CHURUBUSCO — When Churubusco resident Krista Freel started her private tutoring company in 2016, she had no idea the degree of success it would see.

“I didn’t anticipate being at this spot already, so my business plan is being completely rewritten,” she said. “I’m already completely booked for this year.”

Great Minds Tutoring and Mentoring began in August 2016 after Freel decided to try education outside the school setting.

Krista Freel is pictured with her daughter, Kaylee.

“I started out as a teacher, and I taught in public school, private school and Montessori, so I’ve had a little bit of everything,” she said. “I’ve always kind of tutored students in the evening outside of teaching because teachers don’t make a whole lot.”

While it’s common for teachers to tutor outside of school to supplement their incomes, Freel felt a pedagogical pull toward tutoring and mentoring.

“I felt as a teacher that was where I could really teach,” she said. “In the classroom, there was so much going on that I kind of had this moral conflict going on of: ‘I could be doing better than this.’ My last year of teaching I had over 20 kindergartners, nine IEPs (individualized education plans), no aid and I felt like I was just correcting behavior the whole time.”

An IEP, according to Freel, “can be from a student with ADHD to a student that has some kind of a cognitive delay, so it covers a broad spectrum of students. The school gets together with the resource teacher, classroom teacher, principal and parents and they come together and decide a plan of action that is going to best fit that student.”

Freel began her career as a graphic design artist, but “figured out that I do not like sitting at a computer.” She then went into education at IPFW, where she graduated and received certifications in mild and moderate intervention.

“Most of the families I have this year have IEPs in something,” she said. “I really love that part of it because I get to help educate the parents on different resources that the county and state provide for their child that they wouldn’t have known were available, and a lot of these resources are free.”

She is almost done with a masters degree in mild and moderate intervention.

A passion for others

Freel cares deeply for underprivileged and misrepresented individuals, and it stems from an early age.

“I felt like I was the underdog in school because I was being targeted as a ‘problem child’ when I really wasn’t,” she said.

While in college, this compassion manifested through helping a group of Burmese refugees in Fort Wayne as a student at IPFW. One of her education professors was involved with helping them, and she decided to join his effort.

“On Saturdays, they would have Burmese families come in and we would teach the parents English and help the kids with their homework,” she said. “The parents can’t read English, can’t speak English. This is a really neat way to get the families together, and there’s a huge need for that. The Burmese population can’t get jobs, and a lot of times their kids are helping them figure out how to pay rent and write a check, and it just breaks my heart.”

The company today

For now, Freel tutors our of the Peabody Public Library on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and in Churubusco Mondays and Wednesdays. She teaches in accordance with her pedagogy.

“I do small groups. I was doing one-on-one tutoring, but kids actually work better with other kids,” she said. “It really helps everybody relax and honestly they work together and feed off each other. I work in groups of three. Some kids just come in and I help them with homework; I have other kids where we do skill building. It really just depends on what they need help with and what the parents need help with.”

With her successful first year and a tightly scheduled second, Freel is accelerating her plans to expand the business and help more students. Eventually, she plans to add an additional tutor and grow to a Fort Wayne location on the IPFW campus.