June 1, 2020
“The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.” – Simon Sinek
Latin for Agile, “Agilis” defines the everyday Executive pursuing extraordinary goals. This month, we share an inspirational journey of a fearless, Extra(ordinary) Executive, Aaron Renert, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., BEd., Founder and Principal of Renert School. Known for his gift in mathematics pedagogy, Aaron requires little introduction. The name “Renert” became synonymous with the delivery of top notch education. Renert School, an accredited private school established in September 2013, was founded on Renert’s reputation as a premier provider of academic support and exam preparation services for students across Calgary. Embracing the diverse range of human knowledge, Renert School allows its students to discover and appreciate the richness of the world through its model of SERIOUS FUN. To explore Aaron’s journey, we chose to go beyond the Renert School philosophy; beyond the website; and beyond the school’s multitude of challenging electives. We chose to explore emotion and character, and learn about the real Aaron Renert…beyond his credential; and beyond his successes as an educational innovator and entrepreneur.
Aaron immigrated with his parents to Canada from his native Israel at the age of thirteen: “the worst possible age to try and uproot your child and plant them across the world”, according to Aaron. After months of struggling with the culture, climate and adapting to the Canadian teenage normality, he made a firm decision. Fiercely independent with unwavering obstinacy, Aaron returned to Israel and spent 4 years in high school, followed by 3 additional years of mandatory military service away from his nuclear family. “These were some of the best, and most formative years of my life”, he recalls. “I have learned the value of hard work and what it takes to be independent. I learned that marching to your own beat comes at a cost, and you have to be willing to pay this cost”.
Complacent? Not this Extra(ordinary) Executive.
Aaron attended Israel’s four-year high school program, which positioned him for future academic success. “The public education I received back then was rigorous and worked very well for me. When my brother and I founded Renert School, I already had a very good model in mind, and we improved on it”. Spending his days at school, and the afternoons and evenings working 3 to 4 jobs at any given time, Aaron developed a solid work ethic and honed his entrepreneurial skills. Following his military service, Aaron returned to Canada, a young adult determined to explore education and everything Canada had to offer. The University of Calgary welcomed Aaron into its science faculty, where he double-majored in pure mathematics and statistics. Simultaneously, he completed a master’s degree in statistics, all while commencing a new venture, “Renert Tutorials”, one of Canada’s fastest growing tutoring companies. He takes us through the memory: “I slept very little in those years. I’d be taking 6 or 7 courses of my own, and had to learn how to ace exams with limited preparation. English was my second language, which made it trickier. All the while, I grew the tutoring business, supporting U of C students and preparing them for their calculus midterms and finals; first in groups of 2 to 3, then in rooms of 40 to 60. Before I knew it, I would pack the largest theatres on campus”.
Renert Tutorials gained momentum quickly, all through word of mouth. Instantaneously, Aaron’s brother, Dr. Moshe, joined him in this venture and together, they continued to persevere with the successful and popular tutoring business. The writing was on the wall: a demand for high quality academic support stripped supply by a huge margin. “We ran those mega review sessions for calculus, linear algebra, statistics…and welcomed thousands of U of C students in attendance every year. The growth was natural and organic,” Aaron shares proudly. “We branched out to offer diploma review courses to grade-12 students; we launched LSAT, MCAT and GMAT prep courses for students applying to law school, medical school or an MBA. There is something absolutely intoxicating about starting a new successful venture and seeing it succeeding. It is twice as rewarding when you love and believe in the product”.
Aaron was onto something. His natural intellect and developing confidence encouraged him to not be afraid of taking calculated risks. “Entrepreneurship is the art of common sense and of taking calculated risk. For me, the question is never ‘can I afford to take this risk?’, but rather ‘can I afford not to?’”. For over 30 years, Aaron and Dr. Moshe have kept their organization ahead of the curve and the competition. “You have to envision what the market would want tomorrow, and be very willing to let go of courses and products that were your bread-and-butter but fell out of favour. This is hard for people to do, because we are sentimental and nostalgic beings”. Agile and nimble, Aaron was willing to redefine his strategy with market needs, and continued to reinvent his business objectives, dissolving what no longer worked.
And repeat. And pivot.
Following years of teaching the Alberta Law School Admission Test (LSAT) course, Aaron decided to pursue legal education: “I had to conquer my own demons and pursue the degree that scared me the most due to English being my second language,” he reminisces. “It was a great challenge. It provided me with more fantastic education, and an invaluable tool that has served me well since. I am a huge believer in education. It is the great social equalizer: the road from Forest Lawn to Springbank so often passes through the Haskayne School of Business or the Schulich School of Engineering”.
Upon obtaining his LL.B., Aaron joined a top-tier law firm, where he articled and practiced for a few years. The unique combination of legal and statistical backgrounds positioned him uniquely to serve as the lead quantitative analyst for the Assembly of First Nations in the historic Indian Residential School settlement, the largest out-of-court settlement in Canadian history. “It was an experience of a lifetime, and I spent half of 2006 in Ottawa working on something I believed in, that was both historic and socially just; spending time with the highest levels of Canadian government, and seeing how politics is made up close and personal,” he proudly shares. “None of this would have been possible without obtaining the outstanding education I received at the University of Calgary”. This education also led Aaron to serve as a highly sought-after expert witness in major commercial disputes involving statistical and actuarial matters.
Aaron later returned to the University of Calgary and obtained an Education degree; including dedicating two additional years to a Ph.D. level research in mathematics education. This was all in preparation toward his dream project: Renert School. “My brother and I realized that there is only so much you can do as a tutoring company. If you really want to educate a child, you have to do it right. We knew that opening a school was the next logical step. The undertaking, however, was so enormous, compared to all we did for the first 20 years…the stars had to be all aligned”.
In 2013, the stars aligned; and Renert School opened its doors. “The school is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and the legacy we will leave behind,” he attests. “It is making the lives of hundreds of children much more joyful and meaningful. Of the many careers I have had, nothing beats education, or even comes close to it”.
Recognizing our limitations and the importance of humility, the strength of synergies and connections, and the value of hands-on leadership, Aaron and Dr. Moshe created a culture of appreciation as the pillar of the school. The desire for knowledge and respect are cultivated in students, teachers, and parents. Dedicated to remaining agile and proactive, Aaron is aware his leadership and decisions impact a community he now calls family. He remains bold, but reasonable; determined to protect the needs of what is most valuable to him: his students. From analyzing COVID-19 statistics and leading the province with his decision to close his school prior to others; to establishing a seamless, full day RENERTHERE online school program within a week, Aaron and Dr. Moshe remain grounded and reflective before following the herd.
Fondly known to his students as “Master Aaron”, we are touched by the reactions to his surprise visits into their Zoom classrooms. Students scramble to impress, answering mental math equations at the speed of light. With his students, Aaron does not shy away from sharing feedback, unfiltered and raw…yet, so authentic and with the intent to encourage. Students appreciate Aaron’s intuition, and his ability to recognize their strengths and weaknesses within a very short period of knowing them. “In education, experience counts for so much. I worked with countless children, so I have a very good feel as to how to achieve the most from them, and the best for them. My business is one of maximizing potential. This is what I promise to the parent, and this is what I owe the child”. Parents are encouraged to experience Renert School’s top tier educational system through their children’s eyes. Eventually, recognizing that their parenting role is changing as they place their trust with Aaron; who, in his class of mathematics, is adamant in discovering the “gift” within each student.
It is impossible to predict what the next step might be for Aaron. He is constantly thinking ahead about what the future may hold, both in possibilities and challenges. “We need to prepare our children for a future of constant change. The one thing we know for certain is that the future will keep on becoming less and less certain. I do not envy my students, as they will all have to navigate their ways in a complex workforce that no one can even predict. I do know, however, that the qualities that served me so well in my own life will still be in great demand: intrinsic motivation, grit and determination, common sense, humility, and the ability to see the best in our fellow humans. This is what we teach the children daily”.
We conclude our interview with Aaron, in admiration of his “gift” that cannot be mimicked, nor replicated. Aaron loves what he does. It’s his strongest motivator. It’s what keeps him going.
Our prediction? Generation Alpha will ace the LSAT by age ten. With humility. Courtesy of:
B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., BEd. ABCD…Z
We persisted. We listened. We peeled back the layers. We welcomed the vulnerability.
The result? We discovered sincerity, compassion and integrity. We were gifted with an appreciation for an Extra(ordinary) Executive who chooses to see the world though the accomplishments of “his children”…
…one graduate at a time.
How do you measure success?
-Written by Reena Khullar Sharma, Founder & CEO