A photo of Rachael, a tutor from University of Maryland-Baltimore County

Rachael

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I know three things to be unequivocally true about myself:

1. I love the sciences.
2. I love the arts.
3. I love learning.

I began my undergraduate career at University of Maryland, Baltimore County unsure of where to target my future. With my love of science and art, it seemed only logically to begin by majoring in both! Throughout the years my focus shifted and now I am pursuing a career in the theatre arts industry, but my passion for science has never faded. As my coursework leaned more significantly towards the arts, I found tutoring to be a sharp connection to the sciences. Even if I were not going to be a scientist, I could definitely help others on the path!

In tutoring I found another passion. There is truly nothing more rewarding than working with a student through their learning process, crafting creative lessons that light a spark of understanding, and seeing that spark grow into confidence.

Rachael’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: University of Maryland-Baltimore County - Bachelor in Arts, Theatre Design and Production

Test Scores

AP Chemistry: 5

AP Calculus AB: 5

AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism: 5

AP Physics C: Mechanics: 5

AP English Literature: 5

AP English Language: 5

AP U.S. Government & Politics: 4

Hobbies

I enjoy TV and movies. I also really enjoy drawing and working on political cartoons. I also like trying different foods, cooking, and reading.

Tutoring Subjects

Chemistry

College Chemistry

College English

Comparative Literature

English

High School Chemistry

High School English

Honors Chemistry

Literature

Math

Middle School Math

Pre-Algebra

Trigonometry


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

It is my belief that learning should be exciting, like an adventure. I strive to find unique ways of presenting information, constantly looking for ways to make education directly relevant to my students' life experiences.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

In order to be a good tutor, you need to understand the student's perspective. In a first session, I would strive to learn about the student's academic and non-academic interests, establishing a personal connection. I would also give time for the student to voice freely their thoughts about the subject matter to understand what objectives the student hopes to meet in the course. We would follow this with a range of activities with simple course questions, aimed at deducing what types of lessons are most conducive to the student's learning. At the conclusion of the session, we would go over their curriculum requirements to ensure continued enhancement of their class education.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I believe that students become independent learners when they feel confident in their problem-solving abilities. To facilitate the development of these strategies, I develop multi-step questions that the student and I initially work through together, breaking each part down into a smaller step. With each problem, the student takes more and more responsibility for crafting the approach to the problem and answering their own questions. I additionally believe that students operate independently when learning connects to their own interests. In this regard, I always encourage my students to explore practical applications of in-class concepts through creative tutoring activities or just recommended mini-assignments.

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

The first key is to stay patient. In this situation, a student should never feel as if they are disappointing the tutor. First, I would try an alternate way of explaining the concept. If I had initially verbally explained it, I would then use visual aids to relay the concept, constantly trying to connect it to the student's life experiences. With any sparks of understanding, I praise the student, ensuring a perpetual positive atmosphere. After exhausting several methods, I would move on to another problem--incorporating the difficult concepts in at later times to reduce the stress on the student of feeling like the skill is an insurmountable wall.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I would help a student stay motivated by helping them set small goals for their own learning. With the continued completion of these small goals comes a sense of personal satisfaction that builds continued motivation.

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

There are a variety of techniques to employ in this situation depending on the student's learning strengths and the particular struggles they encounter. Before approaching a reading, I will give students a set of questions to answer regarding their reading. This gives them something to search for within the text, to stay more actively engaged. Along this same vein, I encourage students to formulate their own questions and predictions as they read. Following the reading, I ask students to summarize what they have read. This is also the time when I would employ some visual models, such as story charts or Venn-diagrams, to reinforce the information in another way. If a student was still struggling with particular passages, we would revisit the text, reading it together to understand the exact pieces that were most difficult to comprehend.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?

When a student is struggling, I always try to take the pressure out of the subject to make it more accessible to the student. This process begins by identifying why the student is struggling. Is it the content or the way the content is presented? Generally, I have found that the root problem is the latter, and it can be overcome by shifting perspective. This can mean any strategy from utilizing physical objects, such as using a chocolate bar to explain fractions, to applying principles to a favorite book. By taking the problems off the page and putting them in the context of things the student enjoys, a struggling student is more open to learning.

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

It is one thing to master the set of steps to arrive at an answer; it is another to understand those steps. To reach this point, I originally guide students through multiple kinds of questions, each presenting the information in a different way. At each step, I have the student explain why that step was necessary to build an overall understanding. Eventually, the student will shift to completing these problems with no assistance from me but continuing to explain the "why." Once there is a comfort with this level, I present problems for the student to solve on their own that are in essence the same concepts, but once again present the information radically differently. Once this level is reached, the student has achieved understanding, and from this point, I continue to encourage drawing parallels between this understanding and future concepts, reinforcing learned principles and strategies.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

When beginning to work with a student, I always aim to adapt to their needs. My first strategy is to directly ask them what they think their strengths and weaknesses are, and the moments when they have enjoyed learning the most. From this point, I craft starting lessons that employ multiple modes of learning, observing which the student responds most strongly to and adjusting the tutoring sessions accordingly.

How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?

In addition to setting short term goals with the student, I also create a low-pressure environment that mimics the pressures of achievement they will face in class. Our school systems are largely based on assessments, and performance on these tests is strongly linked to a student's perception of their own ability. While the short-term goals build personal confidence in subject comprehension, mock assessments in tutoring help to reduce the pressures of examinations, making that aspect more manageable and the student more confident.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

The student's needs can be understood from a variety of sources. Some students are very aware of their own needs, and a conversation with the student will oftentimes satisfy this question. In other cases, needs can be evaluated from broad subject questions. The problems the student struggles with shed a strong light on where they need help. This same result can be reached by reviewing incorrect test or homework questions. Additionally, a tutor can ask the student to summarize or explain concepts. Where the students need the most guidance are the areas that need more emphasis.

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

Materials depend largely on the student and subject; however, I always come equipped with a whiteboard and multi-colored markers (to reduce paper waste), a stock of practice problems, and my iPad (containing any programs that may be helpful, for example: 3D molecular modeling programs for chemistry), and I will always request the student bring their textbook and classwork.

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?

The power of tutoring is all in the ability to cater the experience to the student. As I get to know the student and understand their needs better, I will shift my own ways of thinking and approaches to match theirs. I will change the style of problems we work on, the content of these problems, and even the degree to which the student receives guidance from the tutor. I also operate on a feedback system, where I ask the student what they have found most helpful or enjoyable in order to make the sessions even more successful.