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“You really go to his school and meet with his teacher?” The father of a struggling high school student could hardly believe his ears. The director of the new tutoring and academic advancement center in Arden Park was offering to meet with the student’s teacher in order to collaborate on his success. This concerned parent was looking for some extra help from a tutor. He found a tutor for sure, but he also found dedicated professionals willing to go the extra mile for his son. The new center is called Academy Learning Centers.
Since Academy Learning Centers opened its doors in October of 2013, Salli Ford and her team have served families and students from over 20 schools in the Greater Sacramento area. The Academy offers traditional one-on-one tutoring with qualified, experienced Tutors, Study and Organizational Skills sessions, Test Prep, and an innovative “AfterSchool Advancement” program for students seeking an academic edge.
But what seems to make Salli and her team at the Academy stand out is their philosophy of collaboration with the school and teacher. Salli sees a key role for the Academy in leveraging every possible resource available to help a child succeed, starting with the parents and classroom teacher and extending to the efforts of the Academy staff and to study tools and technology.
As a parent herself, Salli recognizes what a daunting challenge parents of school-age children sometimes face. She says her reward is hearing parents say “thanks for giving us back our family time.”
Salli Ford grew up in Auburn and attended Loretto High School here in Sacramento. She went on to Creighton University in Omaha, NE and earned a B.S. in Environmental Science with a Minor in Spanish. She then moved to Boston to work in an innovative allgirls middle school called Mother Caroline Academy (MCA). The mission was and is to intervene in the lives of at-risk, inner-city girls with intensive academic formation in order to prepare them for very competitive high schools and colleges. MCA demonstrated to Salli the importance of the 5th-8th grade years in preparing the student to become lifelong learners and of parent involvement. “My passion to teach started with my students in Boston.” says Salli. “I was with them from early morning, through after-school activities and into evening study hall. Motivating them to succeed was my whole life.”
Salli later enrolled in the Lynch Graduate School of Education at Boston College. By the time she completed her M.Ed., she had gotten married and started a family. Salli taught science in an inner-city high school and Biology as a Teaching Assistant at Boston College. She later worked as a Director of Admissions and as an Administrator with special needs students at Lesley University. Over several years spent raising her children in Dallas, Salli founded her own Summer Science Camps before going back to the classroom here in Sacramento to teach Science to grades K-5.
One aspect of Salli’s vision - the AfterSchool Advancement program - was inspired by her two oldest children. They both do very well in school and, even after homework and sports, have a lot of free time. Salli and her husband felt her own and other kids would benefit if the structure and accountability of a school environment could be extended to lengthen the day and include some “electives”. This idea is included in a part of the AfterSchool Advancement program called “Explore, Challenge, Learn (ECL).” The Advancement program is customized for each student based on an interview with the parents and student. After “Decompression” time and ‘“Homework Help”, a period called “Mastering the Core” is set aside to strengthen skills in Math and Language Arts. ECL is the final period. For ECL, Salli helps parents and the student negotiate 3-5 subjects their child is interested in or curious about - architecture, languages, computer coding, or the physics of pitching, for example - and then document the goals and time that will be dedicated to exploring the subjects. The idea is to get the student to broaden their idea of learning and to see the connection between the classroom and what career and hobbies they will pursue in life. This could be a frustrated parent’s solution to a kid spending too much time on computer games. The idea is that the student comes with a curious brain and AfterSchool Academy provides the venue, structure and accountability - as well as the iPad or computer - and even a “Certificate of Advancement” and electronic record of what the student learned.
ALC students have either one-on-one tutoring one or more days a week, one or more sessions in the AfterSchool Advancement program or a combination of both. The process begins with a student assessment and interview to identify strengths and weaknesses, then an interview with the parent and finally a face-to-face visit with the classroom teacher(s) and ongoing e-mail interaction. The first visit to the Academy for students in the Advancement Program includes an organizational skills exercise called “the backpack dump” during which Salli works with the student to evaluate, improve and organize their daily school habits, how they track their assignments, and organize their notebooks and planners. Salli is then ready to help the student set short and long-term goals which include developing study skills that become established habits for academic progress. The incentive for the student is that disciplined study habits ensures success and more free time.
Salli Ford, Owner and Founder