Darien Sylvan Center Drives Student Success 

(3/16/2012) The Daily Darien

Gwynne Campbell is the owner of Sylvan Learning Center in Darien.

In the 27 years she has owned Sylvan Learning Center in Darien, Gwynne Campbell has helped thousands of children succeed in school.

“I love teaching the five year olds to read and helping prepare the high school seniors for the SATs. I love the variety,” she said. 

That passion for teaching has not wavered throughout the years. Her mission is now, as it has always been, to help students realize their academic potential and she says she couldn’t make that happen without the help of her trained tutors. 

“Books are one thing, but the teachers who are passionate about working with the kids are who make it great.”

When a student comes to Sylvan Learning Center for extra help, Campbell uses a diagnostic assessment to pinpoint the areas in which he or she might be struggling. For example, if she is working with an elementary school-aged child who is learning to read, the test results might be used to determine whether the student is having trouble with general comprehension or understanding figurative language.

There are also children who simply need the structure of a work space with no distractions, which is especially tough when everybody has a smartphone and a laptop. Since study sessions at Sylvan Learning Center are supervised, Campbell says students are better able to focus.

“I think I have always known what I wanted to do and I have always worked in education,” she said.

Before she opened up the Darien location of Sylvan Learning Center in the early 1980s, Campbell worked at Greenwich Academy and the University of Virginia.


Tutor Demystifies Test-Taking for Students

(1/24/12 The Daily Darien)

Vigee Droesch has used her own unique teaching formula to help students improve their standardized test scores.
Photo credit: Jim Gerweck

DARIEN, Conn. – Vigee Droesch has a deep education – fine arts, journalism, even some MBA work – and that eclectic background has enabled her to teach in a way that might not be “by the book” but has proven to be extremely effective.

“I have ‘cooked up’ a recipe for my personal teaching philosophy,” she said. “Learning, besides advancing knowledge, should be fun. I love to see the delight on my students’ faces when the light bulb goes on, or they have made that metaphorical leap.”

Droesch has been switching on mental light bulbs in many venues. She co-taught the AIM (Achievement, Interest, Motivation) program at Middlesex Middle School in Darien, which increased classroom success, grade promotion and the ability to function in a mainstream high school setting for failing and emotionally disturbed students.

For the past six years, she has been at Darien Sylvan Learning Center, working as an in-house specialist in college and prep school applications and essay writing, and providing guided test prep for the alphabet soup of standardized tests, including ACT, SAT, PSAT, ISEE, SSAT and HSPT.

“When I work with students, I try to ‘de-mystify’ the tests for them, since they are already usually whipped up into a frenzy about their performance,” she said. “We go through sample tests, one question at a time, so I can teach them strategies about how to attack every type of question. It’s a slow and thorough process, and it requires a strong work ethic on their part.

“Part of being successful on standardized tests is being familiar with the format and style,” Droesch continued. “Of course, along the way I drill them on vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary, so by the time they have finished our course they get the extra added bonus of gaining a handsome vocabulary.”

Droesch has many success stories through this method, including most recently a senior at a local high school who doubled his ACT scores, enabling him to get into his first choice college.

“Children really are thirsty for knowledge,” Droesch said. “My students and I are on a mission together to help them be successful through knowledge and work ethic. I consider my students and I to be partners in the learning process – it’s a symbiotic relationship.”

Longtime Tutor Sees Student Stress Rising

(1/15/11 The Daily Darien)

Lorraine Hurley has seen pressure on students rising in her two decades of tutoring.

Lorraine Hurley has been teaching at Sylvan Learning Center for 21 years, longer than anyone else on the staff. And during that time, she’s seen many changes. “The biggest one is the workload kids have nowadays,” she says. “Parents wonder where this came from, but they were the ones who put pressure on the schools that kids have homework in every subject every night. The result is these backpacks that just explode when the kids open them.”

She says it’s not unusual for students to be up past midnight finishing schoolwork. “In general, everything is more intense,” says Hurley. “Add in sports or extracurricular activities plus family functions, and the demands can really mount up.” She said she has had students practically in tears when they recount everything they’re involved in. “It’s amazing how overbooked some kids are.”

Hurley questions the rationale of extensive standardized test preparation many students go through in school. “Junior year it’s important for them to focus on getting good grades – pulling them away for hours of test prep may not be the best thing.”

Junior year is also a time for SAT tests, and Hurley has noticed changes there as well. “They’ve added the calculator and non-multiple choice sections,” she says. Also, there’s been more interest in the ACT, which was once more limited to colleges in the South and West. “People ask if one is easier,” she says. “It’s more that some kids will do better on one or the other.”

Hurley, who has taught in public high schools, says that even in the current climate of belt-tightening, tutoring is an excellent return on investment. “At Sylvan there’s a definite curriculum that’s followed – it’s not just general tutoring. Kids see the results, they make gains.”

Sylvan – Darien Celebrates Its Anniversary with Renown Speaker Abby Marks Beale

Sylvan Learning Center of Darien, in celebration of its  anniversary, is bringing in a renown author and speaker who helps students and busy professionals manage their time, reading and email workload. The program is one of several events to commemorate 20+ years of business in Darien working with school age students from Darien and 25 surrounding communities. Doug and Gwynne Campbell launched the first Sylvan Learning Center on the east coast in Darien in early 1985. They were encouraged by teachers and principals that Sylvan – a professional learning center – would be a great resource to help students catch up and achieve at their full potential with its diagnostic and prescriptive individualized programs in reading and math.

“When we started,” according to Gwynne Campbell, Executive Director/Owner “national statistics showed 25% of students were behind by a year or more in reading or math, and we focused on addressing this need.” In the mid 1980s Sylvan – Darien launched an essay contest “How My Life Would be Different if I Couldn’t Read” and received close to 2000 essays over 3 years. Teachers used it in class, and a distinguished panel of educators and community leaders judged the essays. “The effort highlighted the national illiteracy issue (over 27 million illiterate adults) and opened students and parents’ eyes to the problem,” according to Doug Campbell, President.

Today Sylvan offers reading, early reading, math, study skills, writing, algebra, geometry, SAT and homework support programs. Since over 50% of its students are in enrichment programs (at or above grade level) such as study skills, writing, and individualized SAT prep, “we thought an enrichment reading program from one of the very best would be perfect for the community” Gwynne explains. Gwynne has been involved with youth programs extensively over the last 20 years including running The Just Say No (to drugs) program, The Darien Advocates for Education of the Gifted (DAEG) and all Fairfield County college fairs for Trinity College in Hartford.

The event will be held at The Darien Community Association, 274 Middlesex Road, in Darien on Thursday October 27 from 7:15 -9pm. Middle and high school students, parents and educators are welcome. You will learn skills and techniques that will help in school or at work. The Program will focus on 5 Reasons Why You May Be Overwhelmed, What’s Your Reading Speed Right Now, What Your Reading Speed Means, Making Your Reading Pile More Quality, and Simple Ways to Read Better and Faster on Paper and On-Screen.

Abby Marks-Beale is a productivity specialist who helps students and busy professionals manage their time, reading and email workload. Through The Reading Edge ( Abby has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Time Warner and The New York Times, small businesses, government agencies, associations and schools. Abby teaches an online reading course for Barnes and Noble University and is the author of “10 Days to Faster Reading.” She is also the author of a college study skills textbook entitled “Success Skills: Strategies for Study and Lifelong Learning 2e“ . She is the Founder and Past-President of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Speakers Association. In addition she has professional affiliations with The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), and The International Reading Association (IRA). She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and French from Boston University and a Master’s Degree in Adult Education from Southern Connecticut State University.

Please come join us, celebrate and learn to “Rev Up Your Reading” from one of the very best. This event, which is free and open to the public, is being held at The Darien Community Association, 274 Middlesex Road, Darien 06820 (exit 10; go north 1⁄2 mile; right on Middlesex Road, right at DCA) on Thursday October 27. For further information contact Sylvan in Darien at 203-655-3276.