Tutors in Demand

Tuesday July 25, 2023

AMESBURY – Tutors, like Kathy Ells, were needed long before Covid-19 shuttered schools three years ago. But the remote or limited teaching during the Covid shutdown appears to have made tutors in even more demand as students try to bridge the pandemic’s learning gap, particularly in mathematics.
Across the country, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card, found among the thousands of fourth and eighth graders tested this year that all scores have declined. Math scores declined the most.
Reading scores dropped to 1992 levels. Nearly four in 10 eighth graders failed to understand basic math concepts. Among the tested eighth graders, 38 percent were “below basic” in math.
Ells, a retired public-school teacher in Amesbury and Merrimac public schools and the Landmark School, began teaching SAT Preparatory Courses after she retired in 2017. When the outbreak of Covid shut down those classes, she adapted her tutoring to individual instruction.
Today, her Successful Solutions tutoring service is booked solid, teaching math to middle school students. She hired her husband, Jon Ells, when he retired as the principal at Landmark School. Her daughter, Hannah, teaches college preparatory courses online. And two retired elementary school teachers have joined her to tutor students in the lower grades.
“There are so many needs and so many different needs,” Ells said.
Ells is not even the only tutor in the CI Works building. Rebekah Waterson, a certified middle school teacher, who taught for eight years at St. John’s Peabody and Danvers, tutors students among the diverse group of small manufacturing companies that lease space at CI Works.
In an office on the second floor of the old mill building, Successful Solutions offers private one-on-one and small group tutoring sessions for students in grades one through 12 and beyond in math, English and reading comprehension. It also offers training in study habits and organization skills, as well as SAT Prep.
Waterson’s Bright Stars, which is also on the second floor of the CIWorks, offers tutoring for individual students and small groups in math, general studies and organization skills. She also tutors gifted students and those who have neurological challenges, including autism.
Ells said a lot of the students who come to her face gaps in the courses they are learning in school. In the individual sessions she helps them bridge those gaps, which teachers in a large classroom cannot, she said.
A lot of the work by the tutors is building a student’s confidence, she said. Much of the confidence building comes from “putting the pieces together.”
Some students are brought to her by parents who want their child to achieve at a higher level. “Some don’t need tutoring,” she said. But the parents want them to advance faster than their grade level.
She does not believe moving students ahead of their grade level is good for them. “If they are bored doing sixth grade work, teaching them to do eighth grade work will only make them more bored,” she said.
Some students are brought to the sessions reluctantly, expecting the training to be boring. After one session, the students often change their attitude. “Some students don’t want to leave, even when they don’t need any more help,” she said.
Ells retired in her late 50s from teaching in schools because she was frustrated with school operations, but within a month she missed teaching and turned to tutoring.
“This is rewarding because you know you are helping,” Ells said. She takes pride in seeing happy students and happy parents.
Ells, now 64, has no plans of stopping tutoring. “This is something you can do for so long,” she said.
All sessions are held at her office at CI Works, 11 Chestnut St., Ste. 215, in Amesbury.
The fee for an hour session is $90, a half hour is $50.
Successful Solutions’ help in getting into college is more expensive. Working with students to write a college admissions essay costs $525 for four to six one- hour sessions with a tutor, plus one to two hours of editing and comments.
For more information, visit successfulsolutionstutoring.org, or visit brightstars-tutoring.org.

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