The Definition of Support: Partnering with an APEX Tutor

By Emily Fenton Jacobson, APEX Tutoring

Support (verb):

  1. to give encouragement and approval to someone because you want the person to succeed;
  2. to help someone in an emotional or practical way.

AP classes: the toughest part of many high-achieving students’ academic day. And they should be—Advanced Placement courses are designed to introduce students to challenging content; foster in-depth exploration of complex topics; and hone critical thinking and study skills. But precisely because of these lofty goals, the work necessary to succeed in an AP course can be overwhelming. The stakes—for students and for their parents—feel quite high.

That’s where APEX comes in. What if a trusted professional, one with a wealth of subject-matter knowledge and plenty of experience connecting with young adults, could provide crucial support as your student makes his or her way through the AP gauntlet? At APEX, our mission is to do just that. APEX can help your student be better-prepared and less stressed, freeing up more time to pursue balance in other parts of his or her busy life.  

The Missing Piece: Singular Support

APEX specializes in providing quality math and science tutoring to high school and college students taking higher-level, honors, and AP courses. From algebra to multi-variable calculus, from biology to physics (and almost every course in between) an APEX tutor can support your student’s quest for success.

The Missing Piece

The culture of support at APEX informs every interaction our tutors have; it’s at the heart of who we are. APEX Founder and Principal Tutor Dan DuBrow, a Golden Apple teaching award nominee, has been teaching advanced math and science courses for over twenty years. His love of math and science, combined with his passion for bringing these subjects to life, has allowed him to connect with students of all ages and ability levels. He is particularly passionate about reaching and supporting young adults—and getting to watch their confidence grow alongside their academic skills. “There is really nothing like watching a student have that ‘aha moment’ where a concept really clicks for them,” Dan explains. 

Forging a Connection

Forging a Connection

APEX tutors have impressive credentials—and just as importantly, we are teachers able to forge true connections with the students we support. This love of connection is built in to APEX from the ground up. One grateful parent describes it this way: “Dan DuBrow has been tutoring our son with his college level math and physics subjects . . . Aside from Dan’s high level of professionalism, we noted his proactive and inventive approach to teaching and to taking the time to learn the needs of his student.” This APEX family has been delighted to watch as the support and connection led to their son soaring: “Dan is an amazingly gifted teacher and our son’s academic needs have been greatly satisfied and enriched by Dan’s extraordinary work!”

 Supporting Success

Providing meaningful support to individual students requires that we acknowledge—and respond to—the uniqueness of each learner. No two students are alike; their needs, strengths, and confidence levels often vary hugely. With that in mind, APEX has developed three distinct ways of providing support. “From my experience teaching both online and in the classroom for 20 years,” Dan notes, “I’ve identified that there are different types of support that work for students taking different types of classes. There are also modes that work better based on kids’ comfort levels.”  

– On-demand tutoring is designed for students who are working independently toward a goal of doing well in class but have a few questions about the material. They may just need some quick feedback or a sounding board for their ideas. We give timely, expert answers to questions to help students learn efficiently.

– Online tutoring is for students who are looking for flexible scheduling to get some help at convenient times. Sessions are recorded so students can refer back to them at any time, increasing effectiveness.

– In-person tutoring helps students quickly master difficult concepts with intensive, targeted help from an expert tutor dedicated to your needs.

Helping Students Soar The APEX team is made up of learning professionals who want to inspire, guide, and encourage young adults as they dive into the subject matter we are passionate about. That is how we define support—partnering with students as they grow in confidence and ability; getting to help them soar to successful heights. To learn more about how connecting with an APEX tutor can help your family find the support it needs to soar, contact us today.

Supporting Student Success

Balancing Act: How Many Advanced Placement Classes are Too Many?

By Emily Fenton Jacobson, APEX Tutoring

For high-achieving high school students, finding and maintaining a healthy academic balance is a tall order. As parents, we watch our diligent, sometimes overwhelmed kids take on one AP class after another in the name of getting into a good college. It can feel as though we’re the anxious audience, breathlessly watching as a tightrope walker ventures out onto a high wire.

How much is too much? Or, more precisely: how many Advanced Placement courses are too many for one high schooler to handle?

As the college admissions landscape continues to grow more competitive, participation in AP classes has spiked. According to the College Board, in May 2017, 2.7 million high school students took nearly 5 million Advanced Placement tests. Demand for AP classes and prep for the exams have risen so sharply that some schools offer AP tests and courses to middle schoolers, while some high school students are encouraged to load up on as many AP classes as possible—six a year or more.

The AP Edge

Parents often encourage their children to take more AP courses because they hope to improve their chances of admission into more selective or prestigious colleges. And very real benefits to taking AP courses certainly exist: they can introduce students to academically rigorous curricula; teach college-level critical thinking and study skills; and provide an independent source of testing to ensure students have learned the material. AP exams can also help lower tuition costs at universities that accept high scores in lieu of college credits.

But AP overload comes at a price. A multi-part Chicago Tribune report found that in “many top-performing schools, students and experts describe an atmosphere of intense, sometimes disabling, pressure connected with test scores, college admissions and AP course loads.”

B.Y.O. Balance

Students cannot sustain the high-wire act of high school if they are struggling to carry too heavy an AP load while also balancing sports, clubs, service activities, social lives—and even healthy eating and sleeping habits. Balance, always elusive, seems to have moved beyond many students’ reach. How to regain it? Consider some guidance from the experts.

Advice from college admissions professionals varies widely, and there are no hard-and-fast rules for how many AP classes any one student should take. But internal research at several Chicagoland high schools has found no increase in college persistence (attending college for five consecutive semesters or more) once a student has taken four to five AP classes in his or her high school career. Instead, the more AP classes a student piles on, the more his or her GPA can begin to slip as the workload becomes unmanageable.

In a 2016 interview with the New York Times, Stuart Schmill, Dean of Admissions at MIT, shared some valuable counsel. “What I tell students, and my own kids, is that you don’t have to take every advanced class. My high school daughter, for example, is taking advanced math and science courses but chose not to take advanced English and history.” Consider the main areas of study your child hopes to explore, and encourage her to choose courses accordingly. “You should challenge yourself,” Schmill continued. “For some students this might mean taking the most advanced classes, but it also might mean taking the most advanced classes appropriate for that student, and not spreading themselves too thin.”

The website for Harvard’s Office of Admissions notes: “Most of all we look for students who make the most of their opportunities and the resources available to them, and who are likely to continue to do so throughout their lives.” This means opting for a vigorous course load and demonstrating proficiency by taking tests such as AP exams, but it also means leaving room to pursue extracurricular activities—from service projects to outside reading and athletics. 

The Right Stuff

The best advice boils down to this: students should take the most challenging course load they can handle while still doing well academically and not sacrificing a rich life outside of the classroom—one that will demonstrate to colleges who they really are. This means leaving room for clubs, sports, community service activities—and a social life and family time, too. Most importantly, it means not losing the thirst for knowledge and natural curiosity that distinguish life-long learners.

Admissions teams are looking for well-rounded young people who will enhance their school in a variety of ways. This means that they want students who are academically promising and able to handle the work expected of them, yes. But they also want students with interests outside of the classroom: young people interested in belonging to a community, with a demonstrable commitment to making a difference; young people who love to pursue new ideas and who possess a genuine curiosity about the world around them. Don’t let that spark be extinguished by the pressure to take too many AP classes or to score well on a test. 

APEX Right Stuff

Creating and sustaining the balance that feels right is something your teenager will have to own for him- or herself. You can help them find their way toward that balance. But the work to maintain equilibrium? That’s up to them. For parents, it can be dizzying, even scary, to watch your teenager begin their attempt at a high-wire crossing; thrilling to see them take those first wobbly steps off the platform. At APEX, we’ll not only be cheering you on from the stands, but supporting your student from the sidelines. Contact us to learn more about how an APEX tutor can help your family find a healthy balancing act of its own.

APEX Stories

Eclipse Hunting

This past summer’s total solar eclipse was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many.  For me, it was a way to bond with my 4 year old son through science.

Prior to this summer, I had never seen a total solar eclipse.  They are very rare, occurring anywhere from 2 to 4 times per year, but only for a very narrow, 50 mile strip of earth that doesn’t always fall over land.  Growing up, I had the opportunity to experience lots of cool astronomical phenomena, like meteor showers and seeing Jupiter’s moons, but one thing I had never seen was a total eclipse.  I figured that taking my son to see the eclipse would be a great opportunity to have father-son time, and share my love for science with him.

When I heard about the Great American Eclipse of 2017, I knew it was time to make plans and prepare.

It was probably March or April of last year when I started getting the idea in my head of going to see the eclipse.  I talked to my buddy and we made plans to drive down to see it.  We knew that Carbondale, IL was going to be super busy, and anticipating crazy crowds, I decided to go for somewhere a bit less intense.  I made reservations for a hotel in Kirkwood, MO, just outside of St. Louis, but inside of the path of totality!  That way, if we wanted to, we could just stand in our hotel parking lot and be in totality.

Before we left, I told Jacob about the eclipse and showed him how the Moon covers the Sun.  We took out my telescope and looked at the Moon so he could see that it was almost the same size in the sky as the Sun. (no, we didn’t look at the Sun through the telescope!)

Checking out the Moon!

We also did a lot of cool eclipse stuff in the time leading up to totality.  At home, I had built an eclipse box.  I just took an old diaper box and cut a hole at one end.  Jake helped me put on some aluminum foil over the hole, and punch a hole in the foil with a pin.  You can then use the box to project really cool images of the Sun (more on this later).  I even had an opportunity to share my story during an interview with Jim Williams from CBS 2 Chicago.  I felt very fortunate to be able to represent everyone from Chicago going to see the eclipse, both as a teacher and as a father.

Preparations were made, and we headed down to St. Louis for the weekend.

We packed all five of us (two adults and three kids 7 and under) into a minivan and drove down to St. Louis, with a quick stop at Champaign to visit our alma mater and have lunch.  While in town, we went to the St. Louis Children’s Museum, spent a lot of time at the hotel pool, and ate lots of steak!  Finally, it was the morning of the eclipse.  We were invited to an eclipse party at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with a great view!  In the map below, you can see how the eclipse party was located much closer to the red line which is the maximum path of totality.  In other words, it’s where the Sun stays eclipsed for the longest amount of time (almost 2 min 40 sec).

Our hotel parking lot, in Kirkwood (SW of downtown St. Louis), could provide views of totality!

We got really lucky with the weather.  Although it was hot and humid, that’s par for the course for St. Louis in August.  But the skies were mostly clear with isolated storms to our east, near Carbondale.  We arrived in Washington and set up shop.  My friend brought a camera to set up to take some time-lapse images but I was just happy to be there with my son and share this elusive experience with him.

Rockin’ the eclipse glasses!


They say that there are no words for how cool seeing an eclipse is.  They were right.

It’s really hard to describe how strange and magical seeing a total eclipse is in person.  When the Moon first appears to make contact with the Sun, you don’t even notice.  If you look at the Sun through your eclipse glasses, after a while you can see a crescent-shaped bite taken out of the Moon.  And you can see a cool effect if you look at the image of the Sun made by overlapping leaves, kinda like the eclipse box but with many more holes and images.  Usually these images of the Sun are perfectly circular, but not when there’s an eclipse!

Partially eclipsed images of the Sun, made by overlapping leaves

Then, as you get close to totality, the light outside takes on a strange quality.  There’s no words to describe it but it sort of reminds you of twilight.  It’s still very dangerous to look directly at the Sun, even when it’s close to totality.  You will damage your eyesight because you don’t have nerves for pain for sunlight (when there’s not an eclipse, you will tend to look away from the Sun and you’ll squint because it’s just so bright).  A few minutes before totality, it looked a bit like this picture.  I just noticed, while writing this, that there is a secondary image of the Sun near the roof of the house!  I wonder if this was an internal image made by my cell phone camera?

A few minutes before totality (#nofilter!).  Can you see the secondary image of the almost totally-eclipsed Sun?

Totality itself was breathtaking.  It looked like just after sunset, but in 360 degrees.  There was a sort of perpetual twilight.  They say if you are up on a hill you can see the shadow of the Sun racing towards you, or feel the temperature drop several degrees.  We didn’t get to see all that, but you could hear crickets chirping and a bird fell asleep on a telephone wire, thinking it was nighttime.  It really was a magical experience, one I hope to repeat with my family in April 2024 for the next one!

I’m so thankful that I was able to share this experience with my son.

Jacob and I had such a great time.  From practicing wearing eclipse glasses, explaining how eclipses happen to Jim Williams, to taking in the event, he really had a blast.  Growing up, I was inspired in many ways, and I hope to be that source of inspiration for my kids as they grow.

About Our Experts

Meet Dan DuBrow, Founder of APEX Tutoring

I’m really excited to publish my first blog post about something I’ve been so passionate about for a long time.  I founded APEX Tutoring to help support students taking honors/AP math & science courses because of my own great experiences teaching and learning.

I know what it’s like to be a motivated, hard-working student.

As a middle and high school student, for the most part, learning came pretty easy to me.  I remember being bored in my 7th grade pre-algebra class, which I explained to my teacher.  She got me an algebra book and started giving me assignments, and within a few months, I had worked through the algebra curriculum.  So in 8th grade, I took math at the high school.  Every day, my mom would pick me up from my middle school, drive me to the high school for the course, sit and wait in the car while I was in class, and then drive me back after it was finished.  Come to think of it, I didn’t appreciate fully the time she took out of her day to drive me around.  (I certainly do now, Mom!)

My Mom, dropping me off at the high school for math class.

In high school, I took mostly honors classes, as well as a number of AP classes – my high school didn’t offer many.   I was a year ahead for math for all of high school and I was so into my physics class that I ended up taking a second year of physics as an independent study.  I eventually majored in Physics in college at the University of Illinois (with a minor in education).  So I understand what it’s like to have a love of learning!

I have a lot of experience teaching motivated students.

For two decades, my passion as a professional educator has been helping hard-working students of all ability levels learn tough subjects such as calculus and physics.  For the past 16 years as a classroom and online physics teacher, I’ve challenged my students to push themselves and reach their goals.  My students have gone on to become engineers at Google, doctors and lawyers, as well as teachers themselves at my school!

I am also active in teaching courses online for highly motivated, hard-working students.  I teach for Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development (AP Physics C) as well as Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth (Physics Honors).  These students are often taking these courses because they are so motivated and interested in math & science that they relish the extra challenge.  My job is to keep them motivated, so I design fun but tough lab experiments, give them challenging homework assignments, and supplement their learning with over 100 instructional videos that I’ve made.  Even when I’m not in the classroom, I find inspiration to bring real-life examples of Physics into my teaching.

Infinite Mirrors, a fun Physics Experiment you can do at home!

I can completely empathize with students who are following a similar track as I did, and need a little bit more support.  There are a lot of tutors out there, but finding somebody who understands the learning goals and needs of students like me can be more challenging, and this is why I founded APEX Tutoring.  I look forward to working with you!

Contact us today to try us out for a month!

Try APEX Today!