I taught chemistry, organic chemistry and the advanced chemistry courses of Advanced Placement and IB Chemistry in high school for many years. I enjoyed my students and they inspired me to continually deepen my understanding of chemistry content through advanced course work and science workshops.
In addition, because of my students’ interest beyond the classroom, I challenged myself to be a part of state and national science education programs. I was a part of the Teacher in Space Program and have worked with NASA educational programs for many years. I have been involved in state and national science teacher certification programs. I received my undergraduate education and chemistry teaching certification from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I completed my Master’s Degree at the UW-Madison during the summers after graduation, while teaching during the school year. I continue to take formal classes and informal workshops at local colleges most years.
I am a ‘constructivist’ thinker and educator. That means I build a my own network of science concepts by connecting new scientific information to information I already know. I enjoy the process of science, gathering data, analyzing the information, then trying to develop theories that can connect the data. I feel that each student needs the time and opportunity to build his or her own scaffold of science knowledge. By building a network of concepts themselves, students will own that knowledge. Once a
student develops a network of knowledge, he or she can easily learn new science knowledge and add the concepts to the existing framework.
I grew up on a small farm with dairy cows, hogs and chickens. We were organic farmers and field work was done with horses, tractors, and with old and modern machinery. Every day farming held a new science lesson. Most often the science was explained by my parents; predicting weather, planting crops, caring for animals, fixing machinery and repairing fences. Through my early experience farming I developed love of ‘wondering why’. Studying science seemed just natural. With my own family I continued to raise and show dairy goats. Currently we operate a horse boarding stable. I still enjoy additional farm work for our stable, like repairing the fence and operating machinery.
Professionally, I have enjoyed my work with NASA. I have been to most NASA research facilities. I have seen many items in the research stage, for example cell phones, (yes, there was a time before cell phones) and HD TV. I have worked in research facilities on college campuses and in commercial company research facilities. Research work is slow, meticulous and owe inspiring. The research work gave me a new appreciation for how scientific knowledge actually moves forward.
I enjoy science and I enjoy students. My life’s work has been to link the two together.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Wisconsin-Madison - Bachelors, Philosophy /Chemistry
Graduate Degree: University of Wisconsin-Madison - Masters, Curriculum and Instruction
Reading science, Farming public speaking
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I am a 'constructivist' thinker and educator. That means I build a my own network of science concepts by connecting new scientific information to information I already know. I enjoy the process of science, gathering data, analyzing the information, and then trying to develop theories that can connect the data. I feel that each student needs the time and opportunity to build his or her own scaffold of science knowledge. By building a network of concepts themselves, students will own that knowledge. Once a student develops a network of knowledge, he or she can easily learn new science knowledge and add the concepts to the existing framework.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would introduce myself. I would get to know them and their family. Then I would ask the student to tell me where he or she thinks the difficulty lies. I would go on to analyze homework assigned and completed. I would ask about questions not completed or done incorrectly. I would analyze the data supplied by the student. I would develop a plan of action with the student.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
As 'constructivist' educator, my goal is to have the student build a framework of science concepts in their brain. The framework will provide hooks on which to hang new knowledge. Also helping students put information into graphics - like charts and graphs and diagrams, is a good instructional strategy to go on to independent learning.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Connecting with a student on a personal level is the first step toward motivation. Continual prompting with small steps also helps.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Together the student and I would develop a graphic with defined pathways to learn a concept.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Science is very hard to read and understand. Each word needs to be understood. Word by word, I would ask the student to tell me what she or he thinks it means. I would make adjustments in definitions as needed.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Establishing a level of comfort is a good start. Next would be an investigation to find out where the student is 'stuck.' That is where we will start - from the 'stuck' part.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Students get excited when they can connect the subject with something they know in the 'real world.' Through extensive experience beyond the classroom, from course work to research work to work with NASA, I have many connections to share.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
If the student can explain the material to me in words, generally, he or she understands the concepts. I can also ask probing questions.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Confidence accompanies understanding. As a student develops the network of science knowledge in his or her brain, new learning fits into the framework more easily. Scientists sometimes call this science learning 'habits of mind.' By practicing science with me, the student will develop scientific habits of mind.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
The first step is simple: to ask the student about their needs. In my subject area, usually the student has class notes, a Moodle page, and a text to guide their learning. I would examine each of these artifacts with the student to diagnose an area of need.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I am familiar with a variety of chemistry textbooks and curriculum. I can expand or simplify student learning tools based on my extensive experience. I can break concepts down into smaller chunks. I can attach the learning to ideas the student already knows.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
With chemistry, since the student is already in a class, I would use the class materials. Most classroom teachers have materials readily available on Moodle pages or their website. Most students also have notes and/or homework packets and labs from class. I would help the student follow the path set forth by the classroom teacher. Improving the student's responses to homework and lab questions from class would help to improve their grade.