unconventional minds

provides academic support, executive function support, self-advocacy training and enrichment for students with unique learning styles. We work through one-on-one teleconference with students in language arts, the humanities, computer science, and other subjects. We teach our students strategies to more easily initiate, organize and plan assignments, problem solve, and flexibly shift among tasks. We help our students to better understand their learning differences, so they can effectively advocate on their own behalf. We facilitate information sharing among all those who are assisting the student, e.g. teachers, administrators, parents and other professionals. We help our students identify, develop and refine their strengths and passions. In total, these interventions help our students develop their sense of purpose, confidence and capability in highly challenging academic environments.

Writing Tutoring

Practicing step-by-step writing processes, focused on brainstorming, planning, drafting, and revision

Programming Tutoring

Developing skills for the future and a critical mindset about the technology we use everyday

Executive Function Support

Building a tool kit and routines for organization, time management, and task completion to round-out Executive Functions

Enrichment Mentoring

Identifying and cultivating unique personal strengths to find success in academics

Summer Projects

Creating opportunities for portfolio building, internships, and community service


Our Mission

I tutor students who are gifted and learning disabled. I know exactly what it is like to be such a student: at first, even though I was recognized for my potential, I struggled tremendously in school. Now, I hold a BA from Columbia, an MFA from Brown and I have a fulfilling career in education, art and technology. In addition to teaching my students practical skills like writing, computer programming and test-taking, I have also created a comprehensive methodology to encourage self-organization, self-advocacy and self-direction. Because I had such difficulty myself and because I know the difference good mentorship can make, I am passionately committed to helping my students capitalize upon the strengths of their unconventional minds.

—Ari K., Founder, Tutor




Ari Kalinowski, Founder, Tutor: 

I was a student with ADHD who was also just onto the spectrum. I know, first-hand, just how difficult it is to remove one’s obstructions, create habits of self-advocacy and finally hone in on the type of work that makes one feel most fulfilled. Also, I know exactly what it feels like when one has been able to do so. I graduated with an MFA from Brown University’s program in “Digital Literary Arts.” I’ve taught at Brown, shown in international festivals and published in prestigious literary magazines. This personal experience, along with many years of tutoring (often in consultation with Marcia Eckerd, PhD., a learning specialist), have helped me to refine a series of methods that give my students the opportunity to alter the trajectory of their education.

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Peter Giebel, Tutor

I am a writer and educator based in Denver, CO. I hold degrees in English from the University of Denver and Brown University, where I was a fellow and instructor. I’ve led undergraduate writing workshops, as well as acquired several thousand hours of experience tutoring students on a range of topics within the humanities and beyond. Whether emphasizing research and analysis, critical inquiry, or modular strategies for organization, my effort is always channeled into tailoring my approach to the needs of my students and ensuring they have access to the qualities that command a responsible and engaged relationship with the world.


Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D. , Consultant:

Dr. Eckerd is a licensed psychologist in practice since 1985. She specializes in neuropsychological evaluation, learning disabilities, and in working with individuals with Asperger's Disorder, High Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Nonverbal Learning Disabilities. In addition to her private practice, she conducts professional and school training workshops and consults with school teams working with student challenges. She is on the Professional Board of Smart Kids With LD, was appointed by the State Legislature to the CT Autism Spectrum Disorder Advisory Council, is on the Clinical Advisory Committee of the Aspergers/Autism Association of New England, and is on the voluntary faculty in Psychiatry at Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk CT.  



“Ari worked with my son for the full 08-­09 school year. I found Ari to be conscientious, concerned and creative with the work they did together. The results were better grades all around, and better homework habits. The working relationship that my son had with Ari helped him to meet the increased expectations with less anxiety and much more focus.”  

—L. G. Mother of Ninth Grader.


"I cannot sing Ari's praises enough! My son Moe was at first quite reluctant to put any extra effort into his school work. Ari was patient and creative in getting Moe to work on some of the more challenging aspects of his assignments. Ari got to know Moe and really took into account his interests and personality. He was able to guide Moe with his writing issues by working together intensely on essays and honing his skills in brainstorming ideas, outlining and polishing his writing. As they worked together, Moe began to see the effort pay off. He has now actually published articles in the NY Times online and CBS Sports online. Without Ari I am not certain that would have ever come to pass. Besides writing, Ari was hugely helpful in managing Moe's study skills and helping him to figure out a way to best organize his assignments and his time management. This led to Moe actually having time enough to pursue other interests. Ari was instrumental in getting Moe to start the Game Theory Club at school, helped him organize an opportunity at a Summer internship and encouraged him to start a shoe importing business as well. I believe all of this was instrumental in getting Moe to get into the college of his choice."

—S.K., mother of Fieldston Student.


"Noah attended a progressive Jewish day school with a dual academic curriculum (a challenge to many children without any learning disabilities). Because of his learning disability, Noah found inference very difficult, which meant that he often came up with unusual points of view. Ari helped him to find ways to incorporate these viewpoints into his essays and into class discussion. He also taught Noah how to read into the teacher's intentions, so that he had a better understanding of what was expected of him. Because of this, Noah was able to participate more, talk to his teachers more and generally be more engaged. Ari also urged me to encourage Noah’s art-making, which gave him another way to be rewarded by the school for the unique way he sees things. Noah currently attends the art conservatory at Purchase College. It is a challenging program and highly immersive, however, Noah is able to cope with the demands drawing upon skills that he learned with Ari. Furthermore, he knows that he has the ability if he applies his will to the task at hand. That is an immeasurable life lesson for any child."

—S.A., mother of Heschel School student.

“My son, who has ADD and Written Expression Disorder, has been working with Ari since the summer of 2008. He just received a writing assignment back with an A and comments such as, “beautiful,” “nice transition,” and “smart writing.” Never before has he gotten such comments on a writing paper.”

—B. T., Mother of Sixth Grader.


"What I believe is most rare and exceptional about Ari's way of helping kids find their path, is that he does his mentoring in a truly sincere and caring way: this leads him to becomes not only a friend to his peer, but also a good friend to the family. It is the combination of his way of sincerely caring about who he is mentoring and his good mentoring skills that generates positive and effective results. During the last year of college, it was very difficult for us to get into contact with our son M., because he was very overwhelmed with the prospect of graduating. Ari was able to work with M., and help him to see the future as an exciting opportunity, rather than as a threat. Together, they worked on resumes, cover letters, set up and followed up on meetings, secured internships and created the plans that really helped M. to then build the work experiences that are now leading him to apply for a Masters.  I would recommend Ari to anyone with a son or daughter that needs help organizing themselves and figuring out how to connect “the details” to “the big picture.”"

—M. S., mother of George Washington University student.



“As a family, we lived abroad for 15 years in support to my career as an executive of a multinational company. Two years ago my job brought us to the US, to NYC, and our son was accepted at Pace University in Manhattan. The global life was a very positive experience in many aspects but perhaps not the ideal in terms of preparing our son for an American college education. Moving from the protected atmosphere of international schools to the independence of life in college and the distractions of the big city were indeed difficult changes for him to handle. Suddenly, surrounded by so much freedom at age of seventeen, our son didn’t have the maturity to set his own limits and consequently his first semester at college was a disaster... Then, we found Ari! Ari isn’t just a tutor to our son, he is a real mentor, a coach and most importantly a positive influence. Ari’s skills go far beyond the technicalities of teaching. Ari has earned our son’s trust and therefore is helping him to develop not only as a but as person. Our son’s organization skills, ability to focus, concentrate, manage time and consequently his academic performance have improved substantially, thanks to Ari.”

—G. C., Father of Pace University student.



How do we approach writing?  Holistically

Writing involves acquiring information, synthesizing it, organizing it and externalizing it. Different students are stuck at different phases. Maybe the student has difficulty generalizing (a crucial skill for forming an argument). Maybe the student has difficulty with individual work (because he or she is a social thinker). Maybe the student has difficulty with revision (because he or she has ADHD and is not attentive to details). For these students, I’ve developed accommodations (i.e. modifications to curriculum) and methods like "visual outlining," "talking it out" or "revising backwards." These technique break the writing process into manageable pieces that are each tailored to the student's individual issues.

How does the student learn best?  Through Different Modalities

If a student is primarily “visual,” we will approach writing through a variety of visual diagrams. If the student is primarily “aural,” we might make recordings, either of the teacher or of the student “talking out the argument." If the student is primarily “tactile,” we might try to arrange the argument into objects, either on a desk or in the mind. If the student is primarily “social,” we’ll try to organize study-groups and peer quizzing sessions. Students learn and think differently; the more students learns about their process, the more they can take advantage of their unique strengths and the more they can avoid their weaknesses.

How can the student best connect to the assignment?  Through Sincere Interest

Many students see incoming assignments purely as toil; nonetheless, essays are actually opportunities to explore topics and ways of thinking the student might find interesting. We help teach my students how to enter the right state of mind; before beginning any assignment, we encourage them to ask these basic questions: (1.) Is this assignment something I'm actually interested in? (2.) If so, how can I explore it? (3.) If not, is there a way to reframe the question so I can focus more on what I’m interested in? (4.) Might there be an unusual point of view to consider that might make this more engaging? The more meaning one is able to find in an assignment, the easier and more rewarding that assignment will be.


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Why is coding important?   It's the Future

Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, we are currently experiencing a powerful digital revolution that is reshaping our society. Digital humanities and social science programs at universities are expanding. The start-up ethos is rapidly spreading and shaking up established industries. Digital production and fabrication techniques are becoming the norm, and more and more of the world is coming online. If one wants to shape this future, rather than be shaped by it, one has to be literate, one has to know how to code.

My student isn't technical, should he learn how to code anyway?   Without a Doubt

Ari: Up to four years ago I didn't consider myself technical, yet now I am a proficient coder. Being able to code has helped me to create custom software and hardware that I've used in my art practice. It's helped me build websites to reach new audiences. It's allowed me to be critical about the technology I use, helping me to evaluate the benefits and detriments of each new gadget (Apple) or service (Facebook). Computer programming used to be the domain of only specialists, but now it is becoming a skill that people are expected to have in almost every industry. 

What programming languages do you teach?   Raspberry Pi, Processing, P5 and Python

The Raspberry Pi is a cheap micro-computer ($35) that is a superb tool for teaching students "what is a computer"? i.e. what is the CPU, GPU, memory and/or operating system. It is a cheap and effective introduction for working with hardware and software. Processing is a programming language that can easily introduce a student to the core concepts in computer science and creative coding. If a student ever wanted to take data from a satellite, a car or a cellphone and turn it into a dynamic visualization, this is what he or she would use.  P5 is the web-version of Processing; if a student wanted to build a web site from scratch, a web application (with many users) or get data from other websites (like the NYT), this is the tool. Python is a robust back end programming language; if the student was interested in artificial intelligence, machine learning, scientific or engineering applications, this is where we'd focus.



How do we approach organization?   With Vigor

Binders and books disappear, time seems to evaporate, and tasks go unfinished. These are common problems that once resolved are no longer working against a student's academic and personal success.  We're here to help establish routines for better material organization, effective time management, and task completion. We know what it feels like to stumble, get distracted, and feel overwhelmed, just as we know what it feels like to reverse habits and succeed.

What do you mean by organization?   We Mean "Executive Functions," Organizational Nuts & Bolts

Organization is comprised of a series of smaller sub-processes ("executive functions"); we teach our students how to handle each of them. For exampleif a student is having trouble initiating an assignment, we teach him to identify the easiest part of the assignment, then just do that part, then identify the next easiest, and then do that part, and so forth and so on. Eventually, the "big idea" gets reduced into a series of small, manageable tasks. For every executive function (initiation, shifting, inhibition, planning, etc.), there are a variety of corresponding techniques we use to move our student's forward.

What is an organizational portfolio?   An Individualized Organizational Plan

It's a personalized list of common problems and solutions we create with each student. Does the student have trouble focusing? Has the student tried green tea? Has the student tried working in short bursts? Has the student tried working with background noise? Without? etc. The organizational portfolio is where we evaluate the student's executive function and where we record the solutions we've discovered. No one technique will make all the difference, but the slow, gradual incorporation of awareness, organization and study skills is a highly effective combination.



What is enrichment mentoring?  Cultivating Unique Strengths 

Almost everyone has had a mentor who saw talents within him or her that he or she had not yet even recognized, someone who helped nurture those talents into skills and projects that led to a better shot at the next step (college or a career). It's a tall order, but those are the mentors we aspire to be for our students. Students with learning disabilities often possess unique and valuable ways of seeing the world (perspectives that might make them into artists, inventors or entrepreneurs). It's our job to make sure these students have the methods they need to materialize their strengths.

How do I do it?  Through Investigation

The first phase in enrichment mentoring is discovery, the second phase is consolidation and third phase is result. Students who are at different phases of the process need different kinds of help. Some students know what they’re about; other students need help figuring that out. Some students' passions fall into the easily defined academic categories, e.g. history; other students have different aptitudes that might turn into extracurriculars (like building your own solar powered robot). Through structuring projects and activities, I help my students find the best ways to connect their aptitudes back into the academic environment.

Why is enrichment so important?  To Maintain Motivation & Prepare for Admissions

Often, for students at the edge of the bell curve, too much energy is focused on what is not working. To a certain extent, that's natural: parents and teachers are worried and want the student to reach his or her full potential. However, if the focus isn't balanced equally on strengths and weaknesses, the student can become demotivated. Why try if you're only criticized for your mistakes? Refocusing on the student's strengths, and finding activities where he or she can flourish, has the effect not only of motivating the student to tackle his or her weaknesses, but also finding an area of concern that often becomes a significant aspect of his or her college application.



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Creative Writing: Poetry, Short Stories & Essays

Ever reassembled the news into a poem? How about twitter? Ever re-written portions of your favorite book? Or given it a different ending? Ever passionately argued your point of view, posted it on Reddit and woke up the next morning to see five thousand replies? For students that like to write, we spend the summer stretching our imaginations to the limit, reworking, recreating and reinventing all kinds of material. We think about how to best engage audiences, on and offline, create a following and compile the writing into chapbooks and digital portfolios that can form a crucial part of a student's college application.

Creative Coding: Software, Robotics & Websites

Ever communicated with a satellite? Built a video game from scratch? Or used weather data to change the color of your room? For students interested in technology, we spend the summer exploring the wide world of creative coding platforms. For more details, see Programming Tutoring.

Creative Engagement: Research, Volunteering & Business

Ever proposed the creation of a new park to your local development agency? Ever volunteered with the National Resource Defense Council? Ever started your own business? For students that are interested in government, civic participation or business, we choose a topic to study, find an organization where the student can volunteer and choose a summer-specific goal. Many of our students have developed longstanding ties with an organization, creating important relationships that have influenced and advanced their college choices. Other students have created small businesses that give solid proof of their initiative and creativity. Many of our students have used these experiences as the subjects of their college essays.


You can reach us by phone at (415) 617-9782

or email ari@unconventionalminds.info to get started.