Next Step Prep

with Jonah Fishel

My name is Jonah Fishel, and I’m a learning differences tutor based in Durham, North Carolina. I have nine years of experience working with students with learning disorders, learning disabilities, and “gifted” kids.

I’ve worked in every context you can think of, from juvenile detention centers to big-city penthouses. In every place I’ve been, I’ve found that the same approach works. It’s not about the subject you’re teaching. It’s about teaching your students that they are capable of learning something and that it is worth their time to learn it.

I work with middle schoolers through undergraduates, and my clients present with a wide range of learning differences, including dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder. I provide test prep, homework help, and an academic support small group.

I believe that education is the single greatest force for change in the world and that the purpose of education is to empower people to change their lives for the better.

My Philosophy

Though my career often requires me to be a businessman, a researcher, and an IT specialist, I consider myself an educator first and foremost. I take this responsibility very seriously, and I strive to be the very best educator I can be. This does not always mean pursuing the highest test scores or the best grades in the class. In fact, I find that, for most of my students, high test scores and good grades are merely a side effect of our work together.

I believe that education is the single greatest force for change in the world and that the purpose of education is to empower people to change their lives for the better. As an educator, my role is to guide my students in building their own future. As a one-on-one tutor, my role is to do that through meaningful collaboration and transformative dialogue, not a one-way transfer of information. I also believe that self-reflection and self-awareness can and should be taught, and the liberatory potential of education lies in learning to understand yourself and change yourself.

My philosophy of education is rooted in the American educational tradition of Pragmatism, but is heavily influenced by the work of Paolo Freire. My methods vary based on the subject being taught, but I prefer an inquiry-based approach to most academic subjects. For test prep topics, I prefer to teach strategies for timing/pacing and strategic guessing before teaching content. In all areas, I take a data-driven approach to my methods, and assess regularly to adjust my approach for each student.

My mission is to provide world-class instruction, encouragement, and guidance to anyone who has been left out of or left behind in a traditional classroom.

My Story

I’ve been doing this a long time. I mostly work with families now, but when I started I volunteered as a mentor in a juvenile detention center in central Virginia. I’d go in once a week and spend the day there working with kids who had been locked up for months, sometimes for years, and were working towards their GED. This was a group of ten or so kids of totally different ages, in different places in their education, with behavioral problems and learning disorders and disabilities, and it was my job to guide them towards getting that diploma.

At first, I had a lot of trouble with it. I would show up and try to review math concepts or make them read books, and that never worked. They just weren’t interested. It’s because of who they were and where they were: they thought that the work wasn’t worth doing or that they weren’t capable of doing it. I had to step back and rework my entire approach: my job wasn’t to teach them math, but to teach them that math was worth learning and that they could learn it.

That transformed my entire approach to education. Sure, I can teach the content, but that’s not really my job. My job is to teach students that they can learn something and that they should learn something. I learned how to do this in probably the hardest place to do it: in juvie, where the kids are literally there against their will. So I had to get good at that kind of inspiration, and I’ve carried that expertise and that lesson with me into the rest of my career.

So if your child believes, because of their learning differences or their personal history or for whatever other reason, that they can’t learn something or that it’s not worth learning, I can help. I’ve seen it before, and I have built confidence and mastery in students just like that.

My qualifications include:

  • Nine years of one-on-one tutoring experience.
  • Currently studying for a Master’s of Education from Villanova University (expected graduation date 2022).
  • B.A. in Storytelling from the College of William and Mary.
  • Nearly five years at Inspirica, a New York based private tutoring firm that has provided exceptional tutoring to select clientele for nearly 40 years–first as a full-time test prep tutor, then as the Education Technology Manager.

What I Offer

Individual Test Prep

I offer private test prep for the following tests:

  • College Entrance Exams, including the ACT and the SAT.
  • Graduate School Entrance Exams, including the GRE, the GMAT, and the LSAT.
  • Private School Entrance Exams, including the ISEE and the SSAT.

If you don’t see the test you’re prepping for here, that doesn’t mean I don’t tutor it! Please get in touch with me directly to inquire about tests or exams not listed here. Test prep sessions are $260 for a 1h45min session.

If you’d like help preparing for a test in school or are having trouble with a difficult assignment, I’m here to help. You can sign up for a 45-minute session ($110) or a 1-hour 45-minute session ($260) and I’ll help you with your homework.

I offer homework help in the following subjects:

  • Math through the undergraduate 300-level (including multivariable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations)
  • Humanities (writing, history, and social sciences) through the college level
  • Any content covered at a high school level or lower

Homework Help

Academic Support Group

For students looking for longer-term support, or for students who need support with executive functioning, study skills, or socio-emotional learning, I offer academic support in a small group context. One month of membership in the program costs $1000 and includes the following:

  • Weekly planning meetings with other students of the same age to talk about study skills, prioritizing for the week, and to celebrate academic successes.
  • Four private homework help sessions (1h45m) that can be scheduled at any time during the membership month
  • Access to a restricted online support forum (only available to current members and closely moderated by me) where students can post questions and get answers 24/7 from me and from other students

My goal with the academic support group is to provide a place for my students to build positive relationships around school and learning, which is something that I feel is missing from the lives of many of my past students. You can read more about the objectives and philosophy of the academic small group here.

What My Students are Saying

Contact Me

If you’d like to get in touch, I’m happy to set aside some time to talk. For questions about private test prep, important conversations about your student, unusual requests, and business inquiries, it’s best to give me a call. Schedule a time for a 30-minute Zoom call below.