Tutor Spotlight: Michael Payne

Michael Payne, one of Applerouth’s Premium Tutors, is also a tutor trainer and the head grader for all of Applerouth’s diagnostic testing. With an engineering degree from Stanford, Michael Payne has worked in nine different industries doing everything from healthcare and hospitality to software development and aerospace.

As a summer camp counselor leading wilderness survival overnighters, he learned the importance of knowing something so well that you can do it under any circumstances. As part of a Silicon Valley startup, he learned how to break a process to see where it can be improved. As an in-home caregiver for a burn victim, he had to figure out what someone needed without them asking. As an analyst at a Dutch energy consulting firm, he modeled complex systems to see how they worked and how well they could work. And as a tutor, he does all of those things and teaches his students to do them as well.

How long have you been a tutor?

19 years. I began tutoring students in my high school Chemistry class. I’ve been working with students in different subjects ever since. When I joined Applerouth a few years ago, I started tutoring full time.

Why do you tutor?

The feeling when your student “gets it” is fantastic, but what keeps tutoring continually fascinating to me is the process of figuring out how someone else thinks. To work with a student on difficult material and to understand their thought process well enough to frame concepts in a way that they can immediately grasp is an incredible challenge. Every new student is an opportunity for me to get to know another person in a really meaningful way.

What subjects do you like to tutor?

My students will tell you that I am a huge nerd. They know because I tell them on day one. That’s partly just by way of introduction, but also because I really am interested in nearly every subject. Physics and calculus are fun because they explain so much of how the world around us works, and they change the way you see it for the rest of your life. History and literature change the way you see people. Preparing for the SAT or ACT can change the way you see your own mind.

What has been your most recent success case?

A recent one that jumps out at me is a student from the PSAT Master Class I taught at a local Atlanta private school this past fall. We met twice a week for an hour before homeroom, so everyone was usually moving pretty slowly. There was one student, however, who was not only engaged with what we were doing, but consistently excited and energetic. She wasn’t even shooting for National Merit recognition, necessarily, just taking the class as an opportunity to get a head start on the full length SAT, but she ended up raising her PSAT score from a 181 to a 221, and she will almost certainly get a National Merit scholarship out of it when they announce those this fall.

What have you learned from your students?

There is no substitute for caring about what you do. Time after time, when mastering material becomes a personal priority, students outperform others who put in more time but less thought. That observation caused me to pay more attention to my own priorities in life.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

My travel itinerary has gotten further and further off the beaten path for years now.  I got to travel in Kosovo while it was the newest country in the world. Now that South Sudan is the newest, it was a contender for my next excursion. But then a couple of good friends decided to visit their family in Thailand this summer and invited me along, so I think that will be my next trip.

What advice do you have for any family considering tutoring?

Tutoring is a bit different from teaching. A teacher’s job is to help a student acquire some body of knowledge, but a tutor’s job is to make a student more effective at acquiring knowledge for themselves. There is more to learn in the world than anyone could master in a lifetime, so more teachers are always needed. A tutor, though, if he does his job right, will eventually become unnecessary.

Michael’s currently accepting students with availability to work on Wednesdays from 4pm-6pm at our Peachtree Baptist Church office, Tuesdays from 7pm-9pm at our Vinings office, Thursdays from 6:30pm-9pm at our Holcomb Bridge office, and select times Sundays at our Vinings office.  To work with him, contact us at info@applerouth.com or at 404-728-0661.


Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 202-558-5644 or info@applerouth.com.