Our Story

Open Door Education was founded in 2011 with the sole purpose of providing smart, compassionate tutoring and test preparation to local students. Running the business from home and tutoring students anywhere and everywhere, Travis Minor and his love of teaching and learning nurtured Open Door in its early days. In 2013, Travis partnered with Matt McNicholas and Erin Webb, co-owners of East Owl Tutoring in Boxborough who are also dedicated, enthusiastic tutors. Together, the trio moved Open Door into its wonderful home at 492 Main Street in Acton.

Open Door Education has since helped hundreds of students to navigate the stormy seas of admissions testing and has helped hundreds more to succeed in the classroom and beyond. Committed to cultivating a love of knowledge, Open Door’s team of exceptional tutors helps every student to become more confident and, ultimately, more successful.


Mission Statement

Open Door Education is dedicated to providing exceptional one-on-one educational enrichment and support. We believe in curiosity, connecting with community, and our students. As tutors, we are committed to every one of our student’s academic success. As guides, mentors, and advocates, we are committed to fostering a love of learning and an appreciation of hard, thoughtful work.

Our Team


Open Door Education is able to help each student succeed because its tutors and administrators are smart, thoughtful, enthusiastic people who share a passion for education. Please, meet the Team!

Erin Webb


Master Tutor, Owner

Erin took the Praxis exam while violently ill and once commuted three hours to Atlanta to take the GRE on Christmas Eve… so she knows something about the pathos & pitfalls of standardized testing. Her goal now is to share everything she’s learned about staying focused, setting goals, meeting goals, and not taking a test in Atlanta on Christmas Eve.

Erin studied Secondary Education at the Johns Hopkins University and Literature at the American University; she has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English. She had the great fortune to learn about executive function disorder, ADD/ADHD, anxiety and neuropsychological assessment from both Dr. Martha Denkla of the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Dr. William Stixrud of the Stixrud Group. In a volunteer capacity, Erin tutored English as a Second Language in her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, and taught 6th-grade math and literacy in an under-served community in North Philadelphia. In her spare time, Erin teaches Acton-Boxborough Community Education courses on literature and American culture. She also serves regularly as a professional test proctor.

The buddy system is highly recommended for sky-diving, caving and standardized test-taking. Preparing for the ACT / SAT can be deeply stressful and overwhelming, and that can be the greatest impediment to success. My job, therefore, is not only to provide information about these tests– to teach their content– but to do so in a way that inculcates a sense of assurance and order.

Matt McNicholas


Principal Tutor, Owner

From humble beginnings (helping his younger sisters with their math homework), Matt’s tutoring career quickly blossomed in 2005 when he began tutoring students in math, history and writing in his hometown of Acton, Massachusetts. Since then, he has worked as a private tutor and classroom instructor for various subjects, teaching a 6-month ESL program for high school students in Mexico and, more recently, an SAT/ACT prep course for under-served kids in DC’s For Love of Children program. Matt now works full-time as an academic and test prep tutor, helping students in the following areas: SAT/ACT/GRE, Math, US History, Writing, Biology and Chemistry. Matt graduated from Williams College in 2004 and earned a Master’s of International Studies at Johns Hopkins in 2010. In addition to cheering/complaining about his beloved Boston Red Sox, Matt enjoys salsa dancing, cooking and running.

Understanding that people are often most productive when they are comfortable, I try to bring a sense of humor to my sessions. Throwing out a few corny jokes and some self-deprecating humor helps foster a relaxed environment in which students thrive. I’ve also come to realize as a tutor that it isn’t enough to merely present the most relevant strategies and tips to a student; it’s critical to present those concepts/strategies in ways that are tailored for each individual student’s retention and use.

Travis Minor


Principal Tutor, Owner

Travis Minor founded Open Door Education in 2011 with the goal of building a smart, compassionate business that helps students to navigate academic challenges on the path to higher education.

Travis, who earned his B.S. in Secondary Education at the University of Vermont and his M.Ed. at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, began his teaching career in West Philadelphia, where he became acutely aware of the profound impact of enthusiastic, rigorous tutoring. He saw how one-on-one tutoring could teach content efficiently and effectively, but that it could also provide so much more, from mentorship to organization to a deeper understanding of what it truly means to be a conscientious student. As a 2005 graduate of Concord-Carlisle High School, Travis understands the pressures and challenges facing students attending competitive high schools, and he also knows the life-long benefits of learning to rise to overcome these obstacles through patience, grit, and a willingness to ask for help (something he is still working on). He is excited to continue to promote access to education for all students and to share his love of devious geometry questions.

When he’s not at Open Door, Travis loves learning new things (ask him about podcasts!), playing basketball, running, mowing the lawn, and going on adventures with his amazing wife Rebecca and his best friend Dewey, a Bernese Mountain Dog.

One-on-one education has the power to transform a student. It teaches personal accountability, self-reflection, and the benefits of intentional practice, helping young people to grow as students, but also as young adults who will go into the world armed with the skills and the desire necessary to be lifelong learners, leaders, and teachers. One-size-fits-all approaches to education, which are rife in the world of standardized testing, do not accommodate the wonderful reality that every student learns differently and has unique needs, whether they are preparing for a standardized test or seeking help to complete a challenging course of study. Every child deserves access to education that treats them as individuals and responds to their needs, their challenges, and their aspirations.

Leann Westin


Master Tutor

Leann developed a passion for education in high school: through peer-to-peer tutoring programs and Best Buddies, Leann found that she really enjoyed working with her peers and supporting them through the learning process. She also worked as a subject tutor while attending Wake Forest University, where she graduated in 2013 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Spanish.

Since graduation, Leann has been a zookeeper, rescued abandoned seal pups, and worked as an educator at the New England Aquarium. She began working at Open Door Education in September 2014, and joined the staff as a full-time tutor in July 2016. Her experiences have taught her that life is not a linear path, and she uses that knowledge to reassure anxious students.

In her free time, she enjoys making pottery, crocheting, listening to podcasts, reading and watching science fiction, taking care of her many pets, and volunteering at Stone Zoo.

My tutoring style is high-energy and supportive. I really enjoy connecting with my students, and I aim to make them feel comfortable identifying challenges and addressing them. I often ask students to reflect on their work, considering both the material and their approach. As important as the content is, I want my students to think about how they learn, what they already know, and how they can approach intimidating subjects in a different way.

Alec Poitzsch


Master Tutor

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA, Alec earned both his Bachelor’s of Science (2013) and his Master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (2014).

Driven by an implacable urge to learn, explore, communicate, and share knowledge with others, Alec offers a unique background and perspective as a tutor. He spent most of his childhood years growing up in Texas, lived abroad for a few years in France, completed high school in New Hampshire, and most recently graduated with undergraduate and graduate degrees from MIT.  Alec has been playing an active role as an educator and tutor for the past several years, administering undergraduate and high school-level courses at MIT and tutoring individual students on (primarily) quantitative subjects: especially math, physics, and computer science. He also tutors SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Test, and AP standardized testing material. Professionally he works in the high tech industry as an integrated circuit design engineer.

Recreationally, Alec is an electronics hobbyist and an avid volunteer in his hometown. He enjoys listening to old-school hip-hop, and he cherishes New England winters.

Intellectually, education ties in directly with personal growth; with greater knowledge and a greater capacity to reason, a person develops a more robust and capable understanding of the world around him or her.

Practically, education ties in to success. With more knowledge and experience, a student opens up opportunities both for furthering their education as well as productively contributing to society.

My goal as a tutor is to address both fronts, helping the student grow while making his or her success my primary objective.

Ellen Neelands


Senior Tutor

Ellen is enthusiastically supportive of a wide variety of learning styles. Her educational experience encompasses public and private settings, and students of many ages and backgrounds. She has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from Towson State University, a Master’s in Integrated Day Education from Antioch New England Graduate School, and a recent second Master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Her specialty is working with students with atypical learning styles.  Although Ellen is licensed as a Teacher and Principal in Massachusetts, she prefers to spend her time working face to face with individual students, and writing about her vision for public education.

Ellen investigates her own learning process on a regular basis, which explains her expertise in such diverse areas as costume, international and historic dance, mycology, and local history.  Becoming a grandmother has crystallized Ellen’s certainty that all children are special.

Today’s students require the resilience and knowledge to navigate a rapidly changing world.  The best tool we can give them is appreciation of their own strengths.  The best teaching connects learning in the moment with the future, and includes a healthy dose of celebrating the learner.

Paul Chiampa


Senior Tutor

Paul graduated from Bates College in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and a minor in physics. In 2017, Paul graduated from Boston University with a Master of Science in mechanical engineering. He comes to Open Door Test Prep with a wide variety of experiences since graduating college. Paul has worked as a college baseball coach, chemist, medical researcher, professional baseball player in Austria (yes, they do have baseball in Austria), English teacher in Costa Rica, and most recently as a high school math and science teacher in the Massachusetts juvenile detention system. In his spare time Paul coaches a baseball team of 15-year-olds, does yoga, and wastes countless hours in fantasy sports leagues.

I see learning as a lifelong endeavor, and I believe that intelligence is truly measured by the greatness of one’s curiosity for learning. Admitting you don’t know something is the first step to learning it. This is the methodology I work under with my students in the juvenile detention system; many of them have failed in their academic settings, but if someone can see the importance in lifelong learning and develop a passion for understanding the things that they don’t know, then anyone can be successful in whatever path they may choose. My main goal in tutoring, outside of delivering the content, is sharing that passion for learning with all my students.

Don Lippincott


Senior Tutor

Don still wonders how he became a Classics major at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s even more surprised that he then had the opportunity to teach Latin to underserved students in Philadelphia — in an innovative program that increased students’ reading scores through the study of “classical root” words and grammar. Since that time he has tutored and advised international students trying to get into American universities, and mentored freshman students at Harvard University. He also managed academic programs at Harvard Business School for a dozen years. Don’s graduate degrees are a Master’s in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, and an MBA from Boston University.

In his spare time, he is a tennis addict and a collector/fan of 60s vinyl. He and his wife, Laraine, have ushered three kids through the Acton school system, and well understand the many challenges of a highly competitive school systems. Their children have left them with Leo, a sixteen-year-old Cairn Terrier who is a dead-ringer for Toto. In addition to tutoring and competing with Leo for the choicest foods, Don also writes and edits strategic plans for nonprofits.

I believe that “loving to learn” is a concept that all students should be able to strive for. And so, I, too, strive to help students develop academic strategies that will empower them to discover their ideal personal learning style. Though clearly a means to an end, test prep also promotes and hones a special kind of disciplined learning on many different levels. For instance, learning how to take these tests to the best of one’s ability — and attaining the “sweet spot” between laser-like focus and channeled calmness at the ACT or SAT– can make a huge difference in outcomes.

Ronna Berman


Senior Tutor

Ronna worked in the high tech field for several years before “retiring” to start a family and quickly becoming a high tech dinosaur. It was during those early working years that she had the opportunity to teach computer science at Boston University and discovered a true love of imparting her knowledge to others. This experience sparked her second career as an assistant Special Education teacher in the Acton-Boxborough School System.

Ronna’s BA in psychology and sociology from Douglass College of Rutgers University provided her with the foundation for working with individuals and with groups of people. This background made her transition to teacher and tutor easy. She has worked with students in the Acton-Boxborough School System for over 20 years and provided one-on-one tutoring in many academic subjects as well as preparation for college entrance standardized tests. Her Special Education background has given her the tools to work with students on their organizational, academic, and study skills needs.

Learning is something we do all our lives. Because we all have our own unique style of learning, where and how we learn needs to occur in a comfortable setting and at a customized pace. Learning should never be rushed or discouraged. Many of us grow through introduction, discovery, re-teaching, and most of all making mistakes. It is always important to remember that none of us was born knowing all we need to know and a little humor can go a long way!

Rory McHarg


Tutor

Rory grew up in the south pacific, and traveled the surrounding continents until his early elementary school years. His ‘island style’ persona still radiates, even in the coldest New England winter-days.

He received his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics education from Boston University and the University of Hawai’i in 2006; and subsequently taught at Boston Latin High School, Lexington High School, and Prospect Hill Academy Charter School until 2014.

Since then he has been working in the world of private tutoring covering all levels of Math (including AP Calculus, AP Statistics and AP Physics), as well as Chemistry, music theory, and test prep. Much of his work has been in the homeschooling community, though more recently, he has been developing educational platforms for online teaching companies.

Aside from teaching, Rory is active in the local music scene as a drummer, producer and audio engineer. He is often found at the beach- paddling out if the surf is up, or running in the sand. He still loves playing basketball and soccer; cooking; stand-up comedy; and tending to his vegetable garden.

I have a great relationship with my students; I care about them as individuals and it shows in our comportment. I hold them to a high standard, but they know they are solely accountable for their achievements. My job is to help them attain new successes and help them learn from their mistakes without any pressure or judgment. And I love my job.

My lessons are generally Socratic in nature. They’re full of philosophical ponderings, tangential connections to the real world, and laughter. I’ve been teaching (mostly) the same content for over a decade, so it’s always exciting for me to find new ways to bridge connections to new interests- whether they be academic or of personal taste.

It’s most important to me to get students excited about math/science. STEM is everywhere, and a deep connection with it allows my students to view the world with more insight and advantage. Additionally, to some level, a test is merely just a piece of paper. And a grade is just a marking on a piece of paper. How my students dissociate their self-worth/potential and such markings on pieces of paper keeps them engaged and naturally curious about how we analyze this funny thing called life. (and sooner than later, they start enjoying the marks they see on the pieces of paper they submit)

Mike Urban


Senior Tutor

Mike grew up near Pittsburgh. Visits as a boy to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History fostered a lifelong love of learning. His family moved to Panama where he spent his high school years SCUBA diving, racing cayucos through the Panama Canal, and hiking across the Isthmus on the Camino Real. Mike graduated from Dartmouth College, majoring in Government. He then worked as a police officer. Later, he earned a JD from the University of Maine School of Law and, after a stint with the Department of Justice, spent 22 years as a trial lawyer litigating cases throughout New England.

Having passed four bar exams, he understands the stress of high-stakes test taking. Mike often mentored young lawyers and for years coached youth sports. He enjoyed doing so, discovered he was good teacher, and found great satisfaction in helping others. A licensed history teacher, Mike works with several local school districts. He also writes thriller novels. Mike enjoys biking, history, reading, movies, and hanging with Ziggy, his Portuguese Water Dog. He loves spending time with his wife and daughter.

Life is learning. Young people face many challenges as they mature and will likely pursue a variety of jobs and careers. They therefore need to learn how to learn. Students also need to enjoy learning, not just for its practical aspects, but because it enriches life by opening up the world and all it has to offer. To that end, I feel it is important to help a student understand how he or she learns best and to then pursue strategies that enable the student to succeed. Good, one-on-one tutoring can achieve these goals. My mottoes are: Always encourage. Praise when deserved. Constructively criticize when needed. Treat each student with dignity, compassion, and respect. Have fun and don’t shy away from using humor to break the ice, instruct, or to just show how enjoyable it can be to learn.

Tom Opp


Senior Tutor

Tom’s first experience with one-on-one education came through an informal language exchange program in Berlin, Germany, where Tom lived for parts of 2007 and 2009. For one hour, Tom would teach his tutoring partner English, and for the next hour, Tom’s partner would teach him German. It was like platonic speed dating for polyglots, and Tom enjoyed the experience. When Tom returned stateside in late 2009, now fully confident in his language skills, he decided to tutor German to students in the Boston area, and thus blossomed his tutoring prowess, which now includes the ISEE, SSAT, SAT, ACT, and GRE.

Tom studied Political Science and German at the University of Rhode Island, where he earned his BA in 2008. Tom also competed as a Division-1 track and field athlete in the long and triple jump. Since we suspect the reader is wondering, the answer is “yes!” Tom was indeed able to dunk a basketball on a regulation rim. Professionally, Tom worked in environmental policy, and in 2012 he completed a Master’s of Environmental Management at Duke University, with a concentration in Environmental and Resource Economics.

When Tom is not at Open Door, he pursues snowboarding, patronizes Chipotle, visits family and friends, and travels the US and abroad.

My tutoring philosophy revolves around positive motivation and helping students overcome math and test anxiety. I value my ability to relate to a wide range of people and to adapt dynamically to each student’s profile. From summer camp counseling as a teen, to serving as a writing mentor in college, to helping establish a sponsorship program for school children in Loma Linda, Guatemala, to tutoring standardized tests and academic subjects to middle- and high-school students in the Boston area, I’ve woven through my life a motif of providing education and mentoring to youth. I see tutoring as the professional expression of my deeply-rooted desire to make a positive impact on young people who are able to benefit from my education and life experience.

Katherine Bailey


Tutor

Katherine is from Winchester, Massachusetts and graduated from Bates College in 2011 with a BA in Art and Visual Culture. After college Katherine worked for an educational travel company which inspired her to eventually move abroad to Southeast Asia. She got her TESOL certification in Cambodia and then moved to Vietnam, where she spent the next two years teaching English and traveling. When Katherine moved back home she wanted to do one thing and one thing only – teach. She got hired as a teaching fellow at Bridge Boston Charter School in Roxbury and was trained by a Master Teacher. During her second year at Bridge Boston, Katherine also attended Boston College and earned her Master’s degree. She is now a licensed and SEI endorsed Massachusetts’s teacher, teaching 6th and 7th grade history and English. In her spare time Katherine loves to read, write, and listen to music. She also loves yoga, soccer, musicals, and pretending to be a true Boston Sportsfan (can be hard).

In my life, teaching and learning have always gone hand in hand. Not in the way that one might think – that if someone is the teacher then the other is the student – but in the sense of a fluid and symbiotic relationship. I’ve been teaching for 5 years across many different students, cultures and behaviors, and one thing I’ve learned is that we are all students who have something to teach. Facing students with this mindset has allowed me to become a culturally responsive educator who gets to know a student and his/her unique learning style before expecting specific results. This is often called UDL, a Universal Design for Learning, and it has time and again reminded me that when it comes to education, there is no “one size fits all.” I believe that catering to a student’s own interests and needs are of the utmost importance, and I know that to do so requires setting aside my own biases. Just because I learn one way, does not mean my student does the same. Learn from your students, and they will learn from you.

John Foster


Tutor

John Foster earned a Bachelors in Mathematics and Astrophysics from the National University of Athens. For over 25 years, John has taught and tutored all levels of mathematics from 6th grade to the University level. Math is John’s passion and a fundamental way of life. John refers to math as a game; a game that always has new challenges and new levels of play. John thrives on helping students to achieve greater math fluency, competence and aspires to share his love of math.

My core belief is “knowing” is different from “learning.” In order to learn, you have to know how to think, practice thinking, integrate genuine learning to your process, and review your notes and practice.
Review, repetition, and reflection are the mother of knowledge.
Practice is essential to achieving your goals.

Jake Solomon


Tutor

Jake studied Math and English at University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and specifically studied the mechanical relationship between muscle and tendon in an excellent research laboratory, and presented research findings at conferences on the local and national level. After graduating from Concord Carlisle High School, Jake has taken time away from school to focus on writing, recording, and performing music all over New England. When he’s not tutoring or serving up the best coffee in town, Jake can be found hiking, skateboarding, or practicing yoga (but not running any road races, because one was enough).

I believe that lifelong learning is a pillar of human experience—I was raised with that in mind. But, I understand that people have a broad range of associations with education. Some of my closest friends have had generally negative experiences in school. I strongly believe that experience of being a student should be enriching, so it follows that when my own experience as a student didn’t feel that way, I would take that as a sign that I had to make changes to my environment or even my own work ethic. I hope that all students have moments like these, in which they take time to get closer to people they admire, spend more time with teachers they respect, and truly recognize their power to shape their own path.

David Wu


Tutor

David pursued his undergraduate degree at Brandeis University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. After seeing close friends struggling in pre-Med classes, David decided to become a Brandeis Undergraduate Group Study (BUGS) Tutor. This position allowed David to share his knowledge with many of the rising Pre-Med student develop valuable study habits and conceptualize questions that professors would likely ask on a test. David has tutored for most STEM subjects offered from high school to the collegiate level has extensive experience tutoring for the SAT and ACT.

Throughout his education, David has always been active in scientific research. He is a published co-author in the American Journal of Medicine and won first place in the Massachusetts State Science Fair. David currently continues his scientific research at a whole-exome genetic sequencing company.

Whenever David has the chance, he loves to travel. He has recently returned from a year abroad in Asia, visiting countries such as China, Taiwan, Korean, Thailand and Malaysia.

I’ve often heard from peers and students that they “aren’t good test takers.” However, I believe that each student has the potential to excel but just needs the right guidance to develop a suitable learning style. I focus on finding the best study methods that will complement my student’s dedication.

Pamela Fleming


Director of Operations

Pamela’s experience prior to working at Open Door includes a 10-year stint at State Street Bank as an Operations Officer, handling unclaimed securities processing and working as a liaison with state governments. A move to Texas led her to a start-up software design firm where, as part owner, she guided the business in structuring an operational framework and creating its marketing direction. In 2000. she returned to Massachusetts, landing in Boxborough with her husband and first son to begin her next challenge as a full-time mom to 3 sons. Re-entering the workforce as Director of Operations at Open Door, Pamela has found a fit for her business skills and her enthusiasm for learning.

As an active member of the Acton-Boxborough community, Pamela serves on several local committees and works extensively with the local schools. Photography is her passion and she can be found on many of the local fields snapping sports photos of her sons’ activities. Pamela also enjoys sailing with her family, cycling and hiking with her golden retriever, Murphy.

Dewey


As a Bernese Mountain Dog who attended an exclusive puppy kindergarten for Golden Retrievers, Dewey knows what it’s like to not fit in, to struggle to keep up with a fast-paced curriculum, and to perform under the pressure of weekly evaluations. Dewey has fully mastered ‘sit’ and ‘come’ and is currently working on the Quadratic Formula. His interests include walks, tennis balls, and his own tail.

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