Today I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Maria Washington at Rooted Coffeehouse for a very pleasant and interesting conversation. I’m sure you’ll find Maria to be just as amazing.
Me: Have you always lived in the Augusta area?
Maria: Well, no. I’m originally from New Orleans and I’ve lived in New Mexico where I met my husband, Aaron. Then we lived in Aiken, South Carolina. We moved to the Augusta area in 2021.
Me: Why did you decide on the Augusta area?
Maria: Being from New Orleans, I’m used to a more energetic feel in a community. Aaron is originally from Jacksonville, Florida and he likes energy too. We were in Aiken, which is a lovely area but more quiet and laid back. We found ourselves bringing the kids here to do more activities that would be fun for them. It just made sense to make the move across the river.
Me: You have a beautiful family. Will you share a little bit about them?
Maria: I was living in New Mexico and found myself single again and co-parenting our two children with my ex-husband. My friend decided it was time for me to “get back out there” and set up an online profile for me. Ha! I guess it was the right time!
My husband, Aaron, was traveling for work and was at the airport in New Mexico and he saw my profile about the same time I saw his. We were connected and started dating. He was also single again and co-parenting their two children. We settled in Aiken since it was close to both my children’s father and Aaron’s children’s mother. We wanted the best for the children.
Shortly after Aaron and I married, we had a baby together. She is a true blessing and completed our family. She is a year old now and a bundle of love and energy and she is the sweetest soul who binds our family together. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful children and a happy family.
Me: Aside from being a busy mom, what do you do?
Maria: Aaron and I own and operate Tutor Doctor of Evans. We saw that with the school shut-down during Covid, many students were struggling with school and had fallen behind. We both wanted to start our own business and Tutor Doctor spoke to our priorities in education. I have always taken the opportunity to learn more in my past career in Healthcare. Aaron has his PhD in Chemistry and was an adjunct professor of chemistry at USC-Aiken. He’s works for the DOE now as well as running our business.
Me: How does Tutor Doctor of Evans work?
Maria: Tutor Doctor is a global, international tutoring program that has franchises literally worldwide. Because of this network, we can provide tutors for most any subject, grade, and for any student of any age. If a student needs help with high school French, for example, we can connect them to a fabulous French tutor. If a student needs help with college level biology, we can do that too.
Our process is first to assess the student. We talk to the student and the parent, listen to the student on what they feel they need help with. You know, children learn differently from one to another. Some are auditory learners, some are visual learners, and some are more hands-on. With the results of the consultation, we customize a program for the student and match that student with a local tutor who can relate to the student and their learning style. We are a bit different in our approach to tutoring. We do not offer our own curriculum (typically) and our end goal is to produce independent students. Every child starts out with an assessment. As the tutoring progresses, we incorporate missed concepts identified in the assessment into the tutoring sessions. This helps to recover the student’s learning deficiency through recovered concepts. The ideal client should see a vast improvement within 6-12 months of tutoring and will be able to transition to independent learning at that point, able to absorb new information on their own. Our method is called Core Concept Recovery (CCR) and it allows us to really heal the student of the missed concepts that are preventing independent learning. This process is scalable with schools and organizations with a large need and limited budgets.
All the tutoring is done one-on-one or in small groups (3 or less) either virtually or in-person. This allows the student to be more comfortable asking questions and communicating with the tutor on what they still struggle with. Sometimes, kids won’t want to ask a “stupid question” in larger classroom settings. With individualized attention and programs, this allows the tutor the flexibility to pivot to other techniques for presenting the lesson.
While we can provide tutoring for school lessons, we also provide tutoring for special needs students. Test preparation for SAT, ACT, PSAT, GED, and AP is also available. And if an adult needs tutoring or refreshing on a subject we offer adult tutoring. With our international network, we can handle just about any subject.
Me: What about students who need tutoring but there aren’t any local tutors for that subject?
Maria: In those instances, we have the ability to provide online tutoring. Even local students can opt for the online tutoring. The tutoring lesson is in real time, of course, however the sessions are recorded too so the student can go online and review their tutoring session for additional support. And that is so important to be able to provide that additional help to many students.
I’m really proud of our growth. In the two years that we’ve been operating in this area we have increased the number of tutors by 50% and our clients have increased by 180%. That’s good for us, of course, but it’s wonderful for all those students who have been helped. That’s the important thing.
Me: You mentioned that before you made the move to Augusta, y’all would come here to do things with your children. What are some of your favorite things to do?
Maria: We enjoy the Greeneway and the Savannah River Canal Trail for hiking and biking. We like to get our children outside in the fresh air and getting exercise. We’d also go to the movies and the park at Evans Towne Center is a favorite place to play and run. We also participate as a family in non-profit and charitable events such as the CSRA Kids drive.
Me: Do you have a favorite restaurant?
Maria: When we have the kids with us we like Salsa’s in Evans and California Dreaming. When it’s just Aaron and me, we love sushi at Miyako, Frog Hollow Tavern, and Farmhaus. We are looking forward to trying Cork & Flame. We also like Rockin’ Crab for seafood. It’s as close to the seafood I could get in New Orleans that I’ve found here.
Me: I’ve never been to California Dreaming. What do you recommend?
Maria: We like their Seafood Nachos and the Cali-Flower. They are fresh and tasty. I also like their She Crab Soup. My husband orders the New Orleans Po’ Boy, but that’s because he’s not a native New Orleanian. Ha ha ha!
Me: That’s hysterical! What is something you were pleasantly surprised to find here?
Maria: We love all the green spaces that are here. So many beautiful trails and space for getting outside. And the area is very clean and people seem to take care of the parks and green spaces.
Arts in the Heart was also amazing! There were all these food trucks and food stands with foods from the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, and everywhere. The opportunity to enjoy these flavors and foods and music from all over was just fantastic.
Me: You’re a busy woman but I’m going to ask, do you have any hobbies?
Maria: Ha ha ha! Our business is my hobby! Right now, we eat, breathe, and sleep our business. We do all our own consultations and assessments with our students and develop their customized tutoring program. And when we aren’t doing that, we participate in events that can introduce our business to the public. We recently participated in the College and Career Expo. We were able to introduce ourselves to the public and many people were pleasantly surprised to discover we offer test prep tutoring.
Me: What is one thing on your bucket list you haven’t done yet?
Maria: Well, the Maldives call my name! And Bali. I’d like to go to the Maldives and Bali someday. The photos look beautiful! Someday.
Me: Do you have any long-term goals?
Maria: One of my goals is to provide tutoring support to businesses. I’d like to work with Human Resources to offer tutoring as an employee benefit. By working with businesses, we can provide support for valuable employees who may just need a little boost. And as a benefit, their children would qualify for tutoring services as well. It only makes sense for employers to encourage educational benefits.
I also want to start making more school visits. We have a few schools that have us on their tutoring list which is terrific, however a personal visit and presentation is more impactful than merely an email.
Me: What is one thing you’ve done that you are proud of, or glad that you did?
Maria: When I was pregnant with my last baby, I worked full time for the City of Augusta. I had every intention of returning to work after I had the baby. Instead, we decided to go ahead and start our business. So, I took a leap of faith and took on the day-to-day operations of running and managing Tutor Doctor of Evans. I’m glad I did because it has allowed me to stay home with my daughter and to see all her firsts – first tooth, first steps. It hasn’t been easy by any stretch of the word trying to coordinate work and motherhood, but it has been a blessing.
Me: What is one thing you’d point to that makes you interesting or special?
Maria: Well, hmmm… My previous career was in Healthcare and Pharmacy. Specifically, I spent seven years in Nuclear Medicine and managing the radiology department. I ran myocardial perfusion studies on patients to see how well the blood was flowing and the heart was pumping. A radioactive tracer is injected into the bloodstream and will show what areas are working and what areas are not working. Nuclear Medicine can be used to diagnose all sorts of diseases.
I wanted to do more and I was offered an opportunity in my medical facility to take on a project to set up an anticoagulation clinic. The task was to show that both patients and the facility would benefit from this clinic. I had to learn about patient care, patient monitoring, operations, and marketing. In the end, it was successfully set up. I was able to show that a clinic that monitored patients with a nurse could free up the time of the physicians who could then take on more patients. Their billing and patient list could benefit and thus the facility benefits. The nurse would chart the patients and monitor them individually and report to the physician. The clinic grew to 300 patients. That means 300 people were getting the care and attention they needed.
Then I needed another project, of course. One of the bottlenecks in healthcare is referrals. A doctor needs to refer a patient to a specialist or for a procedure. It can take time for offices to coordinate with each other on behalf of the patient and it can take too much time for the referral to be ordered and then eventually scheduled. I established a Referral Management and Scheduling clinic. In order to do this I needed to understand the problems involved, the costs, the savings, the benefits to the patients and the doctors and the facility. Then put together a presentation and finally get the “yes” from the administration. Then it was knowing all the positions, finding and training the staff to run the office. You lead from example so I had to function in all the positions so the staff would have a high standard to follow. Eventually I was overseeing nine clinics as the regional medical operations director.
What makes me special, I guess, is that I don’t stop until I get the “yes.” I learn everything that goes into making something work with always the focus on who will benefit. Tenacity.
Me: Maria, you are a remarkable and inspirational woman and I’m grateful for your time! Thank you so much for chatting with me and letting me get to know you better. If you would like to know more about Tutor Doctor of Evans, email Maria Washington here. You can also contact me and I’ll be happy to connect you to Maria.