Kathleen Casprowitz

Franchisee tutors corporate transition

Before Sylvan Learning made a major financial investment into a digital-based curriculum, it set up an advisory group to test the waters and provide feedback.

One of the advisors, Kathleen Casprowitz, dove right in.

To Casprowitz, the idea of using an iPad to help facilitate teaching, testing and studying in the digital era made perfect sense.

As owner of 17 Sylvan franchises, including one in Oak Harbor, she felt she could gain keen insight by experimenting with iPads in all of her centers in Washington, Arizona and British Columbia and provide unique feedback to the corporate office.

“I got to sit on a board and brought a perspective very different than most people,” Casprowitz said. “No. 1, I had international experience. I had a major metro. I had rural and I had urban. I’ve seen it all. I also was the largest franchisee in the system.”

Three years after beta testing, Sylvan is deep into its digital conversion.

The company acknowledged the insight it received from Casprowitz by awarding her as Franchisee of the Year for 2013 in November.

It was the crowning moment of a 27-year career with the personal learning provider.

Casprowitz, 58, from Surrey, B.C., was flattered by the honor.

“I didn’t expect it,” she said. “It was quite a surprise for me. It’s probably the highest honor you can get at Sylvan and I felt pretty darn good about it.”

Casprowitz started her first Sylvan Learning center in Richmond, B.C., in 1987 before opening 10 more in Canada, three in Washington and three in Arizona.

She sold her Canadian centers last year and now lives in Gilbert, Ariz., “semi-retired” and running businesses in Mesa, Chandler and Phoenix. She co-owns the centers in Oak Harbor, Bellingham and Mount Vernon with her brother-in-law Chris Maki.

Casprowitz said she opened the Oak Harbor center, which is located on Pioneer Way, about 10 years ago. It was memorable.

“I remember we had a grand opening and the mayor came out,” she said, referring to Patty Cohen. “You don’t normally get that. In smaller communities, you do. She said, ‘We’re so thankful you’re here.’”

Setting the direction and tone of her franchises, Casprowitz oversees a network that has delivered many heartfelt rewards. She said being a part of the difference her teachers make in helping children learn better has been heartwarming.

Casprowitz said the new “SylvanSync” technology on the iPad was “easily embraced” at her centers, where students now use iPads as a tool to receive lessons and write answers.

The interaction between a teacher and student is still at the heart of what Sylvan does, Casprowitz said.

“The core essence of what we do is helping kids do better in school,” she said. “We’re just doing it differently now.

“It’s a very powerful system. Kids love it.”

Communicating the technology’s impact on her centers helped pave the way to Sylvan embracing it corporate-wide.

“Kathleen Casprowitz has contributed to the success of our entire system not only by providing exceptional service to Sylvan customers in her communities, but through her many contributions to our franchisee advisory groups,” said Barbara Timm-Brock, Sylvan’s chief development officer. “Kathleen brings passion and good judgment, always with teamwork and a great sense of humor.”

Casprowitz said she was flattered that the company was so receptive to her feedback.

“I took on a lot of naysayers,” Caspbrowitz said. “I was the one who said that we needed to do this. Our vice president of education said, ‘Kathleen, if it had not been for you, we wouldn’t have adopted SylvanSync.’

“You never know the impact you can have or the power of the individual.”