A Journey Engineering Success
May 22, 2015 10:47AM ● Published by Erik Dittmann
Gallery: A Journey Engineering Success: Building Great Kids [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
The first educational “tutoring center” in Dodge County opened recently, but it was a long time coming. The center is the result of my 37-year journey from engineering to martial arts instructor to author to English and math teacher; much of it in Beaver Dam. I have been a fixture in the Beaver Dam community since 1982 and started over 30 businesses here and around the country during this time. I am best known for being the owner and Master Instructor for Martial Arts America in downtown Beaver Dam. One of the highest-ranking active Master Instructors in Wisconsin, I earned my 8th degree Black Belt in March of 2012. Over 2000 people have earned their Black Belts from my schools in Wisconsin, with many more each year.
I opened my first school in Beaver Dam on January 21,1982 in a small room above Winnie and Alice’s Hideaway Bar. At the time martial arts was just a way to help pay my way through engineering school at UW-Madison. It was a means to earning a degree with the hope of one day owning my own engineering company. Oh, how things changed once I started teaching in Beaver Dam.
My passion for martial arts and working with children, families and adults was stronger than my desire to be an engineer. After college, I chose to commit to teaching martial arts full-time with my second location on South Madison Street where I also opened the National Fitness Center and the National Gymnastics Center. In 1990, I moved downtown to the 10,000 sq. ft. old Langmack’s Drug Store, where I still teach today.
Over the years, my martial arts company grew to eight locations in Wisconsin and over 300 locations worldwide using my very unique Life Skills and Character Education programs. I had decided to expand my area of influence for families and school-age children by opening a chain of Sylvan Learning Centers in 2000. This was one of the great learning experiences of my life. I loved being able to work with kids that were struggling in school and help them learn to be successful in school and in life. Unfortunately, the cost of running the centers made it impossible for many families to afford our services. I also felt we were only fixing one piece of the problems faced each day by kids who are struggling in school. I sold the centers in 2002 with a plan to build and open a new kind of tutoring center in the future to help kids improve academic skills so they have the tools to be successful in school; help build their confidence and self-esteem so they become strong, confident and independent learners; and improve their focus and concentration skills so they can be successful in school and in life.
I spent the next ten years looking at options and building programs to go along with the center that I planned to open. The catalyst for the next step in my life was the death of my father on November 7, 2008. My dad was 82 and had cancer but was supposed to live another one to two years when he had a complication. He passed away without me getting a chance to say good-bye. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. It also inspired me to begin to write the books I had been thinking about writing for many years. I realized life is very short and there is no time to delay doing the important things in life. It was during the following three years that I began to write the books that became the foundation of a new company called Building Great Kids. I write books under four different series titles:
Building Great Character – a series of books to help teachers, schools, families and coaches teach Life Skills and Character Education.
Building Great Leaders – a series of books written and designed to build leadership skills in children of all ages.
Building Great Kids/Families – resource books for families with school age children featuring themes like bullying, child safety, leadership skills for kids, success in school, building confidence and self-esteem in kids, etc.
Building Great Little Kids – a series of books to help younger kids (ages 3-8) learn positive life skills in a fun and interactive format.
After struggling to find a publisher, I decided to self-publish my books. To date, this includes over 35 different titles. During the past five years, my books and support materials have been used in schools throughout the world, and by 2013 the Great Kids Tutoring Center was getting closer to opening, because the books were one of the final pieces I needed to achieve my dream of opening an “affordable” tutoring center with the tools and skills to help kids learn to be successful in school and in life. I had three main goals that I wanted to achieve with the tutoring center:
1. It had to be affordable. I wanted to bring an AFFORDABLE tutoring/education option to families in Dodge County.
2. It had to be fun. I wanted kids to enjoy their time and experience in my center. I wanted to help make learning “fun” again.
3. We had to be able to help kids improve their focus, concentration, confidence and self-esteem at the same time we were helping them improve academically.
The Great Kids Tutoring Center opened to the public in October 2014 to a tremendous response. The center focuses on helping kids that struggle in school or with homework. They work on three basic subjects: phonics, reading/English and math. Parents are elated that they now have an option to help their kids get caught up and be successful. Kids that have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD or other similar issues also have had great success.
The first step for all students is a very special “educational skill gap assessment.” This is a very special “check-up from the neck up!” This assessment is very different from what is done in school and it gives us a very complete and accurate picture of where a student has strengths and weaknesses. This program works well with all of the great things they are doing in school. There is a focus on finding skill gaps from a student’s past and helping to fill them in. The goal is to help the kids get caught up so they can be successful in the classroom, at home and in life, and there is a guarantee that grades will improve.
One unique aspect of the center is that kids have the option to sit on large colorful exercise balls while working rather than just chairs. This allows the kids to move and be mentally and physically active while they work on building their skills. It’s amazing to see how much fun the kids can have while they are working on what is traditionally boring schoolwork. Student progress is tracked every 25 minutes in the center so kids know and can get excited every day about the progress they are making.
When is the best time to get started? The answer is simple. Right now! Spring and especially summer is a great time for kids who are struggling to get caught up and be ready for the next school year with all of the knowledge, confidence and focus they will need to be successful in school.
To help families get started with the programs, the center is offering two weeks of FREE tutoring including FREE assessments for all students during the months of May and June.
For more information call 920-887-7545 or visit the website www.greatkidstutoring.com