Aiding Students

Amanda Cochran helps students through current education challenges

Sylvan Resized

At a time when teachers, parents, and students have encountered unprecedented classroom circumstances, supplementary educational resources and tools have offered an extra lifeline.

AMANDA COCHRAN owns two Sylvan Learning Centers, in Jacksonville and Wilmington, which offers tutoring services to all levels of students.

As a former teacher, Cochran understands the challenges many students and teachers face under special circumstances. Although she hasn’t taught since moving to Sylvan full-time about five years ago, Cochran and her staff are part of the education community adjusting to pandemic conditions.

To parents navigating online classrooms, Cochran says that they are not alone” and that they should be mindful and reach out. Places like Sylvan, Cochran explains, are designed for unique learning needs.

“It’s beautiful to see parents be so encouraging when talking about their child’s struggles,” she says. “We want to be a place for success when the student needs it most, even if for just a short time.”

Cochran has worked for Sylvan in different roles, on and off, since 2009. After graduating from college, she continued to tutor part-time while teaching elementary education in Onslow County. She took a brief break from tutoring before teaching ACT prep to juniors as part of her high school’s contracted collaboration with Sylvan.

“Once the semester was over, the previous owner of the Jacksonville (Sylvan) location asked if I would be there full-time,” she says.

Cochran worked there for a couple of years, mostly as the center director, before purchasing the Jacksonville location in 2017.

“I didn’t seek it out,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. I loved what we were doing with the students. Being that I had the education background, I could see how important a place like Sylvan was. It wasn’t competing with local schools and teachers—we’re really a support for our teachers.”

Cochran remembers the Sylvan Learning Center in Jacksonville always having a strong partnership with the Onslow schools and teachers. Now she hopes to build the same community at the Wilmington location, which she purchased in September.

Another franchise was something Cochran pondered, but not so soon. Although she was hesitant to purchase another center in the middle of the pandemic, she said her passion for the Sylvan mission and her community vision motivated her to take the sudden opportunity.

The spread of COVID-19 has prevented Cochran from making more connections inside the New Hanover School system, as she has in Onslow, but she hopes to strengthen that bridge soon

“Sylvan has actually been in Wilmington for several decades,” she says, “but I’m not sure the community really knows that . . . We want Sylvan to be the name that families and teachers think of if a student needs extra help.”

Sylvan helps students catch up, keep up, or get ahead. Its core programs focus on academic gaps in reading, writing, and math, but they also offer enrichment programs and SAT and ACT prep.

“It’s really for any student,” Cochran explains.

Both the Jacksonville and Sylvan Learning Centers continue to be open during COVID-19, now back with face-to-face instruction (with careful social distancing and sanitation protocols).

“We want more students,” Cochran says. “That’s just the nature of business. But more importantly, we want to be a partner with the community.”

To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to

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Categories: Women to Watch