NEWTON — Neil Chyten was an English major who never thought about being a teacher. His first job after college was with a private educational company that sent him around the country to teach study skills.
“On my second day in front of a class, something kicked in that was magical and life-changing,” he said. “I felt I had found something I could be passionate about.”
That passion led him to open the Chyten Education Center in his hometown of Newton in 1999. Today, there are 38 Chyten Centers, from Massachusetts to California, and more than 35,000 students have been supported and gained a passion for learning via the Chyten tutoring, test preparation, reading, study skills, writing and math programs.
“Education helps people at the precipice of life. Anything you do for a child will change the course of his life,” Chyten said. “If you get a child motivated to want to succeed, you can change her trajectory.”
Chyten began as a private tutor. He worked full-time for 12 years, often spending hours in his car driving from appointment to appointment. One day while stuck in traffic, he called his brother to vent his frustration. His brother replied, “Why don’t you open up a center?”
It was an epiphany. The following year, Chyten opened the doors at 1280 Centre St. in Newton. The enterprise quickly became profitable, and in 2001 Chyten opened a second center in Wellesley. Sales from these two centers soon went over $1 million, and he opened several more centers and franchises across the country.
Chyten attributes his success to three things: “We care about our clients, we have spectacular tutors and we developed our own curriculum.” “Tutors are more than teachers,” he explained. “They must be mentors, role models, guides, leaders, problem solvers and strategists. There are unique and creative methods to solve problems, which our tutors help students uncover.”
Chyten only hires tutors with master’s degrees. “That gives me a baseline understanding of a person I’m hiring,” he said. “To earn a master’s degree, you have to be a believer in education, persistent and reliable.”
Chyten and his staff develop their own materials, based on the best methodology to help students answer test questions. Their method incorporates more than a dozen proprietary strategies for taking SAT and ACT tests.
“We teach from the inside out,” he explained. “If a student understands the nature of the question and answer, and how the test works, he or she will have a different outcome.”
Chyten helps parents unravel the different tests, advising when their teens should take them. “We help parents understand the difference between ACT, SAT and SAT subject tests,” he said. “We work with parents to set up a testing schedule for their child that will yield the best results.”
After a teen takes a practice test, Chyten generates what he calls the MagnosticTM diagnostic report. Each family is then offered a free consultation. A tutor analyzes the results and uses the information to tailor tutoring sessions to meet the individual needs of that student.
How did Chyten himself do on the SATs? Back in high school, he earned respectable scores in the 600s (old scale). But unlike today’s students, Chyten had never seen or practiced the SAT test. Since becoming a tutor and developing strategies for test taking, he has taken the SAT a number of times, and has received several perfect scores.
Looking ahead, the entrepreneur is taking the Chyten Center in Newton in a new direction by creating programs geared to families with children in grades 3-8. Through the ESTEEM (English, Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurism, Mathematics) program, students write books and drama dictionaries, and present ideas in a “Shark Tank Jr.,“ modeled after the popular TV show.
“The Jewish population in this area is very high aspiring,” Chyten explained. “Ultimately, we as parents want to know we have done everything possible to ensure our children will have the opportunity to be happy and successful in life. I believe the way to go about that is to get them engaged in the learning process as early as possible. That is why we built ESTEEM, and continue to create programs that are engaging, rewarding, enriching and educational.”
Massachusetts locations include Andover, Beverly, Framingham, Lexington, Millis, Newton, Wellesley and Westford. Visit chyten.com.