(Photo by Linda Arntzenius)

"Education is not something you can force upon a child, it has to be tailor-made to suit individual needs," said former Hun School math teacher and soccer coach Karl Schellscheidt, whose Princeton Tutoring Institute offers a summer camp for students preparing to take the SSAT.

Profiles in Education
Karl Schellscheidt

Linda Arntzenius

World Cup Soccer matches have left Karl Schellscheidt with little time to spare. In order to catch a game, the former semi-pro soccer player, who directs his own Princeton Tutoring Institute (PTI), has had to come up with a few nifty scheduling moves reminiscent of his own prowess on the pitch when he played for Princeton University and then in Germany.

As well as teaching kids to develop the reasoning, problem-solving, and critical reading skills necessary to ace standardized tests that are becoming increasingly important for admission to many private middle and high schools as well as most Ivy League colleges, Mr. Schellscheidt also practices law out of his Rocky Hill home, where he has taken on the multiple tasks demanded of the "fixer upper" that he shares with fellow PTI tutor Danielle Beach and their three young children: eight-year old June, seven-year-old Gunnar and five-year-old Karson.

As the son of a professional soccer player (and coach for Seton Hall University) who came to the United States from Germany in 1966, Mr. Schellscheidt has been rooting for Germany. As a former kid from Union, New Jersey, he's been rooting for the U.S. team.


When it comes to education, however, Mr. Schellscheidt has all of his attention focused on high achievement. His goal? To follow in the footsteps of Hun School founder and Princeton University math professor, John Gale Hun, who, according to Mr. Schellscheidt, began tutoring local high-schoolers in the belief that there was a greater need for his talents in preparing younger students for the demands of higher education.

Inspired by Mr. Hun, whose portrait hangs in the paneled room where Mr. Schellscheidt spends hours tutoring — for the Secondary School Admissions Test, (SSAT), Standard Aptitude Test (SAT), and American College Test (ACT) — Mr. Schellscheidt hopes his one-on-one tutoring efforts will similarly develop into greater things.

While Professor Hun started his own school, Mr. Schellscheidt, who's been working in the standardized testing business for fifteen years now, is launching PTI's first week-long SSAT summer camp at the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart this month.

Mr. Schellscheidt earned a degree in civil engineering from Princeton University in 1990. Then, deciding that he didn't really want to be an engineer, he went to Germany to play on a semi-professional soccer team. As a bilingual German/English speaker, he was in the right place at the right time for a stint as liaison for the German team, during the summer of 1994 when the United States hosted the World Cup: "That was a great month of my life."

After receiving a master's degree in secondary education at Seton Hall he became a certified teacher in mathematics and taught at the Hun School for three years.

However, it was a job teaching a non-traditional student population of adjudicated youth — kids in prison or reform school — at Cook College through Rutgers University, that he credits for exposing him to the rudiments of teaching and learning. During that time, he recalls trying to lead discussions that foundered on the disparities between his own educational background and those of his students. "I learned never to make any assumptions about prior knowledge and experience," he said.

Feeling in danger of burn-out, and looking for a rigorous intellectual challenge, he opted for law school at the University of Pennsylvania. It was during those years that his three children were born; a period he describes wryly as "the most interesting of my life, studying and changing diapers simultaneously."

When the time demands of corporate law conflicted with the demands of his family, he returned to teaching, this time as an independent tutor. He still works long hours. But tutoring offers a flexible schedule. He hasn't given up law work entirely though. Once the kids are safely on the school bus, he works as an attorney serving a niche market in the pharmaceutical field. "From 3 p.m. until about 10 p.m., I'm at Hun tutoring kids. Now, its gotten to the point where I can't respond to all the tutoring demands."

Hence the Princeton Tutoring Institute, which, he also hopes, will broaden the scope of what he can achieve and the number and socio-economic status of those he can reach. With fellow tutors, Richard Volz, Kathy Doyle, and Danielle Beach, he can take on more children. That allows costs to come down to some extent.

"There's a growing demand for this kind of tutoring. It's more competitive to get into the top universities and even the second tier universities. That competitiveness has trickled down into competition for private high school and middle school spots."

When it comes to standardized tests, he doesn't believe in gimmicks. "If you develop good reasoning, problem-solving and critical reading skills, then it doesn't matter what the question is, you will be equipped to tackle it."

"There are a lot of so-called tricks out there, for beating the test or outsmarting the test-giver — stock responses to stock phrases, for example, that will work 80 percent of the time. What about the other 20 percent? My approach is to teach skills that allow the test-taker to distinguish approaches needed 80 percent of the time and 20 percent of the time; to figure out which is appropriate and when. My focus is on real learning and real understanding. Parents find that their children do better in all areas, not just in standardized test-taking."

Gimmicks can improve scores, said Mr. Schellscheidt, "but they are throw away skills that are not transferable. Teaching problem-solving is valuable for life."

Pick-up Soccer

While his focus is on teaching, Mr. Schellscheidt keeps in shape via pick-up soccer in Princeton with university friends, including local actor Andrew Shue (of Melrose Place fame and brother of Elizabeth). Through his soccer connections he's gotten involved with yet one more venture that looks as though it might make demands on his time. Inspired by the tragic accidental death of their older brother, the Shue siblings are working on a movie, for filming this summer, about a young girl whose older soccer-playing brother is killed in a tragic accident. "The film is set in the seventies. That's why I let my hair grow," said the youthful thirty-eight year-old Mr. Schellscheidt. "I'm hoping to make an appearance!"

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