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 5,500 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 Master’s 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 a 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 Science in Health Education and a Minor in Psychology from Western Connecticut State University. Master’s Degree in Special Education from Fairfield University. Certification in Health Education and Special Education.
Why I Teach: When I asked my father, “Why do you think I became a teacher?” He said, “Because you can’t sing.” I feel that my inspiration came early in life. When I was in the third grade I had a fantastic teacher. She was always very energetic and enthusiastic and she made my learning experience positive. I was always excited to go home and tell my parents the progress I was making. For example my handwriting was atrocious and I was below grade level in reading. By the end of that year my handwriting was excellent and I had progressed in reading. Now as a teacher I hope to bring the same energy and enthusiasm to my class so that I can have the same success with my students as she had with me.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: If I have learned anything as a teacher it is that we need to practice the curriculum that has been proven successful. The S4 curriculum is just that. It helps students organize their time, and teaches them specific methods in note taking and study skills. This program teaches best-practices for test taking, and memorization. These are methodologies and system that will be used throughout a student’s academic career, and right into their lives after school.
Educational Background: Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Manhattanville College. Master’s Degree in Adolescent Education from Manhattanville College.
Why I Teach: My interest in teaching started from a young age from seeing my grandmother teach foreign language in New York City. I remember visiting her classroom when I was young. I even recall how it was nicely decorated with various hanging plants. I got to see first hand the difference she made in some of the lives of her students. I knew I wanted to have a positive impact on young children in the future. She was an inspiration to me back then and still is. I’m happy I have followed her foot prints into teaching!
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: The S4 Curriculum is amazing because of the various study structures that it teaches and provides. Not every student can memorize facts for an exam – nor should they. The S4 curriculum gives students the tools to be successful academically with a focus on good study habits as well as organizational skills. I am thrilled to be on board with a great team of professionals that help students to reach their full potential!
Educational Background: Bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology as well as a Master’s 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 every day. 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 a part 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.
“We LOVE Brittany!!!! She has done incredible work in such short time, steering my daughter towards a path of success, it’s just unbelievable. I honestly wish I’d gotten this kind of help years ago. Please know that I am deeply grateful. Your teacher has just been amazing.” — Maria Garces, mother of a daughter at Academy of Mt St Ursula, Yonkers, NY
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Fordham University; Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University; Doctorate Degree in Social Work from Capella University anticipated graduation Summer 2019
Why I Teach: As the oldest child in my family, I have always assumed the nurturing role in the family. When I took my first position as a counselor, I knew that I wanted to be in the helping field. The feeling of a helping a child succeed is very gratifying and I challenge myself to continuously learn new skills in order to make the children I work with the most successful they can be and reach their fullest potential.
What I like about the S4 Curriculum: The S4 curriculum touches upon every study skills that a student needs in order to be successful. In addition, the strategies that are used to teach students are research based strategies, which ensure that students are learning effective study skills. If your student struggles with note taking, organization, initiating homework, or time management, there are specific skills that are taught in order for the student to develop lifelong habits that will make them successful academically. What I like most about the S4 curriculum is that skills that are taught are set up to make the students achieve lifelong success. The skills taught are not only important for the student’s academic career, but are necessary skills to be successful beyond their educational career
Educational Background: Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from SUNY Albany. Master’s 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 Master’s 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.
“Daniella has been awesome! We could not be happier with Charlie’s change in grades and more importantly, his change in attitude and confidence!” — Mary Kate Pfennigwerth, Larchmont, NY
Educational Background: Graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Sociology. Earned Masters of Arts in English Education from Columbia University, Teachers College.
Why I Teach: Teaching is an ongoing process of construction and transformation where the infinite power of knowledge allows for perpetual future growth. As a life-long learner, I sincerely enjoy the journey of working with today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders. This personal passion of mine truly emerged when I majored in English at Georgetown University. While working towards my Bachelor of Arts degree, I was afforded a wonderful opportunity to teach in several underprivileged Washington, D.C. classrooms with quite moving leaders and keen students. With an innate yearning to help further their learning and mission, I instantly knew education was my personal calling. Following my undergraduate experience, I started teaching around the clock in New York City as I completed my Masters degree at Columbia University, Teachers College. Since then, I have taught reading, writing, literature, executive functioning, and much more to a wide range of students in a multitude of different contexts over the last fifteen years.
Above all – I teach to inspire; I teach to instill the vast value of development into my students’ lives and make their educational experiences both moving and meaningful. And as a passionate and dedicated teacher, I continually explore the dual power of practice and pedagogy to grow as an enlightened educator as time evolves.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: A successful final product is the result of a steady, efficient, and productive process. The S4 curriculum effectively prepares students for achievement because it focuses on the entire system rather than just the end goal. When studying for an exam or preparing for a project, S4 students utilize key organizational strategies and structures to map out their plan down to the most integral details. The S4 system values time management and helps students navigate their workload around extra-curricular activities, sports, jobs, and more. Further, S4 offers students multiple tactics and techniques to aid in personal note taking, summarization, and even memorization. S4 recognizes each student as a unique learner and supports individualized learning through appropriate differentiation and one-on-one tutoring. Students are continually given the tools to succeed and offered an incredible support system to sustain personal growth and development.
“Jessica was absolutely fabulous. She worked so well with our son. Thank you so much for matching us up with such an amazing teacher. We could not be happier.” — Deborah Sallaberry, Ridgefield, CT
Educational Background: Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy from Boston College. Master’s 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.
“Kam has had a very positive impact on our son’s approach to his school work as well as his writing. One of the strongest benefits has been how Kam has taught our son how to apply himself to multiple projects, and how to break tasks down. He really respects Kam and doesn’t like to disappoint him, which results in his working hard independently in between their tutoring sessions. Further, Kam has impacted our son as a life mentor, more than I think Kam realizes. Their general chit chats have encouraged our son to think more broadly about topics, and be more thoughtful about his own opinions and critical thought. Our son is not well read, but Kam is, so their current events/cultural discussions have really been educational beyond the academic work. Kam’s involvement has also allowed my wife and I to maintain a positive and cheerful dynamic with our son, since we no longer check to see if homework has been completed. Kam is a pleasure to see every week, is very polite, flexible and responds to our texts promptly.” — David B., Darien, CT
Why I teach mathematics. Mathematics is one of the only subjects where it cannot be memorized, it can only be learned by actively solving problems. Math is understanding then doing, it’s working out a puzzle. People become intimidated by mathematics so easily, but the approach is quite simple and consistent. Mathematics takes time and discipline, but when the process is understood it becomes fun to solve these complicated problems. It is so satisfying when you help someone finally figure out how to do a problem they were stuck on, the happiness in their eyes when they finally understand how to go about the problems. Mathematics isn’t just a subject, it’s a way of life.
Educational Background: Bachelor of Arts in English and minor in Spanish from Fairfield University, Masters in Secondary English Education from Fairfield University, Sixth Year Certificate in TESOL at Fairfield University. Lauren is certified to teach grades 7-12, and has experience teaching the ACT/SAT.
Why I Teach: I love how wonderfully unique each classroom environment is. I’ve had the privilege of working in different school districts with students of all grade levels and English Language proficiencies. I truly enjoy getting to know my students. I believe the student/teacher relationship should be based on trust and respect because it is difficult to learn something new. I try to make my students feel valued and I enjoy facilitating experiences to give my students a voice to express themselves. I am grateful for their belief in themselves and me. I enjoy learning from them just as much as teaching them. It’s a team effort!
What I like about the S4 Curriculum: I believe the S4 curriculum’s emphasis on breaking down planning and study skills into manageable chunks is essential for success in school and life beyond . At first, studying for a test and getting organized may seem overwhelming, but with practice, you can use these skills to manage your workload in any subject area. I also think being able to apply these skills on a regular basis will enable you to become a more independent and responsible student. It’s a great feeling to be accountable for your work, and have the results as well!
Educational Background: Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from University of Bridgeport, Master’s Degree in Secondary Mathematics Education from University of Bridgeport
Why I Teach Mathematics: To start with, I find working on math to be very fun. Math problems are like puzzles, and when you look at them as such it becomes very cathartic. A big goal of mine is to show others how fun working on math can be. Math has an awful stigma in the United States as being boring and scary and that is simply not true. Math is highly elegant. And I want to share and spread enthusiasm for the subject. Not only do I find the subject to be so fun, but I also take a lot of pride in what I do. I believe students each require their own differentiated instruction, and I believe I excel in that. When students do not understand something it is important to provide a variety of methods or ways of teaching material. I think I am really good at what I do and I am fortunate enough to do what I love.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: What I like most about the S4 curriculum how it provides students with an exclusive service in helping them succeed in school. Individualized tutoring sessions are proven to improve a student’s academic performance, as well as confidence in the subject area. Students are much more likely to miss out on material in large classrooms. By giving students additional time in a one on one setting, all the distractions a classroom can bring a stripped away. This gives students a highly focused, individualized lesson, in which much can be accomplished.
Educational Background: Graduated from Cornell University School of Human Ecology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Policy Analysis and Management, concentrating in Family & Social Welfare and Inequality Studies. Earned a Masters of Science in Childhood Education from Hunter College School of Education.
Why I Teach: I teach because I believe every young person deserves the opportunity to learn, grow, and have their curiosity ignited, even when their learning styles, unique abilities, or life circumstances don’t fit what we consider the norm. I teach because I am invigorated by helping young people to discover their innate power, to pursue their passions, and to learn to love learning.
What I Like About the S4 Curriculum: What I like about the S4 curriculum is that it can be applied to any academic subject and any arena of the real world, even once students are finished with school. By establishing a strong organizational foundation, young people feel empowered to direct their own learning and advocate for their particular set of strengths and needs.
Educational Background: Bachelor’s 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.