Our experience with Dara as a teacher, mentor and, ultimately, coach for our son has been a fulfilling journey. She worked regularly with our son for 3 years in high school to accept and effectively deal with the challenges of slow processing and learning issues. Her patience and motivation helped him establish frameworks and strategies to comprehend and then master a plan for learning any subject he studied. That foundation became a springboard for adding his own observations and ideas to produce better quality writing in all subjects (an especially challenging task for any of us!).
Another noticeable product of our son’s time spent with Dara, was how consistently he improved his test-taking ability. Dara taught him how to find the intent of test questions and capably answer them. This skill ultimately lead to improved scores throughout all of the tests he was required to take in high school & for college prep. Her guidance was key to him being accepted by his top choices for college!
Once in college, the skills and strategies he learned with Dara empowered our son to take on any learning and testing situation he encountered. He was successful in graduating and earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 5 years.
Now that he is in the world of business, he still draws from the foundation that he & Dara built together. Dara has graciously continued to be available as a sounding board and coach for several unique situations.
We highly recommend Dara for her sensitivity, brilliant mind, guidance and, especially, her patience!! We are happy to speak with anyone who wants to qualify and get to know more about her.
— Janice and Mike | Parents
We started working with Dara when our son was having difficulty in his high school english class. He had such a positive experience with her and she helped him so much his sisters both worked with her. Our fourth child will start working with her soon. Dara was a calming influence who provided support and encouragement during a very stressful time. My kids adore her and say her instruction saved them. I couldn’t be more grateful for Dara’s help.
— Denise | Parent
I highly recommend Dara Berger as an excellent College Admission Essay Coach. Dara assisted our daughter with crafting her college application essay and was an invaluable resource during this six month process. The hardest part of the college admission essay process is knowing how to get started and Dara put my daughter on the right path. She was stumped as to what subject to write about, had some thoughts but no clear idea which topics would help reveal who she was or what was important to her. Using skilled and insightful questions, Dara helped her identify subjects to determine her best material for the essay. She helped her take very rough written ideas, through multiple drafts which resulted in a final polished essay (skills that served her well in college.) Dara is friendly, warm, collaborative, and was a master at motivating in order for work to be completed in a timely fashion to meet deadlines. She was encouraging and carefully helped our daughter discover her own strengths. She did not write her essay — it all came from our daughter, inspired by Dara’s calm and thoughtful support.
— Kristin | Parent
Dara Berger is an invaluable resource. Without her dedication, critical attention to detail, and honesty, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I began meeting with her in my junior year of high school, when, admittedly, I was reluctant to ask for help, yet she worked with me, listened to me and personalized her approach in a way that would benefit me the most. She not only helped me achieve my academic goals, but she taught me to have the self-discipline necessary for self-sufficiency and success in future pursuits, whether that be college applications, personal affairs, academic work, or athletics. It has been almost four years since I met Dara and the lessons she instilled in me are still a central part of my life. She has truly supported me throughout my academic career and I am forever grateful to Dara for all she has taught me.
— Alexa | Student
We asked Dara to help my oldest son with his college essays as he struggled to get his ideas down in writing. Dara met with him a few meaningful times to create wonderful essays that earned him admission to all his colleges. Two years later, when it was time for him to apply to his major, we reached out again to Dara and she helped him via email, with his application. The next year it was my middle son’s turn to apply to colleges and once again we asked Dara for help. He was more independent, but Dara found a way to connect with him. When we needed some college advice regarding waitlists, she was immediately available via phone to discuss and help us through the process with guidance and support which again, gave him the confidence he needed. We look forward to having Dara assist us again with our youngest!
— Katherine | Parent
For the past year, Dara has been supporting our high school daughter in her endeavor to be a successful high school student enrolled in college prep courses.

This rigorous course load is a challenge for any student, especially if the student is faced with learning challenges. Dara helped guide our daughter and our family how to navigate learning hurdles such as dyslexia, issues with executive function and anxiety.

Dara did an excellent job of providing oral and written feedback to me about our daughter’s progress. It gave our family great comfort to know that Dara was part of our team in helping our daughter be successful. She also worked closely with the neuropsychologist during the evaluation process that helped our daughter obtain necessary learning accommodations for school. We were grateful for her help as we navigated the evaluation process and worked with the school learning specialists.

Here’s an excerpt from an email I wrote Dara at the end of last school year:

”Hi - We can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done to help our daughter tap into her true potential!

We are so proud of how hard our daughter worked this year. You were able to help her become more efficient with her efforts. Because of you, she now has tremendous pride and reassurance that she belongs in Honors English. Additionally, you’ve taught her valuable learning tools that she can utilize in all her endeavors.

Happy summer - we are looking forward to working with you again next year!”
— Randi | Parent
I loved working with Dara! She was incredibly helpful in teaching me how to write and edit a research paper and college application essays. She pushed me to come to my own conclusions on how to improve the essays instead of just editing the paper and giving it back to me. She is always very patient, and although we scrapped my common app essay 5 times, she never made me feel stupid. On top of her amazing teaching skills, she is so caring and loving. I came over after being in a small car accident, and I was very shaken up. She comforted me and showed compassion before we got to work. I will always remember working with Dara, and would love to work with her again in the future.
— Nicole | Student
Dara Berger was recommended to us by OES as a learning specialist to help my son who was struggling in some of his classes.  She was able to quickly identify his specific learning challenges and crafted a study program to address these issues. She helped him develop new skills to better organize his time and help make his study time more productive. His writing skills in particular improved immensely.

Beyond the focus on class work Dara helped my son to develop effective test-taking strategies that best leveraged his academic capabilities. I can confidently say that a large part of my son’s success at OES can be attributed to Dara’s help. My son’s academic success and the confidence it instilled had a lot to do with his overall enjoyment of his time at OES.

Dara is a very warm and engaging person and my son enjoyed working with her during his high school years. It is very clear that she is not only extremely competent at what she does but that she loves her work.

While Dara was working with our son she kept us well informed of his learning challenges and successes. Aside from regular updates both via email and in person, Dara would arrange for teacher conferences as well. The entire process was well coordinated and communicated. Dara also helped us create a more structured learning environment at home with suggestions on how to help our son improve his time management skills and the overall productivity of his study
— Mary | Parent
I started working with Dara when I was in 5th grade. I had entered some of the worst years of my life, and my terrible, edgy attitude showed it. I recall the first one or two times we met after school, I was standoffish and cold. We pulled out some homework – history, geography, something like that – and I read aloud the question in a detached voice. It was about Guatemala. At that time in my life, I thought I had no talent. The only part of class I really liked was Spanish. I’m not sure how she knew, or if she was just being honest, but I still remember the slight breathlessness to her voice when she said, “Wow, Addie! That sounded amazing.” I was taken aback. What did she mean? Turns out, she was talking about my accent. My face heated up. I mumbled a thanks. My opinion of her changed forever.

We continued to work together for the next seven years, up until my graduation from high school. She went above and beyond for me.

In middle school, I had huge issues with turning in work that felt redundant in on time (or even doing it at all). My assignments would roll in some three months late. She never gave up on them. She told me once how amazing it was that I could just sit and write creative stories out like I did. Visualization. Vocabulary. It was all at the tip of my fingers. Nobody had ever told me that before. Nobody had ever watched me work before and really paid attention to it. I was in an environment that encouraged math and science – any other talents were worthless, but to her what I did meant something. Where others saw struggle, she saw strength. Her confidence in me was life-changing.

When I transferred from my private school of some 100 students that I had known for years into a public high school with some 450 strangers, she stayed with me. She’d meet me at coffee shops in downtown Portland in the middle of the day. When I was overwhelmed by everything that threatened to consume my life – falling behind, the strangers, the noise, the overstimulation – she would ask the employees to turn down the music. I had never realized that it was bothering me. Her calm, warm attitude came into focus as everything else faded in the background, almost like a dial on the radio. If you have ADHD like I do, that might make sense.

Even when she went to Shanghai for six months at the beginning of my senior year, she never left me alone. Dara would read my college application essays from abroad and send me feedback. When I reached for the impossible, she never stopped me. She was realistic enough to make sure I had all the options.

She came to my graduation. She always remembered my birthday. When we met at her house, she offered me toast because she always knew I hadn’t eaten. She knew what I could become. To me, she is family.

P.S. She still texts me to check on how I’m doing, two years later.
— Addie | Student
I started working with Dara during my junior year of high school, when I was struggling to write my thesis paper. Dara helped guide me through every step of the process, kept me focused, and was so patient with me as I struggled with assignments. The great thing about Dara is that she wants to help in any way possible, and is so committed to you and your learning process. She will even help you outside of sessions, such as finding sources or doing some extra research. Dara is always responsive, flexible, and accommodating. She is honestly one of the most hardworking people I know, and she’s passionate about helping her students. Now I’m graduating college and Dara and I have still stayed in touch 4 years later. Now she helps me with my job hunt and interview process, and is such a great resource. I know I can always look to her for real-world advice! Having her as a resource and a friend has been such a wonderful experience, and she has seen me through major growth and learning processes. I am so thankful for her help!
— Amira | Student
Dara and I began working together during my sophomore year of high school. She coached me diligently for 3 years on both my reading (speed and comprehension) and writing (essays, applications, and speeches) skills. The time that I spent learning from Dara was second to none! Through the process of countless revisions and red marked papers, she taught me the skills and strategies I needed to succeed in any academic and professional setting. What began as simple tutoring for two academic subjects, turned into a life-changing experience that propelled me into the next stage of my life. She helped me get into the top college of my choice, where I went on to graduate with a Bachelors and Masters degree in 5 years. The discipline I learned from her has helped me achieve in my professional life as well. Due to her patience and caring nature that she brought to every session, she has become a mentor and a lifelong friend! I would recommend Dara to anyone that is looking for coaching, tutoring, or simply the skills it takes to succeed!!
— Zack | Student
Dara and I began working together to improve my writing skills in preparation for applying to college. Over a year of working together, my writing improved drastically to the point where my writing ability was one of my strengths during college. Dara is an excellent teacher and mentor. It is a testament to her that I loved working with her on a subject I found incredibly frustrating at the time.
— Katie | Student
Dara worked with our son throughout his high school years. He transferred to OES from public school in the eighth grade. He was not fully prepared for the rigors and expectations of the OES curriculum. After some discussions with OES staff we approached Dara about tutoring our son. We couldn’t have been more satisfied with the results.

Dara has a deep knowledge of the OES curriculum and appears to have a very good working relationship with the teaching staff. She did an excellent job of mapping class expectations and requirements to our son’s style of study and learning. The end result was that our son had an extremely positive OES experience.

During Paxton’s senior year we turned to Dara again to help us with college applications. Again her knowledge of the process and of individual school expectations was superb. Our son was able to gain admission to one of his top choice schools and I’m confident that would not have happened without Dara’s help. As a tutor or college admissions coach I highly recommend Dara.
— Rick | Parent
When I recommend Dara to a family, I know they are in very good hands. I’ve never had an unhappy family or student! We have worked together for ten years now, and I consider her the consummate professional - knowledgeable, intuitive and a great sense of the wider academic world. A wonderful investment in lifelong learning skills!
— Portland Area Learning Specialist
We started working with Dara when our son was a Freshman at Jesuit High School. She was a wonderful advocate. She was willing to meet with teachers and help us determine that he was struggling with a learning style issue. After further testing he was given extended time during testing, that he is still using currently in college.
Our son has been able to use all the tools for studying, that Dara provided him for his style of learning. He has gone on to make the dean’s list his Sophomore year at Gonzaga University.
I believe with the constant support and guidance from Dara, she helped our son with his confidence, and teaching him to advocate for himself, during high school, and it has continued into college.
— Suzanne | Parent
During the time of my most serious academic confusion my parents introduced me to Dara. At first I was apprehensive of having someone “baby” me through my high school work, but it became clear after one session that she truly wanted to see me grow as a student and wanted the best for me. Over the course of 4 years, Dara helped me fill educational gaps I had in reading and writing, due to my learning disability. Dara restructured my academic foundation to help me find success. Through my work with her, I gained a better understanding of my strengths and learned how to compensate for my weaknesses. It is clear that Dara has shaped me into a more well rounded and confident student.

I used to stress so much about assignments. Whether I was in school or not, I constantly felt overwhelmed by what felt like a mountain of classwork to tackle. As a young adult, your world revolves around academics; if you aren’t confident in the classroom, it’s hard to be confident in real life. When I started doing well in class because of my work with Dara, I could see my worth as a person. I finally had clear evidence that I was smart and my challenges in the classroom didn’t mean that I was any less of a person.

Dara played an instrumental role in my life in high school and I am incredibly thankful for all that she has done for me. As I look forward to entering college in the fall, it’s easy to see that Dara’s tutoring has prepared me for the challenges ahead.
— Paxton | Student
We worked with Dara during our son’s senior year of high school. He responded very positively to her support and encouragement in both his classwork and importantly as he prepared for the college investigation and preparation activity. While he had excellent resources at school, Dara from her time spent getting to know and understand him, took strong interest in where his best fit would be for his onward education and helped in getting him there. Dara was respectful of her relationship with our son in her communications with us so that we were able to work collaboratively.
— Steven | Parent
Many of our students have had the benefit of Dara’s work and I will say this: she knows what she is doing, both in terms of pedagogy and, most importantly, communicating with young people. In addition, she is always personable and professional. In thirty-seven years of teaching I’ve worked with a plethora of tutors and educational professionals who assist students on an individual basis. Therefore, I feel qualified to grade them. Dara Berger A+.
— David | Teacher | Dean of Students
As a first-generation college student, applying to college was an overwhelming, unfamiliar experience. I was fortunate to have met Dara who not only willingly reviewed what seemed like an endless amount of applications, but she helped calm and guide me along the way. Thanks to Dara I was able to get into Santa Clara University, which was a school that she had brought to my attention. I am grateful that I went there and to this day stay in touch with Dara as she has made a huge impact on my life. I recommended her to my sister and, unsurprisingly, my sister also had a great experience. I suggest you reach out to Dara and you’ll shortly see what I mean for yourself! Thank you Dara for going the extra mile and helping out my family and me. You are much appreciated!
— Alvaro | Student
Dara has helped me so many times that I have lost track. She gave me guidance that I used to achieve an A in Honors English last year which I thought couldn’t be done. She even has helped me emotionally and lent her ear if I needed to talk about something. She is an amazing motivator and great teacher that I am lucky to have.
— Campbell | Student
Over the past ten years, I have had the distinct pleasure of referring Dara to others for support in writing college applications and will certainly continue to do so. Because of what I have seen her do with my clients, I also chose to have her work with my son on his college application essays. Dara is uniquely gifted in that she has an ability to elicit the best in the clients with whom she works. Her expertise in helping others convey their ideas in meaningful, convincing prose stands out. I have had indirect experience with other writing professionals who can offer suggestions with regard to organization and editing. Dara, however, coaches the individual in order to help that person identify ideas and then convey these ideas in their own voice. I have seen numerous young people thrive in their work with her.
— Ann | Educational Consultant
I’ve had the opportunity to work with Dara numerous times over the past 5 years. I am always impressed by her commitment to meeting the unique learning needs of her students. She is compassionate and patient, with a vision for a student’s long-term growth and development. With her vast professional experience, Dara is an invaluable resource, and I tremendously respect the work she’s done to make herself available to underserved populations in our community. Dara is always eager to learn and to try new things; this energy carries over to those with whom she works.
— Jay, SAT and Educational Mentor
My time with Dara lasted from my sophomore year of high school until the day I graduated in 2012. Our primary focus was on English courses as well as college applications and admission essays. With her help I was able to find my voice as a writer and the task of writing an essay was no longer the daunting thing I had made it out to be.

Beyond academics, Dara was essentially a life coach for me. She held me to an accountability standard that I had not previously experienced in my life, one that helped me grow as a student and more importantly as a person. She helped me navigate through a big adjustment phase of my life and I could not recommend working with Dara enough.
— Will | Student
Dara Berger is a force of nature: she is a determined advocate for her students with a fierce heart and a brilliant mind. Dara is someone who will NEVER give up on ANY kid she works with. I have known Dara to: work tirelessly day and night researching, thinking, talking to colleagues, challenging the status quo (if need be). She communicates regularly with teachers, learning specialists, parents and administrators. She does not stop until she “finds a way in” to help her students realize their potential as learners, human beings. Dara honors every kid from where they are, for who they are. She listens to them and ultimately seeks to draw from them their authentic gifts by helping them identify their unique strengths while also teaching them specific strategies for overcoming their particular obstacles. She will run beside them for as long as she needs to until she is sure they are ready to fly on their own. In spite of the countless success stories of students who have indeed made it on their own, thanks to her tutelage, I happen to know that many of her students reach back to connect with her as successful college students because the bond that she forms with them is so strong.
— Maria | Teacher