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Kristen

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I am a PhD student at SUNY Downstate Medical Center studying Molecular & Cellular Biology. I graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry. I love to teach, mostly because of the impact of great teachers throughout my academic career. I think learning can be really fun, if teachers think outside the box and really challenge themselves to find novel ways of conveying concepts to students. Tried and true methods are always great in the classroom, but to work one-on-one with students requires a different approach. It's also critical that learning be something students want, not grudgingly sit through, so that their academic success is tied to their ability to understand and engage the material, not to what score they get on an arbitrary test.

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Kristen’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Columbia University in the City of New York - Bachelor in Arts, Biochemistry

Graduate Degree: SUNY Downstate Medical Center - Doctor of Philosophy, Molecular & Cellular Biology

Test Scores

SAT Composite (1600 scale): 1570

SAT Math: 800

SAT Verbal: 750

SAT Writing: 770

GRE: 327

GRE Quantitative: 165

GRE Verbal: 162

Hobbies

enjoys tv, film, and reading

Tutoring Subjects

Algebra

Algebra 2

Arithmetic

Biochemistry

Biology

College Algebra

College Biology

College Essays

Elementary Math

Elementary School Math

English Grammar and Syntax

Essay Editing

Graduate Level Biology

Graduate Test Prep

GRE

GRE Analytical Writing

GRE Quantitative

GRE Subject Test in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology

GRE Subject Tests

GRE Verbal

High School Biology

Homework Support

Math

Middle School Math

Other

Pre-Algebra

Pre-Calculus

Quantitative Reasoning

Reading

SAT Reading

Science

Study Skills

Study Skills and Organization

Trigonometry

Writing

Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

Every student is different. They have their own unique motivations and goals as well as struggles and difficulties, and it's important to keep that in mind as a teacher. I believe in an interactive teaching environment: a textbook and a teacher can only help you learn so much. I want to emphasize the importance of self-learning: taking the time to process information from other sources and finding ways to retain that information or gain a better understand through introspection.

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

First, I would want to hear from the student why they think they're struggling with a particular subject. Are they interested? Are they motivated? And then I would want to review their studying and learning methods. Oftentimes, big classrooms make it difficult for students to get the individualized attention and teaching methodology they really require. I want to emphasize that the student really be in charge of their own learning, and that as a teacher, I can be a conduit for their understanding.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

The best way to encourage a student to be an independent learner is to begin by giving them control. Teachers can have lesson plans and study guides, but ultimately the students should know what subjects they're struggling with and not waste time on ideas they already understand.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

Setting regular goals and finding motivating markers to keep them going. For example, if they improve a test score by 10 points, it'll bring them that much closer to getting a B in a class they need to get into the college of their dreams. Again, it's all about what THEY want, not what their parents want.

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

Ask them to try to articulate what they don't understand. Sometimes, it's rooted in a lack of foundation; perhaps they can't do a complex algebra equation because they didn't really understand a basic algebra equation in the first place. Start from scratch, and build their understanding from there.

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

I have found that the biggest problems with reading comprehension stems from vocabulary and being able to summarize ideas. With vocabulary, it usually involves finding contextual clues to give a rough idea of what the words mean. With summarizing ideas, I have found that making outlines help. With timed exams, that's much more difficult, but when it becomes second nature, the time it takes to make those outlines speeds up considerably.

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

Feedback. "Do you understand?" "What do you think is the answer?" "Why is that the answer?" It's never enough to tell students the answers after going through a complicated explanation that didn't allow them any room to ask questions or wonder. It's a conversation, not a lecture.

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

Finding examples they can relate to, or using visual cues. Sometimes drawings or stories can teach better than straight facts.

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

More homework or more tests is awful. No student should struggle through academic coursework and then be forced to do more work on the weekends in a subject they already hate because they're struggling. Instead, I would suggest creating content regarding real-world situations and interactive 'games' to test their knowledge. For example, if I were teaching essay writing, I would ask the students to write about their favorite TV show or book, or if I were teaching math, I would create a game for them to play to see if they understood the concepts.

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

If learning is bike riding, teachers are like training wheels. We can only take the student so far, and sooner or later they will have to find their own way of staying upright. So in that sense, practice makes the most sense. Guiding a student through a problem is the first step, then allowing them to work on the problem themselves, and then ultimately asking them to teach the problem back to me. If they can teach it, that instills them with the confidence that they know the material and others can learn from them. Ergo, confidence!

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

I bristle at the word 'evaluate.' Evaluation is subjective, subject to the whims and biases of the person who's evaluating. Instead, I would ask a student what they need, what they want, and what they hope to achieve. There's no better way to provide individualized support than to ask the individual what kind of support they need.

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

Getting to know the student is critical. Empathy provides understanding, and without it, as a teacher, you will be no different than all of the instructors who haven't helped the students in the past. When you figure out who the student is and what their needs are, your tutoring should adapt accordingly. Maybe they're visual learners; use visual cues. Maybe they like to write things out; write with them.

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

Paper and pen(cil)s are usually the most reliable materials (even a blackboard or a dry erase board would help). Whatever the materials may be, the student MUST have paper and pen(cil)s with them. There's no use in me talking and writing if the student isn't engaging with the subject material. I also love color Post-its because they help separate concepts well.

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