Business Spotlights

Business of the Week: Kumon of North White Plains

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Michael Otero recently opened the first Kumon Center in the White Plains area.
Michael Otero recently opened the first Kumon Center in the White Plains area.

Kumon is an after-school math and reading program for preschool through 12th grade students.

The internationally popular program – it is employed in 48 countries on six continents around the world – began with a parent’s love, as the story goes. Toru Kumon, a Japanese math teacher, developed the materials and the guiding principles of the Kumon Method to help his eight-year-old son.

Although set in a classroom environment, the program utilizes a one-on-one relationship between the student and teacher that allows a customized approach to the teaching materials, which in turn helps students tackle individual challenges and gain confidence as they overcome obstacles. They become self-learners.

The newest Kumon franchise in Westchester County and the first center in the White Plains area was recently opened by Michael Otero, at 600 N. Broadway, North White Plains.

With degrees in elementary education, Otero was eager to get involved in the administrative aspects of learning. As a Kumon teacher in Connecticut, Otero worked to open his own franchise and the number of students attending the North White Plains center grows on a daily basis.

The bright classroom features bench-like desks with stools and a library-voice environment. There are multiple students at each 30-minute session, each working at their own level. The teacher interacts with each of the students as they work through the individually prepared program of worksheets.

Classes in North White Plains are from 3 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Classes run throughout the year and students can sign on at any time.

Students are as young as three-years old, Otero said. “Parents are realizing that especially with reading, children need to begin developing their literacy skills at an early age. By age three children are beginning to read comprehensively.”

The teaching emphasis also goes two ways. The program encourages students to reach their highest attainable skill level – so some work is remedial and some is advanced.

Otero says the mix at his center is about 50/50.

Regarding the ratio between students pursuing math versus those engaged in reading, it’s a 60 (math) to 40 (reading) mix.

“In the past, there was a more relaxed approach to education,” Otero said. “It was accepted that children leaned by playing. Today education is more rigorous and standardized tests not only gauge a student’s ability, but also how quickly they can complete a test. There is a lot of focus on time.”

With the controversy over Common Core Curriculum and the push to advanced levels, Otero said the Kumon Method also pushes students to strive for ability beyond their grade levels.

“Each child is different. With individualized lesson packets, specific areas can be revisited if necessary until the material has been mastered by the student. The process is proactive and pre-emptive,” said Otero.

Progressing at their own pace, students do daily assignments that take about 30 minutes per subject in two sessions a week at the Kumon Center and the other five at home.

The individualized worksheets cover everything from counting to calculus, from phonics to Shakespeare. The worksheets provide examples of how to solve each problem, enabling students to learn on their own. An assignment is complete when every problem has been done correctly.

Otero offers a free placement test and orientation to parents and their children. “When we see the results we can discuss the appropriate curriculum and go over pricing,” he said.

To make an appointment for the free placement test call 914-461-9191.

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