These Instructors Will Do Whatever It Takes To Motivate Their Students

These Instructors Will Do Whatever It Takes To Motivate Their Students

Jason and Rico stand in front of a brick wall with their blue and red hair

Jason and Rico Au, Instructors of Kumon of Calgary – South and Kumon of Calgary – Castleridge

Red, Green, Blue, or Purple. Jason Au, Instructor of Kumon of Calgary – South, knew that by the end of summer his jet black hair would be dyed bright.  What he didn’t know was what color he would be sporting. That decision was up to his students. Jason’s brother Rico, Instructor of Kumon of Calgary – Castleridge, faced a similar predicament. The color choices were different, but he knew his time with black hair was limited. How did the former marketing professional and elementary school teacher end up in this position?

Rico and Jason sit in yellow shirts as children

Jason and Rico Au have been involved with Kumon for almost a quarter century­—first as students, then as centre assistants, and now as Instructors. Despite spending time in other careers, both brothers jumped at the chance to own the centre that they had attended as children. When their childhood Instructors decided to retire and sell their other centre, the brothers bought that one, too. Rico and Jason both love working with children, but their two decades of Kumon experience has taught them that students don’t always run into the centre eager to learn.

Encouraging students can take patience, empathy, and even a bit of ingenuity.  Sometimes it’s as simple as providing additional examples so a student learning algebra for the first time can solve problems confidently. Or it could mean sitting down with a kindergartner, listening seriously to her concerns and working together to come up with a plan. Even if her concern is figuring out how to carve out more minutes in the day for playtime. (These are both situations that Rico and Jason faced recently.) Whatever it takes, the Aus are committed to making sure their students don’t get discouraged, but instead look forward to doing their Kumon.

Poster showing the results of the hair dying contest

This dedication led to a rather unique contest last summer. Wanting to encourage their students to study hard over the summer, the brothers offered up their hair as a sacrifice. Every time a student completed all of their homework assignments for the week, they were given one vote to choose what color their Instructor would dye their hair. In the end, they voted for Jason to dye his hair blue, and for Rico to dye his hair neon pink. Even though they’ve gotten a few funny looks for their bright hair color, the brothers agree it was worth it to motivate their students and have some fun in the process.

As Jason told us, “In the Kumon setting, we are afforded the luxury of being able to work and grow with our students for a number of years; the opportunity to be able to make a positive impact to hundreds of kids and help make learning easier and more fun is one that we truly treasure and enjoy.”

Before becoming an Instructor, what did you do?

Rico: I was an elementary school teacher for eight years. I taught Grades 5 and 6 and was a Learning Leader for three years at my school.

Jason: I was a marketing and communications professional before becoming an Instructor. My career in public and media relations  gave me the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients, including non-profit organizations and clients from real estate, oil and gas, architecture and the auto industry.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a Kumon Instructor?

Jason: Never say never. I don’t try to speculate on what kids can do. I try my best to keep an open mind and let our students show us what they’re capable of, while providing advice and counsel along the way. I used to think it was impossible for someone to finish the program in a year; until we had a few students who showed us how wrong we were and successfully (and happily) did that.

Rico: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Each person has their own potential and you never know what someone can do unless you give them the opportunity to learn and practice!

Jason and Rico stand in front of a mountain holding their kidsWhat achievements are you most proud of?

Jason: I’m extremely proud of the relationship we have with our team of staff, and the relationship that our team has with our students. Many of our current staff really wanted to join our team because of the impact that our former staff members left on them. Being able to help groom our students and our team into responsible and contributing members of society who go on to do bigger and better things – that makes me proud.

Rico: We are both very proud of the fact that our students enjoy coming to our Kumon classes because we (Instructors and Staff) have developed very positive relationships with our students. The positive learning community that we have created at our centres is one of the things that I am most proud of!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Rico: I like to travel and build Legos. I enjoy going to Kumon Conferences because it’s a great way to travel!  [In addition to areas I’ve gone to for conferences,] I’ve travelled to England, Paris, Canada’s east coast, Japan, and I hope to one day be able to travel to Australia, New Zealand, and Africa!

Jason: As Rico and I work together running both centres, family time is something that I cherish. So whenever I have spare time, I do my best to spend it with my wife and two kids. I’m very fortunate to have a very supportive wife who helps look after our family while being a teacher at the same time!

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