Connections Academics

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!


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.

10 Great Podcasts for Kids


If you’re anything like me, you have a podcast library filled with favorite shows ready to tune into the latest episode as you drive, fold laundry, cook dinner, or go for a walk. There is such great variety in the world of podcasts - everything from crime mysteries to politics to hilarious pop culture banter. And recently, I’ve been checking out some podcasts for kids and was blown away by all the outstanding options. I love being able to listen to something we all enjoy and many of these podcasts lead to great discussion. Bonus: this is a great way to pass the time on long car rides, so check some out and find a few favorites as you gear up for summer road trips.

WOW in the World Podcast guides curious kids and their grown-ups on a journey into the wonders of the world around them. For example, they go inside our brains, out into space, and deep into the coolest new stories in science and technology. Recent episode include, Horsefly Don’t Bother Me! - The Dazzling Mystery of Zebra Stripes and My Asteroid is Blowing Up.

Brains On! is an award-winning science podcasts for kids and families. Each week, a different kid co-host joins Molly Bloom to find answers to fascinating questions about the world. According to their website, their mission is to “encourage kids’ natural curiosity and wonder using science and history…but there’s no age limit on curiosity, and episodes of Brains On can be enjoyed by anyone.”  Here are some of their recommendations for getting started.

But Why, is a show led by curious kids! Kids ask the questions and find the answers to topics large and small, about nature, words, even the end of the world. And your child can be part of it! Have a question? Record it with a smartphone and send the recording into the show to have your question answered! Recent episodes include, “Do Skunks Like Thier Own Smell?” and “Why is There a Big Patch of Garbage in the Pacific Ocean?”

The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian is a serialized science-fiction story for kids and told in 15-20 minute episodes. It is perfect for parents to put on when driving around town, or on those marathon road trips, or to bond over before bed. The story centers on Finn Caspian, an 8-year-old boy aboard The Famous Marlowe 280 Interplanetary Exploratory Space Station. He and his friends Abigail, Elias, and Vale are Explorers Troop 301, taking off from the Marlowe to explore uncharted planets. The website recommends this podcast for ages 5-10, stating it “contains no violence, a little bit of suspense, and some aliens who are real chuckleheads.”

The Book Club for Kids is a podcast geared toward middle grade readers to meet and talk about a book. The show includes a celebrity reading from the book, and as an extra special bonus, the author joins to answer your questions!

The Past & The Curios is a history podcast for kids, and I smile each time I say the name. Their mission statement is “to share true stories of inspiration, humor, and the incredible achievements of all types of people, many of which are sadly under-shared, and to do so in an easily accessible and diverse manner.”

The Dream Big Podcast is a family-friendly podcast inspiring kids (and adults!) to pursue their passions in life and take action to make their dreams a reality. The hosts, 9-year-old Eva Karpman, together with her mom, Olga Karpman, interview world-class performers who do what they love and live their dreams each and every day.

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel is an award winning serial mystery story for middle grade students and performed by middle grade kids. It is described as “Goonies, meets Spy Kids, meets Stranger Things for 8-12 year-olds.” Listen along as eleven-year-old Mars Patel and his pals JP, Toothpick, and Caddie set out on an adventure in search of two missing friends.

The Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl is a weekly, two-hour program of music for the entire family to enjoy. This isn’t simply kids music; it’s two hours of some of the best family music you’ve ever heard. So sit back with the kids and enjoy!

On the What If World podcast ,there is no question too silly! What if popcorn could talk? What if kids like chores? What if my lunch lady was an octopus? These topics are all fair game, making for an incredibly entertaining listen for parents and kids alike

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

Meet Nicole Bouldin

We are excited to introduce you to another one of our excellent team members, Nicole Bouldin!


Nicole was born and raised in Cincinnati. She is the oldest of three and the only girl. She grew up playing sports and went to McAuley High School where she played basketball. Nicole graduated from Miami University in 2010 with a Middle Childhood Education degree and began her teaching career with Cincinnati Public Schools. She taught 5th grade Language Arts, and has now been teaching for 9 years with CPS. Currently, she teaches 4th grade Language Arts; however, next year she will be moving to a reading specialist position to work with teachers and students in grades 4-6.  

How long have you been tutoring with Connections?

I have been with Connections Academics for 5 months.

What's your favorite thing about tutoring?

My favorite things about tutoring is the positive relationship I have built with the little girl that I tutor. I love seeing her grow and become more confident as we continue to practice together. Her sense of humor and personality always keep me laughing and is among the many reasons I look forward to working with her each week. 

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

The best book I've read in the last year is "Wonder" with my students.

How would you spend a free Saturday afternoon?

I would spend it with my one and half year old dog, Bear. I enjoy taking him on runs around the neighborhood and to dog parks.

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

I would go to Fiji! I've never been and I love beach vacations!

Thanks, Nicole!

We love your enthusiasm for teaching and tutoring! Connections is lucky to have you!

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

Third Quarter Slump

Third Quarter Slump

This time of year can bring challenges for our students because it is difficult to stay motivated and complete work to the best of one’s ability. It is not uncommon for a restlessness and complacency to set in during these last winter months. This “third quarter slump” is often defined as the time of year when students’ grades drop, and unfortunately, this can happen rather quickly.

Meet Lee Honig

We are continuing our Meet the Tutor series this month and are excited to introduce you to Lee Honig.

Lee grew up in Brooklyn, NYC and attended Hofstra University, where he graduated with a B.S. in chemistry and minors in math and community health. After college, he worked as an industrial chemist at a vinyl plastic manufacturing plant.

In 2019, his grandmother passed away due to complications in Type II diabetes, and he decided to radically change his career trajectory and pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan. His dissertation focused specifically on diabetes research.

I wanted to make a difference in the field of diabetes.

After he graduated in May 2018, he worked as a post-doctoral fellow, until he and his wife, a Cincinnati native, move to Cincinnati to plant roots in a smaller city. Since moving to town, he has been working as a contract scientific writer, a substitute teacher at Seven Hills Middle School, and an academic tutor with Connections. 

How long have you been tutoring with Connections?

I've been tutoring in math and science since November.

What's your favorite thing about tutoring?

The most rewarding thing about tutoring is the experience of making a difference, small or large, in the lives of the students I work with. I've always had a passion for math and science, but I know that not everyone feels the same. However, when I see a student's light bulb go off after struggling with a particular concept, or have the opportunity to share some of my own personal anecdotes from my training as a scientist, I know that I'm making a meaningful difference in how the student approaches the subject or how the student thinks on a global scale about the material. I love introducing real-life scenarios to my students, whether its architecture during a geometry lesson, or walking a student through the process of how scientists collaborated over decades of time to understand and treat Sickle-Cell Anemia. My ultimate goal is to demonstrate to my students that the concepts they learn in class are used by scientists and real-world professionals every today to change people's lives for the better. 

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

The best book I've read in the last year is undoubtedly Stephen King's, IT. I'm a huge fan of horror fiction and absolutely love King's work.

How would you spend a free Saturday afternoon?

On a free Saturday afternoon, my favorite thing is bringing my family together for brunch. I call everyone up the week before, create a menu, shop, and cook up a delicious meal to bring everyone together. That's what food is all about at the end of the day! My wife and I will either make a play date with our niece and nephew, hit the gym, watch something new on Netflix, go to the Cincinnati Nature Center for a walk, or spend time with each other baking our favorite treats to share with friends and family. I always try to make time to play my guitar and learn new songs, listen to a favorite album, or read a book. If all else fails on a Saturday afternoon, my wife and I love to dream about our next big traveling adventure.

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

My wife and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and would love to go back to see other islands. But, from the first day that we met each other, we talked about going to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu together. 


Thanks, Lee! We love having you on our Connections Team!

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

This is How We Do Parent-Teacher Conferences

For many schools, another round of parent-teacher conferences is just around the corner. This face-to-face meeting with your child’s teacher is a valuable time to find out what happens during the school day and how you can best support both your child and the teacher.

This week we are hearing from both a parent and a teacher as they prepare for spring conferences. Hopefully their insights can help you maximize your time with the teacher.

Meet Kristy.

Kristy has thirteen years of experience as a middle school math teacher. She has sat across the table from many parents and is thankful when parents make it a priority to come to conferences.

“When parents stay in communication with a teacher, it shows the child that we are all on the same team, working together to make school the best place possible for that child.”

Why are conferences important?

There is only so much I can communicate through newsletters, memos, emails, and report cards. Sitting down with parents gives me a chance to go into more depth about their child’s school experience. I also like being able to ask them more questions and hear what questions or concerns they have. I have worked in schools where conferences, particularly spring conferences, are optional and only for students who might be struggling. I didn’t like that idea. I think parents should grab any face-to-face time they can with a teacher, and I like to have face-to-face time with them, too. It’s helpful for me to know things like what your child says about school and how he/she handles homework.

What should parents do to prepare?

Be on time and respect your time slot. Teachers are trying to squeeze in a lot of conferences, and when parents are late or keep talking long past the conference time, it can affect a lot of people. I also tell parents to have a few questions ready to go, and it helps to write them down so you don’t forget. Bring in report cards and progress reports, especially if you have a specific question.

What questions should parents ask?

Be sure to find out about your child’s strengths and challenges academically but also with social-emotional skills. Going over grades is obvious, so be sure to speak up and ask questions like:

  • How is my child getting along with others?

  • Does he/she help other students?

  • How does he/she handle frustrations and disappointments in class?

  • Does he/she ask for help?

Also, don’t be afraid to ask if a teacher says something you don’t understand. It is easy for teacher jargon to slip it, so ask for clarification when necessary.

Meet Colleen.

Colleen is a mom of two girls, ages 9 and 12. She plans to attend both her daughters’ parent-teacher conferences next week. In fact, her 9 year old will be present during the conferences and even taking the lead.

Why are conferences important?

Overall, I feel like l have a good handle of how my girls are doing academically in school, but I still think it is important to meet with their teachers to hear about other things like peer relationships, work ethic, and just to gain insight into other strengths and weaknesses that come through in the school setting. My children spend nearly every day with their teachers; I want to know them and be sure they know I care about what happens at school.

What do you do to prepare?

I usually jot down a few questions ahead of time so I don’t have to think on the spot. I will also ask my daughters what they think their teachers will tell me, and when we get home, my husband and I will sit down with the girls and go over all we talked about at the conference. We want the girls to know we support their teachers.

What questions do you ask?

I don’t usually have as many questions about grades. Most of my questions are about behavior and friendships. Are they participating in class? Are they being overly exclusive with certain friends? I also ask what we can do at home to help.

Tell us more about how your daughter will be leading her own conference.

The fourth and fifth graders at her school not only come to conferences, but prepare in advance to talk about their strengths and challenges. She has already completed some notes she’ll be sharing with us. I love this idea! It really teaches her to reflect and think about goals.

Thank you, Kristy and Colleen.

Check out our other This Is How We posts:

This Is How We Start the New Year

This Is How We Do Morning Routine

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