I greatly enjoy working with adolescents and middle school-age students and helping them achieve their academic potential. My tutoring experience extends back more than a decade. Since early high school, I have tutored both peers and younger students. My students have included special education, gifted, English Language Learners, music/arts students and students with disabilities. I have tutored math up to Calculus AP; English Writing, Reading Comprehension and College Essay instruction; Science through AP Physics; and test preparation for GRE, ACT, SAT as well as state-mandated tests in Illinois and Michigan. Finally, I majored in and am pursuing a Master's Degree in the field of social science. The Master's in Education program at Depaul is preparing me to teach students from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds at the secondary level.
University of Michigan - BA with Highest Honors, Social Science, Latin American Studies
DePaul University - M.Ed., Bilingual Education/Secondary Education
ACT Composite: 34
ACT English: 35
ACT Math: 31
ACT Reading: 35
ACT Science: 32
SAT Composite: 1430
SAT Verbal: 740
College Level American History
College World History
Elementary School Math
High School Business
High School Economics
High School English
High School Level American History
High School Physics
High School World History
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
We always start by getting to know one another. I consider tutoring to be an ongoing, supportive relationship, so I want to know who my students are as people, beyond their academic questions. I also tell students a bit about myself and ask them if they have any questions for me. Usually, we find some common ground and mutual interest. From there, I move on to asking for my student's view on the subject matter or material that he or she is tackling. I try to get to the root of where the issues lie; material, confidence, prior knowledge, etc. Then I propose ideas for approaching the topic, based on what the student has told me and the background information I've received. Finally, we dive in and start working! I always end sessions by summarizing what we've done, leaving time for follow-up questions, and planning for the next session.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
It's all about asking the right guiding questions and offering support at critical junctures. I often see tutors explain an entire problem and solution, then ask the student if he or she understands, and inevitably the student will answer "yes" and they will move on. I look for proof of understanding. For example, if a student struggles with a complex math problem, I will encourage her to take a step back and think about what she already knows that helped her get to this point. Then we work through the problem step by step. Another example could be in critical reading. I'll ask the student to read but pause in certain places to ask questions like, "Why do you think that sentence is there?" or "What does that quote reveal about the character?" Over time, students learn to ask those kinds of reflective questions of themselves, once the technique has been modeled for them.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Staying motivated can be really hard, especially when a student is struggling with material and doesn't see an immediate return on his effort. I always point out areas of progress, both short-term and long-term. Goal-setting is also a great way to stay motivated, as long as the goals are incremental and achievable. Finally, I try to help the student find a way to connect to the material so that he feels personally invested in his own learning.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
When a skill or concept is particularly dense or difficult, I always break it down into component parts. We look at the origin of the concept, how all the pieces fit together, and how the concept fits into the larger picture. For example, many students tend to struggle with using the subjunctive in Spanish because we don't have an obvious subjunctive tense in English; it's a completely new grammatical idea. So, we break down the concept into grammar (i.e. conjugations) and meaning, after comparing Spanish phrases to their English equivalents. Finally, any skill requires practice, and I make use of practice problems and exercises over time to revisit difficult concepts until the student feels confident.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
In my experience, reading comprehension issues often come from not having learned how to read critically or actively. Active reading involves stopping, asking questions, thinking about the implications of the text, reading between the lines, and generally interacting with text. Even in the early years, reading a children's book and stopping to ask questions like, "Why do you think the wolf was able to blow down the house made of straw?" or "What's different about bricks that makes them stand nice and strong?" This technique works for far more difficult texts. For example, I used to struggle with science textbooks, so I made notes in the margins of important vocabulary and drew pictures of life forms being described in words. Active reading, reflective questioning, note taking, and drawing are very effective in helping students comprehend any sort of text.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Questions and praise! I always ask students if they understand a particular explanation; if my style is working for them or if they prefer a different approach based on how they learn best (reading, auditory, moving around if they need a break or refresher). Questions help the student feel more in control of his own learning process, which is essential to becoming a more independent learner. Praise is also essential; I want students to see their own progress and know that I believe in them. So often, by the time I start working with a student, she has lost confidence in her own abilities. We have to build up her confidence in order for the learning to stick and for future efforts to be successful.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
They have to find some connection with the material, no matter how slight. It's so easy to lose motivation when one is struggling and feels disconnected from the learning process. We work together to find some relevance to the student's life. I also break down the topic into appropriate steps so that the student feels excited and more confident each time he masters a new step. Feeling successful is an excellent way to get excited and engaged in learning.