Mik and Lori Chester have been teaching for decades. During that time, they have had the chance to see up close what happens when kids don’t master important foundational concepts. The Chesters looked into bringing a tutoring franchise into St. Joseph to serve the needs of families with students who lacked proficiency with core skills. When that didn’t work, the Chester’s decided to start the Math Lab. 

Challenge
Kids trekking through grade school and high school are expected to absorb a lot of information and develop many skill sets. But not all students do this at the same pace. That inequity can lead to learning gaps when a student hasn’t fully mastered a concept before the class moves on to the next idea. Mik and Lori Chester opened Math Lab to offer parents and students a supportive place to identify and fill in those gaps before students become discouraged and mired in low self-esteem. The Chesters bring over a quarter of a century of middle school and high school teaching experience to Math Lab. Mik and Lori want to fill their Lab with 50-75 students getting individual help to bring skills up to proficiency levels.

Opportunity
From their front-row classroom vantage point, the Chesters could see how students with a weakened foundation struggled. They saw opening Math Lab as an opportunity to become small business owners and meet the need they were witnessing. Math Lab opened its doors in 2015 and offers a quiet, encouraging environment where small groups of students can find help with math, reading and language arts. The Lab uses online assessments and instructional tools along with personal tutoring to help students bolster their educational foundation. With all the tools in place, the opportunity to help a number of students in the community was there, the Chesters just needed to get the word out about their new business.

Solutions
As Chamber members, the Chesters have received multi-layered support. From a feature article in a Chamber publication to a get-the-word-out platform and referral opportunities, being involved with the Chamber has meant support and growth potential. Equally important, Chamber membership provides encouragement from other small business start-ups who understand the challenges of owning your own business.

Results
Math Lab has already met with over 50 students to help them identify and work on areas of educational weakness. Kids don’t need to be failing in order to benefit from positive intervention. The Chesters offer summer programs that can strengthen skills and enable kids to start school in the fall with more confidence. There are also programs to get a head start on material that will be introduced in the coming school year and even “rust prevention” initiatives to keep math, reading and language skills sharp following graduation. The Chesters want to see the Lab at capacity all year long helping students find the learning and encouragement they need to succeed.