Having retired after 30 years as a teacher, I find that I miss my students: teaching them, learning from them, and helping them on their academic journey. I view education as a journey, not a destination such as a test to study for or a paper to prepare. Education is an adventure full of exciting viewpoints, new twists, and solvable 'problems.'
In my personal journey, every year I encountered 100 to 105 new viewpoints on every subject imaginable. We didn't just learn English; we explored the world. Our journey in the classroom wasn't limited to papers, grammar, and vocabulary though they were important components. We explored history through our novel readings, debated and wrote essays using primary sources from the Library of Congress, and changed a governor's viewpoint on the environment with a book my students wrote together. Though it never got 'published' in the sense of selling it at a book store, it changed viewpoints and gave students new ideas on the power of writing.
Every year brought new twists to my adventure as a teacher and my students' adventure in learning. In reading Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, we explored child labor from the middle 1800's to the early 1900's. Using primary sources from the Library of Congress, we found children in England working in coal mines and textile mills, children in America toiling in canneries, coal mines, textile mills, and southern fisheries. We examined pictures from The New York Times to figure out what was happening by looking at the details and sharing our thoughts. Students wrote poetry based on their lives, their perspective, and their hopes. We learned empathy and compassion for others by examining the viewpoints of Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. We didn't just read and study the book; we immersed ourselves in their shoes.
Every year, the students and I encountered countless problems: academic, personal, and social. We learned to problem solve and think positively. We learned there are many ways to approach a 'problem' and even more ways to solve it. We learned from each other.
Students have enriched my life. My lifelong journey has been hand in hand with boys and girls from all walks of life, numerous cultural backgrounds, and unique perspectives. I have been their 'student' learning from them, arguing with them, and loving them. Students are our country's lifeblood. Whatever I can do to enhance their journey is a blessing.
Please join me in my new adventure with Varsity Tutors! I look forward to what I will learn on my continuing journey.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Seton Hill University - Bachelors, History
Graduate Degree: Purdue University-Main Campus - Masters, American Studies
I enjoy kinesthetic type art; I have made wall hangings, embroider, sew, and I'm now into Zentangle. I enjoy reading - both fiction and nonfiction. I read Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman and was disappointed as I used to teach To Kill a MockingIbird. I have just finished The Boys in the Boat and Rival Queens. I also love reading the news from several newspapers daily.
5th Grade Reading
5th Grade Writing
6th Grade Reading
6th Grade Writing
7th Grade Reading
7th Grade Writing
8th Grade Reading
8th Grade Writing
Elementary School Reading
Elementary School Writing
High School English
High School Geography
Middle School Reading
Middle School Writing
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
A student’s needs can be physical, emotional, or social. All three must be balanced. A teacher can evaluate these through observation, a direct conversation, or engaging the student in a method that is non-threatening yet revealing. A tool that I have found useful is a metaphorical comparison. Prepare five to six cards with a different picture on each. Ask the child to create a metaphor about a topic relating to the subject, and ask the child to create a metaphor and expand it with an explanation.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
During the first session with a student, I want to engage the child to learn about his/her background, interests, and learning style. I may use prepared questions or just engage in a give and take conversation. I typically ask for a writing sample and ask him/her to read something on grade level that I have brought with me. I want to get to know the student and help the child get to know me. My aim is to assist this child to be successful on his/her academic journey.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I will help the student become an independent learner by developing confidence in his/her ability. To accomplish this, I shall use materials appropriate for his/her academic level and interests. Teaching the child appropriate skills is another avenue to independent learning. Learning how to study, how to write, and how to comprehend what is read are key ingredients to building confidence. They are the tools of the trade. A carpenter cannot build a house without the proper tools and knowledge. A child cannot learn how to read, write, and think critically without practice using the correct tools.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
With students who are struggling with reading comprehension, I would first ascertain if the materials used are too difficult or if it is the strategy that is not working. In either case, I would adapt to fit the needs of the child. I would pay careful attention to whether the child can address key details about the story or material: the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Once those are mastered, we can get into the deeper thinking skills, such as point of view, vocabulary, and literary language, such as figures of speech.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
When starting to work with a student, I have found that students who are exposed to and employ the Habits of Mind are the most successful. As defined in the previous question, the Habits of Mind are those behaviors used when confronted with problems that first seem insurmountable. Habits of Mind include skills, attitudes, and past experiences that help one tackle problems. When I introduce these, I give the students scenarios of behaviors to which they match an appropriate Habit of Mind. In the ensuing discussion, students learn that these HOM overlap, that one or more can fit several scenarios. Learning what they are and consistently using them helps students become successful. The HOM are Persistence, Managing Impulsivity, Listening to Others with Understanding and Empathy, Thinking Flexibly, Thinking About Our Thinking, Striving for Accuracy and Precision, Questioning and Posing Problems, Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations, Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision, Gathering Data Through All Senses, Creating, Imaging, and Innovating, Responding with Wonderment and Awe, Taking Responsible Risks, Finding Humor, Thinking Interdependently, and Learning Continuously.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
There are several ways to help a student get excited or engaged with a subject with which they are struggling. Begin the discussion with a personal anecdote about a similar experience. Sharing a personal difficulty can ‘break the ice’ or help a situation through seeing another perspective in a similar situation. Another way is to share an interesting or amusing piece of historical background that catches the interest of the child. A third way is to do a mind map, whereby the student lists the subject or topic and then names as many branches or associations they can make with that subject or topic. This usually provides an avenue into the subject that provides a different perspective or a different approach to explore.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Several techniques can be used to ensure the student understands the material. A common technique is to simply give a test on the covered material. A better way is to have the child write a summary of what he/she has learned and include key details in the writing piece. Another way is to web the material: write the topic of the material taught in the center and have the child write key words/ideas learned around that topic. A kinesthetic approach is to encourage the child to make a symbol representing what the child has learned and then explain the symbol using key terms of the taught material. Finally, the teacher can construct a Cloze passage in which the student fills in the blanks using key terms from a provided list. Any one or a combination of these methods is useful.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
An effective teacher uses several strategies to boost a student’s confidence in a subject. A student’s confidence rises when he/she demonstrates that the subject material has been learned. A child can demonstrate this via a test, a writing piece, a mind map, constructing a symbol, or a method of choice. Employing the Habits of Mind consistently will help a student with long-term retention and develop good study habits. A combination of these will boost a student’s confidence.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
If one method does not work, try another.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
The materials I use during a tutoring session depend on the needs and learning style of the student. I may use typed materials that I have prepared ahead of time, and/or the ‘board’ for online tutoring, flash cards, metaphor cards, writing topics, and prepared reading materials depending on grade level.
What is your teaching philosophy?
My philosophy of teaching centers on the students. All the training, classes, and workshops mean nothing if I am not meeting the needs of the students. In my thirty years of teaching, I learned that to really help each of them, I had to find out their interests, their style of learning, what works for them. I learned to pre-assess before beginning a unit, assess during the unit, and help each one be successful. If the student already knew the material, which I could ascertain by a pretest, why make him/her sit through the same material again? I then planned enrichment or an independent study. My philosophy also involves being an expert in my field. As an English/language arts teacher, I knew the components of this subject area inside out. I learned different strategies to meet the needs of students. I knew who worked well in small groups and who preferred to work alone. I learned to scaffold assignments making them suitable for the ability levels of the students. As a teacher of the gifted, I learned that not all ‘gifted’ are gifted in every subject. I helped the students understand this as well. I never wanted a student to be afraid to ask a question or offer a new idea or way of doing things. Teaching is a balancing act. Meeting the needs of the students while imparting the subject material in an interesting way that is suitable to the learning style of the students is not an easy task. It is challenging, but I found that meeting the needs of my students enhanced their journey and profoundly affected mine.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
To help a student stay motivated, I praise good work and commend good effort. I try to help the student see learning as part of the journey and there are inevitable ups and downs.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If a student has difficulty learning a concept or skill, I would talk to the student to determine the cause of the difficulty – the materials or the strategy or if we have to build more background knowledge. Learning is like building blocks. You have to master the basics – build the bottom row – before you proceed.