Teacher takes over driver's ed, tutoring business in Belleville

February 17, 2014 

NAME: ELISSA GARLAND

Job: Co-owner, My Tutor Learning Center at 4212 North Belt West in Belleville (618-277-7323)

Outlook: "It's wonderful to get to work with the different personalities. It's really cool to see some of the kids that I have taught come through now, and that's really cool."

Elissa Garland, a fifth-grade teacher at Jefferson School in Belleville, and her husband Brad Garland, a driver's education teacher, have taken over a driver's ed and tutoring business in Belleville. The two recently invited business reporter Will Buss to their side business to talk about their latest venture:

Q: How did you get started?

A: "We started out as solely tutoring. That's what Mary Jo Foerste started 30 years ago. It expanded into a driving school, which is primarily our business now. We would love to expand on that. We have a branch at Althoff (Catholic High School in Belleville), we have this branch and we have a branch in Evansville. We also have started offering CPR classes, one in the spring and one in the fall. We do about one a month for three months in the spring and then again in the fall. We also have remedial classes for driving for students 21 and under that have gotten two tickets in a year. That's once a month."

Q: Was it always located here?

A: "No. It was on Lebanon Avenue by Farmer's Market. That's where it started. (Brad) worked for Mary Jo at that time."

Q: How long has the business been at its current location?

A: "About 10 years ago."

Q: How long have you owned it?

A: "About a year ago. We would love to bring as much business as we can. We have gone to online scheduling and we have also accepted credit cards. Not everyone does that. We also have Sunday classes. We would love at some point to expand to a bigger building."

Q: Why did you take on this business?

A: "It seemed like a perfect fit for both us because Brad is currently a driver's education teacher in East St. Louis. For numerous reasons, many driving teachers are getting pink slips. So there was that instability and so we needed to find something a little bit more stable."

Q: What separates your business from others?

A: "What separates us from the larger tutoring companies is that we're all one-on-one and we customize our whole program. We work closely with the classroom teacher because you don't want to reinvent the wheel. They're coming to us for a reason. We've even gone to people's houses and we have a lot of space here for tutoring."

Q: How long have you been a teacher?

A: "For 24 years in Belleville District 118. I taught third grade for 13 years and fifth grade for 10 years and then I taught first grade for one year in O'Fallon."

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching?

A: "I love it. I wouldn't work any other place. I love my fifth graders."

Q: What do enjoy most about your tutoring business?

A: "It's wonderful to get to work with the different personalities. It's really cool to see some of the kids that I have taught come through now, and that's really cool."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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