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Customer Story

Transforming Student Support with Pear Deck Tutor in California's Perris Union High School District

Discover how Pear Deck Tutor offers a lifeline for student support in the post-pandemic era, enhancing engagement and understanding.

Mark Synnott, coordinator of educational services at the Perris Union High School District in California, knows better than anyone that every lesson shapes the future of the students in his district. His story isn't just about adapting to change — it's about thriving in it.

A seasoned educator with a tech background as well as a stage three cancer survivor, he found his calling amidst extreme adversity. After beating this illness, he knew he wanted to live for something more. He discovered a passion for education and was driven to make a difference in the lives of young learners, more recently by ensuring they received the support they so desperately needed in a post-pandemic world.

Bringing teaching and learning support to the classroom 

Celebrating 17 years in education this year, Mark's journey now intersects with Pear Deck Tutor, his strongest partner in supporting students. But before Pear Deck Tutor, there were challenges as teachers and students grappled with the aftermath of disrupted learning.

“After the pandemic, we struggled in every aspect. We began with a significant focus on mental health, which was excellent. We had teachers returning who just endured the struggle of distance learning, undoubtedly the toughest period of their whole careers. Nobody had scheduled for the pandemic; it wasn't on our Google Calendar. Now the students were returning. Consequently, everyone was trying to figure out how we could provide extra support to teachers and students. We needed more humans for our kids. That's where tutoring came in.”

Choosing a tutoring platform to support their needs 

The transition from traditional methods to Pear Deck Tutor wasn't just a shift — it was a huge leap forward. Initially, Perris Union was using a competitor to Pear Deck Tutor to provide online tutoring to their district. Mark recalls the initial skepticism towards switching from the previous platform the district was using.

"When I first did a demo call with Pear Deck Tutor...it was half the price," he explained. “But it wasn't just about cost; it was about how the students engage with the platform.” 

Many students in his district struggle with reading and writing at grade level. Their previous system only enabled students to type to communicate, whereas Pear Deck Tutor enables written, audio, and visual chat functions.

“I was a reading intervention teacher. If I were to stick one of my reading intervention kids on this platform, it doesn’t matter if they’re 13 or 14, they may be reading at a second-grade level and learning how to spell. And we’re going to stick them all on a platform and tell them to type to a tutor?” 

Pear Deck Tutor's student-centered approach, with audio communication features and personalized tutoring, resonated deeply. “[With Pear Deck Tutor], the big thing was the audio.”

"With only typing, you’re doing patchwork tutoring. It’s only for the kids that can do it and excel at it. The kids who can’t articulate their struggles through typing on a screen, especially in Math, aren’t going to do it. How is that equitable for anyone?" Mark emphasized, stressing the importance of choosing a platform that would meet the needs of all students. 

A human-centered approach to tutoring

Mark highlighted the importance of using a tutoring platform that’s not only accessible but also fosters a more human connection. He specifically praised Pear Deck Tutor for incorporating audio and visual elements that enhance the learning experience. Moreover, he pointed out the platform's unique features that facilitate building relationships between tutors and students. One such feature is the option for students to favorite a tutor, which strengthens the bond and personal connection within the educational process.

“Relationships and teaching are everything. We always hear the quote, ‘They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ If you’re putting a student on a platform and saying just type to a random person on the other side, that’s not a relationship.”

Show and tell

Implementation wasn't without its challenges, but Mark's strategic approach paved the way for success along with support from the team at Pear Deck Tutor. From district-wide meetings to targeted outreach, every step was deliberate.

“Since I’m an admin, my first job was to talk about Pear Deck Tutor in every admin meeting. You have to start there.”

Mark traveled around the district to each school site with other district admin and service teams to connect with the school staff members. During the meetings, Mark shared with staff that the district was implementing a new tutoring platform, focusing on the challenges students were facing with the previous platform and how Pear Deck Tutor could address those challenges. Once he shared about the ability for students to connect with tutors over audio and video, as well as the option to favorite a tutor, the teachers were on board.

Working with the Pear Deck Tutor team to get flyers for Pear Deck Tutor in English and Spanish to spread the word, these flyers were displayed in school hallways and parent liaison areas, as well as in areas for English Language support. Mark set aside time with English Language Learner teachers to help build awareness and confidence in the platform.

“I conducted a live tutoring session twice with about 30-40 EL teachers in the room with me online with an actual Pear Deck Tutor instructor. We did a fake practice problem and they got to see it in action and experience being with a tutor live on the screen. We all loved the tutor. She was so great! She also spoke to us in English and Spanish. Now in every single meeting, I'm a broken record - Pear Deck Tutor is here to help us help students."

Building a culture around student-driven support with online tutoring 

Flyers adorned classrooms and live tutoring sessions captivated students — Pear Deck Tutor became more than a tool; it became a lifeline for student success.

Mark notes how Pear Deck Tutor is impacting student achievement, particularly in math. “Looking at the tutoring sessions, I noticed high usage in math. I saw one session where a student was on Pear Deck Tutor for two hours with a tutor, and at the end of the session, they thanked the tutor and said, ‘Thank you so much, I’ve actually learned math tonight. I wasn’t able to learn this in my classroom because I’ve been absent and I’m always behind since Covid. I need extra help, and I need it explained again to me when I’m doing homework.’” 

The impact was palpable — learners found solace in late-night tutoring sessions and Mark even had parents whose children were outside of the district clamoring for access.

When looking at usage statistics, he knew he had found the right tool. “I’ve seen kids trying to schedule time with their favorite tutor. They’re trying to grab time later or after dinner, and that’s beautiful to see.”

“Students know about [Pear Deck Tutor] and that’s the big thing. They talk to each other. Usage can always go up. There are still kids who need help. They need some encouragement to face the hurdle of getting online and talking to another human being. That’s a major hurdle I’m still navigating. My next idea is to present to students in their classrooms and do a sample tutoring session with them so they can see how easy it is.”

Amidst it all, English Language Learner students have also found a voice, aided by Spanish-speaking tutors and tailored support. 

"It's about getting kids on board, breaking down barriers," Mark affirmed, underscoring the importance of inclusivity in education.

Supporting students any time, any place

As Mark's journey with Pear Deck Tutor continues, his mission remains unwavering: to empower students, break down language barriers, and transform education from within. 

"It's about the kids, it's about making a difference, it’s what we are here for," he concluded, a testament to the enduring spirit of innovation in the face of adversity. With Pear Deck Tutor by his side, the journey towards student success continues one breakthrough at a time.