I am excited to introduce you to my business, Read PDX. I created this company with the goal of providing supplemental, intervention style literacy tutoring for students in elementary grades. But before I can really introduce you to my business, I think it’s important I introduce you to who I am as an educator.
I’m Geneva, an educator, wife, sister, and proud cat-mom. I live in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest and enjoy yoga, kayaking, reading, and learning. I didn’t always have the aspiration to own a tutoring business but am proud of what I have built and will be honored to serve the students in the Portland greater metroplex as I grow my scope.
I graduated from SOSU (Southeastern OK State University) with my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. I then taught first grade at a suburban school near Dallas, Texas for two years. There I focused on developing my classroom management and organizational skills and learning all of the technical aspects of the job. I then married my husband, Nycholas, and moved to the coast of Oregon to teach second grade.
I went into that position with new goals in mind, including developing my instructional strategies and learning how to manage a classroom with flexible seating options. My goals were quickly sidelined when the reality of my situation sank in. I came from a school where the largest class size included 22 students, with maybe one or two with special needs. The class I was put in charge of included 30 students, two with autism, one with oppositional defiant disorder, a handful with ADHD and/or anxiety, three who were identified with learning challenges, and four who were bilingual. Not to mention the dumping of second-hand trauma I received as parents, colleagues, and students shared their stories with me. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement.
Learning how to cope with such monumental responsibilities and stress, while also adapting to living in an entirely new place with only the support of my husband proved a challenge that took its toll. A week in the hospital, a month of recovery at home, and a class with a substitute for that long created a sense of shame and inadequacy in my professional self-esteem that I am still recovering from. I chose to not sign the contract I was offered for the next school year, feeling yet more guilt as I knew my administrator must have felt they were doing me a favor by even offering to let me continue working there.
Forced to decide what my next step was, I chose to continue my own education as I took a break from teaching. I am passionate about bringing literacy to students who face challenges in this area, as I was diagnosed with dyslexia in second grade. I chose to focus on this passion even as I was hired as a nanny for a lovely family while I attended Concordia University. I transferred to George Fox University upon Concordia’s closing. I received my Master of Curriculum and Instruction with a Reading Specialist endorsement in 2021 after completing all required classes and a practicum. In addition to this I started my podcast, High Education (using the pseudonym Amelia Day), and completed a 200-hour certification to become a yoga teacher.
My desire to continue working with students on my passion, education and especially literacy, grew with the conclusion of my graduate program. My anxiety regarding reentering the public education world grew as well, especially as I listened to the news regarding the detrition of already dire conditions thanks to Covid-19. Deciding to begin privately tutoring wasn’t really my idea, but more of a circumstance that I found myself in. The family I was a nanny for had a daughter who would have entered Kindergarten the year that schools started virtually. They requested I shift roles from nanny to teacher, which I was happy to do.
This experience was eye-opening, as I built a program using curriculum, assessments, project-based learning, and instruction completely tailored to her needs. I used the Common Core standards, along with what I was learning in my graduate program, as guidance. I completed an alternative to a thesis paper, called an action research project, while working with her. The project was titled “Strategies for Engaging a Reluctant Emerging Reader”. The student was very bright but was anxious about making mistakes which caused some push back in the literacy process. I am proud of her progress, as I used growth mindset lessons, readers theater, and project-based learning to encourage risk taking. I was able to cover all Kindergarten, and over half of first grade standards within a single school year. She progressed from a non-reader to an advanced reader, in part thanks to her abilities, her home-life, and my instruction.
Realizing my love for instruction that is completely tailored to a specific student’s needs and interests, I began picking up tutoring jobs even as I continued to explore options for reentering public schools. I was hired as a substitute for my local school district near Portland and took on a long-term substitute position as an Academic Coach. This position included providing reading intervention to small groups of at-risk students, grades K-5. Additionally, I provided lesson plans for paraprofessionals to use with students deemed on the cusp of success, participated in progress monitoring for reading and math for the entire student population, provided support for teachers whose students were struggling with big emotions that resulted in conflict, tons of parent-teacher conferences, etc. On top of these monumental responsibilities, using curriculum I was not familiar with, leading teachers who were unfamiliar with me, I was also placed in charge of the implementation of a grant titled “Summer Boost”. This amazing grant was written by the principal, who had zero time to ensure it was completed. This grant provided funds for 100 students deemed at risk of reading regression over the summer to receive 10 books that are at their “just right” level, that are highly motivating.
I was more excited than I can recall ever being about a professional project for this grant. I spent countless hours going to the library, leveling books to present to students to choose from. I then spent even more time taking groups of 6 students at time to choose their books, then ordering the books, sorting the books, and delivering the books to the students. I would say 80% of all of this was done by me. I was so burned out at the end of this job and knew that I would feel even worse at the end of each school year if I pushed myself to take a position within a school district. I could not foresee my passion overshadowing the reality of the condition’s teachers are forced to work in. I was physically assaulted by a student who was much larger than myself for simply being in the way as he tried to flee his in-school suspension. I worked closely with a severely burned-out teacher who was all smiles, helpful, and kindness around others but was real with me, and really demoralizing. I was questioned for every request I gave teachers, even when it was just taking students to get the books, I had spent hours of unpaid hours ordering for them. I was given conflicting procedures to follow which led to miscommunications. By the end of this job, I had my answer.
Reentering the public education world provided little benefit to students to negate the toll it would take on my health. By starting my own tutoring business, I can minimize the cost of interventions that are completely tailored to student’s needs for families. I can ensure that I keep up with best practices through continuing to meet professional development requirements to keep my teaching license. But most importantly, I can develop healthy and sustainable relationships that will help my students feel safe to learn with me. I can provide evidence-based instruction that will supplement the major work of their teachers, and I can continue to follow my passion.
I share my personal journey of my career not to receive pity, but instead to open as many people’s eyes as I can to the results of the conditions teachers work in. I am one of thousands of teachers who leave the profession within five years of starting. My story is but a drop in the bucket. Nothing will get better until our society decides to prioritize our children’s education. I see politicians who promise to help, and who throw money at the problem. But this money comes with strings attached- it must be spent in certain ways. It can’t be used to hire enough teachers so that class sizes stay reasonable (20 or fewer). It must be spent on materials, technology, grants like the one I worked on. Those things are important. But not as important as providing conditions in which a teacher can successfully manage a healthy classroom environment. No one is going to learn until they feel safe, and they won’t feel safe until students with special needs who are a part of a general classroom are provided the scaffolded supports, they need to succeed. How was it fair that out of my three high-needs students in my last year as a general education teacher only one was provided with a paraprofessional to assist her needs? And then that paraprofessional had to spend her time with the two other students in reality, as they were the ones who could become violent. So, the student who was supposed to be provided with the accommodation of a paraprofessional didn’t get that need met, and the two violent students had to work close to one another to share the para but they would set each other off.
I announce my tutoring business, Read PDX, as one possible solution to our current educational needs in this country. I see many other educators doing the same. I meet students at their homes, at libraries, at my own home, and virtually. I see many other like-minded professionals tutoring students of all ages. I see this as a sign of hope. Parents and educators will not sit by and allow our students to suffer without offering every support we know how to.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story, and my business with you. If you are interested in learning more, please continue to follow my journey through these blog posts. I will update it with other social media platforms as I build them. Additionally, if you are interested in receiving tutoring services for your student, please reach out to me using the Contact form.
With love and hope,
Geneva, M.Ed., Reading Specialist, and owner of Read PDX
WHERE TO LISTEN
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