After many years as teachers and administrators at Elite of San Ramon in Northern California, Jennifer and Robert Collins have headed north to serve as Branch Director and Director of Operations at Elite's newest branch in Bellevue, Washington. We wanted to get to know this extraordinary husband and wife team better, so we sat down with them to learn a little more about their backgrounds, their new jobs at Elite, and their dancing skills. Among other things.
What do each of you do at Elite?
Jennifer Collins: I'm Elite of Bellevue's Branch Director, which means I do a lot of things. Primarily, I meet with students and parents to discuss their college and career plans and help match them with the best programs we offer. Once students are enrolled, I check in with them periodically to make sure they're meeting their goals. Behind the scenes, I arrange class schedules, hire instructors and staff, spread the word about our new location and otherwise "get stuff done." And I usually end up teaching–usually history, critical reading or writing.
Robert Collins: Basically, as Director of Operations, I do everything else. This includes coordinating with other businesses, handling accounts, training new teachers, counseling students and otherwise providing support to the branch. I'm also the bad cop – if students don't do their homework, they deal with me. In a pinch, I also teach math, chemistry, biology and physics.
How long have you been with Elite?
Jennifer: I started teaching history at Elite of San Ramon in Spring 2009. Since then, I've taught Book Club, AP and SAT Subject History, SAT and PSAT Critical Reading and Writing, and College Application Workshop. I've also served as Assistant Director and Branch Director.
Robert: I joined Elite in October 2008. I've taught math, biology, chemistry, physics and have served as a Branch Director.
What makes Elite special?
Jennifer: We've committed ourselves to Elite because of the educational values of the company. We both appreciate that our jobs as teachers and counselors are to instill knowledge in our students and set them up for strong futures. What sets Elite apart is its emphasis on learning and the importance of knowledge. While we certainly provide tips and tricks about how to take the tests, our main objective is to help our students become stronger critical thinkers and problem solvers. We want our students to end our classes with a thorough understanding of the subject material and an ability to solve problems rationally. We also admire the fact that Elite develops a love for learning and knowledge in its students.
Where are you from and where have you lived?
Jennifer: I'm Northern California born and bred, living in the Bay Area and Sacramento region primarily, but I did spend a semester abroad in Alcala de Hernares, Spain.
Robert: I grew up in Mountain View, California and spent my high school years in San Diego. Since then, I lived in the Bay Area until moving to Bellevue. We did also live at 7,000 feet of elevation on Donner Summit for a year. We had the unique experience of living through a full winter with 50+ feet of snowfall.
How long have you been in Washington? What's your favorite thing about your new home?
Jennifer: We moved to Bellevue in October just before the rain set in and have been very happy in our new home! I love that the city has lots of trees and offers plenty of outdoor activities. Our dogs LOVE Marymoor Off-Leash Park. I've also enjoyed shopping and dining downtown and exploring different locations and activities in Western Washington. I'm looking forward to the spring and summer so that we can start hiking!
Robert: They drink a lot of coffee here. I drink a lot of coffee. It was meant to be.
Where did you guys go to college and what did you major in?
Robert: We both attended the best public school in the world: University of California, Berkeley. GO BEARS! I studied Bioengineering with an emphasis in neural and sensory systems engineering. Jen studied Political Economy of Industrialized Societies.
Okay, time to get get real. Please name two things you would accomplish if you had unlimited power and influence.
Jennifer: I would try to tackle issues that the world's community currently faces, such as reducing our carbon footprint, that require absolute power to create a sizable impact that incentives (financial, emotional, etc.) would not solve on their own.
Robert: I would aggregate all medical records into a single anonymous database so that large-scale statistical analyses can be run to find links between diseases and genetic/environmental factors. They have already done this in some countries, but it would be hard to do it on a large scale and would be prone to abuse. I would also help Jen's environmental initiative by purchasing a couple clean, efficient hybrids for myself (particularly the Porsche 918 and the McLaren P1).
What's your technological gadget of choice?
Jennifer: My Kindle Fire: it fits easily in my purse and holds my favorite books and puzzle games.
Robert: I've had the opportunity to play with a Steambox for a little while. There's something about playing Kerbal Space Program on a 60 inch TV that makes me particularly happy.
Favorite breakfast cereal?
Jennifer: I don't really eat cereal because I hate milk.
I'm curious. Would others say that you can dance? Please explain.
Jennifer: Not a chance. When Robert and I went salsa dancing with friends, I kept trying to lead and ended up looking like a stiff chicken and bruising Robert's toes. It also doesn't help that I'm tone deaf and have no idea how to count music.
Robert: I studied engineering. What do you think?
What programs, educational or otherwise, are you watching these days?
Jennifer: I'm a sucker for practically anything on BBC, especially Orphan Black, Doctor Who, and Downton Abbey. Robert can never get enough Top Gear, and has refused to watch Breaking Bad explicitly because he is a chemistry teacher and hates reminding students that chemistry teachers do not (typically) manufacture methamphetamine. We also watch a lot of nature, history and science documentaries. Our recent favorite was Attenborough's Life Stories.
What's your #1 study tip for students?
Robert: Listen to music without words and make sure to get adequate sleep. The key to converting short term memory into long term memory is repeated exposure punctuated by sleep.
Jennifer: When studying, put down your devices – no Facebook, no texts, no music, no television – and work in twenty-minute intervals with brief breaks in between. Studying is a lot more effective and efficient when you're focused.
Any other fun facts we should know about you?
Robert: If and when Jeopardy offers a couples' tournament, we would and will destroy all competition. In the meantime, we challenge each other in Trivia Crack.
Jennifer: Though the Sports category is our great equalizer.