My name is Preston Olsen. I have been working as a teacher and substitute teacher in the Seattle area for the last ten years. In college I majored in both history and English writing and I am certified to teach both subjects.
I've always been fascinated with history and how seemingly unconnected events tie together and help create the world we have today. I find history to be an amazing subject because of how it ties together our past, present and future. Little facts and big ideas are combined in a picture that tells us where we have been and where we are going. History also as the advantage of allowing us to connect different subjects together. Though history you learn about important figures in science, math, literature, the arts, and other areas. You get the opportunity to see the impact these people had on their time and how it changed our world. It is this fascination of history that I love passing on to students.
I have loved both reading and writing since I was a child. Exploring new worlds and different times through books has always been one of my favorite ways to relax. I love reading for both the casual enjoyment of it as well as reading for the deeper themes and ideas found in any truly great book. When it comes to writing, I love the escape and rush of creating my own worlds and adventures. Using my words to create a mental picture and tell a story is a truly wonderful experience and one I enjoy helping others develop as well. In my life I've had to write numerous essays, and papers on all kinds of topics and subjects. I have the experience to help students to break down what they are being asked to write, and put it into easy to manage steps that make the writing process clearer and far less stressful. More than this, I enjoy using my experience and knowledge to pass on these skills to those who need them.
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my wife, family and friends. I enjoy watching TV, going to movies, playing games, and watching football. I try to make the most of my time and try to fill it with good fun and interesting experiences.
Thank you for your interest, and I look forward to helping you with your educational goals.
Q & A
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
The best way to help a student become an independent learner is to teach them the tricks and tools they need to breakdown questions to get to the core of what is being asked. Along with that, it is important to teach them how to break down larger assignments and projects that may seem intimidating, into manageable steps that help them seem like they are in control of the process.
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is that you need to help make the learning relevant and interesting to a student to help engage them in the subject. By helping students see how the subject relates to their life and interests, they become better engaged in their learning and driven to achieve. Furthermore, I believe it is important to help break ideas and projects into parts that make them more manageable for a student to handle and turn daunting or difficult problems into something the student can then succeed at and complete.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
My first session with a student would be used to help evaluate their skills and weaknesses and determine their long- and short-term goals. Once those goals were known and we had identified those areas that needed improvement, we would work together to plan a course of action to address those issues. Primary and secondary goals would be set, and I would give them what tips I could to help them start working towards their goals and start making what immediate improvement was possible.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I think one of the best ways to help students stay motivated is to help them see the progress they've made towards their goals and how they've improved in their areas of weakness. Sometimes it can be hard to see the progress we have made on our own, but when you point it out to a student, it gives them the boost they need to continue working towards those goals.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If a student is having difficulties understanding a concept or improving a skill, I would approach the concept from a different perspective. I would work to find something within the student's life I could connect the idea with, and build from there. There are a variety of different learning styles, and I would work to find which style best works for the student to help them get past their difficulties.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
When working on reading comprehension, I teach students how to first breakdown the reading into manageable portions. From there, I work to help students find the important facts within those portions. From there we put together those facts to find the important ideas and themes within the larger piece of writing. My goal is to teach them to find those clues within small sections of the writing that will help them better understand and comprehend the whole of the writing.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
A student is most engaged in a subject when they find it relevant to their life and interests. I talk with the student to find their interests, and then help them see how subject relates. Once a student sees that connection, keeping them engaged with the subject is a much simpler task, because it has become meaningful to them.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
When looking to see if a student is comprehending the material we are working on, I ask them to explain it to me. I don't ask them questions or just have them repeat it, but I ask them to put it in their own words and explain to me what we have been working on. In some cases I will ask them to do a written summary of what we have covered to help them work on both their writing skills and expressing their comprehension in another form. Getting students to the point where they can do more than repeat facts and ideas, but instead phrase them in their own words, is a better sign they understand what we have been discussing.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
To help a student build their confidence, I help them see how far they have already progressed in a subject. By helping them see how far all of those small steps in learning has taken them, I give them the confidence to continue. I help them see how the knowledge they have gained already can help them solve and understand the challenges they are facing at the moment. I never just give them the answer, but I help recognize that they have the tools to find the answers themselves.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I start by talking to the student and asking what their goals are and what they feel their weaknesses and needs are. From there, I ask to see examples of their work so I can see how their views of their weak points match up to what I see in their work. Finally, then I would ask questions or have them to write specific things for me to see more precisely where we need to work to turn their actual weaknesses into strengths, and help them reach their goals.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I take into account not only what the student's personal needs are, but their learning style to determine how to focus my teaching. Since each student learns a little differently and has different educational goals, I never go into a teaching setting assuming one thing will or will not work.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
When working with a new student it is important to start at a place where they feel comfortable with their knowledge of the subject. It may mean going back further than they would like, but if we build new knowledge on a shaky foundation, they will never feel as secure of what they have learned as they should. From there, I determine learning styles the student is most comfortable with so I can plan my lessons to play on their abilities.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I use whatever tools and materials are available to help when I tutor. I have a personal preference to avoid too much use of computers when I'm working with a student because I feel that knowledge needs to start with comprehension and internal understanding. I feel that more can be done to help students internalize information when keeping things focused with fewer tools to distract or overwhelm them.