ECU alumna continues family legacy as Micro Elementary's new principal

By Robin Koppen, Johnston County Public Schools Communication Specialist

Newly named Micro Elementary principal Carson Cataliotti comes from a family of educators. Born and raised in Smithfield, Cataliotti attended South Smithfield Elementary, where her father was the principal. When she was a student at Smithfield Middle, her mother was the principal. 

photo of Carson Cataliotti in Micro Elementary School
Carson Cataliotti, Micro Elementary School’s new principal

She was that kid, going with her parents before school began and staying afterwards while they were still working. Spending so much time immersed in a school setting could have sent Cataliotti on a completely different path than education. 

Luckily for Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS), that wasn’t the case. She dreamed of becoming a teacher. “I idolized my teachers growing up,” Cataliotti said.

In fact, she would come home from school and conduct class with her stuffed animals arranged on her bed, teaching them the lessons she had learned at school that day.  

She took the roll with a roll book she snuck from her father’s office, and even made seating charts for her “students”. 

When Cataliotti was in the third grade she asked Santa for an overhead projector for Christmas, which, unfortunately, she did not get. That did not deter her dream of teaching. 

Besides her parents being big influences, Cataliotti has a couple of other folks in her life that she draws inspiration from.

The first being her grandfather, who she considers her hero. “He was such a positive influence in my life,” Cataliotti recalled. “I have many, many special memories with him.”

One memory of her grandfather is he owned a farm and would take all of the grandchildren for rides around the farm. Cataliotti said that if you were special you would get to sit on his lap and help drive. She said he was the kindest, most humble person she has ever known, and he lived by the Golden Rule, treat others the way you want to be treated.

Another early influence in Cataliotti’s life was her fourth grade teacher, Ms. Helen Bunn, who made learning fun, exciting, and engaging. She remembers that they did a lighthouse project, read-a-thons, and school plays. More importantly, “She made me feel special,” Cataliotti recalled.

In addition to her early love of teaching, as a young girl Cataliotti developed her love of reading. “There’s so much magic in a book,” she remarked.  When she taught first grade, she loved the read aloud part of the day. “It can take your imagination to so many places,” she said. Still, to this day, she enjoys reading, especially while on the beach. 

Cataliotti’s first couple of years teaching were in Wake County. From there, Cataliotti excitedly began her career with JCPS as a teacher at Dixon Road Elementary, where she taught first grade for two years. She moved on to teach at her alma mater, South Smithfield Elementary, and taught first grade for eight years. 

That was when Cataliotti decided to take her teaching career to the next level, so she went back to ECU and earned her master’s. 

Although she knew that being an administrator wouldn’t give her the direct impact like she had with teaching, Cataliotti knew that she would be able to make a bigger impact.

Once she completed her master’s degree, Cataliotti came right back to JCPS to complete her internship at West Smithfield Elementary.

Then she became the assistant principal at her alma mater South Smithfield Elementary for four years. Last year, she helped open JCPS’ newest school, Thanksgiving Elementary. “I really enjoyed my time there opening that school,” she recalled.

Cataliotti knows that an important part of being a principal is connecting with students, staff, and families. A self-proclaimed extrovert, she is a people person.  “I’m energized by people,” she said excitedly.

How does Cataliotti connect? She asks questions. She believes that if you want to get to know others, you have to get to know them, and let them know that you genuinely care about them. “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,” she said.

Her down time is spent with her husband, who was her college sweetheart, and their three sons. “The backyard is my place,” Cataliotti said. She likes to hang out in the backyard grilling up some grub, having a fire, or reading a book. 

When she isn’t playing wiffle ball with her youngest son, who is four years old, or taking her oldest sons to their baseball games, Cataliotti likes to paint furniture under the name Glossy Girl.

When asked to pick her favorite place on Earth, Cataliotti quickly replied, “Costa Rica.” Why? “The people, the food, the culture, the beauty…Costa Rica has my heart,” she said of her visit there. She, however, cannot decide if she’s a beach girl or a mountain girl. She and her family enjoy both aspects of North Carolina equally. 

Her vision for the future of Micro Elementary is to build relationships with students, staff and their families. “Micro Elementary is known as the small school where big things happen,” she commented.

Cataliotti plans to collaborate with the teachers to continue traditions such as Fresh Cuts & Fresh Starts, where the students can come and get free haircuts, as well as book bags, school supplies, clothing, and food. 

Micro Elementary will undoubtedly continue on its path of excellence with Cataliotti at the helm. “I’m very creative and have a lot of ideas,” she said.

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