THE INSPIRICA TEST PREP TEAM

OUR STAFF

The Inspirica Test Prep team sets the industry standard for tutoring and test prep services. Over our four decades in business, we’ve worked with every type of student in every academic circumstance. Our approach is founded on the principles of professionalism, adaptability, and positivity.

Our team of test prep and tutoring experts exists to support our families and our tutors. For the former, we have a team of Program Coordinators who provide each family with the information and support. For the latter, we have a team made up of an outstanding Tutor Coordinator and Head Mentor who ensure that each tutor has everything they need to succeed. And in between the two, we have a team of curriculum, standardized test, and technology experts who create the optimal curriculum for each program by combining exceptional proprietary tools with carefully curated third-party materials.

Our tutors are dynamic, engaging individuals who recognize that no two students are the same and who work to customize their approach accordingly. They understand that standardized testing can often be difficult for students, so they ground their approach in encouragement and positivity. They are, without a doubt, the best test prep and tutoring team in the business, and we’re excited to share them with you.

Founder and CEO

Lisa Jacobson

Program Coordinator

Jennifer Fink

Chris Dibona
Full-Time Tutor / Program Coordinator

Chris DiBona

Head of Learning and Innovation

Alex Whalen

Content Development Manager & Full-Time Tutor

Ryan Furiness

Affiliate & Tutor Operations Manager

Rachel Epstein

Program Operations Manager & Full-Time Tutor

Yuliya Aleksandrov

Jim Giusti
Full-Time Tutor

Jim Giusti

Aja Brady-Saalfeld
Full-Time Tutor

Aja Brady-Saalfeld

Founder and CEO

Lisa Jacobson

Lisa began tutoring math to her fellow students in the fifth grade. Her teacher noticed that she had a natural ability for making complicated concepts seem simple, so when the teacher went on maternity leave, she suggested that Lisa become an 11-year-old teaching assistant to the substitute. Thus began a lifelong career in education.

By the time she enrolled as a freshman at Stanford, Lisa had a thriving tutoring business. In those days, if you had problems with a school subject , you would ask your teacher for help. As word of Lisa’s skill as a tutor spread back, Lisa soon had a following among celebrities, politicians, designers, and athletes and was flown all over the world as the “tutor to the stars.” Inspirica was born.

Fast-forward 35 years later: Lisa’s own children have applied to colleges and taken the same tests your children are now preparing for. Experiencing the process as a parent has deepened her appreciation for the role of parents in the application process and of the opportunities and challenges that come with a child getting ready to leave the nest.

Inspirica now has dozens of world-class tutors. They are brilliant and caring, and they have the training and expertise to help their students reach their personal best on test day. Lisa still is actively involved in the company and with all of its employees. The reputation, expertise, and longevity of Inspirica are incomparable.

Program Coordinator

Jennifer Fink

As the Program Coordinator, I will help you create a customized tutoring plan that works best for your child and your family.  Whether it’s your first child going through this process or your fourth, I know how to get the information we need and translate it into the best possible plan for each individual student. I know from experience the importance of the tutor match, and I will ensure that you and your child are in good hands from the time you first talk to me until the program is complete.

Full-Time Tutor / Program Coordinator

Chris DiBona

Chris is an Ivy League doctoral candidate, with nearly a decade of passionate experience in education.

He has taught a variety of humanities courses to high school and college students across New England and is proud to be going on his seventh year with Inspirica, where he has worked with students of all ages on a wide range of exams. His specialties are the SAT, ACT, ISEE, SSAT, GRE, and GMAT.

Chris’s passion for education stems from the joy that comes from building rapport with his students and helping them to consistently meet and exceed their educational goals. Chris finds it hard to pick a proudest tutoring moment as he’s worked with so many memorable students. But if you made him choose, it would be when he helped a student improve his ACT score from a 22 to a 32, which played a key role in his admission to his top choice college.

When he isn’t tutoring or teaching, Chris is usually playing sports (skiing, tennis, and golf are his latest favorites) or doing outdoorsy stuff like fishing, hiking, or gardening, usually with his dog Jack.

Tests:ACT, SAT, SSAT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, LSAT,

Subjects:Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Philosophy, College Essay Writing, English Academic Essays, History Academic Essays, English and Literature

Head of Learning and Innovation

Alex Whalen

As the Head of Learning and Innovation, I am responsible for making sure that our teams of education professionals are equipped with the very best technologies and curriculum available. The essence of tutoring hasn’t changed over the many decades we’ve been working with families, but the tools available to both tutors and students undoubtedly have, and it is my mission to make certain that everyone who works for and with us is given everything they need to succeed. Having worked as a tutor here at Inspirica for nearly fifteen years before taking on my current role, I know first-hand just how important the work we do is to our families, and I promise to do everything I can to ensure that when your student sits down with one of our tutors, they will both have everything they need to make the most of their time together.

Because I missed the memo that says you have to walk a single path in life, my background is diverse. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 1993, I spent the rest of the 90’s working in the tech industry, including four years at America Online back when it was legitimately still a start-up. But when the right opportunity presented itself, I gave that up for the music industry, where I spent the next decade running a series of music-related business while travelling the world as an nightclub and festival DJ. Eventually, I decided it was time to return to grad school, so I spent the better part of the 2010’s completing a PhD in Political Science at Boston University. Finally, having come to terms with the fact that academia was most definitely not someplace I wanted to devote my energies, I took on an expanded role here at Inspirica, where I’d already worked for more than a decade as a tutor to support myself through grad school. So… A electronic music DJ with a PhD in American politics? A political scientist deep inside the music industry? A tutor who uses the skills he learned as a DJ to get athletic recruits into college? A college professor who somehow manages to combine all of these things into lectures? As I said at the start, I guess I missed the memo where they said you had to walk just one path.

Dissertation:"Information, Communication, and Infrastructure: How Citizen Activists Use Information Technology to Transform American Party Politics"

Academic History:Boston University, PhD in Political Science (2009); Boston University, MA in Political Science (2009); University of Virginia, BA in Government (1993)

Content Development Manager & Full-Time Tutor

Ryan Furiness

Ryan got his start tutoring through his high school’s National Honor Society way back when MySpace was a thing; he continued to sharpen his skills during college, working with students primarily on math homework and essay-writing. After graduating with a double major in Political Science and Ancient History, Ryan decided to turn his passion for one-on-one instruction into his profession, and he’s been with Inspirica ever since.

Since joining the company, Ryan has worked with students on everything from 5th grade math to graduate school entrance exams. All told, he has almost 15 years of experience teaching students of a wide range of ages and learning styles, from self-directed young professionals looking for guidance as they prep independently to 10-year-olds who need to take regular cartwheel breaks.

Ryan tutors a variety of academic subjects, with math and writing being his favorites, as well as most of the least popular acronyms: SSAT, ISEE, ACT, SAT, LSAT, GMAT, and GRE. The thing he enjoys most about the job is making connections and building rapport with students of all ages, and though he doesn’t have a ‘favorite’ test to tutor, he can occasionally be found doing LSAT logic games in his spare time. If Ryan had to pick a proudest tutoring moment, it would be when he helped a student improve her score from a 21 to a 30 on the ACT; watching her grow in confidence over the course of the program and then apply to colleges that she initially wasn’t even considering was the perfect microcosm of what he loves about tutoring.

When he’s not working, Ryan is usually doing crossword puzzles, gaming (either video games or board games – he’s not picky), or going on walks with his dog Clover, who represents the other half of the Durham, NC branch of Inspirica. Clover is often asleep in her bed next to Ryan’s desk while he works, and if you listen closely, you may even be able to hear the occasional puppy snore during a session…

Tests:ACT, SAT, SSAT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, LSAT

Subjects:Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, College Application Essays, History and English Essays, US History

Affiliate & Tutor Operations Manager

Rachel Epstein

As the Manager of Tutor Operations here at Inspirica, I oversee the tutors in locations around the world. From initial hiring to payroll, I make sure I am the go-to person for anything they need. I enjoy working with our tutor corps because they are a dedicated group of individuals who care about having their students learn and succeed academically and in life. In the past 35 years the tutoring world has changed dramatically, but the quality of tutoring and tutors we have at Inspirica has stayed the best in the business. I love working here because our team truly values every family that comes through our doors and strives to help every student succeed.

Program Operations Manager & Full-Time Tutor

Yuliya Aleksandrov

Yuliya has 10 years of experience coaching rhythmic gymnastics at all levels (from preschool to Junior Olympic, ages 3-18), and it’s this love of connecting with students that made her pursue tutoring. She’s been with Inspirica for over four years; when she’s not tutoring, she’s training new hires and helping out with anything and everything else (from curriculum planning to admin work) in her role as Head Mentor. Outside of Inspirica, she has taught kindergarten math at an after-school program. Having the chance to work with such young kids and help them develop their love of math from an early age was a blast. Yuliya holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing Communication and minor in writing and resides in Brighton, MA.

Yuliya tutors everyone’s favorite standardized tests – the SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, TOEFL, and the Math 1, Math 2, and Literature SAT Subject Tests – as well as academic math and writing from elementary to high school levels. She has worked with a wide range of students (in terms of age, starting score, learning differences, and more) and enjoys adapting her teaching style to fit the needs of each one. Her favorite thing to teach is problem-solving, which she believes is the basis for math fluency and the key for every standardized test.

Though Yuliya has had many students score in the 99th percentile on the SSAT and ISEE or go from 30s to 35s on the ACT, her proudest tutoring achievement was having a student raise her ACT score from a 23 to a 28 in only 10.5 hours of tutoring. This student came in with an open mind and fully committed herself to the task at hand despite only having the chance to take the official test one time her senior year. Another proud moment was receiving the following note from the parent of an SSAT student (who achieved top scores her first time testing though originally planning to test again): “The most important thing you did for her was to point out that she should not apologize and that self-confidence is a good thing.”

When she’s not working, Yuliya is likely solving number or logic puzzles (kakuro and nonogram are her current favorites), playing board games, cross-stitching, taking personality or Harry Potter Buzzfeed quizzes, binging her favorite shows, reading, and longingly looking through pictures of cats that she’s not allowed to adopt. She also loves to travel, and even did a study abroad program in college where she lived in a 14th century medieval castle in the Netherlands.

Tests:ACT, SAT, SSAT, ISEE

Subjects:Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, History and English Essay Writing

Full-Time Tutor

Jim Giusti

Jim lives and grew up in Norwood, MA. You could say that Jim’s first teaching job was helping his two younger brothers with their homework, and he’s been going ever since. He loves sports and further developed his mentoring skills by coaching baseball for 10 years. He graduated with a major in European History and is currently working on a master’s degree. After earning his undergraduate degree, he subsequently earned his Massachusetts History Teaching License.

During his time at Inspirica, Jim has worked with a broad range of students, from 6th grade math and vocabulary to undergraduate Financial Accounting. Jim tutors both academic subjects and many of the popular tests: ISEE, SSAT, SAT, ACT, and TOEFL. Jim has worked with many types of learners, from diligent perfectionists to students that need some confidence and positive reinforcement. Jim believes in building up through building confidence. His students range from just out of elementary school to college adults.

His proudest tutoring moment might be when he helped a student improve their math score for the SSAT and then was told that it helped the student do better in school. This student gained confidence that helped them get into their preferred school and do better in math class.

Jim lives with his wife Leah and tiny cat Lucy, who sometimes tries to make an appearance during sessions. Outside of tutoring they love traveling, and Jim usually plays video games to relax. He also volunteers by tutoring ESOL and preparing students for the US Citizenship Test.

Tests:ACT, SAT, SSAT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, LSAT

Subjects:History, Social Studies, Accounting, English, Economics, College Application Essays, English and History Essays, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, Baseball

Full-Time Tutor

Aja Brady-Saalfeld

Aja got her start tutoring in high school, working with younger students who needed help with STEM, music theory, and German. In college, she went on to graduate with a degree in German and a correlate in analytic philosophy, rounding out the humanities with a heavy emphasis on STEM via pre-med, particularly biology. Throughout college, Aja tutored German and worked as a drill instructor, running rapid-fire grammar exercises in a group setting.

With Inspirica, Aja tutors a wide range of topics, from test preparation to academics. She often focuses on STEM for academics, with biology at the forefront. For test prep, Aja enjoys working with students on the major tests, from the ACT and SAT for high schoolers, to the LSAT and GRE for college students and beyond.

Her favorite aspect of tutoring with Inspirica is by far the opportunity to watch students progress and grow while working toward their goals, whether they be academic or test oriented. One of her proudest moments was receiving word that a student who had come in with a diagnostic ACT score of 20 had achieved a 29 on her first official exam.

Aja originally hails from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but has lived in Philadelphia for four years post-graduation, where she shares her home with her two parrots and two rabbits. Outside of work, she loves hitting the yoga or ballet studio—when it’s not a pandemic, of course—going to the opera, and playing around with computer programming.

Tests:ACT, SAT SSAT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, LSAT

Subjects:Biology, Chemistry, Astronomy, Philosophy, Linguistics, HTML, CSS, Python, Grammar, German, US History, World History, European History, Music Theory, Essay Writing, Junior High and High School Math

OUR TUTORS

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