"We believe that each child's learning capability is unique. Sometimes they just need someone to teach it in a different way ... or to break it down so they can see it differently." — Catherine Kolf, Club Z!
It's a wondrous experience to watch children grasp the solution to a problem or skill that previously eluded them. Their faces brighten, a proud smile appears and, most important, they have the confidence and knowledge they need to move to the next step in their studies. It's a victory tutors witness every day.
Some local schools offer free group homework and study sessions with teachers or individual tutoring conducted by other students. Some colleges also offer tutoring, including Loyola University New Orleans' Student Success Center, which offers tutors, writing coaches, study groups and help with papers, lab reports and more, all at no cost.
Several private tutoring services in the New Orleans area help students ranging from preschoolers about to enter the classroom to adults earning their GEDs. These businesses provide one-on-one tutoring and tailor their services to the individual's learning style and goals. In addition to conducting tutoring at their education centers, some offer in-home sessions and online instruction as well as college admissions counseling.
"Our priority is the student, and we want to make them succeed," says Catherine Kolf, president of the Club Z! franchise in New Orleans. "We are flexible in hours, and I have students we tutor only an hour a week. ... I have other students we tutor 12 hours a week. We will do whatever the student needs."
Kris Cusanza, director of Sylvan of Metairie, says the keys to success for her students are individual attention, teaching organizational skills and crafting study habits that play to scholars' strengths.
"On top of going over the traditional math, writing and reading, we have a great study skills program that helps them be able to study and tackle their school material in a way that fits with their particular learning style," she says. "We want them to be able to digest the material and have it make sense for them."
Not all students who seek tutoring have sagging grades or problems learning.
"We work with students of all ages and abilities," Cusanza says. "We have some students who need a little support to help build their foundation, and we have students who are trying to get ahead with ACT prep."
Some schools have an advanced curriculum and students will attend summer tutoring sessions to get a heads-up for what they will see during the school year. "Other students want more of a challenge than they find in their curriculum," she adds.
For those students, Sylvan of Metairie holds STEM classes every Saturday where students can learn about robotics, coding and engineering. "It gives them a way to increase their love of math and science in a fresh and interesting way," Cusanza says.
One of the most common reasons students sign up for tutoring is Common Core math, Kolf says, partly because the method for calculating has changed over the past generation. "It's different than the way (parents) learned to do math, so they can't help (their children)," she says. Other common requests are for reading comprehension and organizational skills, she says.
Most tutoring centers offer ACT and SAT prep classes, have teachers versed in college courses and offer tutoring for children with learning disabilities including dyslexia and ADHD.
For most children, the true value of a tutor goes beyond helping them solve a math problem or keeping them on schedule with their schoolwork.
"We believe that each child's learning capability is unique," Kolf says. "We monitor ongoing progress. We work one-on-one with the child, so we can focus on what they really need, and we work with their curriculum.
"Sometimes they just need someone to teach it in a different way or to teach it one-on-one or to break it down so they can see it differently. I have some students who are straight-A students and just need a little help. I've had students who just needed five sessions to get them over the hump. I've also had students who have been with me three years. Every case is individual."