I’m happy to introduce a new series for this blog: each month, I’ll be posting a short interview with a different tutor. While I no longer tutor myself, I still get asked for recommendations of tutors who use Critical Reader books/methods, and so I’ve decided to introduce readers to these people directly. The first installment, below, is with reading and writing specialist Valerie Erde. Valerie student-taught with me for several months, and her students have consistently achieved outstanding results on both the SAT and the ACT. She recently founded her own company, Veridian Prep


Tell us about Veridian Prep.

VeridianPrep is a Greenwich, CT and NYC-based test prep, tutoring, and college advisory company that prides itself on a small, but highly experienced, team of subject experts that provides personalized, evidence-based, and structured instruction and guidance to get measurable results for our students and families. We believe that excellent diagnostics, high-quality instruction and materials, and individualized attention have been the keys to our students’ successes.

What’s your favorite part about teaching? 

Seeing my students grow as readers, writers, and learners. Of course it’s incredibly rewarding when students email me to say that their ACT/SAT score went up – sometimes by a lot. But for me, what’s even more rewarding is knowing that the reason their scores went up is because, together, we worked hard on building important and necessary skills that will remain with them beyond high school and benefit in college. I often help my ACT/SAT test prep students with their college essays, and I get really excited when I see things I taught them appear in those essays: whether it’s using a semicolon properly to craft a longer, more interesting sentence, or writing their story with a clear main point (from all our Critical Reader method discussions about identifying main points in ACT/SAT reading passages).

What do your students find most challenging, and how do you help them overcome it?

Time management and motivation. I think across the board, most students find time management and staying motivated the most challenging aspects of ACT/SAT test prep and of the college process overall. It’s a fairly significant amount of extra work for them — and not always the most fun work. I break down the process and assignments into manageable steps, remind them of why they’re doing the work, and …I try to make them laugh.

What’s the biggest improvement you’ve ever seen a student make? 

One of my international students who spoke English as a third language went from an ACT Reading Score of 26 to a perfect 36. Because of her effort [working with me, using the Critical reader books and methods] she was able to achieve an ACT score beyond what she thought possible, and was admitted to a number of excellent colleges – some with nice merit scholarships – and is now a freshman at a very selective university.

“We are so grateful for your tremendous support throughout Aya’s application process. She has much improved her test scores (is still so proud of her 36 ACT Reading score) which was our primary goal, but also understood how to write a good essay in general.”

What changes, if any, have you seen in the test-prep process since you began tutoring? 

More and more students are taking both the ACT and SAT, which I think is unfortunate and unnecessary; it adds more time, more expense. Usually, it’s because students are not doing a good diagnostic early on to determine which test is really best for them. If I catch families early in the college process, that’s where I always begin: a thorough apples-to-apples, ACT vs. SAT diagnostic.

What’s your most important piece of advice for students? For parents?  

For students: what you put in is what you get out. If you put in the time and effort you CAN improve – sometimes by a lot -which will widen your college options.

For parents: be the calm presence in your child’s life and support him/her by helping with time management and not losing sight of the big picture. (It also helps to keep them well rested and well fed!)