My true passion for education stems from the continuing divide I see in our current education system. As an intern in the New York City Teaching Fellows program, I worked with underserved students in the Bronx. In the summer of 2009, I returned to the Midwest with a new appreciation for the teaching profession and a desire to make a difference. I entered the McCloskey business competition at the University of Notre Dame and was awarded a grant to implement REACTT at a publicly funded school and residential facility for children that are removed from their homes by child-protected services.
I have experience professionally in Medical Device Sales and in Mortgage Lending. However, my true passion has always been education and at this point in my life I feel it is imperative to align my career satisfaction with how I dedicate myself professionally to society. I am extremely self-motivated, I enjoy working with young minds (because they're often the most creative), and lastly I enjoy great challenges. I intend to dedicate myself fully to finding the best way to teach each individual student and to never stop learning and improving myself.
Indiana University - Bachelors, Biological Sciences
Elementary School Math
High School Biology
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is to always teach qualitative before quantitative in math and science. In other words, I believe that understanding the concepts behind equations and ESPECIALLY shortcuts is essential to fully grasping a concept in order to move to the next level within that subject area. Once a shortcut is taught, there should always be an assessment that requires the student to demonstrate the appropriate conceptual understanding of the problem separate from solving problems using the shortcut. If the conceptual understanding is missed, it should put a hard STOP on moving on, even if it was only a portion of the concept that was erroneously demonstrated. The process can be quick using a simple correction technique and requiring the student to explain where their mistake originated. Gauging conceptual misunderstandings cumulatively over time can provide valuable information regarding each student's process of conceptualizing regarding strengths and weaknesses. Finally, it is essential for my understanding of a concept to be thorough enough to explain the same concept using at least three examples.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would introduce myself first and gauge their interest in activities both in and outside of school. Reaching common interests is something that I have mastered in sales, and I think can also be mastered in education (in case of emergency: if no common interests are detected, take interest by asking follow up questions about one of their interests). Showing each student your personality in relation to theirs makes them feel comfortable talking to you. Thus, the next thing I will establish with them are my expectations from them during each session (presented in a positive light). Finally, I will go over the layout of each session in terms of what they should expect the session schedule to look like. Finally, I would ask them to tell me about the work that we will be accomplishing together, to take me through how it is done, ask them a few essential conceptual questions about it, and then move to actual questions. At that point, it becomes more of a question/answer session wherein I'll advise them on how to do what's important during that session while taking my own notes regarding concepts that may have been missed or forgotten by the student in the past. I'd plan on addressing those either during that session or, more likely, at the beginning of the next session.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I believe that demonstrating independent learning (such as using a piece of knowledge or a fact that I'm unaware of) to find an answer is a critical step in understanding that they CAN be an independent learner. I firmly believe that EVERYONE is interested in SOMETHING, therefore, I would first pose a simple question: What don't you like about what you're interested in (or what is difficult about it)? Explaining why they don't like it or why a certain aspect presents great difficulty is often naturally followed by finding out HOW to make something easier, HOW it works, and leads to creative thinking and independent research. Continuously showing students that using their own creativity combined with their wealth of knowledge to create or find novel solutions is gratifying in a way that nothing else can be.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
First and most importantly, it is important to find out (and NOT by just directly asking the question) why they seem unmotivated. There are two reasons that can be easily addressed: 1. They feel that they can't do the work on their own. Positive reinforcement is key in this situation. It may involve fundamental concepts that the student has missed and require some backtracking to get caught up. But staying positive with the student and demonstrating my own motivation to stick with them when things seem too hard, and that we're going to do this TOGETHER, can help them feel a sense of responsibility to me to give more effort. 2. The student is capable of understanding the material but doesn't find it interesting. This can be addressed by challenging them with a problem that they will find interesting (related to their interests) that requires an understanding of the topic material. If they demonstrate a mastery of the subject material while engaged, it is time to present further challenges. If neither of the above are the case, taking short breaks to talk about how they're feeling, what might be bothering them, or taking their mind off of school for a moment, etc., can help get the student in the right frame of mind to be an effective, motivated learner. Keeping a positive attitude as a tutor is always 100% necessary even as it relates to negative problems, keeping a student thinking about success and not ruminating on past perceived failures, and telling them some of my own stories directly relating to how I overcame a similar problem (with help) are very important. Finally, if a student is inconsolable over an extended period of time, then some sort of outside intervention might be necessary.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would begin by asking them questions about similar concepts or concepts that should have been learned before the current concept to find out if they have simply missed something that can be taught quickly to catch them up. If a breakdown of the concept is necessary, I would take short breaks intermittently to allow them to decompress while learning each individual concept, and reassure them that they're on the right track. I would then attempt to present the concept in as many different ways as I could. Building self-confidence is key, so greater compliments will be given when aspects of the concept causing difficulty are broken down and understood individually. Always maintaining a positive attitude and reassuring the student that I KNOW that they can do this (even if it doesn't happen today) are common themes. Keeping things in perspective, and taking one step at a time are essential in this process.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I would begin by going one paragraph at a time and asking the student to tell me what happened. I would ask the student to tell me what they think will happen next and why (obviously in a mystery, the answer is often "I don't know"), but the bottom line is I'd make reading an interactive experience, wherein the student is able to comprehend the ideas conveyed by the author and not simply the words. After each chapter, I would engage the student in a discussion about themes, symbolism, and signs of foreshadowing. I would have them predict what is coming next (and I would predict as well) and base that on what they've read so far to pique their interest as to whether they are right or not. Again, making reading an interactive experience.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Student engagement is the primary goal at the beginning. If they find you boring, feel they can't relate to you in any way, or feel that you don't have their best interest in mind, then you've immediately lost credibility. Thus, it is critical to open up (appropriately) to a student in a way that they can relate to. Take genuine interest in that student's interests and never forget to ask about them. Being transparent about my own teaching style is also something I believe helps, and reminding them that I have struggled many times with academics as well, and that one of the most important things I learned was that "nobody is an island," meaning everyone on earth needs help and support. Once engagement is achieved, credibility must be established in order for them to listen intently and consistently. This is accomplished by showing an ability to convey concepts in various ways until they can understand and demonstrate their understanding. Being genuine and kind, with only positive reinforcement from day 1 is absolutely necessary.