Mark Prelli is a SmartStart virtual tutor who is currently placed in Fairfield Public Schools, located in Connecticut. He was hired in Spring, 2022 to help students with both math and science but said he has tutored nearly every subject offered at the school.
Background & Education:
Prelli completed his undergraduate degree at Bates College in 2003. He earned a degree in mathematics and minored in both computer science and philosophy. In 2004, he completed the Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates (TCPCG) at the University of Connecticut to earn a master’s in mathematical education.
His educational teaching background includes working as a math tutor for Naugatuck Community College, as well as teaching math at a bootcamp hosted at Northwestern Community College. In addition, he was a math instructor for middle, high and college level mathematics programs with various educational institutions.
His decision to work for SmartStart was driven by his need for flexibility. “When I began, I was in a position where I needed more time to help my family members. Although they have since recovered, I found I enjoyed the position so much that I wanted to keep tutoring,” he said. He added that his passion for teaching was driven by his love for helping people.
During the pandemic, Prelli, like most educators, experienced the challenges of teaching curriculum both in-person and online at the same time. He said he had to work very hard to do both, but always felt it was difficult to keep up. He did find that his students adjusted easily to remote learning. “I think they were more comfortable doing work remotely and were able to accomplish as much, if not, more,” he said.
Insights and Inspiration:
Teaching does bring surprises and joy. Prelli said he’s amazed at how insightful students are. “I feel I really get to know their interests and what they care about. I have found they really want to improve the world around them, both their immediate community and the world at large. I love the “aha” moment when someone, who has had a productive struggle, overcomes something difficult.” In addition, Prelli said he enjoys when students talk about how they gained the ability to accomplish something they thought was impossible.
Prelli said that one of his most memorable teaching experiences happened when he “gamified” his lesson. “We used to take a hike with our seniors and had them participate in contests like finding the largest rock or leaf and then would do team building exercises during lunch,” he said. “We would also look out from the tower at the colleges to help them visualize where they could go and what they could achieve. It was a great chance to build rapport while allowing them the freedom to explore.”