About Us

“With my training focused on both the educational and emotional well-being of adolescents, I offer a unique balance of both personal interaction and instructional assistance for students.”

Cindy Palmer

Director / cindy@tutoringstem.com

Cindy Palmer, M.A. established STEM Tutoring, LLC in 2014 after 20 years of personal experience working with high school and college age students in both educational and therapeutic settings. Cindy’s undergraduate education focused on the sciences (B.S. Microbiology, B.A. Biology, and a Chemistry minor). After obtaining her undergraduate training from the Miami University, she began her career as the Freshmen Transition Coordinator in a highly at-risk school setting, a position that sparked her passion for helping students succeed both academically and emotionally.

Cindy acquired her teaching certificate, qualifying her to teach both Chemistry and Biology. After teaching for 5 years (2 years in Littleton, Colorado and 3 years in the Bellevue School District), Cindy obtained her Masters in Counseling from Seattle School of Psychology and Theology in 2004. She had a private practice as a Mental Health Counselor for adults and adolescents and began meeting with students for academic tutoring as well.

Cindy has now shifted her focus to training and mentoring the STEM Tutoring staff. Her driving mission is the development of leaders who can foster meaningful connections with students. She is also dedicated to providing her tutors with the latest research on all things related to the neuroscience of learning and adolescent development.

In 2017, Cindy moved from Bellevue to Bellingham with her husband and two daughters and now works with families in both locations. When she’s not training tutors or meeting with students, she enjoys any excuse to be outside, whether it’s to run a trail, play tennis, camp, or hike.

“My goal is to equip students with skills that will carry them beyond high school and to help them unlock the power of independent learning.”

Valerie Chieng

Math & Science Tutor, Bellevue

Valerie graduated from Seattle Pacific University in March of 2018 with a B.S. in Physiology and a minor in Chemistry. She currently works as a medical scribe and hopes to become an OB-GYN physician in the field of reproductive health.

At SPU, Valerie was employed by the Center for Learning as a Biology and Chemistry tutor, helping students with subjects like General Biology, General Chemistry, and Biochemistry. She was also a Learning Assistant for SPU’s BioCORE Scholars Program, which supports first generation and traditionally underrepresented students in biological and biomedical sciences. She is also proficient in math up to Calculus, with Geometry being her favorite math subject.

Outside of classes and tutoring, she also volunteered at Swedish Medical Center and Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA), which aligns with her interests in medicine, education, and supporting refugees. Through these experiences, Valerie discovered a passion for teaching and helping students find their “aha” moments. She believes that with some cultivation and intentional effort, students can become effective learners and master difficult concepts.

In her free time, Valerie enjoys going to the local farmer’s market, exploring different coffee shops, trying out new hiking trails, and learning how to cook various Asian recipes.

“I want to help students gain confidence, independence, and an understanding of how they learn best. My goal for students is that they will ultimately no longer need me.”

Aisling O'Connor

Math & Science Tutor, Bellevue

Aisling graduated from UW with a B.S. in biochemistry in June 2018. She is currently working as a medical scribe during her gap years while preparing for and applying to medical school. While she maintains an open mind regarding specialty, she knows that she wants to interact directly with patients. Connecting with people is one of her top priorities, which is one reason why she wants to become a physician.

Prior to her time at UW, Aisling worked as a mathematics tutor at Olympic College primarily assisting with algebra and pre-calculus. Because of this, she was able to interact with a diverse range of students and found it extremely rewarding to help guide students to their “Ah-ha!” moments. She has enjoyed continuing this with her students at STEM tutoring.

In her free time, Aisling supports people as a Crisis Counselor for Crisis Text Line, which is a free resource that people in crisis may access 24/7 via text message. She also enjoys playing video games, trying new recipes, and playing piano.

“My goal for students is to establish sustainable, reliable study habits that prepare them not only for the class we are working on, but all their classes present and future so that learning becomes less of a chore and more of a fun opportunity.”

Erika Bunge

Math & Science Tutor, Bellevue

Erika graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a B.S. in Physiology and a double minor in Chemistry and Cultural Anthropology in June 2019. Her love for the sciences, health care, and interpersonal relationships have led her to pursue a career in medicine. She is currently working as a medical scribe as she prepares for and applies to medical school.

Erika enjoys keeping busy with a variety of activities. During her time at SPU, Erika was employed by the Center for Learning as a Chemistry tutor, the Chemistry department as an Organic Chemistry teaching assistant and grader, and the Biology department as both a Biochemistry and Cellular Biology laboratory assistant and TA. She treasures the relationships she was able to build with students and professors as well as the ability to share her passion for STEM. Seeing students unravel a particularly hard problem is one of the reasons she loves tutoring. The fact that she was able to utilize her favorite subject, math, in all of her roles was also a huge plus (pun intended).

Outside of work, Erika enjoys running, reading, playing hockey, and caring for her many plants. She has recently discovered geocaching and enjoys going out and exploring Seattle with friends. Although she has tried cooking in the past, for the safety of her housemates she sticks to cereal, salads, and frozen dinners. She hopes that eventually her skills will improve and everything will pan out.

“My goal is to give students a more engaging experience where they can understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. I want to establish an environment where they are comfortable in asking questions, and where they increase their confidence to the point of independence.”

Gardenia Zaki

Math & Science Tutor, Bellevue

Gardenia moved to the US from the Middle East in 2016 after graduating high school. She attended Bellevue College in 2017 and graduated with an Associates degree in science by the end of 2018. During these years, Gardenia tutored college students in Biology and Chemistry in the Bellevue College Academic Success Center. She also volunteered during the summer of her freshman year in UW’s pathology lab, researching Alzheimer’s disease. That experience inspired Gardenia to pursue a career in research, specifically in the development of pharmaceutical remedies. Gardenia is currently completing her BS in Biochemistry at UW.

Upon arriving in the US, she found that her American friends were pivotal in creating a smoother transition for her to the culture through their positivity and support. After transferring to UW, she wanted to pursue a job that gave back to the community that gave her assistance when she needed it the most. Gardenia sees tutoring as the best way to do so, engaging with young-adults and being a part of their growth.

Gardenia likes to spend her free time drawing, cross-stitching, or reading fiction novels. On sunny days, she likes to hike or play badminton. Being the eldest of two sisters, she has become a bit of a “second mom” in the house and enjoys cooking and baking for her family, occasionally abusing her authority by having her sisters wash the dishes for her. :>)

“My aspiration as a tutor is to not only support students through the difficulties of math and succeed despite them, but to understand the benefits and rewards of this challenging process. The perseverance, problem solving, and critical thinking that they practice and develop will help them in all subjects and throughout their lives.”

Curtis Schmitz

Math Tutor, Bellingham

Curtis graduated from the University of Washington with a BS in Mathematics and a minor in Education, Learning, and Societies. He is currently enrolled in the Master's in Teaching program at Western Washington University with a focus on Math in Secondary Education. In between his studies he spent a year working and living in South and Central America in order to learn and practice Spanish.

Throughout his collegiate career, Curtis worked in varying roles with students and children. For two and a half years Curtis mentored and tutored students in the AVID program, a program whose purpose is to close the opportunity gap by preparing all students for college. Alongside this he worked as a College and Career Readiness Assistant, supporting students to prepare for their post-secondary education plans. During the summers Curtis worked at a summer camp in Vermont, helping demonstrate to the campers not only valuable outdoor skills but social and interpersonal skills as well.

Throughout all of these experiences, Curtis has learned the impact that a consistent, encouraging and empowering presence can have on a student. Curtis is determined and passionate about being that presence for all the students he works with, as a tutor and as a teacher moving forward.

In his free time, Curtis enjoys reading and playing sports and basically anything to do with the outdoors. Most likely if he has a moment to spare before or after class he will be rock climbing at the local gym.

“I want to show students that failure is never the end of the world and is more often than not a big stepping stone for personal growth.”

Sara Lucero

Math & Science Tutor

Sara graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington in 2019 and is currently pursuing a M.S. in Civil Engineering from UW with a focus in hydrology and hydrodynamics. She is passionate about chemical and physical wastewater processes in the built environment. She spent two years working as an engineering consultant in Bellevue, working on stormwater management in the King County area.

During her senior year, Sara worked as an engineering peer educator at UW, facilitating a class of freshman for a quarter and introducing them to general resources and providing mentorship during their introductory classes in college. She saw many instances of the fear of failure, whether it was not taking risks that could lead to great opportunities, or not asking for the help they needed to succeed.

Sara is no stranger to failure and difficulties, being rejected by her intended field of study three separate times. Ultimately, her determination and hard work earned her a spot in the major. Her work with the American Society of Civil Engineers chapter and hydrodynamics research lab landed her on the 2019 ASCE New Faces of Civil Engineering Collegiate list, a national list of students who represent the future of the profession. She hopes to inspire students to take risks without the fear of “failing” and to ask for help regardless of their circumstances.

When she’s not dreaming of math and chemistry, she is found doing crosswords or cooking meals for her hungry roommates. Sara enjoys playing guitar, writing, hot yoga, and swimming in the lake, yet has not found an effective way to do them all at the same time.

“As a tutor, I hope to help students develop knowledge and skills that will aid them in their current classes and prepare them to pursue their future interests with confidence.”

Antonia Duerre

Math & Science Tutor

Antonia graduated from Seattle Pacific University in June of 2020 with a B.S. in Applied Human Biology and a Minor in Psychology. She hopes to pursue a career in physical therapy where she can combine her passions for science, exercise, and health.

While a student at SPU, Antonia worked at the Center for Learning as a Biology tutor, Anatomy and Physiology tutor, and Peer Academic Coach. She was also able to serve as a Teaching Assistant and grader in the Biology department. In these positions, Antonia had the opportunity to help students strengthen not only their understanding of science, but also their time management and study skills. Antonia used her love of Biology as a way to build relationships with students, and she found it especially exciting to watch students experience a sense of empowerment from mastering difficult material.

Currently, Antonia is an assistant high school volleyball coach. In the past, she has coached athletes ages 9-18 at various levels. As a coach, Antonia enjoys helping players set and achieve their goals.

For fun, Antonia likes to play volleyball, read, cook, and go on walks with her two dogs.

“I am a firm believer that any student can understand science and mathematics and be confident in what they know. My goal as a tutor is to guide students to ask the right questions so that they can be equipped with problem-solving skills, as well as allowing them to see and understand the beauty of these subjects."

Jon Geiger

Math & Physics Tutor

Originally from Orange County, California, Jon is a third-year student at Seattle Pacific University pursuing a B.S. in Physics, a B.S. in Applied Mathematics, and a B.A. in Honors Liberal Arts, intending to graduate June of 2022. His wide variety of studies reflects his love for learning and his interests.

Jon began tutoring in high school as a volunteering activity in the school’s library, and this quickly jump-started his love of teaching and helping others with academics. He was able to build relationships with many students during that time, even further solidifying his passion for teaching. After graduating high school and deciding on attending SPU, he wanted to continue tutoring despite the new environment.

Though having never taken a physics course before college, Jon quickly fell in love with the subject after much inspiration from his professors. Jon is now also employed by the SPU Physics Department as a Learning Assistant, assisting students in and out of class, as well as participating in Physics Education research with some of his professors.

Outside of school and work, Jon enjoys playing video games, as he feels they provide a concentrated release of stress from the ever-stressful world. He is also an avid singer, a member of his school’s Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, and SPU’s finest and only Barbershop Quartet, Root 16.

“If you want to master it, teach it.”
— Richard Feynman

Van Tha Bik

Math & Physics Tutor

Van Tha Bik is a Junior at the University of Washington studying Physics. He is the oldest of three boys and first in his family to attend a four-year University. He and his family arrived in the United States as refugees from Myanmar in 2008, and as someone from such a family, education has always been a priority for Van Tha Bik. Accomplishing a four-year degree has always been a way of making the sacrifices his parents have made to bring his family to America worth it.

Van Tha Bik was (and still is) someone with great imagination. He is baffled by the questions and observations of the natural philosophers of the past. He wishes to inspire future generations to be baffled as well. Van Tha Bik believes an understanding of physics is a step towards that. In deciding upon a major, Van Tha Bik thought that since he is willing to grind out a day’s worth of math to solve a physics problem, it might be a major worth pursuing.

Van Tha Bik hopes to spark interest from his students in math and physics...enough so that the students are asking their own questions and doing their own research outside of school. He wants to encourage his students to ask “what if” questions. Van Tha Bik loves tutoring because of the the possibility that he could have this kind of impact on his students, leaving them inspired and asking probing physics questions.

In his free time, Van Tha Bik often plays video games. He has been playing a lot of Warzone lately. He also enjoys playing his guitar and singing from time to time.