After working as a learning specialist for over a decade, Mara Koffman, SSP mother of two, launched Braintrust with her business partner Jen Mendelsohn. Braintrust is a platform that connects parents with certified teachers and specialists for private tutoring. She realized, after tutoring herself for so many years, that there was a real need for a space that could foster connections between parents and teachers. Braintrust empowers parents to choose the teacher who is the right fit for their child, and it also provides teachers with a meaningful platform to connect to those parents. This service is more useful now than ever before, as parents struggle to find additional support during the pandemic. We spoke to Mara to learn more in this month’s SSP interview.
SSP: How was Braintrust born and how did your life experiences lead you here?
I've worked as a learning specialist in NYC for over a decade. Prior to launching Braintrust, I worked in schools, tutored for other companies, tutored privately, and built a previous tutoring company of my own. Throughout all of those experiences, I've seen how difficult it can be for parents to connect with educators who have the training and expertise to provide students with effective learning support. Word of mouth recommendations often lead to dead ends, and agencies provide variable service at a premium price. That's why I created Braintrust.
SSP: Please tell us about the services Braintrust provides, and it’s personalized approach to learning. How is this unique, and why is it important?
Teachers make better tutors, and with Braintrust, parents can connect with certified educators and learning specialists for private tutoring. You can think of us like a Care.com for finding exceptional tutoring support. We help families match with teachers by area of expertise, experience with specific disabilities, availability, and price. In this way, we make it easier to connect with expert tutors for every learning need and budget. And with Braintrust, parents receive session reports and progress reports after each meeting so they can easily track gains and understand learning goals. In this way, students have a better learning experience and parents have a better service experience.
SSP: How do you work to find the right match of student and tutor?
We are the only tutoring platform designed by a learning specialist to think like a learning specialist. As a result, our unique algorithm, search filters, and other tools empower parents to connect with Braintrust educators who have the training and expertise to meet each child's unique learning needs. Plus, parents can schedule free Zoom interviews with tutors to ensure a perfect fit. And if a family needs more help finding the right match for their child, they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional support.
SSP: How are the tutors vetted?
To apply to tutor with Braintrust, educators identify what and whom they teach best, when and where they’d like to work, how much they charge per hour, and what specific training and certifications they have. Next, a member of the Braintrust team reviews each new teachers’ profile, including by checking their teaching and training certificates and evaluating their work experience before verifying the account. Last, tutors who meet our instructor standards and pass a criminal background check are approved to be featured in our marketplace.
SSP: How have you seen the pandemic and hybrid or remote learning models create new challenges for children, specifically the younger age set?
I think virtual classrooms have been particularly challenging for younger children and those who have learning or thinking differences. This is in large part because it is so difficult to create individualized learning experiences in online classes with such a wide range of students. While one-on-one and small group instruction work incredibly well online (I've been tutoring online since March with amazing results), teachers are trying to support up to 68 students at a time in some remote classrooms. As a result, it is nearly impossible to monitor engagement and progress as teachers otherwise would, and more students than ever are struggling as a result.
SSP: Working parents are struggling to provide the support our children need, now more than ever before. At what point do you recommend looking for additional tutoring services, and reaching out to Braintrust?
Parents have become total superheroes in this pandemic. I just want to say we all deserve a pat on the back for getting through this – it’s a lot! But if you are feeling overwhelmed, your efforts to support your child are leading to conflict in your relationship, or you see your kid struggling to keep up or make progress in class, a tutor can make a world of difference for the whole family. Because Braintrust educators understand learning and development, have training and experience with a wide range of curricula, and set their own prices, we have amazing tutors available for every need and budget. Our mission is to make it easier for families to connect with the support they need, while empowering our incredible educators to do what they do best!