Newly settled in her second-floor office overlooking Ventura Boulevard, Mary Herrera, a former Pasadena school teacher and now the director for the Sherman Oaks expansion of The Kelter Center, talked with Patch about how much she enjoys being in the Valley and how she is ready to take on the challenges of her new position.
The Kelter Center is a private company founded in 1977 by Sasha Borenstein, an education specialist, after she “recognized that a large and growing number of people were not successfully learning using traditional teaching methods and from classroom instruction,” according to The Kelter Center website.
The Kelter Center is located in a shiny glass office building at the corner of Ventura Boulevard and Stansbury Avenue, adjacent to the Ralphs construction hubbub. And as Herrera pointed out, her office will soon overlook what’s said to be the world’s largest Trader Joe’s, also under construction.
Patch: Why did The Kelter Center set up in Sherman Oaks?
Herrera: The Kelter Center has a great and strong reputation in West Los Angeles, and they've existed for over 35 years. We have, in that course of time, developed some good relationships with some of the private schools out here, and just the community in general, and so this just seemed like a natural place for us to expand to. On top of all that, we just like the Valley and the feel of this community. So that's what led us here.
Patch: What does The Kelter Center do?
Herrera: We provide learning specialists who work one-on-one to help children and adults' potential meet their performance. So if they are experiencing difficulty in a specific academic area such as literacy, they will work with our specialists who receive lots of training, and lots of background, and we will work with them on getting some skills where they need some help, [bringing them] up to par, up to their potential in how they can do.
Patch: How is it determined that a child may need help learning?
Herrera: Sometimes the school notices that a child is having some difficulties, or that some things aren't up to where they should be, or where they perform in other areas. But we do assess students here, we do academic assessments to find out what specific areas that we can help those certain students or people excel. When they come to us, they might either have some testing already done or we do [provide] our own testing.
Patch: So The Kelter Center provides a learning service. Is that like tutoring?
Herrera: We're very different from tutoring. Tutors approach working with students in the sense that they cover what the teacher has already covered. We don’t do that. We develop a specific plan based on the areas that the student has needs in. We develop goals, we work with the student and family's input, and we develop a whole learning plan for the child. Then when we start working with the child or adult–because we just don't only [work with] children–we use research-based teaching methods and programs, and we help the child ‘learn how to learn,’ and then we strengthen those areas that they're experiencing difficulty in. We use research-based methods to do all that.
Patch: How long does a typical learning plan last?
Herrera: We don't prescribe any set amount of time, everything we do is so individualized, and we assess often. So it can be a year, it can be months. Some families choose to stay with us for several years. It's very individualized, so we go with the student's need. Student need drives their plan.
Patch: You say you work with adults? Are these college students?
Herrera: We do work with college students. We work with Charles Drew University's Medical School; we have work with them, as a group. We also work with individual college students. We've worked with adults who, for example, may have to take a test to get their next promotion, maybe they've taken it before and had difficulty with it, and really need a little bit of help being able to do the best they know they can do. So they'll come to us, work with us, and we've had plenty of success in that area.
Patch: Are these services only provided at The Kelter Center locations?
Herrera: No, the model we prefer is here, but we do go to homes, we do go to schools, we really try to collaborate with the families and see what they need and what they want, and what's best for them. So we do and are happy to provide services here, but we'll work with the families to give them what they need.
Patch: How many learning specialists do you have at the Sherman Oaks location?
Herrera: We have a few teachers that have been trained specifically for this site, but we do share teachers sometimes with the West Los Angeles office. We have a really healthy amount of teachers who have been specifically trained to do this type of work.
Patch: Do you work with school teachers?
Herrera: We do offer professional development to school staff ... We are happy to go in there, teach those teachers, teach that staff about how to do that more effectively, and what the best practices are.
Patch: What sets The Kelter Center apart from the other learning centers?
Herrera: Well, we know every individual learns differently. There are different personality types, there are different learning styles, and one advantage we have here is that we can teach to each student's individual learning style. If a student learns better kinesthetically, when there's movement and activity joined with their learning, if that's what's best for them, we can do that. We have everything we need here to make that happen. And all of our teachers have been trained to do that well. So we really teach to individual learning styles. So that's something you won't find with tutors, traditional tutors.
The Kelter Center, 14140 Ventura Blvd. #209, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423, www.thekeltercenter.com.