Tutors’ perspective on their students

May 27, 2020

Tutors in Marin and beyond might have an idea about if the price of their services is worth it or not. Douglas McLemore, a professional tutor of 25 years, began the job full time after being a chemistry professor who did tutoring on the side.

“I didn’t like being in the professor game because I didn’t feel like I was able to get through to students when I had 200-300 students in a classroom. Being a tutor, I’m more able to affect change in my students,” McLemore said.

McLemore thinks his years of teaching experience have led to better tutoring and believes his 20 current students have benefitted from his knowledge.

“It’s easier to figure out what each individual’s problem might be and help them solve those problems when you can do it one-on-one,” McLemore said.

McLemore charges up to $300 per hour for specialized graduate tests (for college students looking into graduate school), or $150 per hour for his basic tutoring services, which although expensive, he believes is worth it for the student and family.

“A lot of the time what happens is I don’t have to spend as much time with a student as someone who is charging a lower rate, so in the end it probably comes out to be a lot closer in cost,” McLemore said. “So what I can do with a student in five hours might actually take another tutor 10-15 hours to accomplish and that’s because I’ve seen a lot of students and can identify problem spots faster.”

Working with students both online and in person through his own company, IcosaPrep, and Swell Education Group in Marin, McLemore has been able to see subtle differences in students based on where they live.

“I think there’s just a more competitive nature here in Marin than in other places, probably because of the schools that are in the area,” McLemore said.

He has also noticed differences compared to other counties in what parents are willing to pay tutors to see their students succeed.

“I do think there is a bigger interest in quality tutoring here, versus college students or just out of college students doing tutoring,” McLemore said. “I don’t think that flies as much in Marin. [Parents] want people who are professional tutors.”

But do families really need to be spending hundreds of dollars per week on tutoring? At Redwood, there are many opportunities for free tutoring and help through peer tutors and SMART periods, a chance to ask questions or talk to teachers. Senior Gianna Panzardi is a peer tutor for a period of math teacher Heather Curtaz’s Algebra students and has seen its impact for the past year. 

Photo courtesy of Monmouth University.

“It’s kind of like being a teacher’s assistant but you’re not just helping the teacher, you’re working with the kids as well. I’m sitting at a desk the whole class period and I usually help the most on block days when they’re reviewing for their test,” Panzardi said.

Panzardi believes that her job is important in the classroom, and wishes to normalize getting help through extra class time or peer tutors. 

“I feel like there are a lot of kids who need peer tutoring but don’t speak up and ask for help, especially underclassmen. They need to know it’s ok to ask for help,” Panzardi said.

Panzardi has always relied on school time to get help, either from friends tutoring her or SMART periods with teachers, and is a firm believer in taking advantage of the resources offered for free.

“There are definitely really great programs offered at Redwood, and there are so many free options, so I don’t feel like people need to hire professional tutors unless a kid is really struggling and they’ve tried all of the free resources,” Panzardi said.

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