When I was in eighth grade, I told my French teacher that I was thinking of changing to studying Latin the next year, and she said that was a good idea because my spelling (of both French and English) was horrible. She was not alone in this assessment; in elementary school my percentage in the “Spelling” section of the statewide test approached the single digits. I have no doubt that she would be rather surprised to learn that now I am a PhD. student in Latin and Greek and have taught, numerous times, a college level class entirely on English vocabulary: “The Greek and Latin Roots of English”. While I am happy that my spelling is now much better, I am much more happy that I can share my love of reading, writing and literature with my own students.
I approach tutoring as an experienced college instructor, having taught hundreds of students at the City University of New York over the past four years. I seek to help students become confident autodidacts (self-learners) by connecting the critical tools of reading and writing to their own interests. I know that not all my students will relish the distinction between a direct object and indirect object with my intensity, but they all appreciate knowing how a solid understanding of the mechanics of grammar will make their essays even clearer and more persuasive.
Knowledge of the grammar of another language is a great way to better understand English grammar. An experienced Latin teacher, I have taught both Latin grammar and a seminar on a close reading of Vergil’s Aeneid in the original Latin. While teaching Latin, I ensure that the students have a firm grasp of the function of each word in every sentence, whether we are reading stories from the textbook Ecce Romani! or Ovid’s Metamorophoses. I understand that the vocabulary and the numerous exceptions in Latin grammar can overwhelm students, but I also know that with patience and diligence every learner can approach and read great writers like Vergil and Ovid.
In addition to language classes, I have also taught a number of literature classes, including “Greek and Roman Classics in Translation” and “Literature and Film”. Essays play a large part in all my literature classes. I assigned, guided and graded hundreds of student essays in the past four years and as a result I am very comfortable sitting down with students to talk about all aspects of the writing process, ranging from sentence structure to the ordering of paragraphs.
Another reason that I love talking to students about reading and writing is that I am those abilities everyday myself: I am currently writing my dissertation on Greek and Roman slavery. I have to read Greek and Roman authors in their original languages very closely, while also comparing my own ideas to those of contemporary scholars. A number of years ago I stumbled into my passion and then took advantage of the tools that various teachers gave me to write my own scholarship. I am excited to help students today have the tools to work on their own projects.
Connecticut College - BA, Classics
Graduate Center City University of New York - MA, Classics
What is your teaching philosophy?
In my freshman year of college, I was struggling with a line of poetry by the Latin author Ovid. Turning to the back of the book for help from the comments, I was dismayed that the footnote was in Ancient Greek, a language that at the time I did not know. Frustrated at the commentator's presumptions, I did the research necessary to understand the text without his help. In essence, I wrote my own footnote on the text. A goal that I have for all my students is that they gain the confidence to write their own comments on texts of all kinds, whether Latin poetry or the personal essay of a fellow student. When I ask students to orally comment on a sentence or a line of poetry, they often surprise themselves (and me!) with analyses that weave together thoughts on how grammar and vocabulary of that sentence connect to the text's larger themes. The hard part of teaching is not making sure that students "get" literature, but ensuring that they have the tools and methods to articulate and defend the positions about the text that they themselves have produced. Specifically, the tools that I teach my students are how to write sentences and paragraphs that relentlessly advance a central argument. Unsurprisingly, I find that the best way to teach students how to strengthen their own writing is to comment on it; when I work with students, I frequently pose questions about their own essays that are similar to the questions that I ask them when we look at literature. I teach students to become self-reflective in their literary commenting. I also encourage my students to comment on my teaching. Over the years I have received consistent, positive feedback both from students and from observing faculty, in part because of how I make talking to and responding to students outside of class a priority. In the bustle after class, students are free to clarify assignments, or talk about how the myths of Heracles intersect with Captain America. I became a Classicist because I enjoy asking questions about Greek and Roman texts, an enthusiasm that I try to impart to all my students, regardless of their majors. They too can ask these kinds of questions and explain how different texts relate to each other. If they take the time, they can even learn Ancient Greek in order to understand the footnote to a line from Ovid.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I have a number of goals for the first session: a) Listen to what the student hopes to get out of tutoring. b) Evaluate the student's' strengths. c) Identify where the student needs help. d) Collaborate with the student to formulate our goals for the next lessons. e) End the session with specific questions or problems for the student to work on prior to the next session. In order to help me with these tasks, for the first session, I will ask the student to bring a sample of the work with which they are struggling. Depending on what the session is, whether essay writing, Latin grammar, or American literature, I may bring my own questions or prompts to which I will ask the student to respond. I would then spend the rest of the session making sure that the student understood the answers to those questions, whether it is function of the Latin gerund, where to place a comma, or how to conclude an essay.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
The first step independent learners take is to create their own questions. Something I try to impart to students is how the questions that I ask them about Homer's Odyssey or Vergil's Aeneid can be asked of other texts: the lyrics to Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off," an article about Tom Brady, The Game of Thrones. The process goes both ways: I may ask students what questions we can pose about Odysseus that they had originally posed about Ned Stark. Because it is the questions, rather than the topics, that are important, an easy way to help students become independent learners is simply to dare them to ask questions about texts that already matter to them, such as the lyrics of Taylor Swift. Once students have questions, I work with them on how best to answer them. What kind of evidence can we gather to create an answer? How would we know if we are right or wrong? As a teacher, I know the power of questions. What I try to do is get students to see this power as well and know that if they can come up with challenging questions about the movie they saw on Friday night, they can come up with questions about the poem for the essay that is due on Monday morning.