Swell Tutor Bios

Naomi, Founder

Naomi Zell is a nationally recognized test prep expert who has helped thousands of students reach their goals on the SAT, ACT, SSAT, GRE, and other tests, and gain entrance to top choice colleges. She started Swell Education in 2010 to meet the need for personalized, flexible prep for high-achieving students in the Bay Area.  Word-of-mouth spread, and Swell now has a small team of tutoring all-stars who offer support both for admissions tests and for academic success in school.  Before founding Swell, Naomi spent years in various roles with The Princeton Review in Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and California, ranging from National SAT/ACT Product Manager to Premier Tutor.  After an extended sailing trip, she decided to launch Swell to focus on building relationships with families to help students succeed. She received her MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a Longhorn Merit Scholar, and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Florida honors program, with a degree in English and economics. Naomi is a top choice private tutor among Bay Area families and tutors students from competitive schools such as Branson, Lick-Wilmerding, Marin Academy, Redwood, St. Ignatius, University, Urban, and many other day and boarding schools.  She spends most of her free time with her two small children exploring the Presidio and San Francisco. Naomi meets students in Corte Madera and Laurel Heights.  

Alexis, cofounder Swell Silicon Valley

Alexis joined Swell in 2013 and quickly became a favorite with students and families in San Francisco and Marin. When it was time to leave the busy city and head South to the suburbs, Alexis jumped on the opportunity to expand the Swell family! Alexis and Naomi founded Swell Silicon Valley, focused on providing personalized and effective test preparation. She is both the star tutor and tutoring manager of Swell Silicon Valley. Originally from Santa Cruz, Alexis started tutoring while studying Sociology in Santa Barbara. During this time, she also studied education theory and pedagogy at the Gervitz Graduate School of Education, graduating Magna Cum Laude with honors. She later studied abroad, earning her Masters degree at the University of Amsterdam. As a  private tutor, Alexis offers her students expertise, encouragement, and personalized strategies. With some students, Alexis also includes mindfulness techniques to combat test anxiety. Her goal with every student is to connect personally to build a productive and enjoyable relationship. While teaching for The Princeton Review, Alexis was awarded Santa Barbara teacher of the year as her students had the highest average score improvement. Alexis also produces ACT practice content, creating new practice test sections and strategy tips for Tutor Ted and online resources. When not tutoring, she enjoys being outdoors with her dog, either on the beach or in the woods. Alexis meets students from Mountain View to Hillsborough and in San Francisco. 

Senior Associate Tutors


Andrew grew up in Maryland, but came to the Bay Area for college and never left. He completed his undergraduate education at Stanford University, with a double major in American history and music and received a Master's degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Andrew has been a professional academic tutor, teacher, and curriculum writer for standardized test preparation since 2010. He has helped hundreds of students prepare for the SAT, ACT, and PSAT and has written curriculum for the new SAT and ACT.  In addition to test prep, Andrew tutors in subject areas including English Language and Literature, American History, World History, and Government & Politics. He strives to create a supportive, positive environment that allows students to achieve and acquire skills that can be applicable to both standardized tests and students' learning processes as a whole. It makes him extremely proud to watch his students grow into their own as test-takers, studiers, and scholars. When he isn't tutoring, Andrew plays drums and percussion in a variety of ensembles around the Bay Area. Andrew tutors in San Francisco and Marin. 


An Irvine, California native, Brendan attended UC Berkeley, where he studied English and rowed crew. After a stint as a biotech reporter, he moved to New York City to pursue his doctorate in American literature. At NYU, Brendan wrote a dissertation on the encyclopedic novel and won the Dean's Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award in the humanities. He was the postdoctoral fellow in contemporary American fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. Brendan's test prep experience includes both classroom and one-on-one tutoring, as well as college application advisement. He has helped hundreds of students at elite high schools in Manhattan, Southern California and Hong Kong improve their scores for over a decade. He enjoys demystifying tests like the ACT, SAT, SSAT and GRE so that students feel calm and confident on test day. A lover of literature and history, Brendan is excited to help students excel in AP tests and academics in the humanities. His passions include startups, cooking and the short story writer George Saunders. 


Born in Shanghai, China, George grew up in the Richmond District of San Francisco, where he learned to love books, basketball, photography, pierogis and rap music. After graduating from Lowell High School, he attended UC Davis for two years before transferring to Reed College. At Reed, he developed a deep passion for writing and post-War American fiction. He would ultimately return to the University of California community as a doctoral candidate specializing in post-War novels by Asian American and African American authors. George got his start in education very early as a tutor to elementary and middle school students while a high school student. For the last ten years, he has specialized in SAT and ACT test prep, advanced algebra, geometry and academic writing. He has developed ACT and SAT math curricula for two tutoring companies in recent years. In addition to tutoring, he has taught as a lecturer and graduate instructor across the undergraduate English curriculum at UC Irvine. George believes that every student’s path to academic success is unique and the best mentoring relationship is a collaboration. In his own educational experience, he has been fortunate to have amazing teachers and mentors who have helped him succeed at every level, so he has a special appreciation for the role of mentorship. George lives in Albany with his wife and his four-year-old son. When not overthinking his dissertation, he likes to worry about the Warriors, think about what to have for lunch, take pictures on long hikes around the Bay Area, play the violin and collect sneakers.

John E

John has worked with hundreds of students to help them best realize their unique potential. His focus is on forming a rapport with his students to make test prep something they actually enjoy, which dramatically improves results. John believes that the process of applying to college, beginning with standardized test prep, is an opportunity for personal growth and understanding outside the traditional classroom environment. He is a co-author of the book "Tutor Ted's Guide to the SAT: A Comprehensive, Non-Boring, Score-Raising, Future-Winning Resource for SAT Mastery So You Can Get Into College." John graduated Cum Laude from Northwestern University with a degree in Theatre Arts and Creative Writing. After over a decade in Los Angeles and a year as a touring musician, John is happy to be in the Bay area and enjoying the air and people. John tutors for the SAT, ACT, SSAT, and the SAT Subject Tests in US History and Literature, as well as writing, English, and US History, and meets students in San Francisco and over Skype.


A seasoned tutor with a lifelong love of learning, Jon earned a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School (where he was Syracuse University Scholar) and a B.A. in history and politics from Brandeis University. While his education and initial tutoring experience are humanities focused, Jon is convinced that math (and even math instruction) can be fun and invigorating. He particularly loves tutoring all sections of the SAT, ACT, SSAT, and US history tests, among others. Jon got his start tutoring with an elite Boston firm in 2012, where he helped more than one hundred students get the scores they wanted, and also has worked as a music and guitar teacher since 2007. He is indefatigably positive and, as an oldest of four kids, unfazed when teenagers act like teenagers. When not tutoring, he can be found working on his Bob Dylan impression, playing any sport in which he can be competitive, or reading historical nonfiction.


Josh relocated to San Francisco in 2013 after eight years in New York, where he was one of the most sought-after and effective tutors at several elite test prep agencies.  He has helped hundreds of students do their best on the SAT, ACT, GMAT, and SSAT and tutors for all subject areas on each test.  He was also the Senior Editor at Knewton, where he edited more than 5,000 test prep questions. He spent the first of half of his career in academia, teaching creative writing and composition classes at Brooklyn College. He continues to analyze the writing progress of college students across the country for the RAND Corporation. Josh earned a BA with honors from Amherst College and an MFA in fiction writing from Brooklyn College.  Josh tutors for the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests in World History and Literature as well as all levels of High School English and History and meets students in San Francisco.


Katie grew up in Beverly Farms, an idyllic New England town in Massachusetts. She has tutored more than three hundred students and is a seasoned test expert who can adapt to any situation. She began tutoring high school students in 2003 while she pursued a BA in both Political Science and Journalism at the University of Arizona.  After graduation, she joined forces with an elite tutoring company in Connecticut, and after nearly ten years of tutoring and roles as lead tutor, tutor trainer, and curriculum developer in Fairfield County – one of the most academically competitive areas of the country – she relocated to San Francisco. Katie prides herself on inspiring students and improving their test scores and grades by tapping into their individual needs. She specializes in prep for the verbal portions of the SAT and ACT, as well as U.S. History, U.S. Government & Politics, English Literature and Language, and college essays. Katie is an avid reader who enjoys traveling, hiking around the Bay Area, horseback riding, and showing off her pet bunny, FDR.  Katie tutors in San Francisco and Marin.


Nicole is an ACT expert, hailing from Illinois, which leads the nation in sheer quantity of ACT test takers.  She holds a bachelors degree in philosophy from DePaul University with high honors.  Nicole was one of the most requested tutors at one of Chicago’s leading private tutoring firms, which described her as “the perfect amalgam of tutor, mentor, and coach.”  She has tutored several hundred students for the ACT, SAT, and SSAT, and she has a range of experience developing curriculum, training test prep teachers, and mentoring students. While away from the books, Nicole works in agriculture, managing an organic blueberry farm in a sleepy Sonoma town.  She also enjoys practicing yoga, playing piano, and traveling.  She meets students in Corte Madera and Sonoma. Starting in February, she will meet students only over Skype.


A.B. English and American Literature and Language, Harvard College
M.Ed. Learning & Teaching, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Susan taught full-time middle school at the Sterne School in Pacific Heights for two years, and presently teaches drama & performance there in the afternoons.  Prior to moving to San Francisco, Susan worked extensively in New York with students with learning differences, incorporating a strong multi-sensory and metacognitive approach. Her specialty areas are mathematics from ages 8 through high school and all areas and levels of standardized test preparation (SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, ISEE, SSAT), as well as Executive Functioning and study skills and all levels of English.  Her work with EBL Coaching and Olympiad Academia emphasized vocabulary development and strong study skills. While at HGSE, Susan did the majority of her coursework with Project Zero, committing herself to investigating critical thinking, inquiry and creativity.  Because Susan works with all ages, she is able to put students’ learning in context for them.  She prides herself on helping parents to feel involved and empowered in their children’s development.  As a team, Susan works together with her students to find manageable supports that allow students to take more responsibility for their own learning. In a former life, Susan was a classically-trained professional actor and agency model.  Susan sees students in Noe Valley.


Themasap grew up in central New Jersey and graduated from New York University as a Neural Science major with minors in Psychology and Creative Writing. He has tutored and taught hundreds of students, as a private tutor, teaching assistant at Stanford, and learning specialist with the Schwab Learning Center at Stanford. He got a perfect 2400 on his own SAT, and is passionate about helping students analyze performance and shape prep in the way that is most effective for them. Currently an MD/PhD student at Stanford, Themasap also tutors and mentors first generation college students from low socio-economic backgrounds through the mesh of college applications and standardized test taking. His philosophy follows that every student needs a customized study schedule that fits their preferred methods of learning - and he acts ultimately as a mentor for the students. Themasap enjoys hiking, biking, serenading himself in the shower, sports, satirical classical Italian literature, football (only when the Colts are winning), sunshine, and long car rides by the beach. Themasap tutors for the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History, Literature, and Math Level 1 and 2 as well as various academic subject areas and meets students in Marin and San Francisco.

Associate Tutors


Fatuma-Ayaan is a recent graduate of Harvard University where she studied Human Evolutionary Biology. She currently works as a Clinical Research Coordinator at the UCSF School of Medicine and plans on applying to medical school next year. She grew up in Davis, CA and attended Davis Senior High School, where she participated in Model United Nations, National Merit Society, Varsity Crew and also conducted scientific research. She began tutoring in high school, where she worked as a peer tutor tutoring other high school students in Math and Science. She continued to work as tutor for high school students throughout college. She is extremely passionate about both tutoring students in academic subjects like math, biology, chemistry, English and history, as well assisting students with studying for standardized tests, including SAT, ACT and SAT subject tests. Fatuma has also freelanced as a college consultant, and is interested in guiding students through the college admissions process. She is looking forward to help bright and determined students excel academically!


Heather is an alumna of Harvard (M.Ed., Learning and Teaching) and Oberlin (B.A., Politics) who has devoted her life’s work to helping students access educational opportunities. Her love for tutoring was sparked as an undergrad volunteering at a Title 1 school in Ohio. Since then, she has tutored math, writing, Economics, ACT and SAT prep in cities on the East Coast, before settling down in beautiful Northern California. She is passionate about developing students’ abilities to manage stress, prioritize work, and break down complex problems. Heather created computer science curriculum at Google before joining a college access program in Palo Alto, at which she visualizes data and evaluates scholarship applications. Originally from Kansas, Heather enjoys practicing yoga, hiking in National Parks, and cheering on the Jayhawks basketball team.


Jackson grew up in a sleepy town in the Sierra Nevada. He began tutoring in high school and continued throughout his college career. After graduating from UC Davis with a degree in Economics, Jackson decided to pursue tutoring more directly. He worked for several elite tutoring agencies in Los Angeles, doing prep work for the ACT, SAT, ISEE and HSPT and many academic subject areas, and has helped more than 100 students reach their goals on admissions tests in the last two years. His favorite part about tutoring is the ability to curate a curriculum specifically for each student. He loves fostering relationships with families and the satisfaction of watching his students flourish. Ultimately Jackson strives to improve his students' relationships with test taking and learning in general. Jackson is currently exploring several programming languages in his spare time and enjoys backpacking when he gets the chance. Jackson works with students in San Francisco and in Marin.  


Jordan started running leadership workshops for kids when he was in high school, traveling from his hometown of Sacramento all across California. He got his B.A. in Social Studies with a minor in English at Harvard University, the first in his family to graduate. He moved to San Francisco in order to be closer to his four younger siblings, and since then he's been working as a math tutor, writing coach, and homeschool teacher. He’s worked with students who have behavioral and developmental needs, child geniuses who don’t seem to need help, and athletes with a hundred other things on their minds, but in every circumstance he believes his job is about bonding with his students to create a warm and relaxed environment. He prides himself on helping kids appreciate their potential. In his free time you can find him working on a perpetually unfinished novel, cooking, or watching the Warriors.   Jordan tutors in San Francisco and Marin.


Sophie grew up in Arizona, but the Bay Area has been home since she moved out to pursue a B.S. in Engineering Physics at Stanford. She's passionate about developing and implementing renewable energy technologies, and decided to stay at Stanford for a Masters in Materials Science so that she could continue her research in Li-ion batteries. She began tutoring while at Stanford, and has enjoyed sharing her love of in-depth learning with dozens of students of many ages and ability levels. She's helped students master geometry, build their intuition for mechanics, and gain the confidence needed to excel on test day. Sophie teaches a wide range of subjects, including math through calculus, physics, the SAT and ACT, SAT Subject tests,  SSAT, and the PSAT. She's an expert on test-taking strategies and, when she was a high school student, earned a perfect score on the SAT. She brings patience and a positive attitude to each lesson, and is prepared with multiple explanations for every new concept, always rooting her explanations in content that the student already understands. She relishes the chance to build strong relationships with her students, and finds that this helps her communicate new ideas effectively. Sophie enjoys spending time outdoors with her shepherd mix, Mandela; traveling; and having long conversations over good food. Her interests range from current events to Russian literature to energy policy, and she doesn't find anything quite as exciting as learning something new.