Apr 12, 2018
Alex Mager and Liz Quiñones started tutoring in college as a way to work with children. Now, five years and four professional degrees later (two each), they came together and are now running their own tutoring company in NYC, Lil’ Eggheads. Alex and Liz recently sat down with Clark to talk about Lil’ Eggheads, its early childhood focus, and their passion to bring a holistic tutoring experience to New York City’s youngsters.
Clark: Could you give us a little background about your involvement in education?
LQ: I have a Bachelor’s in Psychology with a minor in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies from NYU and a MSEd in Mental Health Counseling from Fordham. As a college student, I worked as an in-class tutor for elementary school and then privately tutored elementary school-aged children. After graduating, I did a lot of behavior intervention and classroom management support for an elementary school.
AM: I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and a Master’s of Social Work, and my undergraduate and graduate training involved working with children and adolescents. I worked within preschools, schools for children with developmental challenges, and a high school, too.
How did you get into tutoring?
LQ: It seemed like a way to work with children when I was in college. I wanted to start Lil’ Eggheads so that we could integrate our clinical knowledge with our education backgrounds. I believe that every child can be successful and that we can be part of the awesome process that leads children to believe that they can also succeed.
AM: After tutoring in college as a way to work with children and get to know the community in which my school at the time was located, I wanted to continue working with children and stumbled into tutoring again. Once I entered graduate school, tutoring became a way to make a living, as well as a creative outlet and unique opportunity to work with children outside of a school setting.
Liz and I soon created our own tutoring company to combine our mental health backgrounds with our educational knowledge, and to provide a holistic tutoring experience that takes into account a child’s academic, behavioral, and emotional needs.
What subjects do you tutor?
LQ: Lil’ Eggheads prepares young students for elementary school entrance exams, namely the Stanford Binet, Gifted & Talented, and AABL exams. In addition to exam prep, we also teach phonics, reading, and math to students ages 3 – 7. We are also able to perform behavioral interventions for students, which can be applied to their classroom experience and during their entrance exams. Some common interventions target at increasing a student’s focus, their ability to sit still through a lesson, and building self-esteem.
What do you enjoy and find rewarding about tutoring?
LQ: At Lil’ Eggheads, tutoring in an one-on-one setting allows us to get to know a student. Since we tutor at a student’s home, we get the privilege of getting to know the student’s family as well. So we get the chance to really learn what a student’s individual needs are, and we create lessons specifically for each student. I enjoy creating reward systems for our students, which may sound like the tough part. But I truly I love the feeling when kids can actually see their progress and growth. Then they and their family have a concrete reason to be proud of themselves.
AM: Overall, my favorite part of tutoring is being able to create games and activities that get the students excited about learning. My main goal is to build their confidence and love of learning. It’s incredibly rewarding when a student who had resisted learning grows to enjoy it and feels confident in their own abilities. Through working one-on-one with students and their families, and having the flexibility to be creative with lessons, I find it easier to facilitate students’ confidence and love of learning, which hopefully they carry with them throughout their academic careers.
Do you have any advice for other tutors or those interested in tutoring?
AM: Figure out what your own talents are and how to apply them within sessions. I love to create games, and it’s a thrill to be able to do this for my students and make learning fun for them. Tutoring is an opportunity to create your own teaching style and not necessarily adhere to restrictive guidelines – have fun with it!
LQ: The beginning is always hard with a new student. Set the structure, say what you mean, do what you say you will, and you will find your rhythm with the student. Kids love structure because they always want to know what to expect from you. Expect them to test your boundaries and roll with it – it’ll be okay!