More than offering a tutoring service, Sylvan Learning co-owners Charlene and Ron Kautzman, and Kristel Callahan describe their business as a resource for those looking to acquire skills necessary for success — in academics and in life. The three own and operate Sylvan Learning offices in Butte and Helena, both of which are accredited by the Northwest Accrediting Commission.  

“We do everything from pre-kindergarten to adult,” Ron Kautzman said.

“We can tailor a program to meet any need,” Charlene Kautzman added.

Starting with children as young as 4 ½, certified Sylvan teachers work to help prepare kids for the move into kindergarten.

“Parents think kindergarten is the same as it was when they went, but it’s not,” Callahan said.

Increased emphasis on reading can leave some children struggling in a large classroom.

“They are now reading in kindergarten … our pre-K program prepares children for kindergarten,” Charlene Kautzman said.

Services for grade school students focus on beginning to advanced reading and math skills, including basic math, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus and calculus. Sylvan teachers work with a variety of curriculum, choosing the best one to teach the concept to the students.

“We can do English or math courses for credit at the high school level,” Ron Kautzman said.

For the higher grades, students often are looking for help with college preparation. 

“We do study skills, academic writing, and ACT and SAT prep classes,” Ron Kautzman said.

Sylvan also contracts with local school districts to provide supplemental education services for No Child Left Behind, Charlene Kautzman added.

For students with a busy schedule or located too far from a Sylvan Learning office, Sylvan offers an online option for those looking to take advantage of their services. Through advanced technology, Students can access live, real time assistance during evenings and weekends hours when local offices are closed, Callahan said.

Sylvan offers a college prep package including advanced reading, college preparatory writing and ACT/SAT prep, as well as providing assistance to adults looking for help with professional exams, ranging from plumbing licensure to nursing certification.

Evaluations of potential students at Sylvan begin with an assessment.

“We identify the individual needs and custom design the program based on what we find with the Sylvan Skills Assessment.” Charlene Kautzman said.

Once the student’s needs, strengths and weaknesses are determined, a schedule is set up to address their needs and set learning goals and progress assessments. 

In most cases, students work with certified teachers in a ratio of three students to one teacher, or less. Summer camps and ACT/SAT classes have a higher ratio, but are limited to 10 students per teacher, Callahan added.

The smaller ratio of students to teacher, allows students to have ample one on one time with their instructors, while giving them some time to work on skills on their own to develop self confidence.

“We build their self esteem and that gets them motivated to learn,” said Stauna Mandic, a certified Sylvan teacher with over 25 years experience in the field of education.

Mandic said that most of her students come in for assistance with reading, writing, and math.

“We also have a lot to offer adults, as well,” she said.

Over the past few months, Mandic was busy helping students avoid the “summer slump” that can occur during the annual summer vacation.

“We try to make it fun,” she said.

During the school year, Mandic works with students looking for help in particular areas or trying to keep a competitive edge, academically. Mandic said she found her work at Sylvan to be rewarding. “It’s really great work to help them get there,” she said.

With grade school students, Sylvan uses motivators, where students earn tokens that can be used in the Sylvan Store at the Sylvan offices or on line at the Sylvan Web site. Rewards range from trinkets and toys for young children to gas cards and iPod cards and gift certificates for teens.

For more about Sylvan in Helena, call 443-9205, email , or visit">

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