Our Director's Journey to Higher Learning

Paul Donaldson grew up just outside of America’s most fertile grounds for education: Boston, Massachusetts. His precocious verbal abilities and his early knack for mathematics were cultivated, respectively, by his mother- a nurse with a deep love of literature, and his father- then a fledging high school math teacher, now a celebrated and award winning Massachusetts educator.

His unique talent for testing first came to light when the results from his first SSAT arrived at home: He had scored nearly perfectly- the administration ranking his performance in the 99th percentile among students taking the exam.

His scores earned him a scholarship to attend Phillips Exeter Academy- perhaps America’s most prestigious high school. While at Exeter, Paul was exposed to Exeter’s groundbreaking pedagogy: The Harkness Method. Harkness style learning emphasizes participation, communication, and above all, problem solving. While a select few schools can claim membership to the highest echelon of educational institutions, none but Exeter can regard itself as the originator of what has come to be regarded as the greatest method for classroom learning.

After nearly acing the SAT, Paul went on to study literature at the University of Colorado. While in school he tutored fellow college students, as well as high school students in topics as varied as Algebra, Biology, Italian, Spanish, Language Arts, and Milton (you try reading Paradise Lost with out some help!)

Nowadays, Paul works as both a tutor and a full time musician. When he’s not too busy with work, he loves to hike, surf, and snowboard…. And to cook his girlfriend dinner.

Paul on Teaching: “I began teaching in middle school. Like everybody else I wanted to be ‘cool’. I’d sit in the back of the room and wisecrack. Then, invariably I’d end up helping the ‘cool kids’ understand what the teacher had put on the board. It’s always been a pleasure to put seemingly complex material in terms that people could understand.”

Paul on the SAT/ ACT exams: “There are all different kinds of intelligence. These exams only test one specific kind. So, my job is to translate the vernacular of the seemingly scary world of test taking- with its specific strategies and nuances- into something manageable for each individual student. The exam is not the end game. Its just a door, perhaps a door with a lock. The end game is your college education, and what you choose to do with it.”

Paul on founding Higher Learning: “Not everybody has access to the kind of local resources that were paramount to the success of my education. Whether the constraints are geographical, or financial, Higher Learning is an attempt to bridge the gap. Higher Learning is my effort to reach those students with whom I might never have the opportunity to work with otherwise.”

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