I'm a Nashville native, but my true home is the lovely city of St. Louis. I know first-hand how much students can benefit from improving their performance on standardized tests. I was a National Merit Finalist and received a full scholarship to the University of Alabama where I majored in Asian art history and had minors in both philosophy of law and in the humanities through the competitive Blount Undergraduate Initiative program.
My plan when I began college was to attend law school. While my major may seem an unusual choice for an aspiring attorney, it was the result of perhaps the best advice I've ever received. I participated in mock trial competitions in high school and knew that the law was one of my strong interests. My coach, a local judge, advised me not to choose my college major based on what I thought law schools wanted but to study what I already knew I loved. His reasoning was that if I was studying something I chose and found interesting, I wouldn't be able to help but make the grades I needed to be a competitive law school candidate; I wouldn't regret not studying it later. In college, I also discovered my love of teaching and tutoring other people.
After I finished college, I was offered many full and partial scholarships to law school on the basis of my strong LSAT score and my 4.0 GPA (Thanks for the advice, Judge Taylor!). I chose Washington University in St. Louis because I loved both the school and the city. I continued teaching and tutoring through my law school education, through studying for the bar exam, and through my practice as an attorney. For me, teaching others is something I will always do, no matter where my other interests and passions take me in other aspects of my career.
Judge Taylor's advice is still fresh in my mind when I work with my students. All students have a passion and curiosity about something. Where I succeed as a teacher is where I'm able to connect what a student loves already to the subject we're learning. Once I'm able to do that, I'm free to sit back and watch the student build her own success with my guidance.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: The University of Alabama - Bachelor in Arts, Art History
Graduate Degree: Washington University in St Louis - Juris Doctor, Law
visual arts, movies, theater, cooking
CLEP American Government
College Application Essays
College Level American History
College World History
GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment
GMAT Integrated Reasoning
High School Business
High School English
High School Level American History
History of Architecture
Intellectual Property Law
Study Skills and Organization
Technology and Computer Science
US Constitutional History
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
There's no such thing as a boring subject. If I can help a student make the connection between what they already love to learn about and the subject with which she needs extra help, the result is curiosity. There's no amount of studying that can take the place of genuine engagement with the subject.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I find the first session is best used to find out what a student enjoys and how he learns - by taking notes while listening, by doing independent exercises, by using flashcards, etc. The way a student learns naturally is always the best fit for learning what I teach. Next, I set expectations about the student's goals. If the student is studying for a particular test, we talk about the specific sections, how the test is timed, and how it is scored. For academic tutoring, I go through the class syllabus with the student. Finally, I put together a realistic study schedule that fits the deadline for improvement, but also makes room for the school, social, and family activities the student is already doing.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Curiosity is the best independent learning tool. I connect the subject we're studying to something the student is already interested in doing so they bring the same interest to the new subject.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
It's easy for students to become discouraged when they struggle with new information. I make tutoring sessions a time where mistakes are greeted as opportunities to learn from instead of failures, and I reinforce mastery of new skills with praise (and sometimes chocolate).
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I break a difficult concept down into as many single steps as possible, and connect each step to something the student already knows how to do. When each step makes sense, I lead the student in combining the steps until the whole concept is back together.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension difficulties usually come in two flavors: problems extracting information for a particular test, and problems relating to readings that are not for a test. My solution for both is generally the same. I help the student read actively, the way she would something she enjoys reading. Looking for patterns and thinking about why the author is writing and what comes next demystifies reading comprehension for students, even in unfamiliar subjects.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
The most successful strategy is to be realistic about skills, goals, and study schedules. Students who seek tutoring are highly motivated academically already, which can be a problem, since bright students become discouraged easily when they don't master a new skill as quickly as they think they should. Starting off on a foot of encouraging realism and keeping the same attitude throughout tutoring helps the student keep his progress in perspective.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Bribery. And humor. In all seriousness, making a difficult concept into a quiz game with chocolate prizes or into a funny story about Batman makes a student approach the concept from a different, more relaxed angle.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Real understanding is the ability to do the work after taking a break from instruction. To see how much a student retained and to warm up for new concepts, I start sessions with a short review where I ask the student questions or ask her to walk me through the kind of problem we last worked on.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
It's easy for students to get bogged down in everything that feel they can't do. To build confidence, I show them how far they have come since we first started work on a new concept.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I look at a student's subjective and objective performance, because both are important for improvement. Objectively, I like to see a practice test or other kind of assessment, especially the kind of notes and scratchwork the student had made while taking it, so I can see what skills are already present and which ones need extra work. Subjectively, I talk to the student about the skills he thinks need the most improvement in. Where his ideas don't match with what the objective analysis of his performance shows, I know he has some anxiety that needs to be built up with confidence.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Students have different learning styles. I always start tutoring by asking a student how she normally studies for other classes, and tailor tutoring sessions and homework to that style.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I use the same kinds of materials that will be available to a student when he's completing the task we're working towards. If the goal is a test that's only given with pencil and a printed booklet, that's how I have the student practice with me and on homework. For academic tutoring, I use the homework that's been assigned as a guide, though I may supplement it with workbooks or flashcards if that's how the student learns best.