As an undergraduate at Dickinson College I opted to pursue a B.A. in International Studies, an interdisciplinary major drawing on the fields of political science, history, economics and others in the humanities and social sciences. After several years working in the private sector, I decided to pursue graduate study in history at the University of Connecticut (UCONN), first in the Masters program then advancing to the Ph.D. program. Spending my junior year at the Dickinson Center for European Studies in Bologna, Italy and returning to Italy ten years later as a Fulbright Fellow were transformative experience both personally and professionally. They not only instilled in me a deep love of Italian history, language and culture, but also brought up close and personal many things that had previously been familiar through books and the classroom. Beginning in my first year of graduate study and continuing over the next several years I worked both for the UCONN Athletic Program and for a pilot program begun by the UCONN Co-op Association as a tutor in both history and Italian language and literature. In time after serving as a teaching assistant and completing my course work, I began to teach my own courses at UCONN and other schools in Connecticut. They included courses in Western Civilization, World History, US History, independent studies on narrowly focused topics and upper-level courses in various aspects of European history. In many cases my classes included a significant number of students from the local high school enrolled through a cooperative program between local schools and the State University System. I also taught an introductory course in Italian language for several semesters at UCONN and Eastern Connecticut State University before leaving to pursue career opportunities in North Dakota and Pennsylvania.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Dickinson College - Bachelors, International Studies
Graduate Degree: University of Connecticut - Masters, History
SAT Composite: 1240
Swimming, reading, creative writing, playing volleyball in both recreational/co-ed and competitive leagues, volunteering for community groups and working out a local gym.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I think it is important to bring not only knowledge and skills to students, but also passion for the subject and for teaching and tutoring in general, because passion is compelling and infectious. Whether a particular class is taken out of interest or as a requirement, it is my job figure out how to make it interesting and accessible and how to help students draw on their own knowledge and skills to develop strategies for success. I also believe in pointing out how the knowledge and skills learned in one subject can be applicable to others and, in fact, how they can be valuable in the “real world,” too!
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Before any actual tutoring, I feel it is important to have a conversation to get to know each other, to get a sense of other's personality, interests, etc. And certainly I want to know up front what the student feels would be most helpful - and therefore most valuable - moving forward. For example, I would like to learn - relevant to the class or subject - what the student has enjoyed or at what he or she has excelled. At the same time, learning what areas or activities have proved to be challenging provided a good place to start. In the case of the latter, that might be revisiting a previous assignment or activity or exam to explore what might have been done differently or starting a fresh with something current. Obviously after this initial conversation complete, I would have to reflect on strategies for moving forward with subsequent sessions.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I am a big believer in finding what I call strategies for success. That means the learning process is unique to an individual. He or she cannot just "put time in" and "do the work," but rather spend time in ways that lead to progress and achievement. That means finding ways to "work smart" rather than just "work hard." There is trial and error involved, to be sure, but good work habits combined with strategies for success insure reaching a goal.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
It is important for the student to keep two things in mind: achieving the smaller, or immediate, goal (completing an assigned essay as an example) and at the same time the larger, or long-term goal and its benefits (passing a class, a final grade, overall cumulative average, eligibility for extracurricular activities). Satisfactorily completing the small goal and the boost in confidence and esteem that results provide momentum for the next small goal and progress toward the larger goal.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Sometimes a "reset" is in order. I once had a student in a history course - a member of the football team. He had tremendous difficulty writing the typical "five-paragraph essay" on a given history topic. He was frustrated and not doing well in the course. After meeting one on one, we both discovered that he had the ability to write a solid essay, but he was intimidated by history. We tried an exercise in which he wrote an essay to inform freshman players on what was necessary to become a successful member of the football team and, as a result, learned that the intimidating five-paragraph essay was just a means of convincing or informing someone of something in a persuasive, written form and that, once past some discomfort or insecurity, the skill was easily transferable from a familiar topic to an unfamiliar one.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Again, there may be some trial and error involved in improving reading comprehension. Every student has to find a balance between slow, careful reading of a book or article and the targeted search for important information that some call "gutting" a book or article and coming away with what matters most. It is a question of practice and exercises that validate comprehension skills.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I have found that having a candid conversation about strengths and weaknesses, past successes and failures is the best foundation for moving forward with a student, assessing his or her needs, and developing strategies tailored to insure progress.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I think being intimidated or disinterested in a particular class or subject is a lot like being locked outside of a building. It remains imposing, inhospitable, confusing and mysterious - an obstacle rather than something to enjoy. The student and the tutor have to find a door into that building. That might be through working toward a pattern or success on specific activities or tailored exercises and practice in problem areas or looking at the class or subject as a whole from a fresh perspective.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
There is no better means to evaluate whether a student has understood - mastered, in fact - a subject than giving him or her a chance to "teach it" back to you, to demonstrate that he or she has internalized it and feels comfortable using his or her own words to explain it.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
In moving forward it is imperative to stop along the way on a regular basis to gauge progress and make clear credit for each and every success.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Students are well aware of both their strengths and weaknesses, so nothing is more effective than a candid conversation about where things are and where the student would like them to be.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I am confident in my knowledge and skills ,and I have varied experiences as a tutor and teacher, so there is a storehouse of approaches, and I remain open to tailoring my approach and our activities to see the student progress and to make sure that he is aware of his or her progress.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I am never averse to using any and all materials and approaches at my disposal, whether in an actual classroom or on line (white board, written materials, images, music, diagrams, analogies, brainstorming sessions, learning exercises formatted as games, etc.). Students respond to different approaches and finding what works is my job, and likewise it is up to the student to give his or her input on what proves to be useful, enjoyable, and leads to success.