Pari Schacht discovered her love for teaching early in life. After growing up in Evanston and attending college at the University of Illinois, she eventually returned to the North Shore to teach at New Trier High School. It wasn’t until she began tutoring students individually, however, that she found her true passion. “I just fell in love with working with kids one-on-one,” she says. “You get results on a much different level than you do in the classroom.” As the requests for private tutoring came pouring in, Pari realized she would need more help to accommodate all of them. She then hired a few other tutors, and Nurturing Wisdom, her in-home tutoring company, was born. In the past seven years, Nurturing Wisdom has expanded to include more than 100 tutors in the Chicago and San Francisco areas, and is now opening its own school, Nurturing Wisdom Academy, in Hinsdale this fall.
When Nurturing Wisdom was in its early stage, Pari knew she needed to find fellow tutors who were both passionate about helping children and skilled in their teaching techniques. She found this winning combination in Amanda Vogel, who currently serves as the company’s Vice-President. “Amanda will take a student—who is a mystery as to why he or she is not succeeding—and she’ll see through to the heart of the matter and figure out what needs to happen for that child to succeed,” Pari says. “That is what made her so unique and such a great person to be on board with the tutoring company.” With her background in education, Amanda also helped write much of the tutoring curriculum during Nurturing Wisdom’s early days.
After several years of interacting with many students and observing local schools, Pari and Amanda knew that the next step for Nurturing Wisdom was to start its own school. This fall, Nurturing Wisdom Academy will open in Hinsdale for its first school year. The school, which will serve students in fifth through eighth grades, is actually a long-standing dream for both women. “We kept meeting these very bright kids who were not achieving at the level they could be in the traditional classroom, and we thought, ‘These are the kids we want to open our school for,’” Pari says.
Pari and Amanda chose to focus specifically on middle-school-aged children, because they both have extensive backgrounds working with children at this level. They also knew that the middle school years are an imperative time in a child’s academic growth, because he or she is beginning to develop the studying and homework skills that will be necessary in high school, college, and beyond. To help the students achieve an essential foundation in education, Pari and Amanda have developed the curriculum for the school, based on the methods and approaches that have proven so successful in tutoring.
So how can you be sure that Nurturing Wisdom Academy is a good fit for your child? “Our students are bright students who have not yet realized their potential,” Amanda says. “I have students who have their own websites for selling cupcakes or headbands; they have these areas of passion where the sky’s the limit for them. But they also have struggles in other areas—and they tend to get too much attention from adults in the struggling areas sometimes, and not enough focus on their passions. They need both.”
Because Nurturing Wisdom Academy will include a focus on each child’s passion, the school days will typically include a structured time when the students can explore their interests through learning activities. “They will know, when they graduate from our school, that they haven’t just learned the curriculum, but they’ve also learned something about themselves,” Pari says.
In addition, Nurturing Wisdom Academy will admit only 36 students, ensuring that each student receives plenty of individualized attention and instruction from the teachers. Students will learn a curriculum that was written specifically for the school by Nurturing Wisdom staff and includes customized lessons in math, reading, and writing. Perhaps, most importantly, students will receive no homework; instead, their work will be completed at school, where teachers can make sure that the student not only understands the content of the homework, but also knows how to properly use homework and study skills to complete their work. As a result, Nurturing Wisdom Academy has longer school days, as well as a longer school year, to ensure that students learn both the content and the approach that are imperative to academic success.
For Pari and Amanda, the school is a dream come true, and one that will further the philosophy of the tutoring program: to teach students not only the academic content and the method for navigating school successfully, but also to impart them with a genuine love of learning that cannot be quenched.