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Back to School: Light bulb moments, miracles at Learn from the Best

Jill Lerner, a mom of two, has spent her career helping children with disabilities achieve academic success. The former long-time teacher opened Learn with the Best in 2001 in Cary.

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Jill Lerner of Learn with the Best
Jill Lerner, a mom of two, has spent her career helping children with disabilities achieve academic success. The former long-time teacher opened Learn with the Best in 2001 in Cary.

The private tutoring center serves both typical and atypical students. Lerner, a mom of two, shared more about herself and some great tips for kids and parents as the school year (for traditional calendar kids) begins.

Here's our email conversation: 

Go Ask Mom: Tell us a bit about yourself. You're a former teacher?
Jill Lerner: I started out my teaching career in Southern California as an assistant in a class for students with moderate disabilities when I was in high school. I also coached swimming and gymnastics for Special Olympics through my high school. My passion for working with students with disabilities had a resurgence when I graduated from college and I sought work as an assistant in a Wake County class with students with moderate disabilities. From there, I went to N.C. State to earn a master's degree in special education and a teaching degree. As a long-term sub in an elementary self-contained classroom, I was hired to take over the class and then had the wonderful opportunity to open my own self-contained classes at two different elementary schools. Starting classrooms in new schools gave me the insight into both the teaching and the administrative/operational perspectives needed to run an exceptional program. I furthered my knowledge accepting a position as a compliance specialist, resource teacher and on-site private tutor at a Montessori school in the Triangle. Learn with the Best was founded in 2001 as a private tutoring center for typical and atypical students.
GAM: Why did you start Learn with the Best?
JL: Learn with the Best began due to parent frustration with the lack of complete academic support for their children with disabilities. I felt that I could help more students in a one-on-one or small group setting with the emphasis being on their specific needs and learning styles as well as what was in their best interest. Not all students learn the same way so I, along with my highly trained staff of regular and special educators, am able to individualize instruction to maximize learning on a daily basis.
GAM: What kinds of programs and courses do you offer?
JL: Originally a full service tutoring facility for students PreK through adults, we were excited to add social skills groups and summer camps to our roster of programs. In January 2010, we started our Transitional Kindergarten program for four and five year olds with mild disabilities. Later in 2010, we formed Learn with the Best School for students PreK through grade 12 with all levels of disabilities. We offer several tracks for our students so everyone is able to find success and a bright future.
GAM: What do you enjoy about the work?
JL: I see light bulbs lighting up and miracles happening on a daily basis. I can’t get much luckier than that. . . I am living every teacher’s dream.

Lerner shared some of her top tips for kids and parents as many of us start a new school year. 

  • Develop good organizational skills prior to school starting by designating a study time and study space complete with any/all materials needed for homework and project completion. Starting off in an organized manner will set the foundation for a more solid schedule and plan as school progresses and gets more difficult.
  • Keep a calendar to track long term projects, assignments, tests and quizzes. This will allow you and your child the opportunity to plan out their study schedule.
  • Keep notebooks organized either using the method required by your school/class or, with permission, finding a system that may work better for your child. One type of organizational method will not work for all children.
  • Prepare for the upcoming day by having your child pack their school bag the night before, laying out clothes with shoes and accessories, and making lunch if needed. This will reduce morning confusion and create a smoother exit out the door.
  • Do a weekly cleanup and remove old papers and tests from your child’s school bag and folders. Have your child help determine if something should be saved or thrown away. Create a folder or box for paper to be saved.
  • Ask questions about your child’s day so you are able to stay in tune with how they are feeling about their academics and social life. Your child should do at least half the talking and your interest in their day will help build their confidence with self-expression.
  • Read to and with your children. Children should be reading daily with an adult and also having an adult read daily to them. This helps develop and improve reading, fluency and comprehension.
  • Make sure your child lives a healthy life by getting plenty of sleep, exercising and having at least three nutritious meals a day. Be sure to visit the doctor and dentist for regular checkups.
  • Convey positive expectations for your child. Using words such as you can, you will, your goals are, you can try and so on. Children need positive role models to encourage positive thoughts and self-concept.
  • Recognize your child’s strengths and praise them for their achievements. Children need positive support to inspire success. Help turn weaknesses into successes by encouraging small changes that may help your child gain confidence and momentum with their skills and abilities.
  • If your child has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan/Program), be sure to review all goals and modifications/accommodations on the document as well as service times for both the special educators and other service providers (OT, SLP, PT, etc.). If your child is in a regular classroom setting, it is possible the primary teacher may not know about all of your child’s goals and modifications/accommodations.
  • If you have concerns about your child, meet with the school counselor or classroom teacher/team leader prior to school starting. Be proactive in your child’s education as you are your child’s biggest advocate!!
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