I am an experienced educator working with students who present speech and language disorders, learning disabilities, multiple disabilities, medically fragile conditions, various cognitive processing difficulties, and autism. Over the years I have come to firmly believe that everyone has a special gift which should be discovered, used, and appreciated. Learning and teaching are dynamic activities which have a natural reciprocity. In addition to helping students learn the material; teachers should create an environment of support so students discover their own best learning style and strengths. My own teaching style is flexible and sensitive to each student's needs, but I have found open inquiry and play therapy techniques to be the most effective. Students not only master the subject matter, but they learn how to learn. I am prepared to tutor reading mechanics, reading comprehension, writing, cognitive processing and study skills. I truly enjoy helping students improve in terms of reading comprehension. To borrow a colloquial phrase; you see the light bulb turn on. As a speech & language therapist of 30+ years; I am able to remediate reading comprehension difficulties at a deep level. Reading comprehension is language comprehension. At the end of the day, students should grow from learning and actually discover the joy of learning.
I am a graduate of Fontbonne University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders/Speech-Language Pathology. My M.Ed. is from National-Louis University, specializing in Curriculum & Instruction. I have presented at National Council for Exceptional Children.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Fontbonne University - Bachelors, Communications Disorders (Speech/Language Pathology)
Graduate Degree: National-Louis University - Masters, Education (Curriculum & Instruction)
Arts, painting, drawing, ceramics, theater, writing, puppetry, animals (dog and two cats)
Elementary School Math
Elementary School Reading
Elementary School Writing
High School English
High School World History
High School Writing
Middle School Reading Comprehension
What is your teaching philosophy?
Both teaching and learning are reciprocal activities. Wonderful teachers love learning. Students must feel safe to explore various ways of looking at a problem in order to grow as scholars. Great teaching inspires the heart and mind. Creative problem solving is integral to developing as an independent scholar. A student/teacher relationship should uplift, inspire, and encourage open inquiry.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The activities would focus on open-ended problems, which would demonstrate how the student attacks various learning situations. This initial observation/assessment activity would be followed with an additional assessment of the student's interests.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Independent learning develops from accurate self-knowledge regarding optimum learning styles. Creating a learning environment where the student feels safe to explore the idea of creative problem solving also encourages independence. Being able to constructively self-assess and reflect on 'mistakes' helps the student to become a more mature scholar.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Positive reinforcement should encourage and provide actual information regarding a student's progress. Younger students (elementary level), would also receive concrete rewards (stickers, etc.). Additionally, students become and remain engaged when the tutor can incorporate preferred interests in the activities. Encouraging self-expression also grants students a sense of ownership in the entire process.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Observing the steps a student used to work a problem often gives vital clues regarding the way that student views the situation. Checking to see if the student understands the question being asked is critical. Once that information is secured, I would assess the underlying cognitive concepts required to learn that skill. Additionally, assessment of the actual content area information could also be indicated. If all these areas are satisfactory, then I would consider the student's confidence level regarding that particular subject. Allowing the student to select favored materials to use in the activities also increases the comfort level.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension issues are language comprehension issues. After asking the student to paraphrase the reading passage or story, I would follow up with some open-ended questions. Student responses would be recorded and interpreted in terms of underlying language structures in addition to actual academic content. The language issues would be identified (i.e. sequencing, semantic categorization, complex clause structure in sentences, etc.) and corrective action taken. Often I employ 'play' therapy, which relaxes an anxious student and desensitizes the situation, while 'teaching' the concept needed. After this remediation, a story using similar structures is analyzed by the student. The student's best learning style is then also identified and discussed with him/her. I find that this technique empowers the student in terms of confidence and awareness of his/her own learning style.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
The first thing is to discuss the student's feelings towards the subject. This is followed by a discussion of the student's preferred activities/interests. I let the students know that 'mistakes' can be learning opportunities, not something to be feared. Helping the student identify and develop their own best learning style is another way to empower them. I use open-ended questions that employ or scaffold higher order cognitive processes, and feedback is given with an instructional component. Multiple sensory techniques are used based on student needs. Play therapy is essential as it relaxes anxious students, while 'teaching' the same academic concepts/information. Additionally, recent research has demonstrated that children learn best through 'play' techniques. Intense observation of student approaches and responses and consideration of developmental levels, are essential to planning and progress.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Using or incorporating a student's preferred activities or interests often results in enthusiastic student engagement. Positive feedback and encouragement are a must. If the student is particularly fearful of a subject, then discussion and subsequent desensitization is indicated. Using 'baby' steps, we prove that the fear of that subject is not warranted. If all this fails, then further assessment of underlying and unidentified problems would be warranted.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
There are multiple techniques to use which include : open-ended questions, paraphrasing, or reconstructing the material using their own words. Students could also create their own parallel story that includes all the same cognitive and language structures. Additionally, I would follow the student's directions as they dictate literally. If my response is inaccurate, then the student has to analyze and revise the directions they gave. Having the student outline the problem and provide explanations is also indicated.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
True confidence comes from self-knowledge and perceived competence based on performance. Positive reinforcement is critical, but that same reinforcement must have instructional value. Subject materials also need to be structured at an adequate challenge level. Materials that are too challenging can often discourage a student, yet simple challenges can also undermine. Curriculum/materials that present a moderate challenge have been shown in research to engage student interest without unduly intimidating them. Finally, there is the 'fun' factor. Activities that are appropriately challenging and 'fun,' paired with praise and informative feedback, usually provide the best results.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Assessment of student needs incorporates intense observation and recording of responses. Curriculum guides supplied by the school or family are also included. Often, I have the student work through a series of open-ended questions that factor in higher order questions. Additional informal language sampling is also available.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Adaptation of materials/activities/curriculum materials is based on observation and formal/informal assessment results. This is often an ongoing process.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Besides using any materials supplied by the school or family; I employ various books, stories, puppets and games. Play therapy has proven exceptionally effective for most learning remediation.