle Hill School, also in Southport. Most recently, Virginia has joined the advisory board of Edumetrics, a company based in Natick, MA, that’s dedicated to providing schools with custom-tailored research, nuanced data collection, and comprehensive data analysis so they can make the best choices for their students. Virginia earned her BA from Wellesley College and her MBA from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management.
Professional Advisory Board
With an MSW specialization of management in youth-serving organizations, Marissa currently manages an extended day program in a brand new middle school in Laurelton, Queens. In this position, Marissa designed and implemented a robust extended-day school program from scratch, while supervising fifteen staff and improving the odds of minority sixth and seventh graders in this Title 1 New York City public School. Marissa’s area of expertise interest are quality control, capacity-building within the youth development field, program development, program evaluation, and effective leadership.
Marissa earned her BA from Franklin & Marshall College, and a Masters of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.
Mr. Carty has been principal of Stepinac since 2001. He joined the Stepinac faculty in 1994 as a religion teacher and campus minister, responsibilities he has continued since assuming the position of principal. Born and raised in the Bronx, Carty obtained a B.A. Degree in Psychology from the College of New Rochelle, M.A. Degree in Religious Education and M.S. Degree in School Administration from Fordham University. In 2010, he was the first high school principal to receive the prestigious Sapienta et Doctrina Award from Fordham University. The award honors individuals for their work in religious education, pastoral counseling, youth ministry, social justice, young adult ministry, parish ministry and spiritual direction.
Ms. Capozzi is a Guidance Counselor at Staples High School, in Westport, CT.
Currently president of Rocket21, a social-learning platform for middle school students, Mark formerly was president and CEO of All Kinds of Minds, the world-renowned organization dedicated to understanding learning differences. Mark, who resides with his family in Fairfield, CT, also held executive positions at Rabbit Ears Productions and Triad Artists. He earned a BA from Harvard University, and an MBA from the Columbia Business School.
Mr Pavia retired as principal of Trinity Catholic High School in the Spring of 2014, but serves as the school’s President, Tony started as a teacher and went on to be principal of New Canaan High School and then principal of Stamford High School. Before becoming principal at Stamford High School, where he’d also had been chair of the history department, he served at Darien High School as a teacher, assistant principal, and dean of students.
Among other accolades, Tony has received the Connecticut Celebration of Excellence Award; the Theodore White Educational Partner Award, given by Junior Achievement; the Stamford Historical Society Award for contribution to local history; the Chief Community Asset Builder Award, given by New Canaan Social Services, the YMCA, and Youth Bureau; and the President’s Award for Contribution to the Performing Arts, given by the Connecticut High School Musical Theater Association. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Education, given by Stamford’s Yerwood Center in 2011, and is the author of an oral history about America during World War II titled An American Town Goes to War.
A born-and-bred resident of Stamford, Tony stays involved with veterans and continues to host the Annual Veterans Symposium, which brings area veterans into the high school. He is a graduate of Southern Connecticut State University, where he also earned his Master’s and Sixth-Year degrees.
A passionate educator focused on creating a student-centered environment that is deeply informed by knowledge about how adolescents learn, Marnie is the Head of Upper School at King in Stamford, where she formerly taught English to students in grades 6–12 and was dean of ninth- and tenth-grade students. She has been very involved in King’s development of an individualized approach to teaching, which includes a detailed learning profile for each student. Marnie graduated from St. Olaf College and also holds a Master’s in Religion (literature and church history) from Yale University’s Divinity School. She lives in Stamford with her husband, Mark Lingle.
Dr. Frank Safran
A licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Westport, CT, Frank Safran, PhD, also is a co-founder of the Attention Deficit Disorders Institute. He works with children in individual and group therapy, and speaks nationally and internationally on his work. He and his wife, Diane Safran, MS, ATR-BC, LMFT, work together in social skills and couples’ therapy groups. Both also work collaboratively with schools, student patients, and families to help improve the quality of their educational experience.
Currently principal of Cloonan Middle School in Stamford, CT, Mr. Tate has 29 years of experience in education, spanning the elementary, middle and high school levels. He has worked throughout Connecticut—specifically New Haven, Stratford and Stamford—and served in multiple leadership positions at the district level, including the Strategic Leadership Council of the Stamford Public Schools. He currently serves on the board of the Connecticut Association of School Administrators and the Peter Cernansky Memorial Fund.
Noah Pederson is an 12th-grade student at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Mount Hermon, MA. He’s been an invaluable resource to S4, helping the team best understand students’ perspective of the transition from elementary to middle school, and from middle to high school.
Educational Background: Bachelor of Arts in History from Pace University. Master of Arts in Teaching from Sacred Heart University.
Why I Teach: I knew from a young age that I wanted to work with other people. I love interacting with others and knew that I wanted a career in which I could help people grow, progress and evolve. History was always my favorite subject in school. It always made sense to me and seemed like a great long story! What I love about teaching history is watching students make connections to their own world through historical content.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: I knew from a young age that I wanted to work with other people. I love interacting with others and knew that I wanted a career in which I could help people grow, progress and evolve. History was always my favorite subject in school. It always made sense to me and seemed like a great long story! What I love about teaching history is watching students make connections to their own world through historical content.
Educational Background: Bachelors degree in sociology and anthropology as well as a Masters Degree in Elementary Education. Both earned at Fairfield University.
Why I Teach: I have always been a nurturer; from a young age I had a passion for helping others. I believe my interest in teaching came from my mother. She was a special education teacher for over 30 years, and was always happy to go to work everyday. I share the same love of teaching. Seeing someone have a “light bulb” moment is the most rewarding thing I can think of. I myself struggled in school; gaining the skills to plan and prioritize in a detailed and specific way made a HUGE difference for me. I learned these skills during my undergrad and graduate years and I wish I knew them sooner!
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: From the moment I learned about the S4 program and skills taught, I immediately knew I needed to be apart of it! I have always leaned towards being organized and a planner, but the systematic way of building good habits, studying over time, and the true ownership of the material that results from it is on a whole other level. The skills I personally learned to be a “good” student and true-life long learner is all fostered in this program. As a tutor for S4 I can confidently say I have seen the wonderful successes, the stress relief and the amazing life skills coming out of those who participate.
Educational Background: Bachelor Degree in Food Marketing from Saint Joseph’s University. In the process of getting a Masters Degree in Education from Southern Connecticut State University.
Why I Teach: After working in sales and marketing for four years I realized that I was not fulfilling my passion in life. Throughout my life I have always loved helping others and worked with children in some capacity since I was 10. I began working as a special education tutor in the public school system. The happiness and joy I felt at the end of each day was immeasurable. Aiding in the success of a child’s education is the most important and meaningful job I have ever had. Along with working in the Shelton Public School system, tutor privately. The immediate results that I observe each week is astounding. Helping children reach their potential and seeing their excitement is the most rewarding experience!
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: Over the last 10 years I have noticed that we as educators sometimes fall short in teaching the skills necessary to succeed in the classroom. There is such a push on curriculum that it leaves little time for teachers to take a step back and get down to the basics of note taking, summarizing, time management, and active listening skills. The S4 program is a must for all students! The benefits of learning these essential skills in a small group setting prepares students for success in all subject areas.
Educational Background: Bachelors in English from Southern CT State University. Masters in Education from University of New Haven. Masters in TESOL from Southern CT State University. Yale New Haven Teachers Institute. Oxford University Summer Institute.
Why I Teach: I have always had a passion for learning. Teaching was the perfect way for me to share that passion with my students. Over the past 14 years, I have taught in a variety of settings from public school to the private sector. I have had experience working with diverse learners ranging from elementary to adult. Through these experiences I have essentially learned that everyone has the capacity to progress if they are provided with the proper resources, given guidance and appropriate strategies. As an educator, I enjoy helping my students actualize their goals by tailoring lessons to meet their individual needs and giving them the support required for success.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: The S4 curriculum helps students achieve their long term goals and become independent learners. The lessons that we teach our students build good habits that will not only help them complete their weekly assignments, but train them to be more confident learners in the future. The curriculum provides a toolkit for students to assist with time management, test preparation and study skills.
— Tracy Simms, Darien, CT, mother of a freshman
Educational Background: Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from SUNY Albany. Masters Degree in Elementary & Special Education (Grades 1-6) from Manhattanville College
Why I Teach: I first discovered my love for teaching when I began working for Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes. I always had a passion for working with children, but after seeing the significant impact I could have on students’ academic performance, I realized that this is what I wanted to do for my career. In just one summer, I was able to support and witness the transformation of students who could not read more than a few words into fluent decoders and readers. In the years following, I began working on my masters and followed my passion for teaching from New York City to the islands of Thailand. In the summer of 2015, I received my TESOL certification while teaching English in government schools on the island of Koh Samui. My schooling and experiences eventually led me back to NYC, where I currently teach 6th grade at a small, private school designed to support students with special needs.
What I like about the S4 Curriculum: When I first discovered the S4 curriculum, I immediately felt connected with the company’s mentality. That is, that any student is capable of learning these study skills with continuous reinforcement and practice. To quote an article Michelle Sagalyn, president of the company, shared with me; “A growing body of research is making it clear that learners are made, not born. Through the deliberate use of practice and dedicated strategies to improve our ability to learn, we can all develop expertise faster and more effectively. In short, we can all get better at getting better. ” This idea confirms that building students’ study habits will in fact have a significant impact on their ability to learn and retain information. Moreover, the curriculum motivates students to build these study habits overtime, rather than looking at studying as cramming for a test the night before. The success of students after applying S4 strategies is undeniable. Students walk away from S4’s tutoring sessions feeling confident and motivated, prepared to take on the school work that once may have seemed too difficult or overwhelming. In my opinion, empowering these students with a positive attitude and equipping them with the right study tools is the best part about Successful Study Skills 4 Students.
Educational Background: Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy from Boston College. Masters Degree in Secondary English Education from Fairfield University.
Why I Teach: My interest in teaching started as a child because my father is a music professor. During my undergraduate years at Boston College, I developed a love for writing essays and discussing literature. Several professors suggested that I consider teaching, so after I graduated, I decided to substitute teach in Ridgefield, CT, to figure out whether teaching was for me. I loved it. I applied to be an Americorps teaching fellow in New Haven, CT, teaching English at Saint Martin de Porres Academy (SMPA). After volunteering for two years, I continued teaching at SMPA for three years while I earned my master’s degree at Fairfield University. My experiences at SMPA and Fairfield confirmed my passion for education and motivated me to become a lifelong teaching professional.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: I discovered S4 when the president of Saint Martin de Porres Academy (SMPA) brought the organization to my attention. I like the S4 curriculum’s emphasis on developing better habits. Studying is not an isolated action that happens before a test, but a system of good habits that students should practice routinely. S4 supports students in a systematic, user-friendly way, teaching students how to take notes while reading and during class, how to use a planner and pace long-term assignments, and how to engage in the learning process by asking questions, using visuals, and summarizing. If students practice these habits consistently, studying becomes a steady process of learning every day rather than an urgent task of memorizing the night before an exam. I love that students leave the S4 workshops feeling more confident and less stressed about school.
Educational Background: B.S. in Finance from Penn State University Smeal College of Business. Minors in International Business, Italian. Graduated with Dean’s List and NHS honors.
Why I Teach: I’ve been tutoring a variety of subjects/tests since high school, and have always continued to tutor at least part-time while working in the investment management industry. I enjoy teaching because the best way to learn something is to teach it. I find teaching to be a dynamic, abstract and very rewarding career, resulting in making the switch to full-time teaching/tutoring.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: I find that organization and study skills are a key component to success for students. These skills translate into every profession, so it is never too late to focus on the fundamentals of learning, organization, time management, etc.. I like to teach with a long-term view, and the skills that S4 commits to are crucial to the success of any long-term academic approach.
Educational Background: Bachelors of Arts in History and Secondary Education from Elon University. Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Western New England University.
Why I Teach: I started teaching because I loved working with adolescent children and have always had a passion for history, so naturally teaching seemed like the perfect fit. However, my greatest joys in teaching come not from sharing my love of history but rather from watching my students learn, progress, and discover things about themselves and the world in which they live. There is nothing more rewarding than witnessing the development of a young mind and growth of a person over the course of a year.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: I like the S4 curriculum because it teaches a set of skills that are not necessarily taught in schools anymore, but are extremely important to a student’s success in and out of the classroom. By teaching students how to improve their time management, organization, note taking and test preparation we are giving them the tools needed to be successful in any subject area.
Educational Background: Bachelor of Science in Sport Management from University of Connecticut. Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in History from Quinnipiac University.
Why I Teach: I started at the University of Connecticut as a Sport Management major and had the opportunity to work as a manager for the Women’s Basketball Team. After working for a non-profit, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, for a few years after college, I realized my passion was in education and working with kids. I took a leap of faith when I quit my job to go back to school for a Master of Arts in Teaching, and it has been the best decision I have made. I love seeing students reach that “Aha!” moment, where they understand something that previously was very difficult for them. Teaching also gives me the chance to channel my passion for sports through coaching, so it is the best of both worlds!
What I like about the S4 Curriculum: The S4 curriculum is great because all students, regardless of age or educational background, will benefit from the skills it teaches. In school, teachers often have to gloss over some of the skills that are considered basic because there is so much content to get through. S4 ensures that students receive 1-on-1 attention learning those skills that prepare them for every class they will take.
Educational Background: Bachelors degree in Political Science and Economics (minor) from Tufts University
Why I teach: The root of why I enjoy teaching I think comes from my parents. They met as teachers at a private school in NYC. In high school, I began by teaching tennis over the summers and worked my up to Camp Director. I also taught guitar lessons as well. After graduating college, I found a profound passion for writing where several years later, I lucked out and sold a TV show to FOX. Still, my passion for teaching persisted. Even while making a living as a writer, I work part-time as a teacher at Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE), a non-profit for underprivileged kids in the Yonkers school district. Here, I teach teach both Earth Science and Biology, as well as writing. I’ve been working there for 3 years now. I think in any profession, you often chase as certain “high.” In finance, it might be that big bonus. In comedy, it might be a laugh. In teaching, it’s that moment where something clicks for a student – that AHA moment. I can’t get enough of that.
What I like about the S4 Curriculum: The content of what you teach is certainly important. However, what I believe is just as important (if not more so) is HOW kids learn. To me, this is the most under-appreciated aspect of education. If the content is there, but the techniques to absorb that content is lacking, then the whole thing is a wash. I have a unique understanding of this, having had some learning issues when I was very young. My parents however (both having been teachers) recognized this early, and I was lucky enough to get the extra help I needed. A lot of that help involved learning how to learn, as opposed to just what to learn. Later, with this new knowledge, I was able to thrive in high school and eventually go to a great school. This is exactly what the S4 Curriculum strives for, and the techniques and methods used are some of the exact strategies that helped me. I feel very fortunate, and am excited to pass this on to the next generation..