I attended UW-Madison where I studied neurobiology and psychology. I was one of the first tutors to take the new MCAT exam in the summer of 2015, scoring a 517 (placing in the top 5% in the country). I have been teaching and tutoring since 2010 helping students learn the MCAT sciences and prepare for the MCAT itself. I worked in the medical field for several years before turning to tutoring, and enjoy helping students see how their MCAT prep relates to the knowledge and skills they will use as doctors. My focus throughout tutoring is to keep the student on-track by emphasizing the positive aspects of such a difficult exam. My view is that the MCAT is an opportunity as much as a challenge. I believe that with dedication and experienced guidance, students can use the MCAT to show medical schools how focused and hard-working they are. When not teaching and tutoring I enjoy hiking, ultimate frisbee, and playing guitar as loud as possible in my basement.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Wisconsin-Madison - Bachelors, Neurobiology & Psychology
ACT English: 32
ACT Math: 33
ACT Reading: 36
ACT Science: 30
MCAT Biological Sciences: 130
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior: 128
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems: 130
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems: 130
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills: 129
I play ukulele and guitar and write music. I play ultimate frisbee. I love backpacking (hiking) and traveling to unknown places.
MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
High School Biology
MCAT Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
PCAT Quantitative Ability
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Our tutoring sessions will not be a lecture. I think the best way to learn is to teach someone else, and that is why I will tutor mostly through questioning. This allows you to reframe the material in a way perfectly tailored to your brain. It will increase recall and retention, and will expose the gaps in your knowledge. If you cannot explain a concept in your own words, you do not know it well enough. This will be easier than it sounds, I promise, and the rewards will be great.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
First, I need a solid understanding of your goals, your present knowledge in the material, and an idea of your study habits. Then, we'll work out a plan to attack that goal that is systematic and challenging, yet motivating and attainable. It shouldn't take long before we can jump right into the material.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Because you will spend most of your time studying without a tutor, it is a huge priority to make sure you are doing the correct things outside of our sessions. There is a method to being a great student, and I'd be thrilled to share what science has shown works, as well as my own personal approach.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
First, I will try to diagnose where the problem begins. Maybe a foundational concept is flimsy in the student's mind, in which case I would review the earlier material and try again. Perhaps she is lost in irrelevant details, in which case I would try to simplify the concept. If the cause is elusive, I will try to explain the concept or skill from as many new angles as possible. Sometimes all that is needed is a new frame of reference for a tricky concept to click.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
To begin with, I try to remind the student of what they are studying for and why they are working so hard. Their passion to achieve their academic and career goals is the driving force to keep them motivated. I also foster an attitude of determined positivity during our sessions, always spinning obstacles and difficulties into opportunities to improve. Another aspect of this is finding a balance between challenge and attainability, where a student can feel confident about their knowledge, yet still progress in their learning.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I would start with quizzing. I would ask them targeted questions that gradually evaluate understanding of a concept. This means beginning with easier questions that test foundational understanding and moving to questions that distract or trick the student into making common mistakes so that they can avoid them later. Ultimately, the only sure-fire way to know if a student truly understands a subject is to have them teach it to me. Once the foundations are in place, I ask my students to prepare a mini lecture on a given topic, which forces them to reach a greater depth of understanding.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
To begin, I ask my students what kind of success they are envisioning for themselves. If the goal is modest, I tend to set it higher. I then evaluate a student's current state of understanding. If they don't have prior test scores, diagnostic tests can work great for this. However, the best evaluation comes from discussion of specific concepts with my students, where I can question, listen, and see how well a student is understanding. From this detective work, we can formulate a plan to fill in the gaps in the student's knowledge and bolster their weaknesses.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I like to use quizzes, diagrams, practice sets, and textbooks/review books.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Of course the best way to improve at reading comprehension is practice. However, the right kind of practice can make all the difference. I begin helping my students with problems in reading comprehension by teaching them proven strategies on how to approach the passages. This is accomplished through active reading, effective and efficient highlighting, recognition of keywords and transitions, and knowing when and where to devote attention and time and when and where not to. If speed is the issue, I give my students timed drills to practice that target specific aspects of reading and answering questions quickly and effectively.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
It is very helpful to have a student complete a diagnostic to help both of us understand where his or she is starting from. This could be given by prior scores on tests or by a practice test that can divide the full breadth of the test or course into areas of strength and weakness. From this baseline, we can work together to develop challenging, yet attainable expectations and design a study curriculum tailored to these strengths and weaknesses.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I try to keep things fun during my sessions by using humorous analogies and examples when explaining concepts. I also try to find ways to relate the abstract to the real world. For example when teaching physiology, I will often set up simulations where a patient is experiencing a certain symptom or deficiency, and ask my student to hypothesize what the problem might be based on the functions of some body system we just finished reviewing. This engages the student to think critically, and allows them to take on a real life role of a doctor diagnosing his or her patient. During my sessions, I try to keep my lecturing to a minimum, consistently redirecting the focus on to what the student knows about a topic rather than what I know.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Finding the balance between challenging and attainable is the key to building confidence. First, I give my students all of the tools they need to understand and apply a concept, including subtle guidance to draw attention to common mistakes, and then find them challenging practice that forces them to apply what they've learned in a step-wise manner. Once I see they have mastered the fundamentals, I may give them a question that asks them to apply the concept in a novel or peculiar way. It is also important to reorient their attitude toward failure. Getting questions wrong only increases a student's knowledge in a subject as they learn from their mistakes, and this should likewise only bolster his or her confidence.