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John

“Mystery creates wonder, and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” – Neil Armstrong
Like the first man to walk on the moon, wonder is a driving force in my life. Passion for art, language, exploration and the written word is part of what fuels my belief that we all, “desire to understand.” I am convinced that any student can learn to express their ideas and convictions with persuasion and clarity.
I studied Theatre Arts at the University of New Mexico (Bachelor of Fine Arts) as a four-year scholarship student and I find the plays and playwrights of the Elizabethan era (Shakespeare, John Fletcher, Thomas Kyd) particularly fascinating. Similarly, I am sparked by the writings of Jane Austen, Pablo Neruda, C.S. Lewis, Moliere, Anton Chekhov and more recently, Dava Sobel, to name a few.
Though I am new to tutoring professionally, I home-schooled my son from grades 3-10 before he was accepted to (and graduated from) the Orange County School of the Arts. I come from a family of educators and have long enjoyed helping students K-12 break through their hurdles in homework, projects and assignments. Inspired by my own teachers and professors, I tutor as way of honoring those who helped me conquer my own learning obstacles.
I am available for tutoring in English, Language Arts, History, Math, Pre-Algebra and Algebra. Additionally, I have an extensive background as an audition coach, as a public speaking instructor, and as a mentor in drama/theatre, beginning guitar, songwriting and poetry.
Working as a casting director/camera operator in film and television for more than a decade gave me contact with many thousands of artists and allowed me to hone the art of concise interpretation while working with a vast array of talented performers of all ages. From this came the essence of my tutoring style: helping a student to “peel into the onion” layer by layer, posing questions that examine any subject from multiple angles, be it essay or artifact, equation or axiom. My goal is to help a student possess genuine understanding of any issue and to formulate a thought process for seeing the world – literally – through language, history, math, art and science.
I look for the best in everyone I meet, and I love helping people discover the best in themselves.

Undergraduate Degree:

 University of New Mexico-Main Campus - Bachelors, Fine Arts

International Space Station, birds of prey (especially Peregrine Falcons and Cooper’s Hawks), baseball, basketball, skiing, hot-air balloons, archaeology, the Rocky Mountains, music, Hitchcock films and the crossword puzzles of Tunick & Bursztyn.

College English

Comparative Literature

Elementary School Math

High School English

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

One of the advantages of one-to-one tutoring is that it’s a great environment for keeping a running dialogue. Students don’t want to do their classwork wrong, so if they need help understanding the instructions of a particular assignment, I’m there to clarify, usually by breaking down the instructions phrase by phrase. This often helps the student to clearly see what is expected of them, which helps them fulfill the assignment objective. But a completed assignment/work-page doesn’t necessarily ensure that genuine learning has transpired; so it’s important do some immediate review of the material, asking pertinent questions, often with a twist, to test whether the concept has truly taken root in a cognitive or practical way.

What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe that the most important skill for any student to acquire is the ability to learn how to learn. This serves the ultimate goal of education at every level from pre-school to doctorate study, and is vital for any student to become an independent learner. Once a child or young adult realizes that it is possible for them to learn virtually anything that is set before them, including all the things that they desire to learn, their potential for learning becomes veritably limitless. To this end, whatever the subject of a tutoring session might be on any particular day, my essential purpose is to facilitate the student in the process of learning how to learn. This involves a certain degree of casting vision for each girl or boy, each young man or young woman – portraying for them what their life could become in 5 years, 8 years, 12 years, even 20 years. I love to help students grasp that every lesson and every assignment is constructed in such a way as to help build their life, line upon line, precept upon precept.

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

Comprehension is a matter of context in almost every realm of education. Words by themselves can be flat, 2-dimensional. They become 3-dimensional when the student begins to see how versatile words are. I’m a storyteller and I like to take turns reading with students so they can see as we read from the same page that those 2-dimensional words can be spoken into life with just a little bit of imagination. The trade-off can be almost instantaneous. But even when it takes time, perseverance pays big dividends, and exposure to a wide array of reading examples helps the student unlock skills as a reader, as a writer, as a listener and as a speaker of the English language.

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

The power of observation is my primary tool for assessment. Each student is a unique person, and it is a privilege for me to meet someone and learn how he or she thinks by listening to how they answer questions, to hear their tone of voice and to see how they use body language to communicate. I try to determine early in the tutoring relationship whether a student is primarily a visual learner or an auditory learner, and this is usually evident in casual conversation rather than during instruction or review. For boys and girls, and young men and young women alike, they are interested in people who are interested in them. So as I ask about their day, and they tell me about their friendships, their favorite games and sports, their pets – I am simultaneously learning how to relate to them on a personalized educational level.

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

Everything is dependent on the subject and the grade level of the student, of course, but I prepare for each tutoring session by carrying with me any resources that might be needed or of age-appropriate general use – including flash cards for math and vocabulary; any pertinent texts, workbooks, practice sheets and resource volumes; a calculator; a ruler/tape measure; clipboards with legal pads/sketch pads; pens and markers; and any other thing that applies to the subject matter or that fits a particular student’s needs.

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

The short answer is to change tactics; to mix up the approach – introducing a new perspective can help a student perceive a task or an assignment from different angle, and this often helps to frame their understanding of a concept in a fuller sense. The long answer is help discover what the root cause is for the difficulty, which could be attributed to anything from a learning disability to outdated eyeglass prescription to a misconception of the subject and even to sleep deficiencies. Teachers, parents and school counselors will have a larger overview of the student’s difficulties, but a tutor’s observations can help to complete the picture and aid the student in overcoming obstacles.