into Academic Leaders
We aim to transform students into academic leaders.
Every single day, every year, all of us at Pittsburgh Prep dedicate our entire efforts to aid student development in the following areas:
01. Unconventional Approach
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 their scores.
Our approach, therefore, is 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 provide solid grounding for our students to succeed on all standardized exams.
02. Tailored Curriculum
There are three ways we tailor our curriculum for all of our students:
03. Data-Driven Impact
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, as a results-based organization, we also boast a strong consistent average increase of 170 points for our students across the board. With over 2000 student graduates from every Pittsburgh county to countries as far away as Australia since our inception in 2006, we are confident in our abilities to guide our students to their highest potential.
04. 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 smaller classes 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 engage in professional development throughout the academic year, working both in research and classroom settings, from curriculum development to daily mindfulness.
05. Experience and Credentials
06. Local Connection
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 are the first independent test prep organization in the city of Pittsburgh and have become stronger and better every year.
We maintain and build strong relationships with local non-profits and community organizations, including the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Big Brothers Big Sisters Pittsburgh Chapter, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation.
To date, we have provided over $150,000 in scholarship in the form of tuition assistance to students and families in need. We never turn down students based solely on finances.
Hoon, Pittsburgh Prep’s founder, has been teaching since 1997. 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 Ed.M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education, 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. Most recently in 2019 amidst the pandemic, Hoon received his certificate in Independent College Admissions Counseling from the University of California Riverside. Hoon is an associate member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
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 power of education as a transformative force from kindergarten on. Josh double-majored at the University of Pittsburgh in Psychology and History, and fell in love with the local food and music scenes. Josh 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, home tutoring, 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 staying in shape with strength training and long-distance running, #nerdingout with technology, (attempting) home repair, and spending time with his wife and adopted pets, Chewbacca and Gordon.
Val serves as Pittsburgh Prep’s Center Administrator, and keeps our team on track as we pursue our mission and help our students reach their highest potential. Hailing from Puerto Rico, Val has come to love the Steel City, even if the skies are grayer here.
Before joining Pittsburgh Prep in mid-2018, Val cut her teeth working for her family’s business and studying art & design. She has been an integral part of our team and loves the opportunity to interact with the students and parents that make Pittsburgh Prep great.
When not in the office, Val is an avid climber, animal-lover, painter, and designer. We’re lucky to have a Renaissance Woman like Val to keep us on track.
Dave DeBor is an independent educational consultant specializing in college and university admission counseling. Since 2013, David was a former senior admission officer for Carnegie Mellon University and Washington & Jefferson College, where he holistically reviewed applicants to select top-tier candidates from both domestic and international applicant pools. Using these first-hand insights, he leads Pittsburgh Prep’s college counseling team to help you build your college list, prepare captivating applications, and find the best financial fit for you and your family. DeBor is a Pittsburgh native who spent his own best fit college experience at Gettysburg College, where he majored in Political Science and Public Policy and pursued policy-related internships in the Washington, DC area. While at Gettysburg, DeBor had an unofficial start to his college admissions career by working as a campus tour guide, telling the Gettysburg story to prospective students and families. DeBor also holds a Master of Public Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. When not working with Pittsburgh Prep families, DeBor can usually be found trying new restaurants in the city or watching movies with his partner (at home these days!).
DeBor also serves as the Government Relation Committee Chair for the Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling (PACAC), where he leads programming designed to allow college admissions and school counseling professionals to advocate for students at all levels of elected government.
DeBor is a Pittsburgh native who spent his own best fit college experience at Gettysburg College, where he majored in Political Science and Public Policy and pursued policy-related internships in the Washington, DC area. While at Gettysburg, DeBor had an unofficial start to his college admissions career by working as a campus tour guide, telling the Gettysburg story to prospective students and families. When not working with Pittsburgh Prep families, DeBor can usually be found trying new restaurants in the city or watching movies with his partner (at home these days!).
DeBor also serves as the Government Relation Committee Chair for the Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling (PACAC), where he leads programming designed to allow college admissions and school counseling professionals to advocate for students at all levels of elected government. DeBor is an associate member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
Kelly grew up in Pittsburgh, then ventured to Philadelphia where she attended Drexel University receiving her B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering. She also obtained a Ph.D in Materials Engineering from KU Leuven in Belgium and taught high school and college-level courses in various institutions in Brussels. Upon returning to her hometown, Kelly has been teaching high school Science since 2011 and currently teaches Research Science and Physics at Shady Side Academy.
Kelly’s proudest accomplishment is inventing patented anisotropic foam, used in bicycle helmets to better protect riders from rotational head injuries. This only proves that Kelly has used her education and passion to truly make a difference in the world, something she hopes for all of her students as they pursue their dreams.
When Kelly isn’t teaching, she enjoys painting, reading, and playing with her dog, Bobbie. Her life motto is: “Everyone you meet knows something you don’t know – learn from them!”
Kelly has provided tutoring and guidance leading to students achieving their goal scores in Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics.
New to the Pittsburgh region, Alexandra joins us from sunny Texas, where she spent the last five years teaching in public schools and using her innovative instruction style to reach her students in every subject. She’s learning to love our wild seasons and gray skies, don’t worry.
After studying history at Trinity University in San Antonio and starting a financial literacy youth program at a local non-profit, Alexandra returned to academia to realize her true passion: teaching. Following completion of her Master of Arts, she worked to write and institute curriculum, sponsor student-run clubs and programs, and coach fellow teachers during her time at a local middle school. Above all, she is passionate about helping students better their lives through education.
When not teaching or learning something new, Alexandra enjoys traveling with her husband, hiking in state parks with her rescue dog, and trying out new styles of baking.
Victoria grew up outside of Washington DC, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh for computer science (where she also received her undergraduate degree in computer science).
Victoria has taught computer science and test prep to students of all of ages. She received a perfect score on her SAT math, and has also been recognized as a National AP Scholar with Distinction. She is currently a teaching assistant at the University of Pittsburgh and loves to watch her students learn and grow!
When she is not working with students, Victoria loves to dance and make people laugh. She has been dancing ballet her entire life and is a member of the Pitt Ballet Club and Pitt Dance Ensemble. Victoria is also a member of the University of Pittsburgh’s improv comedy club as well as the host of Pitt Tonight, the school’s best (and only) late night show! She also serves as an elected board member for Pitt’s student government board.
Pranav is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh (B.S. Biological Sciences 19’), currently performing translational immunology research at the Hillman Cancer Center before continuing with medical school.
Pranav is a proud alumnus of Pittsburgh Prep, having utilized Hoon’s comprehensive content review and standardized testing strategy en route to near perfect scores on the SAT I and SAT II. Pranav was also recognized as a National AP Scholar with Distinction for his high achievement on multiple AP exams in the sciences, mathematics, and humanities.
As an Eagle Scout and former undergraduate teaching assistant, Pranav enjoys helping his students cultivate a successful work ethic and exceed their academic goals. With his biomedical research background and minors in chemistry and economics, Pranav has a wide range of academic interests and is dedicated to helping his students develop a passion for learning, a complete understanding of academic subjects, and refined critical thinking skills.
In his free time, Pranav loves solving puzzles, practicing yoga, backpacking, and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers.