Sylvan Learning Centers plans to bring 20 new locations to Philadelphia in three years. Its Northeast location, the only in the city, is focused on helping students and parents alike.
Lynne Zayas performs a juggling routine every day.
When she gets to work at the Sylvan Learning Center at 6537 Roosevelt Blvd. every morning, she has a hard time getting started managing her many tasks, which include tutoring students, collaborating with parents to get the best results from their kids, and keeping the center running.
There’s usually one thing in her way: Kids gather in her office to talk to her about their days and shoot the breeze with her.
“They tell me their whole life story,” she said with a laugh.
She almost has to usher them out before she can begin working.
Zayas is the director of that Sylvan center, and helps out by tutoring students, working with parents on their child’s specific educational needs, and being an overall support system for the center.
There aren’t many Sylvan centers in Philadelphia — the one Zayas works at is the only one in the city.
But within three years, Sylvan hopes to multiply the number of children receiving help from Sylvan, with a goal of opening 20 new centers.
“Obviously Philly is one of the larger cities in the U.S., but it’s very underserved by Sylvan at this point,” said John McAliffe, CEO of Sylvan. “There’s a lot of interest from people in suburbs of the area.”
Though it’s a massive impact for the company, Zayas said the expansion mostly won’t impact her. She said people in the Northeast have a strong sense of community and will continue going to her center.
McAliffe identified Philadelphia as a market that could largely benefit from Sylvan’s expansion.
“We are probably the largest private employer of teachers in the country,” he said. Each center on average employs 10 to 15 teachers and a general director. When all is said and done, the expansion aims to bring more than 200 jobs to the area.
“The children also receive our tutoring supplemental services which is top notch and knows a great breadth of content,” he said. Tutors are able to help with math, reading, writing, study skills, ACT prep and STEM subjects.
Other cities such as Chicago and New York have a high number of centers as well.
Zayas has worked with Sylvan for almost a decade, but has been interested in education nearly her whole life. As a kid she would “play teacher” with her dolls, though said her current job is much different than being a typical teacher.
“I like the casualness of it,” she said. “It’s not like in school where the kids are being yelled at all day. I get to build relationships with the students and help them feel good about themselves.”
Zayas lives in New Jersey, which her kids think is a far away place. She’s also a fan of the New England Patriots, and said she received a lot of teasing from her kids the past few weeks.
Her job also involves working with parents who are worried about their children. She said she often sees parents coming straight from the doctor’s office, saying they don’t know where else to go.
“I say ‘OK, let’s deal with this,’” she said.
Zayas believes the center makes a difference in the lives of its students and their parents. She recalled one time talking to a father and son who had come straight to the center from the hospital, where the mother had just passed away.
“They didn’t know where else to go, but said this was her happy place,” she said.
The center, which sees about 20 to 25 students a day, helps bridge the gap between the way parents were taught in school, and the way students are being taught.
“With all these new methods of doing math, it’s hard for parents to figure out what the heck these kids are doing,” Zayas said. “They know how they did it when they were in school, and have nowhere else to turn. We’re their alternative.” ••