Story by Morgan Fliss

As the end of the school year quickly approaches, standardized testing begins, which brings stress to both students and parents. This leads parents to constantly wonder what they can do to help their kids prepare for these exams and provide enrichment. Look no further than the Kumon Math and Reading program currently available in the East Lake area! This proven academic system is the world’s most successful after school program, and currently serves more than 4.2 million children and their families worldwide.

Donna Renaud is the owner and lead instructor of the Kumon Math and Reading Center of East Lake. She works with a passion to make sure that all students succeed in their education. Prior to owning Kumon, Donna worked in the financial industry for over 30 years, retiring from her position as Senior Vice President and Senior Portfolio Manager with Northern Trust Asset Management. Donna obtained a Bachelor’s Degree from Pennsylvania State University, a Master’s degree from Arizona State University, and is a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Heidi DePadua is the other lead instructor of the Kumon center. Heidi taught for several years in the Florida public school system in Pinellas and Pasco counties as a classroom teacher and a reading specialist. She also previously owned the Kumon Math and Reading Center located in Dunedin, Florida. Heidi holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Florida and a Master’s in Education from Western Governors University. 

As highly trained Kumon instructors, Donna and Heidi work to create individualized plans for every student. Kumon provides a structured program for math and reading for children of all ages and grades, starting as early as pre-K and age 3. According to Donna, “whether your child’s goal is enrichment or catching up to grade level, Kumon works to ensure success and nurture a love for learning.”  The math program is a step by step curriculum that builds the foundational skills needed to progress through high school math and calculus. The reading program starts with basic phonics and sight words and progresses through sentence and paragraph construction, reading comprehension, summarization, and interpretation up to the high school level. 

At the Center, students can work through math, reading, or both subjects at their own pace allowing them to maximize their learning and build a strong foundation. “Topics are presented in a logical progression, with students only moving to a higher level only when they demonstrate mastery of their current level based on accuracy, time to do the work, and passing each level’s achievement test,” Donna said.  East Lake Kumon serves students of all ages and backgrounds. “We have students from ages 3 through high school, some are very advanced, some are behind grade level, some have learning disabilities, and some have English as a second language. “The Kumon method helps them all,” said Donna.

One of the most important aspects of Kumon is its connection to international standards, which prepares students for challenges they might see after high school. “As Kumon is an international company, we have student performance data from around the world for comparison. As a result, student performance can be compared to international standards, not just Florida standards.  Given we are now a global society, Kumon helps students compete against kids all over the world,” Donna said. 

Kumon uses a number of incentive programs that help students gain a true passion for learning. Every year, children in the program are invited to participate in an award ceremony where they receive medals and trophies for working hard and reaching certain levels of achievement. Students may also participate in the Kumon+ program that rewards students with points that can be used to buy a variety of large ticket items including a Microsoft X-box and a Sony PS4.  In addition, students earn “Kumon dollars” in the Center for daily work that they can spend on various small items offered in a store located inside of the center. “These programs teach students about earning, saving, and making decisions on their own. They also make learning fun and motivating,” Donna said.

To schedule a free orientation, call the Kumon Math and Reading Center of East Lake. Students will be given a free placement test to determine their starting point and likely progression rate through the program. “With Kumon, it is critical that we start them at a point where they are very comfortable and find the work very easy to start while they get used to the discipline. We also want to make sure all learning gaps are filled in,” Donna said. Once the starting point is determined, students visit the center twice a week after school, do their Kumon classwork, and then are assigned 15-20 minutes of Kumon homework a night, per subject. “It’s like learning a musical instrument. You don’t start off playing Beethoven, you start with basics and then you practice and move up gradually as you gain more skill.” 

Kumon Math and Reading Center of East Lake is located at 800 TARPON WOODS BLVD SUITE A-1, PALM HARBOR, FL 34685 Phone: 727.437.1900. Visit them online at https://www.kumon.com/east-lake-fl/