FAIRMONT - Brent Burns summed up his business in five words: "We help kids do better."
As executive director of Sylvan Learning Center's regional headquarters in Spencer, Iowa, Burns has spearheaded the opening of a satellite location in Fairmont, making it the fifth center under his guidance. The locations serve about 100 students at a time.
Sylvan's local classroom is located in the Southern Minnesota Educational Campus on South Park Street. Program hours are 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Most students attend twice per week.
"We give the kids the skills they need to do well in school," Burns said.
Current programs focus on reading for second grade and above, and math up to but not including algebra.
"We're launching a new program next month, focusing on study skills," Burns said. "... It will focus on note taking, time management and organizing."
Burns said the Sylvan program is successful because of the way it is structured. An initial assessment reveals where a student has deficiencies, and a course of study is then customized. Sylvan's instructors work with students until those skills are mastered.
"There's no pressure to move on," Burns said. "We have a ratio of three students to one teacher."
Sylvan uses Ipads to deliver courses to the students. Burns said teachers are current or previously licensed or retired instructors who have undergone training in the Sylvan method.
Sylvan does not have an office in Fairmont, only the classroom. All calls to its local number - (507) 235-6030 - are forwarded to the Spencer office.
One of the most frequently asked questions concerns cost.
"There is no financial aid," Burns said. "Sylvan is parent pay, but I'll make it fit in mom and dad's budget."
Typically, a student spends five to seven months under Sylvan's tutelage.
Sylvan also has an online program for high school students preparing to take ACT exams. Students have access to the site for a year.
"Getting one, two or three point increases [on the ACT] equals an increase in financial aid," said Burns, noting the increase in aid more than offsets the cost of the program.