Amanda Cockrum is a mother of two who knows all too well a child’s learning can be impacted by factors beyond their control.
She’s also a teacher now making it her mission to ensure parents and educators no longer bear sole responsibility for a child’s education. And she’s drawing on the lessons she learned.
“I didn’t have anyone to turn to, so we’d spend three hours a night doing math homework and I couldn’t help my own children,” Cockrum said. “…There’s such demand for tutors and learning gaps for children out there. The schools do a great job in providing interventions for students, but sometimes it just isn’t enough and kids need that extra push.”
Cockrum will soon be running the newest Sylvan Learning Center at 6619 W. Cross Creek Bend Ln. in Fulshear later this year. It will be the third Sylvan Learning Center in the area – joining existing locations in Sugar Land and Missouri City – and one of six future centers in Fort Bend County aimed at providing extra help for students in need.
Sylvan provides tutoring, academic coaching, test prep and STEM activities for students from kindergarten up through the college level in need of extra help.
“The county’s significant economic development highlights an opportunity for new franchisee business opportunities, but is also a sign of an increased educational focus within the local community,” Sylvan Vice President of Development Georgia Chasen said. “Having a professional learning center as a resource for a student’s entire K-12 academic career provides significant support for both the child and their parents.”
Cockrum is the parent of two Fort Bend ISD students and a former teacher in the district. She said her primary motivator in transitioning out of public education has been spurred by an innate desire to bridge the disconnect that develops when students inevitably fall behind on schoolwork.
“I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been the frustrated parent and the teacher who’s just wanting to help but not knowing what the parent is willing to do,” she said. “…We’ve seen the struggles kids have, and that’s why I want to help.”
One of Cockrum’s early experiences with that disconnect came in her first full year of teaching, in the wake of one of the Greater Houston area’s most intense obstacles – Hurricane Harvey.
Fresh off substitute teaching in Lamar Consolidated ISD and being a new face at Fleming Elementary in 2017, she was ready for her first year.
Then, just a week before school began, she was transferred to Neill Elementary in Richmond due to lack of enrollment at Fleming – just before Harvey made landfall.
And despite not knowing her classroom’s fate, she couldn’t stop thinking about how students would suffer most.
“We had no idea what was going on, and I was even more worried about the families and who might have been displaced,” she said.
Following a brief stint back at Fleming, Cockrum was then transferred back to Neill. And in between her personal back and forth, she saw students falling behind, partly as the result of being displaced and moving schools.
It wound up being a good opportunity for her to try impacting change.
“Neill is where I was meant to be the whole time. I loved the staff and loved my team, so it wound up being a great thing,” she said. “It was serendipity – it was supposed to be that way.”
The perfect solution
Despite Cockrum’s efforts to help kids at Neill, there were still strains on both her and parents. She said she and other educators did not have enough time in the day to account for all of a child’s educational needs.
“Everything is so planned out for them these days. Kids today have so much going on that they get overscheduled and they’ve got to have accountability to make sure their grades stay up,” she said. “That can be tough if they’re struggling in school, and then just kind of spirals out of control from there. … I’ve seen it in kids in my classroom and I’ve seen it as a parent.”
That is where Sylvan Learning enters the picture as a way to bridge the gap. Cockrum previously enrolled her own children – now both high school freshmen – at Sylvan in elementary and said the individualized learning worked wonders, helping them pass their exams.
At the Fulshear location, she and her staff – which includes former Neill team member Melody McClean – will aim to provide that same boost for area students.
It’s no shame for a child to fall behind, Cockrum said. But sometimes, teachers lack the time needed to appropriately address each student’s needs.
At the end of the day, Cockrum said she just wants the best for area students and is helping the best way she knows how.
“Being able to set a parent’s mind at ease and letting them know it will be OK is what most parents want and need when it comes to their child’s education,” she said.