SAGA Innovations

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SAGA Innovations

After long careers, two SAGA Fellows discuss why they shifted to new, rewarding opportunities
By Jesse Duthrie

For our second segment in this three-part series, we talk to two current Fellows who joined SAGA after career changes. By taking Fellow positions in the later years of their professional lives, both Paul Betz and Dan Heymann were able to find meaningful careers that enriched their students’ lives, as well as their own. Paul and Dan’s passion in their new line of work has led to higher grades for students in both New York and Chicago, as well as opportunities for these students to succeed well into their futures.

 

Paul Betz, SAGA Fellow, Chicago

As Paul Betz neared the final years at his long-standing career in the Chicago area, he considered shifting from the corporate world towards a teaching position. Like many Fellows before him, Paul decided not to end his career in slow retirement, but instead with a new role that had the potential to reward him personally.

“In 2015, I was a computer programmer, systems analyst, and project manager at Kraft-Heinz Food Company,” he says. “I decided it was time for me to make a career change as I was approaching my retirement years.  I wanted to do something more meaningful as I closed out my working career.”

Paul searched for teaching opportunities that allowed him the opportunity to provide academic support to disadvantaged students. There were several that caught his attention, but ultimately, SAGA stood out among the rest.  Along his search, he discovered how “incredibly expensive” quality tutoring can be for students, and was hopeful to get the chance to be part of a program that provides tutoring to students at no cost to them or their families. 

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“I chose SAGA because I believe in what we are trying to do.  I looked into other opportunities as an educator, but I believed this program was the best fit for me and had the greatest potential for good.”

As a Fellow at Amundsen and Wells High Schools, Paul learned SAGA’s tutoring methods and took part in a unique, intensive teaching role that bound him closely to his students. The learning process was a shift from his old job as a system analyst, yet he caught on quickly. Aside from teaching math, Paul discovered that many of these students had the potential to do well, but had—at some point—fallen through the cracks of the academic system. By connecting to his students on a personal level, Paul has seen tremendous growth in their grades.

“I love having the opportunity to change the direction of my students in a significant way.  I have seen student grades improve as much as 45 points since the beginning of the year.   One student went from 77% to 95% in her math class and earned a place on the honor roll.”

When asked how he connects to students, Paul says that he tries to show the rewards of learning that will last them past their time in high school. By encouraging his students to think past graduation and into their adult lives, Paul has found that students work with purpose, and it reflects in their grades.

“I have seen the confidence of the students grow significantly and their dreams expand.  My hope is to broaden their possibilities for the future through hard work and determination.”

 

Dan Heymann, SAGA Fellow, New York City

Before moving to the United States several decades ago, Dan Heymann was a musician touring in his native homeland of South Africa. He and his band wrote songs in protest of apartheid while the world watched a nation in crisis—divided by race and fighting their way towards equality. For Dan, music was a chance to fight for social justice.

After the band dissolved, Dan moved to the United States and found work in the corporate world as a data analyst. He had previously earned his college degree at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and quickly became part of a corporation staffed with tens of thousands of employees. Things were going well until the economic depression of 2008 left Dan out of work and turned business prospects inside out. He was left with a choice: would he continue on in the corporate world, or look for more meaningful work?

Dan chose to become a tutor; he held a degree in engineering and knew he could find work teaching math and sciences. After six or seven years as a successful tutor, he learned about SAGA and became interested in applying for a Fellow position.

“The reason why I chose SAGA is very simple: it’s two-on-one tutoring!” Dan says. “Having tried, on one unhappy occasion, to explain the SAT to a roomful of twenty kids, I knew that a two-on-one model had to be far more effective.”

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He was accepted for a position as a Fellow at Teller Academy in New York City, and began work with SAGA in 2015. For Dan, social justice was in his bones—he’d sung songs about apartheid and cared deeply about all races and creeds getting a fair shot in life. As he continued on tutoring through SAGA into 2016 and now 2017, he’s learned that his work also helps fulfill the shortage of social justice that the world needs.

“When I learned that SAGA services less-affluent kids, I felt that here was a way to help my adopted country. I grew up fighting discrimination in South Africa, and talented kids shouldn’t be short-changed by the public-school system simply because of their neighborhood.”

In just a short amount of time, Dan was able to see the impact of his work as a SAGA Fellow.

“I worked with a student who had floundered academically in his large classroom but, thanks to the personal attention offered by SAGA, burst into our room to announce that he’d passed math and would be able to graduate. I’ve also gotten to know super-talented kids whom—after working with SAGA and raising their grades—have become inspired to apply for NYC’s Specialized High Schools.”

When the 2008 depression happened, Dan could have fallen back into another corporate job. Instead he took a chance on tutoring and, through his efforts and the efforts of his students, has seen tremendous progress both inwardly and out. In the fall of 2017, Dan began his third academic year with SAGA and hopes to continue tutoring with the program for the foreseeable future.



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