Teaching is my passion. As a teacher with 7+ years experience teaching chemistry labs ranging from physical, analytical, and general chemistry at the undergrad level and a full year teaching chemistry at the high school level, I have a vast amount of experience from which to draw upon. My Masters thesis included a significant amount of physics knowledge, and all of these topics require a great deal of math as well. I specialize in the STEM fields- science, technology, engineering, and math. My time teaching high school also included one-on-one experience with students who have special education needs, and I have found that communication with parents is essential. It is my hope that I can continue to help others learn and introduce them to the exciting world of math and science.
John Carroll University - BS, Chemistry
Florida International University - MS, Analytical Chemistry
What is your teaching philosophy?
Effective teaching is a difficult goal to achieve. When thinking of thinking, many people may think of classroom lectures, instructors doling out facts and figures, and students memorizing and regurgitating. However, I think that a more effective teaching strategy comes from an effort to help students develop new ways of thinking and new learning processes, while still capitalizing on methods that are familiar to them. In addition, teaching should not be exclusive to the domain of academics. Undergraduates and high school students, in particular, can benefit from learning life skills such as time management and critical thinking. Being a teacher requires a balance of professionalism and approachability, which can ultimately culminate in a positive experience for both the instructor and student. As a general chemistry laboratory instructor, my previous position required me to balance hands-on instruction with short lectures indicating background material. I have found that keeping the lectures short allowed students the opportunity to experience concepts first-hand, and helped them retain the information more effectively. Chemistry is a daunting subject for many students, and it is my goal to bring about their excitement by example. In addition to teaching them course material, I also mention real-world examples of chemistry in action, and give descriptions of my daily life as a research graduate student, when appropriate. This gave my students a firm grasp on what it means to do research in science, and what it means to discover something new and exciting. One of my main goals as a chemistry instructor is to teach students critical thinking skills. This is often a new experience for many students, as they are required to look at a single set of data from many different perspectives. "What could be causing this change? How could we make this experiment better?" These are the type of questions that I hope my students will eventually learn to ask on their own. I typically employ the method of answering their questions with another question in order to highlight important ideas or mistakes that a student may have made. This way, students are actually able to answer their own questions, which helps them become more confident in their abilities. I have found that this is much more effective than simply giving a direct answer because it assists the students in developing their critical thinking skills and helps them remember concepts more concretely since they came to the conclusion on their own. By slowly taking them through the process of critical thinking one step at a time, my aim is to help them learn chemical concepts as well as to develop analytical thinking skills. My goal is that they will eventually learn this questioning method and be able to employ it on their own. The critical thinking skills I teach in chemistry are directly applicable to everyday life. Most people consider it a purely academic endeavor, but it can be applied to a wide range of topics such as science, literature, music, and philosophy. I personally find it very important to help students realize that they can apply critical thinking and other skills to their personal life. Many undergraduate students are on their own for the first time, and are in the process of discovering and developing their personalities. At both St. Joseph High School and Florida International University, I had the opportunity to interact with a uniquely diverse student body representing a range of personalities. Their interests, beliefs, and behaviors can all be examined during the college years. Teachers often consider their jobs to be purely academic, but I think it is important to remember that some students are searching for new ideas and experiences. As a teacher, I want to nurture their search for new ideas so that they may develop as individuals both academically and personally. The desire to help students improve in two different ways requires a balance of professionalism and relatability. I approach this problem by being fun during class lectures but still imparting the course knowledge. I usually relate chemical concepts to everyday experiences or create a fictional short story to describe to students. This makes the students feel like I am approachable, but still knowledgeable. I believe that the stoic lectures of professors past need to be altered; a positive and fun learning atmosphere can be enjoyed regardless of the topic. Integration of innovative technological techniques is at the forefront of this revolution. To this end, I integrated interactive applications such as Classcraft and Kahoot, which encouraged student involvement. In an effort to improve my teaching abilities, I earned the Teaching Assistant Certification from FIU's Center for the Advancement of Teaching. Throughout my experience in this program, I have been able to identify some of my strengths and weaknesses as an instructor. I have been able to use this experience to incorporate daily quizzes into general chemistry laboratory curriculum as an effort to help students better prepare for labs. I also assisted in bringing new technology to the classroom by being one of the pilot instructors for the SPARK data acquisition system, which is now in full use in all of FIU's general chemistry laboratory sections. Current studies on teaching pedagogy are clear that simple lectures do not impart as much educational value as group work, writing exercises, and other interactive methods. It is important to remember that even teachers have to learn and that there is always potential for growth. While I have presented part of my teaching philosophy here, I am constantly in the process of examining and changing it. Every class has a unique set of individuals with challenges and talents. In order to teach, I must be flexible and willing to try new methods. My overall goal is to create a fun atmosphere where students' learning is a priority, and where they can feel comfortable asking questions. I want my students to develop critical thinking skills and to understand that they can apply to more than just scientific concepts. My goal is to help students learn chemistry while learning about themselves in the process.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would initially see what material has already been covered, and if the student can identify what he or she is having trouble with. If s/he isn't able to articulate this, I would look at some recent homework or quizzes to try to identify the problem. Then, I would go through the problem step by step to ensure the student understands the material.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Independent learning is NOT achieved by simply giving away the answer! I usually ask guiding questions that allow students to come to conclusions on their own. Not only does this help them remember the concept better, but they can take pride in knowing that they figured it out themselves.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Motivation depends on the student. Some students find that eligibility for sports is important, while others need to see the real life implications of a subject. (Ex. "Why is this important?") One way I like to do this is by selecting short articles from the news, such as the analysis of ancient ruins via forensic examination, or the possibility of cloning mammoths.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
The key is to go slowly and step by step. A common error that teachers commit is assuming students know a step, so the teacher skips it and doesn't explain. Going slowly, ensuring that each important detail is understood before the next, is vital.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
In this situation, I would try to go step by step through each sentence. What does this sentence, or small group of sentences, mean to say? If that is still difficult, we need to make sure that we understand the meaning of each word. Breaking down each concept will help students' understanding. Reading out loud is also helpful.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Being open, honest, and friendly is key to starting the tutoring relationship right. I make sure that my students know that they are not in any way "stupid" or "slow." People learn differently, and everyone has their own unique talents. Some may be math stars, but struggle with reading. Others are good at academics, but not sports or other endeavors. Each student is unique, and being open with the student is important.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
This really depends on the individual student. Sometimes, students can struggle, but they enjoy working hard and get satisfaction from working out the problem. Others have trouble seeing how the subject applies to everyday life. I would try to create a problem that the student could identify with. For example, perhaps the student is struggling with chemistry but really enjoys cars and hot rods. It would be fun to create a chemistry problem where the student can calculate how much energy the car can put out, or use balancing chemical equations to figure out what the best fuel would be. Relating the topic to something the student is interested in is helpful to students who are struggling.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
You fully understand something when you can explain it to others. I would ask the student to explain or solve a problem, pretending that I know nothing of the subject. I also ask questions along the way, "And why did you do that? Is that normally what's done?" This is a challenge, but one that shows a student is ready and understands the topic.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Repetition is key. It might not be glamorous, but once you've practiced enough, you forget that it used to be difficult! A student might start out with difficulty in a certain topic, with trouble on the first few problems. However, once you continue to practice, it becomes old hat. Eventually newer concepts sneak their way into the questions, and with so much practice, they can often work out these little bumps. If not, it's ok! The student hasn't seen it before, right? Now look back at those first problems where you had trouble. Most students find that they have truly advanced their understanding, and confidence in their ability comes from knowing that their hard work has paid off.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Typically, I examine a student's school work to look for any underlying themes of difficulty. This can be within one subject, or it could be a thread through multiple subjects. It's also helpful to simply ask the student up front, "What do you think you need help with?" If the answer is something along the lines of, "I'm so lost! I have no idea!" Then, we know that confidence is an issue- not necessarily the material. It's important to make a distinction between the two.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Each student is an individual and learns differently. Some learn better with models that allow them to visualize what's going on, while others are adept at listening to explanations. It's important to offer a variety of methods (kinetic, visual, and auditory) to a student in order to determine the best method for him/her. Other considerations are emotional- does this student do best when praised for doing a good job or when they are presented with a tough challenge? Not all students will respond in the same manner.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I usually use a textbook (preferably the one that the student is using in class), as well as simple notebook paper, a pencil, and a calculator. Other tools, such as visual aids, can be brought in on an as-needed basis. There are often excellent tools online, but I prefer to help students myself, since they can usually peruse the Internet at any time.