Grant Bergland was an intern at The New Yorker, taught at Columbia University, worked as a part-time Professor at The New School, and helped countless students earn top tier (and sometimes perfect) scores on standardized tests, including the SAT, ACT, and ISEE tests.
Part of Grant’s secret to being a great educator is that he comes from a family of teachers and has worked as a special education teacher. Over the past 25 years, Grant has taught students from the ages of 8 to 89 as a classroom teacher, private tutor, wrestling coach, curriculum writer, Executive Function Coach, and Adult Education instructor.
Grant Bergland published his thesis at Columbia University and holds a Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Writing. A Master’s degree in English Literature and dual teaching credentials in English Rhetoric/Composition and Art History/Design round out Grant’s background as a master educator. Grant is a member of the National Education Association (NEA), holds a Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD) certification, and has a College Reading and Language Association (CRLA) Master Tutor certificate.
As an undergrad, Grant wrestled for Arizona State University’s Division I program and met Dan Gable, Dave Schultz, J. Robinson, Lee Roy Smith, Dan Severn, and trained with two time Olympian Zeke Jones. Grant was a Sun Devil “Spark” award-winning athlete and followed a pre-med curriculum before being hired by Arizona State’s Writing Center where he discovered his love for composition.
“I’d never seen how important writing was until I started looking at my student’s successes and near-misses. Being able to present your thoughts in a way that any other person can feel is hard work. Actually, when you think about it, getting someone to understand you is the most important work we do in our lives.” Grant says.
Within a month of graduation, Grant Bergland was hired by Mt. Diablo Unified School District where he taught for ten years. His first assignment was teaching Economics, Earth Science, and Biology in Clayton Valley High School’s Special Education department. “I learned how to be a great teacher while teaching students with learning differences. I had to teach several classes simultaneously through a combination of various levels of scaffolding to fit my students’ needs. Also, I learned to be an entertainer and “sell” whatever it was that I was teaching at the time.”
Grant Bergland was a case manager for high school students and managed their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), which involved anticipating ways to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities and other obstacles to their education. To complete these IEPs, Grant conducted collaborative meetings with curriculum specialists, speech pathologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers, principals, and parents.
Grant taught every level of High School composition (Grades 9-12), standardized test preparation, wrote curriculum approved to meet the A-F requirements for the University of California, and served as the department chair.
Under the banner of having big dreams and working hard to achieve them, Grant helped many students write admissions essays for applications to top tier colleges: “I can’t tell you how satisfying it was when I’d see a student run towards me across the school quad with an acceptance letter in hand saying: ‘I never thought I’d ever get in!’ It’s a great feeling to know you helped someone start living the life of their dreams,” Grant says.
In 2010, Grant Bergland moved to New York City, aided by a full tuition scholarship from Columbia University and 97th percentile ranking on the Verbal section of the GRE. At Columbia, he studied with notable writers, interned in the Fiction department at The New Yorker magazine, introduced George Saunders to a crowd of over a thousand, and was accepted into the prestigious Bread Loaf Writer’s Workshop founded in 1926 by Robert Frost.
As an academic coach with My Learning Springboard, Grant Bergland has coached dozens of students to earn perfect scores on their SAT and ACT writing prompts and top 1% or perfect scores in all sections. He also tutors middle school students the same skills for the SSAT and ISEE exams with the same level of passion and success. Grant co-authored the ACT and ISEE curriculum for My Learning Springboard and has written both ISEE and ACT test. Moreover, he’s worked as a homeschool teacher for Manhattan families, helped hundreds of students with writing coaching and executive function coaching, and gained a reputation for being able to advise, inspire, and work with any student.
“So much of who we are depends on identity,” Grant says. “Some students think they can never do something and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s my job to help them see and eventually believe they can do more than they ever thought possible. Work is effortless for students who believe that they are writing their own amazing story. I help them find that truth (whatever that might be for them) and get them started on an exciting life. In this way I feel I have the noblest of professions.”
He is a father of two, wrote and directed an award-winning short film, wrote four novels, traveled the world, and rides a very big motorcycle.
Joanna Brown is a Denver native who loves working with children of all ages. She is excited to privately tutor students as a Reading Specialist with the My Learning Springboard team.
Joanna earned her B.A. in History from the University of Colorado and her M.A. in Elementary Education and Literacy from Bank Street College. She has training in the Orton-Gillingham based, multisensory approach Preventing Academic Failure (PAF) as well as the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. She also has expertise in Reading Rescue and Wilson’s Fundations. Joanna has worked in a variety of educational environments throughout New York City, including charter schools, public schools and private schools. Before working as a full time Reading Specialist, Joanna worked as a head teacher at Kane Street Kids Preschool in Cobble Hill, and more recently as a Head Teacher at the Coop School in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Joanna’s literacy philosophy focuses on building independence and a sense of confidence as pathways to becoming a better reader. By teaching students to use a toolbox of skills and strategies, students are able to help themselves as they read more independently and gain confidence in the process. Joanna helps students to strengthen and improve their:
- Oral and written comprehension
- Phonemic awareness
- Phonics/word study
Joanna has a calm, patient nature and a playful sense of humor that help her to connect with students on a personal level. She believes that interest and motivation are critically important in supporting more thoughtful reading. She is passionate about helping students learn to love reading!
In her free time Joanna enjoys pilates, improv comedy, creative writing, dancing, and board game playing.
Samantha Lazar is a graduate of Columbia University’s Teachers College where she received her degree in Early Childhood Education, including Students with Disabilities. She draws on her domestic and international teaching and tutoring experiences to create a fun and engaging learning environment for her students. Samantha believes in partnering with families and other professionals, such as psychologists, classroom teachers, or learning specialists, to create a collaborative and cohesive academic support system for children. Most importantly, she builds a strong rapport with students by teaching through their strengths, which encourages the confidence necessary to tackle new learning challenges.
Samantha has extensive experience teaching a diverse group of elementary students from a wide range of backgrounds and varying ability levels. She spent a year teaching elementary school English at a public school in South Korea, expanding her knowledge of language and literacy development.
Upon returning to the U.S., Samantha began teaching in the New York City public school system, adapting the Common Core Standards for unique learners, using a variety of materials and strategies to provide targeted support for students. She has spent over five years teaching K-2 in both general and special education settings, and is currently teaching second grade in a Gifted and Talented program on the Lower East Side.
Samantha is trained in a wide range of math and literacy programs, including: TERC Investigations, Everyday Math, Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, PAF Reading Intervention (an Orton-Gillingham based program), Handwriting Without Tears, Wilson’s Fundations, Fountas and Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System, and more.
In addition to working with elementary school learners, Samantha has worked with preschool and kindergarten aged students to foster key skills necessary to succeed in a classroom setting. This includes building independence, following multi-step instructions, developing executive functions, sustained attention, sequencing, and interpersonal relations, along with strengthening fundamental numeracy and literacy skills.
In her spare time, Samantha enjoys traveling, reading, spending time with friends and family, and volunteering with animal rescue organizations across New York City.
Andrea Cukier has been privately tutoring Spanish and English both with individuals and corporations since 1991. In addition to being a certified Spanish teacher, she holds a dual Masters degree in Art Education and Fine Arts. For many years she has been working as a visual artist and as a Spanish teacher.
Andrea was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina and now resides in New York City. She is a US citizen and is fully bilingual in English and Spanish, as well as fluent in Hebrew and Italian. She has traveled extensively in South America, exploring variations in Spanish language and culture and helping her students understand and deal with those differences.
Andrea has worked as a bilingual art teacher for New York City’s public school system and as a private Spanish tutor for children in elementary, middle and high schools. She loves combining the different skills that she has acquired through the years in guiding children in the fascinating process of acquiring a new language.
Andrea also enjoys teaching grown-ups. Among her clients are HSBC Bank, H&M, Former New York City Comptroller Bill Thomson, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, CNBC’s Michelle Caruso Cabrera, and a large number of U.S.-based executives doing business with Latin American colleagues.
When she is neither teaching nor painting, Andrea is usually listening to classical music, going to museums or, weather permitting, taking hikes in nature and bird watching. She loves animals and is a passionate advocate for the conservation of our fragile natural habitats.
Please click here to learn more about Andrea’s art.
PollyDee Goltche was born in Brooklyn and was raised on the South Shore of Long Island. Earning dual Bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and Spanish, and later a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Adelphi University, Polly went on to teach both in English as well as Spanish in public, charter and private schools for many years. She later pursued a second career as a Reading Specialist, completing her Master’s degree at Columbia University Teachers College, where her work focused on assessment and remediation of reading disabilities in both decoding and comprehension. Polly also studied at Parson’s School of Design, where she earned a Professional Diploma in Interior Design and Historical Decoration.
Throughout her teaching career, PollyDee has worked with a wide range of students in a variety of settings and age groups from pre-school through high school. Presently she is serving as the Learning Specialist at a private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where she is also the writer of the school magazine. Her job involves formal reading assessments as well as teaching small groups and writing curriculum for children with special learning needs, in both the areas of remediation and enrichment. Also, Polly works with small groups of ESL students of various backgrounds, coordinates special education support for students who receive services from the New York City Department of Education, and, in addition, she is the administrator for standardized ERB achievement testing, called the CTPs. Polly serves as the Literacy Coach for classroom teachers at her school. She is certified in both PAF and the Wilson Reading System, two Orton-Gillingham based reading interventions.
Prior to this appointment, Polly worked as the Lower School Reading Specialist for a New York City charter school. Her purview included literacy curriculum design, targeted intervention, classroom teaching, test coordination, and leading professional development. PollyDee was responsible for developing balanced literacy programs that emphasized comprehension strategies, written expression, and reading fluency. She was the Remedial Reading Fellow with Say Yes to Education, a non-profit organization that provides academic literacy support to at-risk students in New York City. She was also the Resource Program Coordinator at an independent school on Long Island. As a professional development consultant, Polly worked with the Children’s Literacy Initiative of Philadelphia to bring the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop models (in English and Spanish) and balanced literacy into both regular and dual language classrooms in Westchester, New York and Newark, New Jersey.
Polly’s philosophy is that each child is a unique learner with unique potential. She believes that within each child there is an optimal path, which must be discovered and nurtured. It is her believe that teachers need to do more than simply teach–they must inspire each student to rise to his or her own best, thus facilitating a love and delight in lifelong learning and succeeding, not just academically, but in all areas of life.
Polly credits not only her formal education and teaching experience, but to an equal degree, the years spent nurturing and caring for her own four children for helping her to understand learners and learning styles and to achieve her level of expertise as an educator.
PollyDee is an avid reader, and particularly enjoys historical fiction, non-fiction, and travel essays. She loves spending summers abroad, as well as foreign languages and, in addition to fluency in Spanish, has also studied Farsi, Hebrew and French. A lifelong, passionate student of art, Polly has a private studio in her home, where she paints in both watercolor as well as her “signature” style: acrylic and oil with multi-colored, crushed glass to create unique paintings on canvas, wood, acrylic, and glass.
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