Choosing a Tutor

By Mary Beth Schwartz

Cargo pants, Henleys, light-up Buzz Lightyear sneakers—check. Toy Story 3 backpack/lunch tote combo—check. School lunch must-haves—check. Folders, notebooks, pencils, erasers, paper, crayons—check. It’s back to school. But before long, some parents must start shopping again. This time, it’s not for an item at the local  store—it’s for a tutor to help their child.

According to Executive Director Bob Smith and Center Director Paula Sandillo at Bethlehem’s Huntingdon Learning Center, there are warning signs parents will see when their child needs a tutor. These include dropping grades, letters from the teacher about lack of participation, and homework not being completed.

Rather than provide a quick-solution,  Huntingdon’s tutors empower students with the skills needed for a long-lasting education. “A tutor should find the root cause of educational issues. Then the tutor should have solutions to the issues. The setting should be comfortable. Parents should receive progress reports. Standardized tests should measure progress.”

Founded in 1977, Huntingdon offers academic evaluation and personalized learning programs to students ages 5 to 17. The tutor’s goal is to have the student master skills that are critical to boost confidence, which strengthens the motivation to learn. Students are handed back their self-esteem and they excel in reading, writing, mathematics, study skills, phonics, vocabulary, test taking, and preparation for PSAT, SAT, and ACT.

According to Bob Smith, not all students coming to Huntingdon are performing poorly in school. “About one third of our students are here on enrichment programs. These students, which include some homeschoolers, are doing well. Their parents want to accelerate their progress even further.”

For today’s families watching their budgets, Huntingdon Learning Center offers flexible hours and affordable rates. “Students come to the center for one-on-one tutoring. It is a learning environment with no distractions. We have over 700 resources to draw from,” Smith says. In addition, Huntingdon Learning Center provides online resources for students, parents, and teachers. Flash cards, education articles, interactive vocabulary practice, and more can be downloaded at

Perhaps you prefer the convenience, security, and familiar surroundings that come with in-home tutoring. That is what Ann Peaslee had in mind when she started Pennsylvania Renaissance Educational Programs (P.R.E.P. LLC) in 2002. After being a teacher in the Lehigh Valley for 33 years, she saw the need for tutoring with many children. She also saw the need for adult tutoring and added programs to accommodate them. Today she has a staff of 45 certified and experienced teachers.

“In-home tutoring saves time—people are so busy. Some kids have several extracurricular activities. It also saves families gas money. When people are home, their brains tend to be at their best,” Peaslee says.

Offering one-on-one-customized tutoring, Peaslee and her tutors can visit the home, or sometimes the public library, morning, evenings, even weekends. All subjects are taught, including several languages—Russian, Spanish, French, Latin, Greek, and coming soon, Mandarin.

“My philosophy is everybody can learn. People tend to be right or left brained and sometimes need additional help. Kids need more repetition. Some people need more time than others. I also stress lifelong learning. My youngest student is five, and he is taking conversational Spanish with his mother. My oldest client is 75, and she is learning to use the computer,” Peaslee says.

The tutor will determine the weaknesses in learning. According to Peaslee, the more documentation from the parent, teacher, guidance counselor, the better. Past test scores and grades also will be evaluated. Although tutors often help with falling grades, they also boost good ones. “Sometimes the parent and child want a scholarship. The grades have to [improve], the SAT scores have to come up, in order to get into the college or university of their choice.”

Whether parents choose a learning center or in-home tutor, the end result is sure to be a happy, motivated, confident, educated child.

Huntington Learning Center
3926 Nazareth Pike
Bethlehem Square Shopping Center
Bethlehem, PA 18020

970 Hillcrest Drive South
Macungie, PA 18062

Follow @LehighValleyMarketplace on Instagram