News from the Smarty Education Corner: We asked our Smarty partners at Huntington Learning Center to give us some tips on when and how to seek tutoring assistance for our children. Jason Russell, Director of Huntington Learning Center, sat down for an extensive Q & A and we are excited to share it with all of our CSP peeps.
Tell us a little bit about your background – what brought you to HLC?
I grew up in a small New England town in Maine. My mother taught 5th grade, and my father served as a minister and later began teaching High School math. I attended college near Boston to study History and Education. While I was there, my parents moved to Charlotte. I followed them here to Charlotte after graduating in 1996.
At that point, my plan was to teach history in a classroom, but instead I found Jackie Pace and Huntington Learning Center. I was quickly impressed by the warmth of the staff expressed toward each other and the students, and as I learned more about Huntington, I grew to appreciate the care that goes into helping every child become the best student they can be.
I have stayed at Huntington for over 17 years now. This is a special place. Retired staff attends Holiday parties and meets together with current staff for lunches. Parents who have children attend in Elementary School remember us and bring their children back for SAT prep. Former students come back as adults to tell us how Huntington helped them achieve their dreams. One former student even came back with her teaching degree and now works as a tutor for us.
What are your responsibilities as director of HLC?
I oversee the operation of the centers and help Jackie plan for the future.
My goal is to make sure we are providing a high quality product for every student who attends one of our centers. I do this through ongoing training and monitoring of the certified teachers who work with the students, overseeing the progress students are making as they attend our center, and by encouraging a level of dedication and warmth toward students and families which has helped to set us apart these past 20 years of business.
Do you have children? If so, how does being a parent make you a better director?
I have a child in 4th grade and one in 6th grade. Both of them have attended Huntington as younger children and are doing very well in school. That perspective as a parent helps me to understand some of the things other parents experience both at school and when they have a child with us.
For instance, I understand that time is at a premium for most families, and that attending Huntington is sometimes difficult to fit into an afternoon or evening schedule. Huntington was definitely an investment of time for my family, but it has paid dividends in how both my children experience school and homework, and that has affected our family relationship in a myriad of positive ways.
What are some red flags parents might notice that indicate a child might benefit from a learning center?
I believe every child can benefit from Huntington. Over the years we have worked with many very intelligent children who are doing well in school and come to us for enrichment. At Huntington these students polish their reading and math strategies, study skills, and writing skills, and see benefits in reduced homework time and life long study and time management skills.
However, there are warning signs that your child may be struggling. Has the teacher expressed concerns? Do his grades not reflect his ability? Does he take too long doing or refuse to do homework? Have you noticed a change in attitude toward school? Is he disorganized? Does he procrastinate?
If you experience any of these things, I encourage you to seek help immediately. Gaps in learning do not go away as a student progresses; they widen and compound as expectations increase.
What should parents look for in a learning center?
When I first started at Huntington, there were not nearly as many choices as there are now for parents. It can be very daunting to find the right place. Begin by speaking with teachers and friends and searching online to get a list of possibilities. Then begin narrowing down your list by calling the centers. Of course you want to know the cost and the hours of availability, but dig deeper.
Most centers will begin with an evaluation to determine your child’s needs. Ask them to describe the evaluation. What tests will be used? What are they looking for from each one? Is it administered on a computer, pencil and paper, orally or a mixture? After the evaluation, how will the information be presented? Will you have a conference to see the evaluation and discuss the results?
Then ask some specific questions about the center. How long has the center been in existence? Does each student have an individual program? What is the student teacher ratio? Ask about the qualifications of the tutors that will be working with your child. Do they hire qualified teachers or employ college students? Ask about the background of the staff. Are they educators? Is the center accredited?
Use these calls to narrow your choice down to two or three centers and then ask to visit. Set an appointment, and arrive early so you can speak with some of the parents and children in the waiting room. Ask them about the staff and their impressions of the center. Make sure to take a good look around. Is the center an academic setting where students are engaged with books and teachers? Are the teachers dressed professionally and interacting with students appropriately? Is the staff respectful and willing to take time to answer your questions? Does this center seem like a place your child would be comfortable?
What are some important points parents need to consider about their child as they choose a learning center?
Make sure your child is comfortable at the center and interacts well with the people there- both the tutors and the other students. If you have any concerns at all, be sure to speak up immediately. But ultimately parents need to make a decision based on what their child needs and not what the child necessarily wants. It is a rare child who has the foresight to appreciate the acquisition of academic skills when they would rather be out with friends.
Any tips on how a parent can create a positive attitude, open mindedness, or a willingness to work in their child as they start at a learning center?
Be very clear. Explain the reasons you have sought help. Tell him the goal of the tutoring, and when that goal will be achieved. Paint a picture of what the long term benefits will be once his skills have improved.
Create choices for the child to engage him in the process. For example, once you have determined how often he needs to attend, offer him a few different options and ask him which he prefers.
Give us the top 3 reasons HLC is different from other learning centers.
Huntington works! We have been in the Charlotte area for over 20 years now. We would not still be here if our program did not work.
Our staff has a wealth of experience in this field. I have been with Jackie for nearly 2 decades now and am still drawing on her wealth of knowledge. Alan, our Math Director, was here when I began and is intimately familiar with the Huntington program and how to administer it. Rebecca, our Huntersville Center Director, has an ESL background teaching adults and children English and writing. She is adored by all our students and families. Resa, our Charlotte Center Director, has been in the education field for over 12 years from creating programming for at risk youth to teaching college level courses in communication. She came to us with a fresh perspective and energy.
At Huntington our focus is on the process not the product. Students verbalize the process of finding a main idea, making an inference, etc. to teachers and practice that process until it is mastered at 6 months to a year above grade level. Our students learn how to learn.
What can a child expect at his or her first meeting at HLC?
When a student begins his program, a staff member will greet him by name when he enters the center, and escort him to his teacher. The teacher will spend the day just with him, answering his questions, getting to know him, showing him around the center, reviewing the process for each activity he will be doing, and explaining how each activity will help him academically.
What makes your teachers special?
Our learning center teachers are certified in many different academic fields, but what makes ours special is their love for the students and their longevity. Some of our staff is comprised of teachers who have retired from the classroom, but continue to work for us because they enjoy teaching and being around children. I have known many of the teachers in both centers for over a decade now. Jackie hires good people, and many stay with us because they see that Huntington works.
How do you measure success for your students?
Improved grades tell us that the student’s skills are improving and that he is able to apply them to the classroom. Improved test scores give us a concrete way to measure the student’s improvement. It is a great feeling when a student brings in a report card with their first A, or a SAT score that will make them competitive at the college of their choice, but Huntington is more than that. Often when a child is brought here, the parents and student are stressed with each other and fighting over school, homework and grades. I think the most telling measure of our success is when a parent tells us how much more pleasant home life is because the student does his homework on his own now without prompting, his attitude toward school has changed, and his grades have improved dramatically. If we can do that for a family, we have changed lives for the better.
If there were one or two things parents could be doing daily to improve their child’s academic life, what would it (they) be?
Encourage structure. Most children do best when they are given a structured environment at home. Create a space for homework free of clutter and distractions. Schedule his afternoon and evening time. He may find that by setting a schedule, he ends up with more free time that he had before the schedule.
Try to focus on positive rewards instead of negative consequences whenever possible. Tell your child clearly what is expected of them at school and reward him when he achieves it. If he does not meet the expectations, brainstorm things he can do differently to achieve his goals next time.
Spend a few minutes reading with your child. If he is younger, read to him. If he is older, have him read or take turns. Ask each other questions about the reading. See if he can stump you. Focus your questions on picking out the main idea, recalling important details, using contextual clues to determine word meanings and drawing conclusions from the information.
Thanks for the information Jason! Well Smarties, one last thing to consider, the hardest part of navigating learning & tutoring centers is making the first call. So stop procrastinating and call today! If you need more motivation to make the call, we have you covered. Stress is a part of everyone’s life, right? It can be distracting and even harmful, right? So why not attend a free Beat Stress! seminar hosted by the Huntington Learning Center?
The HLC Beat Stress Workshop – a MUST for middle and high school parents!
Huntington Learning Center in Huntersville is hosting an amazing opportunity for parents and their middle school and/or high school children to learn how to Beat Stress! Registration required. Call today!
Drs. Lonnie Bagwell & Holly Clemens D.C. local Maximized Living Doctors and Mentors are experienced in medical research and have advanced training in Nutrition, Detoxification, and proper Neurological function. Long lasting results in hundreds of lives here in Charlotte for a wide variety of conditions. Currently Dr. Clemens is owner Next Generation Health Center in South Park and Dr. Bagwell owner of True Health Center in Huntersville, NC.
When? January 27, 2014 @ 6:45 pm – 8:00 pm
Where? Huntington Learning Center, 9601 Holly Point Drive, Huntersville, NC
Cost? Not one single penny – it’s FREE!
RSVP: Huntington Learning Center @ 704-896-3931