In August 2010, Mita Tomerlin opened the Kumon learning center and last year survived COVID-19 by implementing her engineering logic of maintaining a seamless transition for students.
Kumon Math and Reading Center of Palm Coast celebrated 10 years of student success on Thursday, June 3, during an awards ceremony.
Kumon learning centers originated in Japan and are based on the founder Toru Kumon’s concept of self-learning. As a high school math teacher, Kumon was motivated to help his then-second-grade son become proficient at math. His logic was simple: If he could master math, he would have the flexibility in high school to follow a multitude of other interests.
In August 2010, when multiple families were traveling to Daytona Beach or Jacksonville to learn the method, Mita Tomerlin opened Palm Coast’s only Kumon learning center, at 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite A-206, in City Marketplace.
Tomerlin was a software engineer by profession and was working for Motorola during the economic decline in 2008. Her entire division was laid off. She then taught math to middle schoolers for a Catholic school for a while, and there she learned about Kumon. When her oldest daughter, Priya, was in fist grade, and her youngest daughter, Anjali, was in preschool, Tomerlin made the move to open her own center.
Chika Lee is from Japan and believes in the Kumon method.
“In Japan, Kumon is everywhere,” Lee said. “My son started at 2 years old. He’s not even in kindergarten, and he is doing multiplication. I wanted him to start early to develop his study habits. One of Kumon’s goals was to get students to study all by themselves. I wanted independence for my son.”
Interrupted by the pandemic
In March 2020, Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland signed the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” emergency proclamation, which forced Tomerlin to close her doors. On the Monday following spring break, Tomerlin called one of her staff members, and they met at the center to prepare a bin which would enable families to safely pick up their children’s worksheets. After the job was done, they locked up and left. Kumon stayed closed for live lessons from April through July.
“I had the idea that we had to Zoom, so I was prepping during spring break and getting my families on board even before the schools had figured it out,” Tomerlin said. “Children started joining on Zoom immediately. Schools had closed for a week, and by the time our students went back to school, they were prepared. My goal was to give my families the same experience as if they were here.”
'I love to teach'
Due to the pandemic, Tomerlin experienced a 25% drop in enrollment which reflected numbers reminiscent of the first month she opened. After reopening, by October, attendance had surpassed pre-COVID numbers and are currently at an all-time high.
“This business in Palm Coast is nowhere near what I used to make as an engineer, but that never bothered me,” Tomerlin said. “I was an engineer for eight years, and I’ve been doing this for more than 10 so that tells you what I like more. I love to teach. I love to see kids grow academically.”