Meet Nicole Kumar and Joe Baynes, Co-Founders of Student Enrichment Academy LLC | New Canaan & Darien Moms

Co-Founders Nicole Kumar and Joseph Baynes are bringing 20 years of educational expertise to Darien, CT this July. Nicole and Joe have a wide range of experience teaching students of a variety of ages and abilities. Summer is usually a period of academic regression, one that many students cannot afford to experience, especially given the learning loss brought on by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Student Enrichment Academy LLC’s mission is to enhance the skills and engagement of their learners in order to promote a confident transition into the new school year.

Can you please share some more information about yourselves?

Nicole: I have been an educator for the past ten years, but have been working with children ever since I was 14-years-old! I started out as a martial arts instructor, and found that I really enjoyed teaching. This led me to pursue a degree in Childhood and Special Education at NYU and then to complete the Reading Specialist MA program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Throughout my career, I have taught students ranging from Pre-K to high school! Six of those years were at Eagle High School in Greenwich, CT, where I truly learned the importance of differentiation and how to meet each child’s individual needs. I am currently a Special Education Teacher at Greenwich High School and greatly enjoy the challenges that come with preparing students for college. Joe and I met while working at Eagle Hill, and immediately recognized that we worked well together in supporting our students. I am extremely excited about partnering with Joe to bring our shared expertise to Darien!

Joe: I have been an educator since 2010, starting as a Kindergarten Special Education Teacher in the city of Buffalo, New York. The same year, I graduated from Buffalo State College with a Bachelor’s degree in Special and General Education. In 2012, I completed a Master’s degree in the area of Childhood Special Education. I decided to move closer to where I grew up (Long Island, NY), and accept a job at Eagle Hill School in Greenwich. At Eagle Hill, I learned the skills necessary to develop an individualized curriculum for each of my students. I spent eight years teaching predominantly math and science at the elementary level, but was given opportunities to teach language arts as well. In 2020, I made the move to special education at Greenwich High School. GHS is an amazing place to work and has given me the opportunity to help students find success and access the general education curriculum. In 2021, I finished a Sixth Year Degree in the field of Educational Leadership at the University of Bridgeport. I met Nicole at Eagle Hill School, and have always admired her work ethic and ability to build meaningful relationships with students. I am excited to team up with Nicole to offer our skill sets to Darien and the surrounding areas.

How is Student Enrichment Academy LLC unique?

We group students by skill level and ability, to ensure that each students’ individual needs are met throughout small class sizes and customized instruction. We recognize that every student learns differently, therefore, we teach to the individual child. Our 90-minute language arts classes are taught by an Orton-Gillingham trained Reading Specialist. We utilize the OG approach in conjunction with a carefully selected combination of reading and writing programs to personalize our instruction in our small group setting. Within our 90-minute math classes, we employ a hands-on, multisensory approach to instruction to reach all types of learners in a small group setting. Executive functioning skills and strategies are embedded into each language arts and math lesson. Lessons are appropriately paced to ensure mastery of skills before new material is instructed. We make learning fun and engaging while developing necessary academic skills. Student Enrichment Academy LLC runs from July 1st to August 12th and offers flexible scheduling to meet your family needs.

Why did you decide to start this program?

We decided to start this program after witnessing the immense amount of learning loss that occurred during remote and hybrid learning. Since returning to in-person learning, many students have been struggling to keep up with academic demands. In addition, when direct instruction stops over the summer, students typically experience a regression of skills, known as the “summer slide.” Therefore, we believe a summer program is necessary to combat all of these academic setbacks. We have seen the positive differences that can be made when a child receives quality instruction during the summer, and we are confident in our abilities to provide quality enrichment instruction. We are motivated to help students maintain skills and transition into their new school year with confidence!

What advice would you give to parents looking to help their children maintain their skills
over the summer?

Make sure you do your research on summer programs! Find a program that teaches to the child and enhances their individual skills. We recognize that many parents want their children to take a “break” from school, however, a lack of mental stimulation during the summer is a significant cause of summer learning loss. It is therefore beneficial to balance summer activities with academic support, so that your children are ready to learn at the beginning of the next school year.

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