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 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: 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: Undergraduate Degree in Media Studies at New School University in New York City. Masters Degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in History at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT.
Why I Teach: I got into teaching because I have the empathy and compassion to teach our youth. It brings me such pride to see when a student has learned something new about the world or themselves.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: I like the S4 curriculum because it gives students the tools to be in control if their own educational success. The program promotes independence and self-reliance. Two skills that are needed to succeed in and out if the classroom.
Educational background: B.A. – History, International Studies, College of New Rochelle, M.S. Educational Technology, Pace University
Why you got into teaching: After a professional technology career at IBM, I chose to pursue teaching as a second career. I am drawn to the energy in a school environment and the challenges that teaching provides. My greatest satisfaction is seeing my students grow and progress, become critical thinkers and responsible citizens.
What you like about the S4 curriculum: The S4 Curriculum offers students a precise plan for organizing their schoolwork and their lives. It provides a structure for studying, a plan and a method that has been clinically proven to improve personal habits, improve effective intake of information and essential retention. Students are challenged to make small, important behavior changes in their daily lives and their accountability and success ultimately rests on them.
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: Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education/English from Western Connecticut State University. Master of Arts in English from Western Connecticut State University.
Why I Teach: I started to explore my passion for teaching while I was in high school. I volunteered as a classroom aide in my town’s elementary and middle school. After having the experience of working with students academically, I knew that education is passion. I thoroughly enjoy working with students specifically helping students achieve an understanding of material that they once struggled with.
What I like about the S4 Curriculum: The S4 curriculum is great because it accommodates to all students’ different learning styles, and provides them with a practical evidence-based system for studying. Once students understand the tools and strategies, and how to use and apply them to their academic work, they readily understand how it will make their study practice more effective and efficient.
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: In her 20 years as a New York City educator in NYC, Joan has worked in numerous capacities: a literacy coach in both public high schools and middle schools, assisted teachers in developing curricula and best practices, and as an English and social studies teacher. Joan has also developed methods and strategies to improve literacy skills, especially focused on student outcomes in reading and writing. Joan has worked on the college level in literacy remediation, and as an adjunct professor, working with higher-level college students in writing and video production. Joan has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, and an M.F.A. from Bard College in Creative Writing.
Why I Teach: As a media arts and video production teacher I was sharing the skills and experience I had acquired working in video and television production. In the high school video workshop I ran, I began to notice that many students had very poor reading and writing skills, despite their obvious intelligence and curiosity. As an excellent reader and writer myself, I became attuned to academic difficulties many young people have with basic literacy skills. I began to develop a deeper interest in helping young people improve their ability to read, write and think critically. I get immense joy from seeing students make discoveries and develop their minds.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: Aside from addressing a range of important skills that govern executive functioning, what really excites me about the S4 curriculum is the note-taking system. It is aimed at helping students improve their reading comprehension through a more thorough processing of text. The note-taking system, in both listening and reading, helps develop deeper reading and comprehension skills. Through the process of taking notes, students practice how to determine saliency and summarize main ideas in a meaningful way. Consistent and organized note taking also works to improve memory.