We recently caught up with Abigail Sullivan, Ed.D. – Founder & Owner of Cohasset Learning Studio
Tell us about The Cohasset Learning Studio and how it came to be.
Cohasset Learning Studio is a tutoring center, which offers two kinds of services: early childhood enrichment and private tutoring for K-gr. 8. Our early childhood classes meet once a week for 60 or 90 minutes. Our private tutoring lessons are designed around a child’s needs and schedule. They meet one to two times per week for 30, 45, or 60 minutes lessons. Although we originally focused on reading and writing, we recently expanded to offer support in math through private tutoring and through our Math All Around Program for prek children. We also offer social skills groups for preschoolers as well as private speech and occupational therapy.
What would you say was the toughest and greatest part about becoming a local business owner is?
The hardest part about owning a business is time. I have lots of big ideas for developing new programs to offer, how I want to support my employees, connecting with families at a personal level, and what I should be doing to better share our message with potential clients. Yet I have to spend time doing all the not-so-fun parts of a business related to finances every week, too.
My favorite part of this job is the people. This includes the children, their parents, and the team of teachers at the studio. Children are genuinely happy when they come to learn with us and that is so rewarding. Our youngest students are at the very beginning of the literacy continuum and it is satisfying to give them what they need to launch a life full of confidence and success with reading and writing. Our older students are typically struggling with literacy. When they come to the studio we are asking them to do things that are very hard for them. It is an honor to help them navigate learning and to remediate their academic difficulties.
I love that the studio employs over 20 women. Young teachers are able to supplement their income, mothers of young children can continue to work in their field while still being very involved at home, and retired teachers can put their expertise to work. I am very thoughtful about who I hire and the result of that is an incredibly smart, warm, and dedicated team.
You launched just before COVID-19 hit us hard, tell us about how you had to adapt your business plan and adapt.
We opened the doors to the studio in February of 2020. Six weeks later the world shut down and we could no longer hold classes in person. It was upsetting to not be able to teach kids the way we had planned. I purposely designed the space for movement, sensory play, and hands-on-learning. It was disappointing not to be able to offer this experience to our students. Yet, we really had no choice but to push forward and try teaching in a new way.
Because of the demand for studio lessons on Zoom, I had to move fast. I also work at a college training reading specialists and have graduated dozens of teachers with expertise in teaching reading to students of all levels over the past decade. I reached out to my network and quickly hired a handful of skilled teachers to teach small groups and private lessons on Zoom. Reacting fast and creating a high-quality solution earned me the trust of the community. We have kept our Zoom program going, even though the world has opened up again. Many local families find it to be a convenient option when working around sports schedules. We have expanded our reach and also tutor students as far away as California.
In the fall of 2020, students went back to school with a hybrid learning model. Again we pivoted to fill a new set of needs. We had several tutors working as remote learning facilitators to support kids while they navigated their remote learning plan each week. We also offered small group literacy classes for kindergarten and first grade students at the studio each week. These groups provided an additional in person literacy lesson for young kids when they were only in school two days a week.
I bet you filled a huge void in the community as schools went remote, that must have put a lot of pressure on you as a new business. Did you take it day by day or feel totally prepared for the task?
The pressure to support the community was huge, mostly because the needs kept on shifting as school schedules shifted. I have two young children, too, and could fully relate to the frantic phone calls and emails that I received. As a teacher I feel a moral responsibility to provide the very best education to everyone in my reach. I kept building the team of teachers at the studio and we were able to offer a variety of services to students on the south shore. I am grateful that families trusted me and my team with their children’s needs. But I have to say that I’m delighted to be back to the original business plan this year.
What does a typical day at the studio look like these days?
The days fly by! We offer small groups classes (literacy, math, and social skills) from 9:00am to 3:00pm each day. We offer private and semi-private lessons for students in kindergarten through gr. 8 Monday through Thursday from 3:30pm-6:30pm and scattered times on the weekends.
We run 18 small groups classes and 70+ private lessons in the studio or on Zoom each week. When I’m not teaching, I’m planning our early childhood curriculum, designing personalized lesson plans for my clients, offering curriculum support to the tutors on the team, speaking with parents on the phone, writing assessment reports, and attending meetings in the community with groups such as Cohasset’s SEPAC or the School Committee.
Do all the teachers you hire have a background in education?
All of the teachers at the studio have advanced degrees in education and hold a teaching license. Many have additional training in structured literacy such as Orton-Gillingham, Wilson, Lindamood-Bell, or The Writing Revolution. All of our early childhood teachers are trained in Lively Letters.
I am a licensed reading specialist and have a doctorate from Northeastern University in Curriculum, Teaching, Learning, and Leading. Running the studio is my dream job and puts the various elements of my degree to work each day. My specialty is teaching students with dyslexia and dysgraphia while also helping families navigate their child’s unique learning profile.
When it comes to private tutoring, I’m very careful about how I match students and tutors. I do not just match based on availability or scheduling. I make sure to match students with a tutor that has the kind of expertise that they require. I am not trying to sell our clients any empty promises or make baseless guarantees about progress. Rather, I promise to match them with a tutor who will respect their child’s learning needs, understand their particular learning profile, and design and carry out an effective intervention.
Are online classes and tutoring sessions still available? Where can we get more information and where can we register?
Yes! Our small group classes can be found here. You can sign up online at any point in the semester and the price will be prorated. Families interested in private tutoring, speech, or OT can schedule a time to speak with me here. We can talk through your child’s needs and decide if you would like to start with an assessment or just launch right into tutoring.
I am available to talk through all of our options over email or on the phone. And follow along on Instagram for announcements related to new offerings and an expanding studio space coming soon: @CohassetLearningStudio
Thank you, Abigail! It was so great catching up with you and seeing what an amazing educational opportunity you have brought to this community – and at the perfect time! We have always known you were a special part of The South Shore. Back in 2018, we interviewed Abigail for a local Meet a Mom feature. If you missed it back then, check it out!