I am an English teacher by career, currently taking some time away from the secondary school classroom to complete a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania. I earned a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia in 2005 and then worked as a newspaper reporter. I began tutoring reading and math part-time, and the progress I saw students make during this one-on-one instruction inspired me to become a teacher. I completed my teacher licensure coursework through Mary Baldwin College and gifted education classes through UVA’s Curry School. I taught 8th Grade English for five years and coached students to prepare for standardized tests in reading and writing. Though I love literature, I find it especially fulfilling to help students learn to express themselves through writing. In my personal time, I enjoy reading, traveling, running, and watching a good movie or sports event. I believe tutoring is a great way for students to get individualized instruction without the pressures of a more formal academic environment. As a tutor, I work with students to help them make progress toward their personal goals and gain confidence in their academic abilities.
Education & Certification
Graduate Degree: University of Pennsylvania - Unknown, Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Degree: University of Virginia-Main Campus - Bachelor in Arts, English
SAT Math: 780
GRE Quantitative: 167
GRE Verbal: 163
literature, history, travel, running, sports in general
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Students have different needs and learning styles. Good teaching is about getting to know each individual student and then tailoring the instruction accordingly.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I use the first session to learn about my students. I want to find out their goals and assess their needs, but I also want to get to know my new students as people and find out what interests and motivates them.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I teach study skills: note-taking, comprehension strategies, organization, and association techniques. These are skills my students can use not just in English but in any subject.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
The key is making a personal connection to the material. I challenge my students to think beyond just what a text means and to think instead what a text means to them.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I first try to determine exactly what the difficulty is. Then, I teach the skill or concept in a way that the student can understand it. Sometimes, it's just a matter of review. Other times, the student may need to learn it a different way than the skill or concept had been taught in school.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I work with students on a variety of reading comprehension strategies: summarizing, stating the main idea, predicting, and understanding text organization, to name a few. One thing that works well in my tutoring sessions is having my students jot down little notes in the margin of the text while they are reading. I call these "tags," and they're a simple way to help students engage with and understand a text.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Aside from study skills and reading strategies, I find the free-write to be a strategy with many different applications. Students can use free-writes to brainstorm essay ideas, make personal connections to reading, or reflect on their own learning. Writing is thinking, and that's why I try to encourage my students to write even if the tutoring subject is just reading.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Ideally, I use what I've learned about my students' interests to help them make a personal connection to their subject matter. I also mix the more difficult material into my tutoring sessions in manageable amounts (Mary Poppins had it right about a spoon full of sugar in the medicine). I want my students to leave each session feeling good about what they've accomplished, and a lot of that has to do with how the material is presented.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I'm constantly using informal assessments to check whether my students understand their material. Most of the time, this simply involves my pausing during a student's reading to ask basic comprehension questions. What I enjoy most about tutoring students one-on-one is that I get an up-close view of how my students learn. Because of this insight, I'm able to identify exactly where my students need help, and I then can target my teaching to those specific areas.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
One of the worst things that can happen is for a student to feel overwhelmed by the subject matter. It's my job to break down my students' material into manageable units that are challenging but not frustrating. That's the way to help students feel like they are making progress toward their goals. Also, praise and congratulations go a long way!
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
The term "diagnostic assessment" sounds like it might involve wires and well-calibrated machinery, but determining students' strengths and weaknesses doesn't have to be as daunting as that. Basically, I listen to what my students say their needs are, and then I ask them to either read or write something, depending on their tutoring subject. I can tell a lot from a writing sample, and I'm especially interested in their writing process. As for the reading evaluation, I listen to a student read and then ask comprehension questions.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Before I meet with a student for the first time, I formulate a tentative plan for our tutoring sessions based upon the information I'm provided. I keep these plans loose, because I know I will ultimately tailor my tutoring sessions to my students' needs. The beauty of this type of tutoring is that it's so adaptable. I have modified, at one point or another, everything from instruction methods to lesson pacing to study materials in order to help my students get the most out of our tutoring sessions.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I'm glad to work with students on materials they select if they have particular requirements or preferences. I'm also willing to recommend books and writing assignments. If a student needs help with grammar, I have a large number of resources available from my years of teaching that I am happy to share.