A Tutoring Success Story
Owen’s success story
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Magellan has prided itself on being able to offer quality tutoring services to over 500 families in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia since its debut in 2014. Families who sign on are eager to continue working with Magellan thanks to the wonderful and amazing tutors who are always willing to put their best foot forward.
Magellan tutors transcend the boundary of tutor and student. Rather than simply holding sessions to complete homework, Magellan tutors develop viable connections and form lasting relationships with their students. They ensure that the students grasp not only the fundamental material learned in the classroom, but also the applications of that material so they can be prepared for the future.
This is a story about Owen, whose success has become a paragon of what Magellan hopes to achieve with every student.
Owen was one of Magellan’s very first students. He was finishing seventh grade and like many other kids, he struggled in Algebra and didn’t care much about his future after seventh grade.
"When you're in middle school, you don't think about your future, and you don't think about the bigger picture." — Owen.
Owen’s parents decided it was time to get help, which was when Magellan’s co-founder and director, Mike Sison, took on the challenge of setting things straight.
Mike started by going back to the basics. His first task was to help Owen tackle concepts from pre-algebra, namely linear equations, which were, as Mike puts it, the “fundamentals of algebra.” If Owen couldn’t build the proper foundation, it would be very difficult for him to move forward.
Owen’s first impression of tutoring was to be expected. Like most kids, he dreaded it and thought it would be a waste of two hours every week. He even thought he would fall asleep right in the middle of the first session. Had it not been for his parents’ insistence, Owen would have had very little reason to find any form of satisfaction from tutoring.
Needless to say, Owen’s first session with Mike went much better than he expected. He didn’t fall asleep. He and Mike were able to “actually get stuff done.” He started to view tutoring as more than just a designated time period for homework and his outlook became more optimistic with just one session.
As the sessions continued, Owen began to engage himself more and more. He constantly offered feedback, which became the nucleus of a strengthening relationship between him and Mike. Once he was able to tackle the more challenging problems, Owen’s confidence skyrocketed and his
heightening sense of achievement only grew stronger once he was able to apply what he learned to his schoolwork.
During the summer prior to entering eighth grade, Mike began to go over concepts for Geometry prior to Owen’s enrollment in the class. According to Owen, once school started, it was like déjà vu; most of the material presented in his Geometry class was material Mike had already introduced to him over the summer. As a result, his math grades improved greatly — A’s galore — but Owen was still struggling with his other subjects, namely with the humanities and his elective courses.
Around this time, Mike’s schedule began to grow hectic and he needed another tutor to fill in for him to continue Owen’s tutoring, only now, it would be for the humanities.
Along came Jenna.
Apart from the subject matter, Jenna’s style of tutoring Owen was already different than Mike’s, simply because after only a few months of tutoring, Owen’s mindset had already matured and developed. He was now more open to tutoring and much more willing to do better in school, which helped ease the transition and the change in dynamic.
During Jenna’s sessions, Owen took copious notes on the material presented in class, but Jenna went the extra mile. She also scheduled additional one-hour-long sessions with Owen to further deepen his understanding and Owen remarks that these extra sessions were more impactful.
"Not every tutor tutors the same way."
It was during high school that Owen’s growth truly took off.
Up until his junior year, Owen’s improvement in his math and science courses was tremendous. Although he was still struggling with the humanities, Jenna’s efforts helped him pull through and do decently, but Owen still wasn’t concentrating on his electives and his language courses, and his overall GPA suffered as a result.
That was when he met Ingrid.
Languages were always tricky for Owen. Ingrid, aside from being a native Spanish speaker, was instrumental to Owen’s success in his Spanish classes because she was able to do more than just teach Owen how to memorize vocabulary and verb conjugations. Ingrid pushed Owen to understand the applications of the language and use her own experiences to put him in the proper mindset.
But Ingrid didn’t stop there. She inspired Owen to do what he never dreamed of doing in middle school: think towards the future. Thanks to Ingrid, Owen began to envision what his career path would be and how he would proceed after high school.
Ingrid was pursuing a career in civil engineering and knew of Owen’s talent for math and science (and specifically physics). She suggested he transition from his original plan of becoming a theoretical physicist, to one where he could apply his technical skills and knowledge. One thing led to another and soon enough, Owen was shadowing his tutor-now-turned-mentor to George Mason University, where Owen was even able to speak with one of Ingrid’s professors to learn more about the opportunities offered there.
Ingrid even helped Owen snag his first internship at Urban Engineers, a very sought-after civil engineering company, and one where applicants were typically university students and whose employees were usually well beyond their college years. Owen’s first day at Urban Engineers was “intimidating,” given the fact that he was one of the youngest interns at the age of 16, but eventually the work he received was “extremely gratifying.” It just goes to prove that having the right connections could make all the difference.
Nearing the end of high school, Owen shifted his focus to retaking the SAT after a not-so-stellar first attempt. Owen was also beginning to apply to colleges, and after a very rewarding experience at Urban Engineers, Owen was set on the civil engineering track. At this point, it was a matter of making the final touchdown and finding the proper push to bring everything into one grand finale.
Farrah, one of Magellan’s newest tutors at the time, was introduced to Owen to take on the final challenge. She had one month to prepare Owen for his SAT, and from the get-go, both of them knew that the Reading section was the main target for improvement.
Farrah’s method? Practice, practice, practice.
Her sessions with Owen involved drilling practice tests, reading passage after passage, and answering as many questions as they could in an allotted time frame. She realized she needed to direct Owen’s surface-level reasoning, e.g. “Does this grammatically make sense?”, to a more critical and analytical approach, e.g. “How does changing this language impact the tone of the piece?”. Farrah’s knowledge from studying for the MCAT also played a role in her tutoring style, since the MCAT also has a Critical Analysis and Reasoning section with similarly styled questions.
When Owen retook the SAT, it came as no surprise when his Reading section improved by 70 points. Once that was settled, Farrah began to continue her sessions by helping Owen with his college essays, this time focusing on how to hone his craft of persuasive rhetoric.
Farrah is a firm believer that although she was able to guide Owen to “the final touchdown” via her sessions, the main contributor to his improvement was his own drive to perform well. As a tutor, she ensures that she has a working relationship with all of her students that goes beyond tutor-and-student.
"In order for a student to succeed [with] tutoring, they have to put the effort, too."
Owen is now a senior in high school with a bright future. His plans include returning to Urban Engineers for another internship over the upcoming summer. He already has valuable career experience prior to enrolling to university, which guarantees that he will have a wealth of knowledge under his belt by the time he graduates with his Bachelor’s degree.
Perhaps Owen was lucky with his tutors from Magellan, but Magellan is also proud to see Owen’s tremendous growth over the past five years. At the end of the day, Magellan serves to help families and students with the best services it can offer. Owen’s success story stands as a beacon of hope that Magellan can replicate that success with every single one of its students.
"A lot of tutoring, as helpful as it is to put you in the right mindset, a lot of it is just the student growing up."