Meet Andy McClellan

We are back with another chance to meet one of our awesome tutors. This month we talked to Andy McClellan.

Andy grew up right here in Cincinnati. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in communication from University of Cincinnati. After graduating from UC, Andy found a marketing job working for Cincinnati Nature Center, where he quickly fell in love with the natural world and sharing that joy with others, especially children. He transferred to the education department where he delivered outdoor education programs, developed curriculum for field trips, and trained volunteers. This work led him to realize the impact he could make in the classroom when he would have long-term relationships with students and families. He decided to go back to school to earn a Master’s in Montessori education at Xavier, and later he began working for Cincinnati Public Schools; he stills works there today.

He is a 4th-6th grade math and science teacher at North Avondale Montessori School. He is also the Outdoor Resource Coordinator at his school. This was a position Andy applied for when he saw how many natural resources could be utilized to enhance students’ learning experience. Since he started in this role at NAM, they have added a pollinator garden, two outdoor learning spaces, refurbished a greenhouse, and reopened the old trail system in the woods behind the school. Amazing!

How long have you been tutoring with Connections?

I have been tutoring with Connections since March 2019.

What's your favorite thing about tutoring?

I love the individualized experience that tutoring offers, both to me and to my students. In my classroom it’s challenging to give my full attention to each of the 30 students, but during a tutoring session I am able to pick up on all the little details and hidden strengths that contribute to a child’s unique learning style.

What is the best book you've read in the last year?

"Creative Quest" by Questlove.

How would you spend a free Saturday afternoon?

Hiking with my wife and my dog, or rock climbing at Red River Gorge.

You just won an all expenses paid vacation! Where are you going?

Anywhere with things to climb and good food to eat! I would probably pick the Verdon River Gorge in the South of France. Beautiful scenery and enough climbing to keep me busy for quite awhile!

Thanks, Andy! We are so glad to have you on the Connections team, and we love the passion you bring to education!


Meet Katherine Hanson

We are talking with another one of our amazing tutors this week! Come meet Katherine Hanson!

Katherine’s family moved frequently while she was growing up. She lived in Ohio, Arizona, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Kentucky. That said, she claims Cincinnati as home! Katherine completed her undergraduate degree at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, where she majored in English and concentrated in Peace & Conflict Studies. After teaching for three years, she went back to school to study Education Policy and its implications for equity in education at Columbia University. She earned her M.A. in 2017.

Her entire career has been in education. She’s been a teacher, a Dean of Faculty, an Instructional Coach, an education policy analyst in the office of one of Ohio's state senators, and an education researcher. Currently, she works for a fantastic organization called The Opportunity Network, which is based in New York. The Opportunity Network connects students from historically and systematically underrepresented communities to college access and success, internships, career opportunities, and personal and professional networks. She directs the organization's data management, evaluation, and decision science activities in addition to managing a caseload of amazing college students.

How long have you been tutoring with Connections?

I have been tutoring with Connections since September 2017!

What's your favorite thing about tutoring?

Nothing gives me joy quite like working with young people. I aspire for my students to be independent learners with healthy growth mindsets. My pedagogy leans less on direct instruction, and more on building the habits of independent learning. My favorite moments are those when I can see my students flex these habits — when they say things like, "I don't know that word. We should look it up;" or "I want to work on this part of the assignment, but I need to review the chapter first.

What is the best book you've read in the last year?

Toni Morrison is my favorite author, and I'm working my way through her anthology. Earlier this year, I read Song of Solomon, which deeply moved me.

How would you spend a free Saturday afternoon?

I would exercise with my dog, Oakley, take care of my dozens of plants, and meet up with friends for a beer. Preferably outside, on a deck.

You just won an all expenses paid vacation! Where are you going?

I'm at my happiest when I am in the mountains, so you can take me anywhere above 8000' elevation and I will be thrilled. If you back me into a corner, I'll put off the trip for a year so that I can train aggressively to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania!

Thank you, Katherine, for all you do for Connections!


Meet John Christiansen

This month we are talking with another great tutor, John Christiansen

John grew up in Hollis, New Hampshire, a small town about 45 minutes north of Boston. So yes, you can assume he is an insufferable Patriots fan. Having lived through the dark times when he was a kid, he is now basking in the past 20 years. “It will end soon, I know this, and retribution from my students will be merciless.

John earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Grinnell College in 1998 and a Master’s in Mathematics from Wesleyan University in 2005. For almost fifteen years he and his wife, Laura, taught at boarding schools in New England. During that time, he was a dorm head, a head baseball coach, assistant football coach, among a myriad of other responsibilities. 

Currently, he is the Director of Scheduling, Dean of Students for the 11th and 12th grades, and Upper School math teacher at Cincinnati Country Day School.

How long have you been tutoring with Connections?

This is my first year with Connections.

What's your favorite thing about tutoring?

The “click” moments. Tutoring is not about content delivery; it is about the establishment of trust. Students are seeking you out because they are having real struggles and that is not comfortable for them. At the start they are almost always hopeful, but in the back of their minds they are usually asking, “how is this arbitrary stranger going to be able to help me?” The “click” moments are the times when a student you are working with finally understands something. Not just the mechanics they are doing, but why they are doing those mechanics. My goal is to help students have more and more of those moments so that they can use them to grow. I want them to be able to analyze what they have done differently to master the material and apply those new skills going forward. I also want to build up a history of success so when new material is presented and they feel overwhelmed, they can rely on all the successes they have had in the past and know they can and will master this topic as well.

What is the best book you've read in the last year?

This one is so easy. This year I have been reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to my children. I love fantasy books and getting to share these with my kids has been excellent.  A fun side benefit is that I let them watch the movies after the books, and they are both talking to the TV (just like their mom does) saying things like, “That is not even anywhere in the book!!!!”  It just makes me smile.

How would you spend a free Saturday afternoon?

This has to be a two-part answer: with and without kids. With my kids, we would go for a hike in the nature center or get on the bike trail up to Loveland. If I was by myself, I would put 50 – 70 miles on my bicycle, stopping for refreshments as needed in the different towns along the way. 

You just won an all expenses paid vacation! Where are you going?

If it is just me, I am putting it off for a year and training like mad to go to France. There is this small group that allows qualified cyclists (hence the need to train) to ride the official Tour de France route the day before the race. Basically, you are riding all the stages for three weeks that the tour teams are riding, just the day before as the close and clean the course.  I would love to do some of the historic climbs. If it was me and my family, we would head to New Zealand for 7-8 weeks (we do get summers off after all) and just explore and say “yes, and…….” to every crazy suggestion. 

Thank you, John! We love having you on the Connections team!

John and his family at Yellowstone.

John and his family at Yellowstone.

Written by Joy Becker, Mentoring Coordinator.

2019 Summer Reading Recommendations


Summer is here! What are you reading? If you’re still looking for the perfect books, Connections has got you covered!

Upper Elementary & Middle School

The Wild Robot: This books deserves its spot on the bestseller list! When Roz, a discarded robot, finds himself shipwrecked on a remote island, he learns from the unwelcoming animals in order to survive. This book is the perfect combination of robots and wilderness. It is heartwarming and heartbreaking, and as soon as you finish, you’ll run to the library to check out the next book, The Wild Robot Escapes.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy: This graphic novel mixes summer adventure, mystery, and friendship into a great story! Follow five best friends as they spend the summer at Lumberjane Scout Camp. Some creepy things are happening at camp, and these quirky, fun girls are ready to band together! And good news- there are over 60 books in this series! Your summer reading list is set!

The Last Kids on Earth Series: This New York Times Bestselling series is another binge worthy read for the summer! Hang out with Jack Sullivan and his friends as they navigate life after the Monster Apocalypse. They are living in a tricked-out tree house, avoiding zombies, battling evil world-destroying monsters, and generally treating life like it's the best video game ever!

High School

Two Can Keep a Secret: Love a good thriller? Look no further! Author, Karen M. McManus, is quickly becoming the queen of young adult suspense. Her breakout novel, One of Us Is Lying was a New York Times Bestseller, and her new book, Two Can Keep A Secret is another must read. Echo Ridge is a picture-perfect ,small town, but Ellery is soon immersed in its hidden secrets when she moves there to live with a grandmother she barely knows. Ellery will soon learn that secrets are safest when kept to yourself.      

Nyxia Uprising: This highly anticipated final book of the Nyxia Tirad just came out in April. Summer is the perfect time to binge a good series, and this fast-paced, deep space adventure will hook sci-fi lovers of all ages! Fans of Hunger Games and Maze Runner have just found their next read.

Night Music: This book is the ultimate summer romance, ready to keep you entertained at the pool! Set in a New York City summer, Ruby and Oscar are both sorting out big questions like purpose and identity as they struggle to find themselves as musicians.

And check out last summer’s recommendations, too!

Meet Allyson Schuler

This week we are chatting with Allyson Schuler, a Cincinnati native!

Allyson grew up in Fairfield and returned to Cincinnati after graduate school. She studied horn performance at the Eastman School of Music and economics at the University of Rochester, earning a BM in Applied Music and a BA in economics, respectively. During both her undergrad and graduate studies, she worked with the Concert and Events Offices at her schools. She started as an usher and was promoted to a head usher, and then worked as a Crew and House Manager in graduate school. The best part was being able to hear amazing concerts, recitals, and guest speakers.

After she completed her undergraduate degree, she lived in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina for a year playing fourth horn with the Sarajevo Philharmonia. She had a wonderful time playing classical and pops concerts as well as performing for operas and ballets. She traveled with the orchestra to other cities in Bosnia and on a tour to Northern Italy.

Allyson returned to the US for her Masters of Music at the University of Delaware. While there, she toured with the UD Wind Ensemble to Taiwan in 2015 and to the CBDNA 2016 Convention in New London, Connecticut, and toured Washington D.C. with the UD Symphony Orchestra.

When she returned to Cincinnati she started her own horn studio and have been building it since then. Like tutoring, she gets to work individually with students and can focus on their strengths, weaknesses, and help them improve and grow as musicians. She had the opportunity to perform with orchestras like the Lexington Philharmonic and the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra.

How long have you been tutoring with Connections?

I started tutoring with Connections in the Fall of 2017. I help most of my students with math classes like Algebra I, II, and Geometry, and I have a few beginner French students. The “ah-ha” moments are great! So many of my students know more than they think they do, they may just need something explained differently or with an extra step. I love when students reflect on a type of problem that originally seemed very complicated and challenging, but a few weeks later they can work through it like it’s as easy as adding. Like horn, practice really helps math skills.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year?

The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey. He discusses getting out of your own way, removing judgement from the learning process to become a better tennis play. It applies very well to horn playing and teaching, and learning new things in general.

How would you spend a free Saturday afternoon?

Free Saturday afternoons are usually spent with my family. I have a nephew who will be 1 this summer. He can almost walk and just learned how to clap. I love being an aunty and watching him learn new things and try new foods. Everything is so exciting for him.

You just won an all expenses paid vacation! Where are you going?

I’m going back to Europe! My favorite city in all of my travels is Berlin. I would love to explore more of Germany, maybe practice the little bit of German I have learned since my first trip. I wasn’t able to see the Berlin Philharmonic while I was there, so I would love to hear them and other outstanding orchestras. 

Thank you, Ally, for being such an important part of the Connections Team!


Written by Joy Becker, Mentoring Coordinator.

Summer in the City

Memorial Day weekend makes the perfect official kick off to summer, so I think it is safe to say that summer is finally here! Pools are opening, school is ending, and bedtime is being pushed back as we enjoy the warm evenings. This is the time to start looking into all that Cincinnati has to offer this summer! Here are a few suggestions to get you started, and as an added bonus, many events are FREE!


  • Several movie theaters around the city, including Esquire Theatre, Kenwood Theatre and Mariemont Theatres offer FREE kids’ movies every Monday and Thursday morning, June 4 – August 2. Doors open at 9:45 am, and movies begin at 10:30 am. It’s first-come, first-serve, so arrive early.

  • Or take your popcorn outside and watch your movie beneath the stars! Parks all over Cincinnati are showing family movies throughout the summer. Stay up late, grab a lawn chair or blanket, and enjoy a FREE movie at the following locations. Check out all the details in the links below.

Washington Park

June 5: The Secret Life of Pets

June 12: Mulan

June 19: The Devil Wears Prada

June 26: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

July 3: Top Gun

July 10: The Little Rascals

July 17: Ratatouille

July 24: The Fast and Furious

August 7: E.T.

August 14: Dead Poet Society

August 21: 10 Things I Hate About You

Deerfield Township

June 28: Herbie Fully Loaded at Cottell Park

July 26: Bumblebee at Landen-Deerfield Park

August 23: Disney’s Christopher Robin at Cottell Park

Sept. 17: Mary Poppins Returns at Fleckenstein Park

Liberty Center

June 4: Ghostbusters

June 11: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

June 18: Matilda

June 25: Space Jam

July 2: The Goonies

July 9: Jumanji (original)

July 16: Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

July 23: Babe

July 30: How To Train Your Dragon 3

August 6: The Little Rascals

August 13: Jurassic Park [PG -13]

August 20: E.T.

August 27: Back to the Future


There is no shortage of music filling the city this summer, so check out these FREE concerts!

  • Head on over to Washington Park for Friday Flow, a FREE R&B series, 7-10pm starting May 31.

  • The City of Blue Ash has FREE concerts on Tuesday nights at 7pm (Blue Ash Nature Park) and Friday nights at 8pm (Blue Ash Towne Square).

  • Newport on the Levee has its Summer Concert Series featuring live music on the large patio every Thursday evening from 7-10pm.

  • Mark your calendar for June 8, and come on out to Summit Park for the second annual, SummitFest. Come hear Lee Brice, with Tyler Farr perform for audiences at this FREE, family-friendly country music festival. The festival is from 2-11 pm, and the day will be filled with food vendors, food trucks, and plenty of fun for the whole family!

  • The Clifton Cultural Arts Center celebrates summer with 11 weeks of FREE music! Each week also features local food vendors, and beer available for purchase from Fifty West Brewing Company. Concert goers are encouraged to bring product donations to benefit neighbors in needs. In the months of May and June, Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement will be collecting donations. All concerts are at the Burnet Woods Bandstand. You can see the lineup for this free concert series and more information about donations right here.

  • Cincinnati Opera in the Park offers a FREE outdoor concert on June 9 at Washington Park.



  • Shakespeare in the Park kicks off with free community performances in June.

  • The City Flea is an exciting free event in Washington Park with indie crafters, great food, and more. Summer markets will be June 15 and July 20. Kids have a chance to showcase and sell their goods on August 17 during Kids Market. City Flea begins at 10am which gives you plenty of time to grab a donut at Holtman’s just a couple blocks away. Strolling Washington Park is always more fun with a donut in hand.

  • The Cincinnati Museum of Art offers free general admission everyday and parking is free. Pack a lunch and head over to Eden Park for beautiful views of the city.

  • The Contemporary Arts Center offers free admission to the galleries, and is also hosting the Young Adult Lab again this summer. Stop by the UnMuseum on the 6th floor for a FREE drop-in art making program every Thursday from 4:00-6:00 pm. Experiment with mix media materials and create something new. All art supplies will be provided by the CAC.

Happy summer!

Written by Joy Becker, Mentoring Coordinator.

Meet Greg Faulhaber

We are excited to introduce you to another one of our outstanding team members, Greg Faulhaber.

Greg grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, and he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Math Education from Indiana University of PA. He then went on to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching from Miami University.

At age 7 , Greg started working at his family’s business, Gary’s Superette, which is a small convenience store.  After college, he taught math at Winton Woods High School for 6 years, and then moved on to Colerain High School for 4 years. Greg is currently in his 11th year at Cincinnati Country Day School where he teachers math, and is also the Math Department Chair and 10th grade Class Advisor.

How long have you been tutoring with Connections and what subject do you tutor in? 

I’ve been tutoring for about a year and a half.  I do mostly ACT/SAT prep, with some other high school math courses as well.

What's your favorite thing about tutoring? 

My favorite part is the one-on-one with the students.  It allows me to pinpoint their weaknesses and work to improve them. Whether it’s a specific subject, topic, pacing for standardized test, or building confidence, working with them individually lets me support their strengths while finding room for improvement.

What is the best book you've read in the last year? 

Star Wars: Thrawn, by Timothy Zahn.  I’m a real Star Wars geek!

How would you spend a free Saturday afternoon? 

That’s a tough one. If it’s the spring, I would most likely be coaching one of my sons’ baseball teams. If it’s summer, I would be on the golf course, and if it’s a lousy weather day, I’d be falling asleep on the couch watching golf.

You've just won an all expenses paid vacation! Where are you going? 

I’m playing 18 holes at Augusta National Golf Club!  Any chance you can set that up for me?

Thanks, Greg! We’ll see what we can do about that golf outing!


Written by Joy Becker, Mentoring Coordinator and Author of Joy A. Becker.

This Is How We Prepare for Finals


It is hard to believe that May is already here. The end of the year brings mixed emotions and a long to-do list, with one of the most crucial tasks being: study for finals. This month we are talking with parents to find out how they help their high school students stay organized and prepared for these exams.

Meet Tom.

Tom is the dad of two high school students. His son is a junior and his daughter is a freshman.

What’s the vibe like around your home this month? How do your kids feels about final exams?

Everyone is definitely getting excited about summer, but May is pretty busy around here. My son doesn’t really stress out much about finals. It is still newer for my daughter, so I think she makes a big deal about. She also likes staying organized, so she is on top of all her studies.

What study strategies work for your children?

My son definitely likes to study alone, and he uses the study guides and his classroom notes. He is a good student, so I don’t worry too much about his preparation. In the past, some of his teachers have hosted review sessions after school, and he finds those to be helpful.

Like I mentioned earlier, my daughter is especially organized and plans out what she’ll study in advance. She uses notes card, study guides, practice tests, whatever she can get her hands on. She likes to study with people, and her tutor is really helpful to review with. I think it is beneficial for her to talk through the material.

Do you help your children prepare for finals?

I mostly leave it up to them to study, but we talk about what different teachers are expecting and what review guides they’ve been given. I ask them about their study plans and how they feel about each exam. I don’t want to make them any more anxious so I stay pretty relaxed about it all. I focus on how hard they’ve worked all year and not put too much emphasis on one test.

Meet Julia.

Julia is mom of three boys - a 7th grader, a freshman, and a senior.

What’s the vibe like around your home this month? How do your kids feels about final exams?

May has an exciting vibe because summer is just around the corner. My boys are involved in baseball and track, so we stay extra busy with all that. Finals can cause stress in our home because I can tell they are feeling done with school, especially with the nice weather. I have noticed that the homework assignments die down, so they do have more time that should be used for preparing for exams. (But I don’t think that happens as it should.)

What study strategies work for your children?

One of my boys is more independent when it comes to studying. He uses study guides, his classroom notes, and practice tests. My other son has a harder time organizing his time and starting early. They will both cram right up to the last minute.

Do you help your children prepare for finals?

I always offer to help quiz them or go over anything. Sometimes they take me up on this, and other times it is easier to study on their own. I do my best to create quiet time and space to study with phones and TV off. I also make sure they get to bed early and have a good breakfast the morning of exams.

Thank you, Tom and Julia. Best of luck to all our students as they prepare for finals and finish off another great school year!

Written by Joy Becker, Mentoring Coordinator and Author of 44 & Oxford