Our mission is to create a world-class K-8 school where all children are prepared for college, career, and life.
Catalyst Academy Charter School is a college-preparatory K-8 public charter school in Pittsburgh, focused on serving families in the Hill District, Garfield, East Liberty, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington, Homewood, and East Hills communities as well as families from across Pittsburgh and neighboring communities that are looking for a great school.
We opened as a K-1 school in the fall of 2020, and will grow a grade each year to eventually serve kindergarten through 8th grade. As a public charter school, Catalyst Academy is a tuition-free, open-enrollment school for any student, including students with special needs and English-language learners.
Catalyst Academy is the first new K-8 charter school in Pittsburgh in 6 years and is located in the Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood, in the former Lemington school building.
Courtney Taylor is the Principal of Catalyst Academy. A graduate of Howard, Eastern, and Drexel universities, Ms. Taylor has distinguished herself throughout her education career. She has taught nearly every grade between Kindergarten and 8th grade, with impressive academic results. Her leadership experiences include being a Teacher Leader and Assistant Director of Early Elementary at Mastery Charter Schools, and most recently as a School Launch Partner for Jounce. There she coached and supported over twenty school leaders across Jounce school clients. Ms. Taylor is a native of Philadelphia, and the proud mother of two amazing children.
Laura Lerand is the Founding Dean of Instruction of Catalyst Academy. She began her work as an educator as a Teach for America Corps member in the Rio Grande Valley. As a corps member, she taught dual language kindergarten at an International Baccalaureate public school in McAllen, Texas, where she developed a passion for teaching young students the fundamentals of literacy. After Teach for America, Laura joined IDEA Public Schools as a founding bilingual kindergarten teacher, grade team leader, and instructional coach at IDEA Bluff Springs Academy in Austin, Texas, where she was recognized as Teacher of the Year. Most recently, Laura served as the Education Director for Reading is FUNdamental Pittsburgh.
She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and was born and raised in Wisconsin.
Helene earned her undergraduate degree from Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington and completed her master’s degree in education at Marion University in Indiana. She began her teaching career as a 4th grade Teaching Fellow with an urban charter school in Indianapolis and later became the instructional coach for all kindergarten through 4th grade classrooms. During this time she was recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award for dedication to the community and commitment to student achievement. Helene finds deep satisfaction and joy working with teachers to help them excel in their classrooms for the benefit of the students in their care.
Falencia Jean-Francois was born in Haiti, grew up in Boston, and has called Pittsburgh home for the last eleven years. She began her career in education as a preschool teacher. After three years, she transitioned to elementary education by way of Duquesne University’s PreK-4 master’s program. She lives in Forest Hills with her wife of eleven years, her dog (Loki), and her cat (Rory). When she isn’t teaching, she enjoys writing curriculum and fiction.
Allison Sillin was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, and earned her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education from Miami University of Ohio. After graduating, Allison moved to Columbus, Ohio and began her teaching career serving second and third grade students in public charter schools for seven years. She spent six years serving second grade students at United Preparatory Academy and was involved in a variety of leadership positions. She is excited to join the Catalyst team and be a part of a committed and supportive community in a new city. Allison believes all children deserve a high-quality education and should feel supported and successful.
Raquel began her teaching career after graduating from the Pittsburgh Langley Teaching Academy in 2009. She then received a B.S. from Slippery Rock University and moved to Arizona where she worked as a K-12 substitute in a small town on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation. Raquel fell in love with the community & students, staying for a almost 7 years. During this time, she had two daughters & earned her Masters in Education from Grand Canyon University. Raquel has recently moved back to her hometown of Pittsburgh. She continues to grow in her passion & knowledge as an educator, year after year, & is excited to begin her newest adventure at Catalyst Academy.
Lauren Singer is the oldest of four kids, grew up in Hollidaysburg, PA, and is a graduate of Chatham University with a Bachelors in Education. Lauren began her career in an early education preschool classroom in Pittsburgh and couldn’t be more excited to continue working with scholars at Catalyst Academy. Lauren is a passionate advocate for equitable education and serves to fulfill students needs academically, socially, developmentally, and emotionally. She published a case study on how schools and teachers can better support students who have experienced trauma through the practice of mindfulness, and her devotion to supporting students who have experienced trauma flourishes in areas beyond the classroom.
Abbey was born and raised in Pittsburgh, grew up in the South Hills, and went to Duquesne University to study Early Childhood Education. After graduating, Abbey moved to Chicago where she taught preschool in Chicago Public schools, working with 4 and 5 year olds. Teaching young students allowed Abbey to focus on the importance of early education for children. She moved back to Pittsburgh in the summer of 2021, got married and adopted a puppy. Abbey is excited to be a part of the team at Catalyst Academy!
Yaz was born in Mexico and moved to Texas when she was six years old. She attended the KIPP Academy in Houston in middle school. Her teachers helped her gain access to incredible opportunities, including attending a private high school. Afterward, she attended Pitzer College in California and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology in 2007. Next, Yaz joined Teach For America and moved to New York City. There she taught middle school math in the South Bronx for 10 years. In 2017 she and her husband moved to Pittsburgh. As an educator, she seeks growth and opportunities to learn and improve her craft by reading and watching master teachers work.
Emily Newman, an artist and teacher, was born in Singapore in 1977, raised in the UK and has lived in Pittsburgh since 2010. She received her MFA from The California Institute of the Arts in 2004, and her MAT from Chatham University in 2020. She received a Fulbright in 2006 and spent three years teaching at The Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and at St Petersburg University (Russia.) Most recently she was an art teacher at Manchester Academic Charter School which is located in the Museum Lab/Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, for three years. She is devoted to the prospect of giving the children at Catalyst a rigorous, experimental and joyful arts education and is so grateful that Catalyst’s commitment to the arts means that our young artists practice EVERY DAY!
School Culture & Scholar Support
Hillary has been teaching for nine years in and around the Pittsburgh area. Her teaching experiences range from being an early childhood PreK classroom teacher to being an education director for Kindergarten through second grade. She is thrilled to be a part of the team at Catalyst Academy Charter School. Hillary is an educator because of one very special teacher who showed her that education wasn’t about the grades or the information that was being taught, but the relationships between the students and the teacher.
Myra Powell has been working in community development for over 35 years. She had never thought of working at a school until she learned about Catalyst Academy Charter School’s focus on building community. Myra believes if we want to have a well-rounded scholar, and a well rounded school, then you have to get the community involved. She enjoys experiencing new things, cooking, and loves having picnics.
Families interested in applying at Catalyst Academy please visit our enroll page.
For general inquiries about Catalyst Academy, please email us at email@example.com or call us at 412-684-2400.