Today’s member spotlight celebrates Remy Zaken of Andersen Education!

Remy Zaken Andersen is the founder and head tutor of Andersen Education, a New York City-based and online tutoring company that focuses on standardized test prep, academic tutoring, and executive functioning coaching. She’s tutored since 2013 and finds that students connect with her warm, engaging, and sometimes silly personality. She and her associates aim to make tutoring anything but boring. She joined NTPA in February of 2024 and is figuring out which organizational role would fit her best.

Member: Remy Zaken

Business: Andersen Education

Website: www.and-ed.com

Started: 2013

Tell us how your background influenced your approach to test prep.

As a former professional child actress who made a deal with her parents to maintain her grades, I had to learn to balance academic rigor with extracurricular and career interests from a young age. I had to become highly efficient with my time, squeezing in studying on the train in and out of the city from Connecticut, the subway to and from Grand Central Station, and in the few allotted hours during rehearsal. Because I missed school to be at the rehearsal, I was tutored, so I saw firsthand how transformative excellent tutoring could be and how boring and frustrating bad tutoring could be. I loved working with adaptable, flexible, positive, and engaging tutors, and I thrived under their guidance, so much so that I successfully tested out of seventh-grade Spanish (I wasn’t allowed to test out of any other class!).

When I was a junior in high school, I had SAT and ACT tutoring and worked with a college admissions consultant to apply early decision to Columbia University. At the same time as my test prep process, I was performing in the original Broadway cast of Spring Awakening. I received my acceptance to Columbia the same weekend we opened the show. While at Columbia, I majored in psychology, concentrating on social cognition and emotion because I wanted to understand how people think better. Now, I use neuroscience and sports psychology in my approach to test prep to ensure that students not only learn the material I teach but also retain it. We also work to lessen test anxiety by using (sometimes quirky) tricks that I learned in my acting career!

What strategies do you employ to build confidence and reduce anxiety in your students facing high-stakes tests?

First of all, being as prepared is KEY! Students differ in how much time and effort they need to be prepared. Those leveraging memory science can retain the information quicker and longer than students who prepare independently. But you can’t just be ready to see the exact questions you saw in your practice – you need to be adaptable and flexible, prepared for more complicated numbers or equations.

Image of Remy Zaken Andersen, owner and head tutor of Andersen Education, studies a play with her costarRemy Zaken Andersen, owner and head tutor of Andersen Education, studies a play with her costar

Our work together provides the strong foundation needed to have that flexibility. Another strategy is building endurance by simulating the testing experience – that’s why we regularly schedule practice tests and daily homework drills. Students must take their mock exams in an environment that mimics the testing environment, so light background noise is encouraged. Practice tests also give us data (we’re big fans of data!), which can turn learning, a concept that can be so abstract, into hard numbers. They become more confident when students see their scores moving upward through their graded homework and practice tests.

We also have other techniques in our toolbox, like breathing exercises and visualization. One of our tutors, Monica, is a therapist, so she works on mindfulness with her students.

How do you recommend students and parents prepare for your initial consultation?

Since we are a boutique tutoring company, you’re speaking with me when you call Andersen Education. Please ask me any questions—I love discussing tests, timelines, schedules, the best materials, and accommodations! Our tutors can work with any student in any situation, so there’s no need to prepare anything formal for our initial consultation, but the best way to hit the ground running with your prep journey is to have a goal score and goal schools in mind.

It would also be great for the student to have completed a diagnostic test from the test makers (not a third-party company like Barron’s), but that can be hard to find for parents, so we will always provide one at the end of our discovery call. Suppose you seek academic tutoring (especially in math, chemistry, or physics). In that case, we need to know the difficulty level of the material and which chapter the student is on, though we can always confirm that after the initial call. We will ask to access Google Classroom, Canvas, or wherever teachers’ notes are posted so that we know exactly what to teach in our sessions.

How do you stay updated with the latest educational trends to enhance your tutoring approach?

A growth mindset is vital when you’re working in the education sphere! I am a National Test Prep Association member, an organization committed to collaboration among tutors and advocacy for appropriate testing. The NTPA provides multiple monthly opportunities for tutors to meet and discuss the latest in test prep and learning science. I am also a member of Gretchen Wegner’s Anti-Boring Learning Lab, a collective of coaches committed to sharing science-proven methods to improve students’ executive functioning skills.

The science, and even standardized tests themselves, are constantly evolving, so it’s crucial to stay on the front lines if you want to be the most effective tutor possible. It’s also very important to model good learning habits for my students! To maintain my integrity, I need to practice what I preach.

Could you share an example of a student who exceeded their expectations under your guidance?

Yes, of course, I have many of them! Here’s a recent example: in February ’23, one of my ISEE students started with a 5 in Verbal, 5 in Reading, 3 in Quantitative Reasoning, and a 5 in Math Achievement. She aimed to get 7s in every section to be a competitive candidate for Avenues. She showed up every week ready to work and learn a new concept. She kept a positive attitude despite feeling overwhelmed with test anxiety. In addition to teaching the content and specific test strategies, we took some session time to work through her anxiety using the methods discussed above.

In November 2023, on her first official test, she scored a 9 in Verbal, 7 in Reading, 7 in Quantitative Reasoning, and 7 in Math Achievement. This was fantastic news because she had already surpassed her initial goal. But she knew that she could score higher. We worked together for another month, focusing on the concepts she found difficult on her test. In December 2023, the second time she took the ISEE, she scored a 9 in Verbal, 9 in Reading, 7 in Quantitative Reasoning, and 8 in Math Achievement. She was very proud of these scores, and they solidified for her that with the proper effort and study skills, she could exceed her expectations. She was accepted to every high school she applied to, including Avenues!

Conclusion: What would the story be if your tutoring experience were a mystery book?

The student is hunting for buried treasure, but the map comprises esoteric symbols and runes. The student then meets me, a New York City Sherlock Holmes-type hipster who can help them decode the map, making the treasure path clearer. Together, we work through the puzzles and obstacles required to advance closer and closer to where the treasure is buried. At first, I led the way through the puzzles with my Socratic method, but eventually, my student took over, leading me through the puzzles. They open the buried treasure to find a score high enough to get them a merit scholarship or admission into their top-choice college! Hey, I’d read it!

Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Marc Gray