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 each and 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 each and 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


Master 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


Master 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 is currently working towards 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.

Lynn Aghajanian


Tutor

Lynn earned her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Chemical Engineering from Lafayette College and her Master of Education (Ed.M.) from Harvard University. In addition to teaching Chemistry at Algonquin High School, Lynn worked for 8 years in the chemical engineering industry. Now she spends most of her time raising her lovely children and tutoring students in the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School Math Resource Center.

Echoing many others who are dedicated education professionals, I truly believe the student-to-teacher ratio could not be more important, so tutoring one-on-one is the ideal situation. I enjoy the opportunity to engage specifically with each of the individual learning styles I’ve come across in my years of one-on-one tutoring. Additionally, I like being able to use my own experience in the world of professional science to help students fully understand the real life applications of the material we study.

Leann Westin


Senior Tutor

It was in high school that Leann discovered her passion for education: through peer-to-peer tutoring programs and Best Buddies, Leann found that she really enjoyed supporting her peers. She also worked for several years as a subject tutor at 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. It is important to remember that we all need help with something at some point in our lives. I strive to make my students feel comfortable identifying their problem areas, and I often ask them to reflect on their work. As important as the material is, I want my students to think about how they learn, what they already know, and what material they find most difficult. I also encourage my students to practice mindfulness as a method for coping with anxiety and improving attention span.

Lisa Paige


Senior Tutor

Lisa has been a test prep, writing, and math tutor for the past three years, while also coaching organizational skills and writing. She holds her A.B. from Harvard University and her Master’s and PhD from Bryn Mawr College, and has written and edited for magazines, Harvard Business School faculty, and other professionals; she also spent five years fundraising for the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania School District–one of the most impoverished in the nation.

After decades of classroom and college teaching, Lisa now takes great joy from working one-on-one with students, celebrating with them their improved skills and witnessing their growing intellectual curiosity and love of learning for learning’s sake.

Having been an alumni interviewer for Harvard University admissions for more than 20 years, Lisa also is an expert coach for the personal essay and helps students complete all supplemental writing required for their college applications.

In her free time, Lisa travels, especially to Germany as she is fluent in the language, and has recently rediscovered camping; she and her partner Keith have begun hiking the 48 4,000-foot mountains in New Hampshire. She enjoys running with her dog, Remi; yoga; Zentangling; and reading–particularly political science and literary fiction. She obsessively completes Tuesday NYTimes crosswords.

Lisa’s three grown children live in Cambridge, New York City, and Los Angeles.

“Living well means embracing lifelong learning and becoming your best self. Remember–you are not a test score. You are potential to be achieved. I can think of nothing better than learning along with you and watching your eyes light up.”

Paul Chiampa


Senior Tutor

Paul graduated from Bates College in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and a minor in physics. In the coming year he will be working towards a Master of Science in mechanical engineering from Boston University. 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.

Alec Poitzsch


Senior 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.

Don Lippincott


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


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!

Shane DiChristina


Tutor

Shane is passionate about education and writing. He has a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. Prior to transferring to Emerson, he studied screenwriting at a college in California. After graduating, Shane began working in education at an after school center in Newton, MA, where he developed his strategies and nurtured his philosophy to connect with students. Since then he’s been sure about pursuing a career in education. Recently Shane has worked both as a tutor and as a substitute teacher in various local districts.

Shane is an avid reader and writer, and is also passionate about piano and film. He loves going for long walks, often with his dog.

I believe most of all that any approach to instruction must depend on the student. I don’t have any singular rigid approach to working with students. I’m devoted to building strong relationships with students, finding out how they learn best, and then tailoring my approach to that. My role is to do my very best for each individual student, and I’m committed to working with students on a basis of individual empathy, respect, and understanding.

Chris Paige


Tutor

Chris is a musician and animal lover hiding in a dentist’s white coat. She received a B.A. from Tufts University in Biology and German, and a D.M.D. from Boston University in 1979. She combined private dental practice with teaching for over 35 years. So, although she can make a fabulous denture, she can teach you how to make one as well!

She is aware that none of her tutees at Open Door will be fabricating dentures, but she enjoys the one-on-one dynamic with middle- and high-school-aged kids. Chris brings a love of science and language to her tutoring sessions for academic subjects as well as test prep. She successfully guided her daughter who not only survived those years but excelled.

Chris is also a Reiki Master who treats animals. A life-long animal lover and an avid horsewoman, she find the company of (most) animals relaxing, rewarding, and just plain fun. Left to her own devices, she would run a rescue farm with goats, cows, chickens, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and almost anything else that walks or flies. In 2010 Chris began studying the cello and she was surprised that learning a string instrument was the hardest endeavor she has ever taken on. Being an adult learner gives her a humble appreciation of the hard work required by the struggling student as well as the patience required of the teacher.

Chris resides in Ashland with her husband Pat, their crazed tuxedo cat, and two energetic guinea pigs.

I have always loved both learning and teaching. From the moment my little sister could talk, I started teaching her how to read, and it was easy because she wanted to learn! Over years of teaching graduate students, I learned how important that element is. The best learning occurs when student and teacher are working together toward a common goal. Working one-on-one with students is the best way to establish that relationship. When I see sparks of learning occur, and witness students achieving their goals, my passions for teaching – and learning – are reignited.

Mike Urban


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.

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


Intake Coordinator

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 Office Administrator 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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