“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt
I grew up in Wilmington, DE graduating from Alexis I du Pont H.S. in 1967. I received a BSE degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Michigan, earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics from Michigan State University (MSU), and was a post-doctoral researcher and teacher at the University of Colorado (Boulder).
My academic training was followed by a career in small businesses in Denver, CO and Los Alamos, NM. My work included engineering/ applied science projects business development, engineering management, quality assurance management, project management, and general business leadership. Along the way I started two companies that merged and grew to employ 65 people. I served as company President for 16 years, culminating in transition to the next generation through sale of the company. I have led award winning business activities including:
• SBA Government National Small Business Subcontractor Of the Year
• US Department of Energy Subcontractor of the Year
• Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award Semi-Finalist
• Project Management Institute Project of the Year Award Finalist (International Competition)
• International City/County Management Association Public Safety Program Excellence Award (population 10,000 to 49,999)
My initiatives also include founding a modest sized trade association that is 30 years old with international membership, published guidelines and standards documents, and an education program.
Along the way I mentored and coached many young engineers, undergraduate college students, and high school students in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and engineering disciplines.
When a football team is in a slump, the coach will say that it is time to refocus on fundamental skills and team work. No matter how intricate the motions and options are in the design of a play, it will fail if players are out of position, blocks are missed, a throw is off target, or the ball is dropped. Even when all the mechanics work routinely the team will lose if it lacks cohesion of motion, unity of purpose, and enthusiasm for the joy of playing. All successful coaches are eternal enthusiasts. Every coach believes that every day is the start of something new and better than yesterday. Players perform above their individual abilities when they are inspired by coaching optimism, excitement and energy. The best coaches believe that focusing on common sense skills and teamwork will lead to success. Every coach knows that the greatest fundamental is how the coach exudes enthusiasm. Infectious enthusiasm raises the players’ spirits and glues them together. Then, the slump will end.
I am an eternal enthusiast.
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor - Bachelors, Engineering Physics
Michigan State University - PhD, Physics
What is your teaching philosophy?
I firmly believe in patiently teaching how to understand complex ideas, starting with basic principles and applying logic. Frequently I will show more than one way to understand a concept. I will usually ask a student to venture a step or two beyond his/her comfort zone.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I will begin by asking questions about the student's prerequisite background knowledge and learning experiences. I will ask what the student is comfortable with and uncomfortable with. I will ask what the student enjoys and dislikes. I will ask what the student thinks makes a good teacher. We will try a few review problems and ideas to probe how the student thinks.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I like to have the student teach me. Usually I assign a problem or concept in a text. The student teaches the solution or concept to me.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
By example. I am a very enthusiastic / motivated teacher. I share stories from my long career as an entrepreneur / scientist / engineer where I was a lifelong learner.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I teach math and science subjects. There is nearly always more than one way to portray a concept or a problem solution. If a student is having difficulty, we will try one of the other approaches. Often difficulty in learning a skill or understanding a concept arises from an old misunderstanding of a prerequisite. We will explore those and attempt to relearn them.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
"Word problems" are a big deal in math and science courses. Reading them correctly and understanding their meaning so that they can be translated into variables, equations, and logic is essential. I show the student how I break the problem down phrase by phrase and word by word. Then I have the student teach the breakdown of some problems to me.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I seek the student's strengths to build upon so that they gain confidence. As we work together the student will reveal weaknesses. We will work on them as they arise so that the student feels the joy of successfully overcoming challenges.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I teach math and science subjects. Students who struggle in these subjects are generally fearful and feel defeated. Often they are taking the course because they have to. I am enthusiastic. I can show many, many instances where these subjects give us understanding of the nature that we live in. It wears off.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Students truly understand a concept or skill when they are able to teach it. I have the student teach me and show me how to solve problems.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Good old repetition and practice goes a long way. We do little timed competitions with students - they pick the problem and see if they can beat me to the solution.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
We begin by exploring why the student is taking the course, what the student expects to learn, what completion will mean to the student, and how the future of the student's learning career may depend on the course. Then we will explore the prerequisite and skills background of the student, looking at strengths and weaknesses.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I teach what is necessary in as many ways as needed until a light bulb goes on. Then we follow the light.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I am a great believer in active, participative learning. I do not like passive, isolated learning. We do a lot of pencil and paper work on a table top with textbooks and workbooks. I bring small experiments and demonstrations that the student can work with to see physical science in real life.