Overachieving mathematical biologist Penelope Reyes-Jorge found that one of her most valued successes is guiding her tutees towards their own.
A University of the Philippines (UP) and De La Salle University (DLSU) professor. A postgraduate research fellow from the University of New South Wales (UNSW). A mathematical biologist involved in infectious disease modelling and health economics.
Sydneysider Penelope Reyes-Jorge has a multitude of impressive titles under her belt, but the distinction she found to be her ultimate calling is Teacher Penelope, a tutor to her young students.
"After teaching Maths in UP and DLSU, I wanted to explore other research opportunities. That's what brought me to Sydney and UNSW where I did Maths in Biology which was pretty cool," she shares, adding, "While I did my PhD, I taught Life Science because I always wanted to have that connection to students."
A student she certainly connected with and who led her to shifting careers was her eldest daughter, Sophia. She says Sophia inspired her through "her interest in understanding the world through formal schooling."
Penelope shares that she spent a lot of time tutoring her first-born once she entered primary school. Because Penelope was known in her circles as a trained mathematician, other families soon became interested in joining the Maths program she was teaching Sophia.
"I was tutoring at the same time I was doing research in university. I thought, I would give it a shot. It turns out a lot of families needed help. I was happy to help, so I decided to give it a go."
Penelope believed that her decision to leave the academe to concentrate on raising her girls and running a tutorial business was a "no-brainer".
Although Penelope has been informally tutoring students for several years, her tutorial centre has only been operational for a few months as a business. As a fully-functioning service, Penelope joined tutorial networking groups and, obtained a membership with the Australian Tutoring Association and appropriate checks to work with children.
"I've also converted one of my rooms at home into a classroom. I have resources I've collected over the years - books, technology devices for students to work on. It's a typical classroom you would find in university or high school where there’s a space for students to write, to read and to discuss in small groups," she shares.
While some tutors do home visits, Penelope has chosen not to due to her belief that doing so might be an "inefficient use of time".
"I've come to realise that it’s important to take the child out of his comfort zone physically, to have him focus on the task at hand. That’s my philosophy with learning. Even myself, when I'm left in my space, [I get distracted.] Am I supposed to do work? Or am I supposed to rest?"
Although Penelope is working from home, there certainly is no time for rest for this mum and business owner. She runs the tutorial centre on her own, handling both administrative tasks and running tutorial sessions focused on young pupils.
"I have two main groups - primary and high school students. For me, uni students are easier to deal with; but with younger kids, there's more involvement. They are in the age that they are like sponges. They learn quicker and are more impressionable," she shares.
Penelope shares that these impressionable students benefit greatly from smaller groups and one-on-one academic help.
"It's an advantage that I have over larger tutorial centres - I'm able to give more time to students. People have different learning styles. Tutoring allows me to adjust to the pace of kids."
And while it is important to adjust to each child, Penelope also emphasises her belief that her students are not her only clients - families are as well.
"You're not the only one teaching the child. It’s really an effort between you and families. I always provide feedback to parents so that learning continues even outside our sessions," Penelope shares, adding, "This makes learning more wholistic."