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Alicia

I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in December of 2008. Shortly after graduating, I was accepted as a corps member into Teach For America and was assigned to teach in Houston, TX. I decided to join the corps to obtain the much needed experience in education before directing my efforts to a doctoral graduate study program in School Psychology (which requires pedagogical and psychological foundations). I am a certified teacher in Mathematics grades 4-8 and in Generalist grades EC-6. I taught sixth and fifth grade mathematics during my two-year corps experience and third year of teaching. I then transitioned to working with a non-profit algebra prep company for two years while beginning my graduate program at Texas Woman's University. Currently, I am focused on my graduate studies and training as a future School Psychologist, and I am working on several research projects pertaining to children with learning disabilities and deficits in executive functions (particularly working memory). In the spring of 2015, I will teach an undergraduate course in developmental psychology at Texas Woman's University.

I have also previously tutored with several different organizations and have worked with students with learning differences: The Shelton School (lower elementary students reading and writing tutoring) and the UT Learning Center (as a peer educator for college students needing test prep and study strategies). Outside of teaching and tutoring, I spend a great deal of my free time enjoying my family, friends, movies, music, basketball games and food. I underwent demanding high school and college programs (including completing several Advanced Placement courses for college credit), engaged in theater, yearbook, community service, and honor societies, and completed undergraduate research in developmental psychology during my time at UT Austin.

Considering my background in teaching middle school mathematics, I am most comfortable with this subject area. However, I have also tutored and supported students with study skills, public speaking, writing, upper-level math (e.g., Algebra, Geometry, & Algebra II), lower-level math (e.g., basic arithmetic), and social science areas (e.g., psychology, history, government etc.); I also am well-equipped with a variety of teaching strategies and techniques to better support students' understanding and mastery of content. I firmly believe that students learn in varying ways and that the best instruction should correspond with their learning style. It is important for educators of any capacity (including tutors) to guide student understanding with explicit instruction, modeling, questioning, guided and independent practice; however, it is equally important to also provide students the learning opportunities to creatively solve novel problems using basic knowledge, concepts and skills in an effort to challenge them and extend their mastery of the material. My experience as a teacher and tutor allowed me the opportunity to also develop strategies for working with all types of learners, including students with gifted and talented abilities and students who required special needs and accommodations. In fact, as a future School Psychologist, one of my primary roles will be to work with families, teachers and administrators to provide the best assessment of and intervention support for students with unique academic and social needs.

I am aware of how important test preparation, study skills and academic abilities are for students as they head towards the next steps in their education, and I am more than willing to provide guidance and support to those students in any capacity.

Undergraduate Degree:

 University of Texas Austin - BA, Psychology

Certification:
 State Certified Teacher
Reading, watching movies and basketball games, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends

College English

Elementary School Math

High School English

Other

Social Sciences

Study Skills

Study Skills and Organization

Summer

What is your teaching philosophy?

Everyone has individual cognitive and academic strengths and weaknesses. Effective teachers and instructors acknowledge this and tailor their instruction to tap into the unique needs of each learner. Although some academic domains and skills may seem easier for students to manage, they can still be supported in their accessing of content and mastery of skills that they have more difficulty with in school. The best way to do this is to identify each student's unique learning style and use their strengths to compensate in those areas.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

Rapport-building is essential during all sessions, especially during the first session. I like to talk with the student for just a few minutes about their current course load, their strengths, and their problem areas. We may also discuss personal interests as we work through content (i.e., used in examples or modeling). I also like to hear from the student's perspective regarding the specific subject area, class atmosphere, and current experience at school because before this first session, notes and information have been provided.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

The simplest answer is often the best one: provide direct instruction, guided practice, and independent practice for the student. I am a huge proponent of modeling and using "think-alouds" during tutoring sessions, but I also like for the student to "teach-back" and walk us through steps. If time permits, I have often given "exit slips" or mini-quizzes to assess whether or not the student can independently work through the material on his/her own without my support.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

Students like when the information we cover during sessions can be applied to the real-world, especially to their own interests. I try to inquire about their hobbies, strengths, and interests to integrate during the session, which has been motivating for students in previous sessions. For my younger students, I have allowed them to pick out stickers after the end of a productive session, which they seem to like. For older students, I offer a great deal of praise because often their confidence has been shaken in the subject area.

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

Typically, skills or concepts can be broken down into manageable chunks. Identifying the exact chunk in the process where the student has a breakdown in understanding is essential to resolving his/her difficulty. At times, the student may be having difficulty because he/she does not know the vocabulary/"subject-speak/talk", does not know how to identify the concept, does not know how to perform the actual skill, does not know how to transfer the skill to a novel problem/situation, and/or does not know how to break down the problem/scenario and select an appropriate problem-solving strategy/outline/approach to start. Once the actual difficulty has been identified, it is easier to support the student by providing strategies (e.g., mnemonics, pictures/diagrams, strategy menus, word choice, etc.).

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

Reading comprehension is heavily influenced by decoding and fluency skills. If the student has trouble in either area, then that skill needs remediation first. However, if those above skills are intact, then the student may just need practice applying strategies for dissecting the passage (e.g., numbering paragraphs, highlighting unfamiliar vocab, making predictions, summarizing each paragraph, identifying the parts of the story including characters, setting, time-order/sequence of events, conflict, themes, main idea, detail-questions, etc.) and making personal connections to the text.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

Most students respond well to visually presented information. I write down steps, vocab, examples, concepts, ideas, pictures, diagrams, charts, formulas, etc. on a white board, and students often copy these notes or visuals on their own work for future reference. Most students also respond well to my gauging when guided practice should be transitioned to independent practice. It is important that the student feels a sense of accomplishment and/or increased clarity by the end of the session.