Our mission is simple: To transform students into academic leaders through powerful instruction in a supportive culture, building confidence and testing expertise.
High schools, the College Board, and the ACT all do not spend enough time, provide adequate helpful materials, nor offer expert instruction to help students properly prep for high stakes entrance exams. Pittsburgh Prep has focused our entire curriculum to fill this vast void in our students’ education by aiding our students to develop:
- Expert content knowledge in core subject areas of Math, Reading, Grammar and Prose
- Critical thinking skills to make powerful deductions and inferences from given information and complex data
- Competency in applying content knowledge to differing situations thereby enabling stronger confidence in tackling all problems with any underlying concept
The conventional approach by conventional high school systems and the official testing companies such as the College Board and the ACT is to simply provide practice problems and some attempt at explanation. The official study guides published by the College Board and the ACT, though useful, are hardly adequate for any serious student looking to improve his or her score.
Our approach is absolutely unconventional. Pittsburgh Prep’s core belief is to teach mastery of content (not recite corporate lesson plans), to produce powerful critical reasoning, build competitive test scores, and encourage lifelong learning. We never “teach to the test,” and never engage in shortcuts in lieu of concrete skill sets that provides a solid grounding for our students to succeed on all standardized exams.
There are three ways we tailor our curriculum for all of our students:
- Our entire program is based on an open-plan design, where our adept instructors are encouraged to plan, innovate and implement from our core curriculum. This means that our instructors are able to move laterally to best fit student needs in both a large group classroom and a one-on-one private tutoring setting.
- Developed in-house, Pittsburgh Prep utilizes a powerful set of analytics that helps guide our instructors to make the proper decisions to help our students overcome severe to subtle weaknesses in their test taking skill set. From our diagnostics to our practice exams, every data we obtain results in strong adaptive changes that benefit the student.
- Finally, working with top professionals in psychology and psychometrics, we are able to identify and resolve any testing accommodations necessary for our students with special needs. We have been able to help over 30 students with special needs to gain extra time on the SAT/ACT exams when their schools and family psychologists were not able to do so. Much more than obtaining extra time, we are then able to help our students take the exam strategically and confidently, to reach their highest potential.
There are two basic but important measurable items in education: Formative Assessment and Cumulative Assessment. We do both.
Formative assessment is a measure that provides specific guidance to our instructors to adapt and adjust their teachings so that their students will perform better in the very next session. We do this through our specific internally developed in-class constructive quizzes, end-of-class peer assessments, and via weekly staff meetings where master instructors lead and recommend changes to be made immediately. Having already graduated over 1,000 students from our program, we feel that we have demonstrated our impact in guiding students to their highest potential.
Cumulative assessment is a measure that shows the overall progress of the student. These are the previously administered, actual full-length practice exams our students take on a weekly basis. Our goal here is two-fold:
- To create a history of success so our students can confidently take the actual test
- And to identify any ongoing issues in our skill set, so that our instructors can help our students break through these problem areas.
Lastly, since we are a results-based organization, we also boast a strong consistent average increase of ~170 points for our students across the board. With over 1,000 students having graduated from our program since our inception in 2006, we are fairly confident in our abilities to guide our students to their highest potential.
Passion for Teaching
Simply stated, we love what we do. We’re a small company of dedicated teachers, utilizing research-based pedagogical methods, and we plan to remain this way, without compromise.
Our passion for teaching goes far beyond our curriculum. We take into account student context – sports, extra-curriculars, family obligations, jobs – all factors that can be stressful hindrances to student study. We meet with the parents prior to the start of every individualized program, and create a “goldilocks” scenario of preparation and access.
For group classes, our maximum teacher-to-student ratio is 12:1 during the summer, and 8:1 during the academic year. We maintain a small class to better conduct individual assessments throughout our sessions.
We maintain constant contact with our students and parents, communicating progress and challenges in a clear manner, focusing on resolution and score improvement. Teaching students to better comprehend normative exams such as the SAT and ACT, translates into better focus, deeper understanding of the nature of these tests and higher outcomes.
Finally, our instructors are engaged in professional development throughout the academic year, working both in research and classroom settings, engaged in all aspects of our organization from curriculum development to daily mindfulness.
At minimum, all of our instructors possess the following:
- A 99th percentile score in their areas of expertise
- Individually, over 5 years (5,000 hours) of actual classroom teaching experience
- A graduate degree (Master’s or higher) in education
- A proven track record of guiding students to their highest potential
Pittsburgh Prep is a locally focused small business, not another chain in a franchise. Our instructors and staff live in Pittsburgh, work in Pittsburgh, and maintain strong ties with the community and its schools.
We do our best to follow a responsible business plan with plans to become a B Corp, and maintain strong ties with various community partners in order to positively influence the greater Pittsburgh area.
Hoon, Pittsburgh Prep’s founder, has been teaching for the past 21 years. Having transferred from NYC, Hoon wanted to provide a highly effective place of learning for students of all backgrounds in our fair city of Pittsburgh. He has devoted himself and Pittsburgh Prep to instilling within every student powerful lifelong learning skills applicable to college-ready success and beyond.
In the past, Hoon worked as an options trader on Wall Street, a volunteer with UNICEF and AmeriCorps, a restauranteur, and an edu-preneur. Throughout his life, however, reform-minded education has been his passion. Armed with a B.A. from NYU and an M.Ed. from Harvard, Hoon co-teaches in just about every class, and oversees the entire operation at Pittsburgh Prep with a singular focus – to develop superior instruction, continually improve the staff’s core knowledge base, and improve outcomes for all students at Pittsburgh Prep.
In his free time, Hoon can be seen raising his two children, enjoying sushi, being choked out in Brazilian Jujitsu, hosting his podcast Multiple Disruptions, and devoting his time to Pittsburgh Prep’s partnerships with local community organizations.
Josh has dedicated his career and life to helping people improve themselves through education. Growing up in the rural town of Oil City in northwestern Pennsylvania, he appreciated the transformative power of academics from kindergarten on. Josh double-majored at the University of Pittsburgh in Psychology and History, and went on to earn a Master’s Degree from Pitt’s School of Education while teaching in the North Hills.
His ten-year teaching career has spanned work with students in public and private high schools, colleges, and at-risk interventions; Josh now fills his commitment to education as a full-time private tutor and instructor at Pittsburgh Prep. Josh prides himself on his deep, caring manner of teaching, and students appreciate the level of enthusiasm and empathy he exhibits on a daily basis in and out of the classroom. Josh’s SAT classes and private tutoring students average 150-200 point increases on a regular basis, reflecting the overall average improvements at Pittsburgh Prep.
In his free time, Josh enjoys fitness, #nerdingout, home repair, and time with his wife and adopted pets, Chewbacca and Gordon.
James is a neuroscientist, businessman, and teacher who truly cares about the academic success and the well-being of every student he encounters. He believes that there are no ‘unteachable’ students, but only teachers who don’t have enough passion to want to help those students succeed in their endeavors.
He graduated Summa Cum Laude from University of Pittsburgh with a BS in Psychology and Neuroscience. He has also been enrolled in graduate-level programs at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and Harvard University. Currently, he is taking a break from his graduate studies to explore business and education.
James has taught students at University of Pittsburgh and Listen & Learn for the past two years with expert competency in General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biology, Statistics, Math, Korean, and English. In his free time, James likes to do neurobiology research at University of Pittsburgh, run, eat, and sleep!
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Val recently moved to Pittsburgh looking for bigger and better opportunities as well as new adventures. Val enjoys breaking norms and changing lives, and her work as Pittsburgh Prep’s Center Admin is essential to the mission of helping our students reach their highest potential.
Back when she was in Puerto Rico, she helped run a family business, went to art & design school, and started her B.S. in biological sciences (which she wishes to complete once she settles in).
Val has always felt the need to help people in any way she is able to, and her urge to learn and experience new things is endless.
For Val, life is merely a pursuit of happiness, and she has always been known for her free spirit, her unconventional way of approaching situations, and for never giving up.
When she’s not working, Val enjoys climbing, watching movies, and doing handstands. She sure misses diving and chilling at the beach, but she has found happiness amongst yinzers in the city (for now).