My greatest inspiration as a teacher is my late elementary school principal. Dr. Julian King was the kind of educator who cared about each individual student, who saw not a student’s grades or behavior, but abilities and needs. Dr. King was the first teacher in my career as a student who saw as me not a behavior problem, but a bored kid with a high IQ and a chaotic home life. Dr. King had my IQ tested, then set about making sure the school gave me useful and creative outlets. He turned my life around, keeping me from following in the footsteps of my two brothers.
I don’t know why it took me so long to realize I was born to be a teacher, particularly after the stellar example in Dr. King of what a teacher can mean in a child’s life. Other people predicted a teaching career for me as early as high school, and I knew I wanted to work with young people, but I had to thrash around for years trying other disciplines before I could see the obvious. I was a perpetual student for a long time, directionless and underperforming because I had no goals. Once I got in front of a classroom, though, I felt I’d come home; it was only when I knew I was a teacher that I found focus as a student.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Excelsior College - Bachelors, Classical Language and Literature (Latin)
Graduate Degree: University of Phoenix - Masters, Educational Studies
Graduate Degree: University of Phoenix (ABD) - Doctor of Education, Curriculum and Instruction
reading, creative writing, screenwriting, animals, herpetoculture, birdwatching, astronomy
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I instruct students with the goal of molding lifelong learners. Of course, I want my students to leave with a mastery of the content, whatever the subject, but it is far more important to me that they leave with skills they will need for the rest of their lives to learn joyfully and to think creatively, critically, and at the highest order. I firmly believe such skills will contribute to my students' happiness in life, as well as helping them prepare for any future roles or professions.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
A comfortable and friendly rapport is the foundation of any successful teacher-student relationship. I will spend the first few minutes getting to know my student and allowing my student to get to know me. I will ask probing questions about learning style, approach to the world, and intelligence(s). I will ask the student the goals and expectations he has of me and of the tutoring sessions. After all that groundwork, I will then proceed with the work at hand.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I adhere to the modalities and precepts laid down my Dr. Madeline Hunter in her ground-breaking book Mastery Teaching. One of the cornerstones of Mastery Teaching is the guiding of students in a style of corrections that allows them to come to answer via their own unique makeup of intelligence(s), literac(ies), and learning style. Mastery Learning is the ultimate expression of constructivist "guide on the side" (as opposed to "sage on the stage") teaching, a pedagogical paradigm to which I am a staunch adherent.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I like to keep learning authentic and real-world. It is human nature to value that for which we feel personal ownership. I want my students to own their learning. I develop my unit and lesson plans with authentic learning always in mind, what is important to the individual student. Instead of dry vocabulary lists, I ask the student to find an article on a subject they find personally interesting and important and we discuss words with which they are unfamiliar. This is just one of many, many examples of this type of motivation.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would listen to the student and I would guide them to a better understanding of the skill and concept. I would call upon my knowledge of the student as an individual learner to find ways to present the material that better suits their makeup as a unique learner.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I read along with them, coaching and coaxing them along the process. I think of myself as their cheerleader. Also, I differentiate the material with recordings and visuals, for those who are more auditory and visual learners than linguistic.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
The most successful strategies at the beginning of a teacher-student relationship are remaining light-hearted and keeping a good sense of humor. It's also important to keep the entire experience down to Earth. I have found it helps for me to let my students know we're in this together and that we're all part of the same community of learners.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Authentic, authentic, authentic. The teacher must find out what's important to the student. For example, if I were teaching math (God forbid!), and one of my students was struggling with percentages, I would make the effort to find out what's important to that student to which I can associate the concept of percentages. Say the student loves baseball. Well, there ya go! The applications of this principle are endless.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I formatively assess throughout the learning cycle in order to check for understanding.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I like the use of portfolios for the purpose of building confidence. Portfolios provide a tangible, clear-cut timeline of the student's progress of understanding and improvement. A student's confidence is wavering, so I pull out their portfolio and show them tangible proof of the improvement they have made from one, three, six months ago.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Whenever I have access to them, I look at a student's past grades, and I try to speak with the student's past instructors. I also like to conference their parents. Also, of course, I engage the student in long and continuous discussions of their needs and expectations.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
When one approach of presenting the material doesn't work, I switch to another. Also, I make sure I don't stick with one modality the entire session. I mix it up: some grammar, some reading, some board work, some culture, or something fun.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Pen and paper, books, magazines, websites, hands-on games, games on the Internet, and flashcards.