Karen Ostlund knows that students who lack a positive connection with their educators will have difficulty advancing in their learning careers.

That is why she has been providing tutoring and academic support through her Learning Designs Learning Services for K-12 students for about 20 years. Although Ostlund has been tutoring in the Twin Cities, White Bear, northeast Minneapolis and other nearby areas, she opened her first learning center in August located at 103 Heritage Blvd. NE. on Plaza 5 in Isanti.

“So that’s number one,” Ostlund said alluding to the purpose of Learning Designs Learning Services. “And then we want them to feel successful as a learner. Our tagline is, ‘Unleash Your Academic Superpowers.’ So we want them to feel like learning brings out their superpowers, that they’re capable of doing anything as a learner.”

What sets Ostlund’s academic business apart from a typical classroom is that students receive personalized attention, which can help them thrive, she said.

“They’re just a number in a classroom,” Ostlund added. “And so when kids have more one-on-one attention with someone that wants to see them thrive, and is telling them how great they’re doing and how wonderful it is, and they see these progressive steps. Feeling accomplished, they’re much more likely to feel good and motivated about learning.”

At Learning Designs Learning Services, students receive extra help in reading, writing, math, Spanish and other subjects from Ostlund and five other tutors. Practice in college and university entrance exams such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the American College Testing is also provided.

After obtaining a degree in specific learning disabilities from Concordia University St. Paul, Ostlund has continued teaching special education at the Cambridge-Isanti Schools for many years. In her business, she also provides help to students with special needs, helping them develop strategies for success in their education.

Learning Designs also offers what’s called “Brain Lab,” which is for upper-grade students, Ostlund said.

“We … help them learn how to be more organized and proactive in their education,” she said. “Identify the learning strengths and deficits and help them get organized as a learner.”

For about a year and a half, Alex Wensmann of Isanti has been attending tutoring sessions with Ostlund. Jody Johnson, Wensmann’s mother, said Ostlund is great at keeping parents updated on how their children are doing in their learning.

“She just has a great heart,” Johnson said. “She genuinely wants to help kids learn, especially my son. He loves coming here. She helps me work with the district, too, if I need help with somethings that he needs help with.”

Johnson said that ever since Wensmann attended tutoring sessions with Ostlund, he’s been carrying a book with him everywhere he goes. Ostlund has had a “big impact,” on Wensmann, she added.

Currently, Ostlund is conducting tutoring sessions one-on-one with students in person and online. But her learning center can accommodate up to about 11 students, and Ostlund is developing small group reading and math instruction she hopes to implement soon.

“We’re doing some team mentorship where teams from the high school are coming in and working with students,” Ostlund said. “Ultimately, we’ll have more classes.”

Filling in gaps

Ostlund said that much of learning is cumulative. If students struggle early on, they may form gaps in their learning that could hamper their progress and success in school.

“We identify and strengthen those gaps for students so that they can be successful moving forward,” she said.

The kind of instruction Ostlund provides she dubbed, “academic coaching.”

“We want students to feel like they are getting coached and getting tools to learn instead of us telling them how to do things,” Ostlund said. “When we build on student’s strengths. … We try and make it fun.”

For more information on Learning Designs Learning Services call 612-616-2418 or visit www.designedtolearn.com.

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