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TeacherPod aims to connect small groups of students, tutors

Pod's of a few students can keep up on their schoolwork with the aid of a tutor to supplement virtual learning

KENMORE, N.Y. — Many parents are faced with the anxiety of ensuring their children don't fall behind while so many schools start the year in a virtual environment. 

Joel Shapiro and his family had those feelings in the spring when the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. 

"We've got four kids, we're not teachers," Shapiro said. "It was hard on everybody. It was hard on on our kids, it was hard on us it was hard on their teachers."

As school districts announced their plans to kick off the fall school year remotely, Shapiro thought about the difficulty of searching for a tutor and if there could be an easier way to connect students and tutors. 

"So with that TeacherPod was born," Shapiro said. "We're creating an application where tutors can essentially put their profile and their background up, families can do the same, and we're gonna help facilitate the connections."

Think of TeacherPod as a community and marketplace where families in a neighborhood or class at a school can pod together, hire a tutor to provide that small pod lessons from their class or topics the students are interested in.

"It's a very personal kind of situation where you're having other families and other kids come to your house," Shapiro said. "It's ideal if you come already with one or two other families that you know you want to be with."

It's free to register your child on TeacherPod, and as a tutor it's free to post your profile. If you hire a tutor through the platform you'll pay the tutor an agreed-upon fee.

Shapiro has spent much of his professional career in staffing. When the pandemic hit and schools went virtual he was trying to find tutors for his own kids and that searched developed into his startup idea.

TeacherPod is available right now to register as a student or tutor, but it's still not 100 percent live. Shapiro says the platform should be fully realized by the end of September. 

Shapiro says he's already connected with dozens of tutors in the Western New York area who plan to use the service. 

"All the tutors have all different backgrounds," Shapiro said. 

Many of the tutors already registered are newly retired teachers or students who just finished their master's program and are holding off on a classroom job until the pandemic is over. 

"Some of the families I'm speaking with want more of a facilitator," Shapiro said. "So the education background isn't as important, it's more of a project manager kind of keeping them on task — so I think it all depends on the family's needs."

Shapiro said any tutor who registers to use TeacherPod will go through a background check. 

What does a tutor think of this service? 

2 On Your Side spoke to Emily, she requested that her last name be withheld to protect her tutoring clients and her personal space. She’ll be getting her master's degree in education from Buffalo State at the end of fall. She’s going to be using the TeacherPod platform to expand the tutoring services that she offered during the initial outbreak of the pandemic. 

"The cool thing is parents are really in control, and I like that aspect of it," Emily said. "I love being able to communicate with them and hear what they really want from their child's education, and if they want me to just work on schoolwork and help the children with assignments, I can do that. But if they want me to create and supplement lessons to get their kids even more like even further ahead, I can do that as well."

Emily is one of many recent or soon to be grads who didn’t think virtual learning would be here so quickly, but already sees the potential of making it a full-time reality. Emily said she already has enough students to this fall that she'll be tutoring full time. 

As for Shapiro, he’s focused on providing Western New York families with a solution for ensuring their students aren’t left behind and those who want to tutor those small pods of students have a platform to find those looking for the extra lessons. 

To learn more, register a student or as a tutor, visit the TeacherPod website.


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