I attended Smith College and earned my bachelor’s degree in English language and literature, and then a master’s and doctorate in English from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. One of my favorite writers is the novelist Anthony Trollope. What I love about Trollope is his acute ability to see into a person’s motivations—and to forgive people when they have failed. In short, his viewpoint is that you should not judge before you know all the facts. To a great extent, that lesson helps me teach.
I began teaching and tutoring in the Seattle area in 1996, and have been teaching writing at the University of Washington since 2001. I teach in a graduate program that offers a master’s degree in biomedical regulatory affairs. I also coach African immigrant high schoolers in the Making Changes program at the UW Women’s Center. We have an outstanding record for college admissions. My specialty is the college application essay.
What’s my tutoring and teaching style? I believe in listening carefully as the student talks about what he or she wants to do with a writing assignment. I think many adults are too quick to push student writers into a preconceived mold for their writing. A really good tutor/essay coach keeps the options open and keeps the ideas flowing. My knowledge areas are broad: I like to read about history, the arts, politics, and medicine. I also like to cook and I’m a huge fan of dogs of all kinds. Finally, I’ve traveled to a few places, most memorably Great Britain and Transylvania.
Dr. Karen’s Qualifications
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Smith College - Bachelor in Arts, English
Graduate Degree: University of Massachusetts Amherst - PHD, English
Reading about the history of London, appreciating dogs in all their forms, and hiking and camping in the mountains of Washington!
Q & A
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Show them what is fascinating about their subjects.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Keep the lessons personal and well-paced. I can be flexible but firm about outside interruptions. Our time together is important.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Take it down to the bare bones and rebuild a student's understanding of it bit by bit. Then, I'd give an easy quiz, and discuss the answers. Then, I'd give a medium-hard quiz, and discuss, and so on.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Read to them so that they hear the voice of the writer and gain insight into the essential meaning of the text. If there is particular difficulty with symbols, we talk about foreshadowing, cultural concerns, and the style of the writing.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Getting to know the student's fears, tastes, and sense of humor.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Show them the practical value of the lesson and the juicy stuff they can do once they get it.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Strategic quizzing. Games.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Scaffolded assignments with the lessons so that they can succeed even at a beginner's level.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I study the writing output as we go along.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I study the student's sense of humor, tastes, and pace of learning. I accommodate them.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Readings, personally-created materials.
What is your teaching philosophy?
The core of my practice is to listen very closely to the student. I think if a person senses they are heard, then it is easier for them to settle into the hard work of learning.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Ask about school, the highs and lows, and his or her goals.