PIVOT TUTORS is a rigorous and high level academic tutoring and test preparation center. We aim to challenge our students to help them reach their highest academic potential. Our teachers are charismatic, experienced, and experts in their fields, and we help students not only master the subject material, but show them how to study independently. We work with students of all different academic backgrounds, and as long as students are hardworking, there is no doubting their success.
Our mission is to creates a learning community of intellectually passionate students and teachers. We teach our students the knowledge and skills to help them become academically competitive and self-assured learners. What’s more, our mission is to provide our students with the foundation to successfully pursue any career they are intrigued by, instead of through subject avoidance. Our teaching style pushes students to stretch themselves, and become more adaptable learners who are capable, creative, and analytical problem solvers.
Our goal for every student is to build a foundation of steel in the subjects of mathematics, critical reading, analytical writing, and the sciences. By having a strong foundation in these essential subjects students will be academically competitive and open to every career option. We strive to help our students learn the both the class content and study skills they need to earn top grades and prepare them to be successful in college.
Shayda Moshirvaziri, PhD., Founder & Manager
Shayda has over 10 years of teaching and tutoring experience with all levels of mathematics and science for middle school, high school and college level students. She has a passion for teaching young students, and has taught undergraduate courses at UCSD including, Introduction to Bioengineering, Human Physiology, and Computer Science. She developed an ACT bootcamp course for a private high school in San Diego, and has taught as a premier level ACT and SAT instructor for different test prep centers before starting Pivot Tutors.
Shayda graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and a minor in Biomedical Engineering in 2003. She was accepted at MIT, John Hopkins University, Stanford, and UCSD for PhD programs in Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering on full fellowship. She chose to attend UCSD for graduate school and received her Masters and Doctorate in Bioengineering in 2007 and 2010, respectively. She has served in the capacity as the Senior Bioengineer at Applied Medical, Bioengineering Innovation Grant Writer at Tomnod, Inc, and as a Graduate Research Scientist at UCSD.
Lianna Carrigan, B.A., Program Director
Lianna started her educational career in Austin, TX teaching English (Honors, and Pre-AP), ESOL, and Reading to grades 8-11. She then moved to Oak Park, IL to work as Educational Director and Teacher at a Huntington Learning Center, where she tutored ACT students, but also focused on curriculum development to improve reading comprehension, fluency, and literacy skills. She has also worked as an AP Language and Composition teacher at a charter high school in Chicago, IL. She has spent years working with students and families to achieve the best results for students in the classroom and beyond.
Lianna holds a B.A. in English from Barnard College-Columbia University, and a Post-Baccalaureate Teaching Certificate from The University of Texas at Austin, as well as teaching certificates in two states . When not at Pivot, Lianna enjoys reading, writing, hanging out with her husband, their new daughter, and their dog, and spending time at the beach.
Laurel Wilkinson, B.A., ACT and SAT English, Reading, & Writing Instructor
Laurel recently graduated summa cum laude from UC San Diego with a B.A. in Literature/Writing and a minor in History. Upon graduation, she was recognized as a top scholar of John Muir College, received the Shirley Williams Memorial Award in Literary Arts and was awarded Honors with Highest Distinction for her thesis.
Laurel brings over five years of tutoring, mentoring, and communications experience to the Pivot Tutors team. She first discovered her passion for education in Northern California while working with elementary school students in reading and writing. She further cultivated an interest in pedagogy while serving as a writing tutor, mentor and undergraduate poetry course teaching assistant for UC San Diego’s Analytical Writing Program, Global Ambassador Program, and Department of Literature, respectively.
At Pivot Tutors, Laurel cherishes the opportunity to share her passion for the arts and humanities with students. She hopes to inspire them to understand the power and potential of the written word, and help them achieve their academic, career, and personal goals. In the future, she aspires to publish her manuscript and pursue graduate studies in creative writing, all the while maintaining a commitment to education. She enjoys dancing, climbing, listening to jazz and going for walks on the beach.
Igor Pontual, M.S., ACT, SAT, & All Levels of Mathematics Instructor
Igor holds a B.S. in Accounting and a M.S. in Statistics from SDSU. Igor has worked with many students to help them reach top marks in math classes ranging from Algebra to AP Calculus. He also has experience developing standardized test preparation curriculum and teaching the New SAT, ACT and SAT subject tests. Igor's past experience includes working as an accountant at a credit union, however his true passion has always revolved around teaching and helping students learn and enjoy math!
Igor loves to spend his free time taking his Dachshund, Marty McFly and Golden Doodle, Peter Parker on road trips up the West Coast.
Robert Wrightson, B.S., ACT, SAT, Mathematics, and Biology Instructor
Rob has a passion for education, and over seven years of direct tutoring and teaching experience. His excitement for working with students is clear: you will always find a smile on his face before, during, and after work each day.
Rob works with students on the ACT and SAT exams, mathematics, middle school sciences, and all levels of Biology (AP/Honors). He graduated from the University of North Florida (UNF) in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Math and Science Education and also holds a Florida Teaching Certification. Before moving to San Diego, Rob was the Head of Mathematics at a prestigious Florida tutoring center, where he designed individualized math and science programs for a wide range of students from various educational backgrounds. His role as a department head allowed him to develop curriculum and lead SAT, ACT, and math prep camps. He has also spent time as a public school teacher in Florida for eighth grade students in Honors Pre-Algebra, Honors Algebra 1, and Honors Geometry.
One of his main priorities in life is to have a positive impact on as many people’s lives as possible, and this has only been exemplified through his education career. As a new San Diegan, he is thrilled to have the opportunity to instruct and mentor San Diego’s best and brightest. Outside of helping San Diego’s youth achieve their goals academically, Rob enjoys being in the ocean, hiking, writing, drawing, and reading.
Michael Morshed, M.F.A., ACT and SAT English, Reading, and Writing Instructor
Michael started his teaching career in South Korea’s top academies, where he helped students learn academic English and the literature and writing skills they needed to succeed at top US universities for over 8 years. He has taught college-level composition, English language acquisition courses, has been a curriculum developer for college level English Composition. He also teaches English/Reading/Writing for SAT and ACT, and is a certified TOEFL instructor.
Along with teaching San Diego's brightest SAT and ACT students, Michael currently teaches an undergraduate writing course at UCSD.
Michael earned a master’s degree in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, and his bachelor's in English Literature from University of New Hampshire. He writes novels and has a soccer blog.
Maggie Montague, B.A., MFA, ACT and SAT English, Reading, and Writing
For seven years, Maggie studied the art of writing, first receiving her bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in art history from Whitworth University and later her MFA in creative nonfiction from West Virginia University. Along the way, Maggie has served as a composition and creative writing instructor for 250 students and counting.
Throughout her years of teaching, tutoring, and editing, Maggie’s developed a love of helping students gain a new understanding of the English language. She enjoys working one-on-one with students to strengthen their knowledge of grammar, reading, and writing fundamentals. She hopes to share her love of language and literature with students, empowering them to write with clarity and heart.
Maggie writes creative nonfiction essays, fictional short stories, and freelance articles. In addition to tutoring ACT & SAT English, Reading, and Writing, she is currently working as a freelance copyeditor.
Amber Knight, B.A., ACT and SAT English, English, Reading, Writing, and History Instructor
Amber Knight is passionate about helping students of all ages develop an interest in the humanities, strengthen their writing, and build the critical thinking skills that are essential to their success in college and beyond. For the last five years, Amber has worked as a private tutor for middle and high school students in San Diego County, offering tutoring in all AP history subjects, AP Language and Composition, AP Latin, and a variety of English courses. She has also guided high school students through the college application essay process.
Amber recently graduated summa cum laude from UCSD, with a B.A. in History and Classical Studies. During her undergraduate career, she specialized in Ancient and European history and dedicated several years to learning and translating Classical Latin, Homeric Greek, and Italian. As an aspiring author and educator, Amber aimed to build a strong foundation in teaching writing while attending UCSD through teaching assistant positions and extensive training in pedagogy. Amber worked at UCSD's Writing and Critical Expression Hub as a peer writing mentor for three years while also working as a writing tutor for UCSD's Triton Edge summer program, Making the Modern World program, and the Analytical Writing Program.
Amber is currently considering graduate school programs in education and curriculum design, but before embarking on the next step of her own education, she is devoted to helping San Diego's brightest high school students pursue their own academic and career goals.
Michelle Castro, M.S., ACT, SAT, ISEE, GRE, Math, Reading, Writing and Psychology Instructor
Michelle Castro is a warm and talented instructor who works with elementary through college level students on their English, Essay Writing, Psychology, ISEE, ACT, SAT, and GRE test preparation.
Michelle Castro graduated from Queens College, New York with a B.S. in Anthropology in 2006 and with her M.S. in Advanced Statistics in 2012. She immediately began her teaching career in New York City in 2012 where she taught as an adjunct professor for two years, as well as privately tutoring the SAT and ACT. She then continued to travel the world privately tutoring students SAT, ACT, ISSE, GRE, as well as academic subjects, in San Diego, Los Angeles, and internationally in Australia, India and Paris. She has recently relocated back to San Diego to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology.
Michelle loves on helping students not just with concept comprehension but with executive functioning and study skills. She believes that teaching should primarily and ultimately provide pupils with the tools they need in order to think critically and succeed autonomously.
Michelle is currently enjoying the sunny San Diego weather and hopes to contribute positively to society and to each individual life she touches.
Kara Lu, B.A., ACT and SAT English, Reading, and Writing Instructor
Kara Lu graduated cum laude from UCSD with a degree in English Literature and Education Studies. She has dedicated her academic studies toward understanding how migration, colonialism, and multi-nationality shapes our language. This has led her to focus her career efforts on improving literacy, which she believes to be a key to unlocking students' potential and educational opportunities throughout their lifetimes.
Kara’s passion for working with students began early and she has held diverse tutoring, mentoring, and teaching positions. Her five years of experience in education include conversation coaching for international students, teaching language and humanities in a project-based classroom, individual mentoring for college-level writing, and leading university writing workshops. Kara is also passionate about giving back to the communities in San Diego, volunteering with nonprofits that provide STEAM education for disadvantaged and low-income neighborhoods. At Pivot, Kara brings her love for working individually with students to reach their goals. She hopes to help learners make the most of their academics and shape their own future!
Kara plans to continue impacting education equity and accessibility by pursuing a Masters in Education in the near future. In the meantime, she spends her free time painting, hiking, and perusing farmers markets in San Diego.
Mike Tran, B.S., Mathematics, Chemistry, and Physics Instructor
Mike Tran has been tutoring for the last six years in San Diego (his native city!). Mike graduated from Westview HS in 2009 and went on to attend SDSU where he graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry. He plans to pursue graduate school to become an optometrist!
Until going to optometry school, he is enjoying teaching all levels of math up to AP Calculus AB, regular and AP Chemistry, and regular and AP Physics 1 and 2 to many of Pivot's academic tutoring students. His goal as a tutor to help students excel in topics that may be new or unfamiliar to them, and to develop their scientific writing and thinking to be as specific and descriptive as possible. In his free time, when not at Pivot or busy applying to optometry programs, Mike helps run and stream video game events, doing camera and production work at gaming events all over southern California!
Ivan Canales, B.A., High Level Mathematics and SAT Math 2 Instructor
Ivan earned his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at UC Berkeley and has spent the past 14 years as a tutor for San Diego City College where he tutors everything from Algebra to differential equations. He also works as a Calculus instructor and runs classes and study groups for his students. Ivan has also been in charge of tutor training and online tutor coordination at SD City College, and has taught courses in Business Calculus.
At Pivot Tutors, Ivan specializes in teaching all levels of math - from 9th grade all the way through upper-level college coursework. He is dedicated to helping students understand the underlying concepts behind math. Born in Chula Vista, and a lifelong resident of San Diego, Ivan has years of experience (personally and professionally) with the challenging academic atmosphere of San Diego. When not tutoring and teaching math, Ivan loves spending time with his daughter, traveling around the Western U.S. and Mexico, and going to museums.
Joyee Tseng, M.S., ACT and SAT Math, Biology, Physiology and Organic Chemistry
Joyee graduated from UCSD with her Masters degree in Biology, and her Bachelors in Human Biology. For her Master’s work, she studied the neurobiology of addiction (fascinating!), and will be presenting at the Society for Neuroscience this year along with publishing her research in the scientific community.
Joyee has over 6 years of experience as a private tutor for for students of all ages from elementary school to college students. She has been a teaching assistant for multiple biology classes at UCSD, with experience creating her own lesson plans for large classrooms of undergraduate students. She has also served as a writing mentor for high school students to help them get accepted into college. Through her work, she has developed a deep passion for helping students reach their personal goals and a drive to create opportunities for younger generations to access higher education.
Although she was born and raised in Los Angeles, she loves the city of San Diego and will often spend her free time hiking and exploring the food scene. She also loves going to the gym, indoor rock climbing, and dancing.