When children and teens struggle in school, families often don’t know what to do or where to turn. Michelle Szabo, the Stern Center’s Director of Instruction, offers some advice to help students who are falling behind.
Michelle Szabo leads our team of 20+ teachers who instruct more than 400 students each year. She brings 27 years of teaching experience to her role and ensures all students are served effectively.
My child is falling behind in school. How can you help?
Our instructors work with children and teens on a one-to-one basis, covering any academic areas where a student has trouble learning. Students often come to us with learning differences—maybe they have a diagnosed learning disability or they’re currently struggling to keep up in school. In every session, we help students build executive function skills, self-confidence, and self-awareness so they can feel successful in the classroom.
This work is incredibly important to everyone at the Stern Center. Our entire focus is on helping students thrive. In a large classroom at school, a teacher can’t always work one-on-one with students. Collaborating with schools is a vital part of what we do. We partner with classroom teachers, special educators, speech-language pathologists, physical/occupational therapists, and others to ensure we address a student’s needs holistically.
What is customized tutoring and instruction?
We teach a wide range of subjects, including math, reading, writing, and social thinking. Our instructors use a structured approach that involves multiple senses (visual, auditory, and tactile) and different areas of the brain. For example, when teaching math we’ll use manipulatives so students can move things around and see math come alive.
Our teachers build partnerships, trust, and rapport with students, giving students the confidence they need to tackle and learn new things. During an instruction session, a student can approach problems and challenges without judgment, without fear of making a mistake, and without feeling self-conscious among their peers in the classroom.
How has the pandemic affected learning?
This pandemic taught us a lot about perseverance and resilience. Many students are struggling to keep up with Common Core and grade-level standards. We are also seeing a lot of kindergartens, first-, and second-graders who haven’t had much classroom experience. They are trying to learn for the first time in a larger setting. We help them fill in foundational gaps in literacy, math, and writing. We work with them on executive function skills and build their self-esteem and confidence in themselves as learners.
Why are you and your team so committed to teaching?
When a student succeeds and feels pride in their work—when they ‘get’ something for the first time, whether it’s figuring out a math problem, reading a sentence, or finishing a chapter book—it’s incredibly rewarding for all of us. That’s why we teach. Many students come back to us a year later, five years later, after graduating with honors from high school to say that they wouldn’t have been able to succeed without direct intervention at some point in their academic career. The extra support helped them learn a trade or apply to a college and find success. It changed the trajectory of their lives. That’s how we make a difference.