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Meet the Owners

meet the Owners of Tutor Doctor East Bay

Where Lifelong Learning and Growing Hits Home

Lauching with Love, a story of how owners Debbie Marks and Sandy Larson became friends and grew their business.

Debbie Marks and Sandy Larson

Debbie Marks

Debbie Marks, our CEO and Director of Education, is a Middle and High-School-English-Teacher-turned-IT Program-Manager, hailing from Southern California, where she pursued her love of words and classic texts with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the University of California, at Santa Barbara (UCSB). Surrounded by books and instilled with a love of learning from an early age, Debbie pursued her Teaching Credential in Secondary Education at San Diego State University, and she taught American and British Literature and composition for 3 years, including at the local Lewis Junior High and Patrick Henry High City Schools of San Diego.

Perhaps stronger than her yearn to learn, Debbie had a deep empathy and appreciation for feeling young, lost, and alone in a big classroom in which the adults seemed to have forgotten what it was like to be a child. She recalls at a tender age thinking, with a child’s vocabulary, “I would do this differently. I would make sure that students aren’t afraid to raise their hands and ask questions.”

After graduating from SDSU, Debbie felt she needed some “Northern Exposure” with a pull to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she’s been calling home for the last 25 years and enjoying the bountiful gifts of the East Bay for the last 8+ years. (She started to notice that many people who’d spent most of their lives in Southern California either spent their college years in Northern California or migrated there upon graduation---and vice-versa.) It was in San Francisco that Debbie would “marry” her passions for helping others learn with her own curiosity for “how stuff works” ---and shape a career in Information Technology training, program building, and instructional design, earning certificates in Six Sigma, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and other Program Management and “Continual Service Improvement'' methodologies to help colleagues and customers, alike.

In her early days in the credit services industry, Debbie met fascinating people from all different backgrounds and walks of life from all around the world---who signed up to work in Collections simply to work, live, and play in the City by the Bay, that Debbie lovingly calls “The Movable Feast of America.” In between working in the credit services industry and becoming a “techie,” Debbie spent some time traveling in Europe, most of which was in Northern Germany, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at Berlitz Language School in Hannover, with one of her most precious life-long friends, Christine, whom she met in the teaching credential program in San Diego. (She has since become the proud “Fairy Godmother” of Christine’s youngest daughter, Emily, who resides with her family in Bavaria.)

Debbie’s experience from teaching in larger classrooms to “ learning pods" to individualized instruction, with an ever-changing variety of ages and backgrounds and learning styles, has shed light on the impact of more personalized, bespoke, educational experiences. Debbie has seen first-hand the magic of “meeting students where they are, not where they ‘should’ be,” and it was this concept that attracted her to Tutor Doctor, where she can keep sharing the gifts that a lifelong love of learning keeps giving.

Debbie likens Tutor Doctor’s mission of tailoring education to your family’s individual needs to having your “own, personal ‘Mary Poppins.’” Whether in-person or online, it is now Debbie’s personal mission to ensure that every student, no matter how young or old, no matter where they are in their education, reaches the stars in their own, unique way.

Sandy Larson

Sandy Larson, our CFO and Treasurer, is a Mortgage and Banking Professional-turned-Massage Therapist, also hailing from Southern California, where she obtained a humble Associate of Arts degree from Moorpark College (affectionately known by the locals as “Harvard on the Hill”).

Sandy’s love of mathemathics revealed itself when she began her first career as a teller with Bank of A. Levy, her hometown bank, a position that Sandy actually took over from Debbie when Debbie left for college! Her 5 years in Retail Banking were a stepping stone into the mortgage industry, where she took a position with Countrywide Home Loans, assisting in the reconciliation of one of their main depository accounts for almost 3 years. From there Sandy transitioned through the merger with Bank of America, using the mathematical skills she’d gained over the years, to take on a new role as an analyst within Investor Accounting, responsible for servicing and managing investor assets. Her 13 + years in the mortgage industry were challenging but she doesn’t regret it one bit; it was an education in and of itself---and that is something that can’t be taken away, once given.

Sandy equates her experience to that of a marathon: Given the opportunity, we can see what we are made of and can pull from this strength as other life challenges arise. Sandy recalls drawing from this place of power during her own years in school. English was her favorite subject, and her natural ease with words gave her the ability to navigate the insecurities that come with being a young person in school. When she found herself struggling with other subjects, she would fall back on her “rock,” her confidence in English class, and push through, assuring herself that she would have a breakthrough, no matter how large or small, with time on her side. More importantly, it taught her that we all have something to offer in life. Sandy loves helping others with “all things written.” It gives her the opportunity to “pay it forward,” one of her favorite mantras.

Sandy’s unique passion for numbers and organization makes her the backbone of their neighborhood business. With style and grace, she can “out-Kondo” Marie Kondo (and “Mary Poppins”!) and replace chaos with structure faster than you can say, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”!

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