Developing life skills, one student at a time

Amy Gordon’s mission is clear.

She wants to ensure every student reaches his or her full potential, and becomes a productive member of society.

That’s why she created Life Skills in ACTion in 1995, while still an elementary school teacher in the Tampa Bay area.

lifeskillsIt started with humble beginnings — with Gordon working out of her house. Through parent word-of-mouth, her supplemental learning service expanded — quite rapidly.

“My part-time (gig) turned into an explosion in three months,” Gordon said.

With offices now in Wesley Chapel and Lutz, Gordon and her staff of 11 experienced certified instructors help students ranging from elementary to college. The youngest client is 5 years old. The oldest is 28.

Fundamentally, the learning center assists students who are struggling — in or out of the classroom.

Gordon and her staff focus on individual-based tutoring and personal development, too.

“We break down that barrier that everybody has a stigma, ‘My child can’t do this or my child struggles,’” explained Gordon, the director of Life Skills in ACTion.

In addition to basic study skills and note-taking classes, there are social etiquette seminars, which focus on themes such as personal grooming, proper manners and how to relate with others.

“There’s really no place around here that does what we do,” Gordon said.

“It’s not like I have a curriculum that I buy. We meet with the family, and we build a program around what their needs are — whether it be studying, time management, or tutoring,” she said.

Approximately 80 percent of Gordon’s clients are what she calls “busy kids,” frequently referred to by others as hyperactive.

Those students, she said, often are misunderstood.

“Their brain processes in such a way that they have to have a physicality in their learning,” Gordon explained. “They come in with notebooks that look like a dog ate them, and it’s because they’re sitting there and peeling them, and they do that because they have to feel focused to learn.”

To aid those students, Gordon and her staff conduct a personal profile to identify how each learns best.

“You tell us what your child needs, and we will figure out what resources we have to help you,” Gordon said. “Schools are so busy with workloads, and they can’t help kids the way they want to, and (they) don’t have the resources anymore.”

Gordon knows that all too well.  After teaching in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas school systems for 22 years, she encountered her fair share of “busy kids.” Yet she could only do so much.

“I couldn’t give them the time that they needed because I had 20 other students,” she said. “I was leaving school every day emotionally drained because it was frustrating to not be able to do what I knew they needed.”

At Life Skills, she’s been able to do that.

Inside the Wesley Chapel office, there’s a comfortable, welcoming feel. Students gather in vibrant rooms with kitchen roundtables, as opposed to wide-open, sterile classrooms.

“We try to keep everything small,” Gordon said, “so its more personal to their learning and their interests. They feel like they’re at home when they’re here.”

That contrasts with how students are typically taught in school classrooms, which tend to be more sequential and lecture-based. That doesn’t work for every student, Gordon said.

For example, some students are visual learners. Others might be kinesthetic learners, whereby they learn best by through hands-on experience.

Gordon said there are eight learning types in total.

“Most of the kids that come here have their little traits,” she said. “We take what they have to learn—biology, history—but personalize it so they can retain it and learn it. They kind of learn how to make their traits work for them, as opposed to against them.”

She continued: “The fact of the matter is that every kid has it within them; we just have to figure out how to help them do it.”

It can happen in as little as eight weeks, Gordon said.

“Kids get out of here, and they feel like they know their purpose, and what their strengths are,” she explained.

The response has been positive, from both students’ parents and schoolteachers.

“Teachers are seeing how we’re impacting the kids at school,” Gordon said.

“They don’t feel threatened that they’re not doing their job because we all know they are,” she added.

Since starting Life Skills in ACTion over 20 years ago, Gordon has been “overwhelmed” by the number of families seeking help.

“I didn’t think it was as many as it is,” she said. “It’s just simple principles: putting the child first.”

Gordon noted she may eventually open an office in Pinellas, and would one day like to expand operations nationwide.

“I’ve just always loved working with kids,” she said. “It’s very gratifying.”

For more information, visit LifeSkillsInAction.com.

Life Skills in Action
Wesley Chapel office: 2026 Ashley Oaks Circle, Suite 102
Lutz office: 18125 US 41 North, Suite 208
Contact: (813) 575-9100 or moc.l1508784844iamg@1508784844noitc1508784844anisl1508784844likse1508784844fil1508784844

These are the services offered by Life Skills in Action: Tutoring; Study Skills and Personal Development; Notebook 101; Social Etiquette; Cyber Life; Parent Advocate; Project Support; and, Parent Online Seminar.

Published December 7, 2016

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