I hold a Master’s degree in Mathematics from Georgia State University, an MBA from Golden Gate University, and a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering from Southern Methodist University. I am a licensed professional engineer, retired with thirty years of experience leading multinational corporations. I served as a member of the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee for President George H.W. Bush, and the Environmental Technology Export Council for President Clinton. My goal is to inspire students and help them prepare for opportunities in the rapidly growing STEM fields. I am certified to teach Mathematics and Physics in Grades 6-12. I enjoy tutoring students in physics, all types of math, and standardized test preparation. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing and consulting in national policy matters.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Southern Methodist University - Bachelors, Civil Engineering
Graduate Degree: Georgia State University - Masters, MAT-Mathematics
ACT Math: 33
ACT Science: 31
SAT Math: 730
GRE Verbal: 169
Just finished building a house. Would like to begin a novel.
GMAT Integrated Reasoning
GRE Subject Test in Mathematics
High School Physics
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Socio-cultural Philosophy of Education "Ensuring that Every Child Learns Mathematics" As Ayn Rand observed in her Introduction to the Objectivist Epistemology, “Man’s mathematical and conceptual abilities develop simultaneously.” (Rand, 1970) Mathematics is the product of abstraction and logical reasoning; two skills essential for Information Age (knowledge) workers in the 21st Century. It is used and understood throughout the world in such important fields as the natural and social sciences, engineering, and medicine. As the Industrial Age continues to mature and decline, facility with mathematics and conceptualization has become a key element in the workforce’s ability to adapt and thrive as knowledge workers. When I first read about Dr. Robert P. Moses and The Algebra Project (Moses, 2001), I was struck by his proposals for providing students with “evidence” for the mathematics being taught. The five-step circular process he described was virtually identical to the process I was mentored through as an apprentice engineer, and it resonated with my earliest social training. Epistemic Position My first introduction to social philosophy came during the late 1950’s at the feet of my father, a Sociologist with the NYC Welfare Department, and my great uncle, a Roman Catholic Monsignor and head of the New York Catholic School System. John Dewey’s Democracy and Education (Dewey, 1916) was a staple of discussion, and impactful enough to inspire an impressionable young man to publish an article in the Chicago Tribune in 1969 on the topic. Revisiting Dewey today Renee Hobbs observes, “Dewey asserted that learning cannot be standardized because it always takes place against the backdrop of the learner’s particular knowledge and life experiences. For this reason, he suggested that teachers tie new material to their students’ individual perspectives and give them the freedom to subject it to testing and debate.” (Hobbs, 2011) And, Tom Leddy reminds us that, “To Dewey each individual was an organism situated in a biological and social environment in which problems were constantly emerging, forcing the individual to reflect, act, and learn. Dewey, following William James, held that knowledge arises from reflection upon our actions and that the worth of a putative item of knowledge is directly correlated with the problem-solving success of the actions performed under its guidance. (Leddy, 2008) The dual emphasis on problem-solving and the relevance of the social environment on the individual’s motivation to reflect, act and learn is as relevant to the challenges faced at inner city schools today as it was 100 years ago. Vision and Rationale for an Optimal Student Learning Environment I am impressed by the TARGETS approach to task, autonomy, recognition, evaluation, time and social support evocated by ¬Anderman and Anderman, 2009, and summarized by Ormrod (2012) as follows: • Classroom Tasks affect motivation. • The amount of Autonomy students have affects motivation, especially intrinsic motivation • The amount and nature of Recognition students receive affects their motivation. • The Grouping procedures in the classroom affect motivation. • The forms of Evaluation in the classroom affect motivation. • How teachers schedule Time affects motivation. • The amount of Social Support students believe they have in the classroom affects motivation. Description of and Rationale for Proposed Teaching Strategies The afore-mentioned TARGETS Program contains both the description and the rationale for the specific teaching strategies that will be implemented in my classroom. • Present new topics through interesting, engaging, and perhaps emotionally charted tasks that are relevant to student’s lives and goals. Promote understanding rather than rote learning, and provide students with the scaffolding required for success. • Give students choices about what they learn, when possible, and teach self-regulation strategies. Have students take leadership roles in the classroom with responsibility for regulating practices and policies. • Acknowledge personal and social achievements in addition to academic ones, and reward incremental improvement. Tie students’ efforts to their successes, and use concrete reinforcers only when intrinsic motivation fails. • Provide group interaction (cooperative learning, peer tutoring), and create small-group activities where everyone can taste success. Teach the requisite social skills. • Create specific, clearly understood evaluation criteria. Discourage competition, and provide specific feedback on what students do well, and practical suggestions on improvement. • Give students sufficient time for mastery over important concepts and skills. Build variety and change-of-pace into the program, and let student interests dictate certain activities. • Create a general atmosphere of mutual caring, respect and support for all class members. Convey affection and respect for every student and project a sincere eagerness to help every student succeed. Create situations where students feel comfortable participating actively in classroom activities. Mathematics should be taught in this way for two very important reasons: 1. Workforce entrants today are not adequately prepared to contribute in companies in the most dynamic fields. High tech companies increasingly recruit knowledge workers trained in the STEM disciplines, while low-tech jobs get outsourced to emerging economies like India and China, where middle class lifestyle expectations are much lower than they are in the United States. As I frequently advise young men and women, in the economy of the future, George Jetson will not earn a middle class living as a digital operator (pushing a button) in a high-tech factory. To reverse a decade’s long decline in the U.S. Middle Class and average worker salaries, and return to full employment, we must give every student the tools they need in our high-tech economy. 2. Workers graduated with degrees in STEM disciplines need to be prepared for work in team-oriented, problem solving companies that value the sharing of expertise. This means being prepared to work effectively in multi-disciplinary, multicultural settings; being capable of reducing complex problems to abstractions that can be systematically and intuitively understood, modeled and solved; and being prepared to exercise leadership when necessary. I would address the first issue by following Dr. Shirley M. McBay’s recommendations in “Improving Education for Minorities.” We can stop segregating students by ability, and ensure that our classrooms promote rather than discourage the education of minorities and at-risk students. Here, too, the contributions of educators like Dr. Robert P. Moses in the Algebra Project address not only previously disenfranchised students but, as we observed, they fill important gaps in the education of even our most privileged scientists and engineers. Teaching techniques like cooperative learning and peer tutoring, directly address the development of the kind of team-oriented problem solving skills prized by high-tech industry, while also serving to lift the achievement level of every participant. My goal is to use my years of experience with mathematics applied across a broad range of industries and functional roles, and my experience dealing in a multicultural, multinational setting with people running the gamut from construction workers, to research engineers, to sophisticated Boards of Directors; and apply it to presenting Dr. Moses’ “evidence” to students of the Atlanta Public School System in the kind of visceral and authentic way that will prepare them for success in what lies ahead. In so doing, my hope is to develop a culture of problem solving in my classroom where students see each knew problem as a challenge to be relished, and one for which they have the tools and support to successfully solve. In that “Authentic activities can increase the probability that students will transfer knowledge, skills and problem-solving strategies to real-world contexts;” (Ormond, 2012) my goal will be to use my background to develop the kind of authentic activities that can ultimately meet Dewey’s criteria “that the worth of a putative item of knowledge is directly correlated with the problem-solving success of the actions performed under its guidance.” (Leddy, 2008) Theory of learning most consistent with my Learning Philosophy Contemporary Cognitivism (Ormrod, 2012) is the learning theory most consistent with my personal philosophy; and most particularly the Contextual Theories often referred to as Sociocultural Theory with its roots in Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development. In particular, I plan to implement some of the problem-based learning (PBL) strategies (Ormond, 2012) for collaborative inquiry that is in such high demand in the private sector in this Information Age. In this, I can bring to bear my extensive experience in the STEM fields and such relevant markets as Energy, Environment and Community Development. References 1. Anderman, L.H. and Anderman, E. M., (2009) Oriented towards mastery: Promoting positive motivational tools for students, in R. Gilman, E.S. Huebner, & M.J. Furlong (Eds.) Handbook od positive psychology in schools, (pp. 161-173) New York, Routledge. 2. Dewey, J., 1916, Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education, New York: Macmillan. 3. Hobbs, Renee. Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2011. 4. Leddy, Tom, “Dewey’s Aesthetics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/dewey-aesthetics/>. 5. Shirley M. McBay, Improving Education for Minorities. Office of the Dean for Student Affairs, MIT, Cambridge, Mass.: 1986. 6. Moses Robert P. and Cobb, Charles, Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project, Beacon Press, 2001. 7. Ormrod, Jeanne Ellis, Human Learning. 6th Edition. Pearson 2012. 8. Rand, A. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd edition. Meridian 1970.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Get to know the student. Try to understand his aims and ambitions, strengths and weaknesses; and mutually assess how we can best work together against that background. We'll dig into the specifics of where the student is at with his coursework, what things he/she feels they have mastered, and what areas need triage. Having done that we can lay out a tutoring schedule and arrange to coordinate our activities with the student's teacher, so that our time together can be productive.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
My primary goal as a teacher is to develop skills that produce life-long learners and skilled problem solvers that can operate in a collaborative environment. In the STEM fields, these are the skills that are in high demand, but short supply; and this is where tutors with extensive real-world experiences on which to draw can make a difference.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
In general, people feel more motivated to do things they do well. Having long-term goals and a well thought out plan to achieve them is the primary requisite, but maintaining the wind in your sails becomes easier when we are getting positive feedback as we go. Every time a concept is mastered or a skill demonstrated, and a student receives positive feedback, he/she grows in confidence.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
There are many ways to approaching the development of skills or the mastery of concepts. When one method doesn't work, we explore alternatives until we reach that "aha moment." Often, this is accomplished by relating the skill/concept at issue to real-world examples where it is easier to develop an intuitive feel for the subject matter.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
It depends why they are struggling. If they have an undiagnosed condition like dyslexia, that requires a different approach from an ESL student with minimal experience in English. In mathematics, fortunately, most of the symbology is universal and cumulative, and thus represents substantially less rote memorization to master than many subjects. I work with individual students to understand the root causes of their problem and work with them and their other school support personnel to address each student's needs appropriately.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
My primary method of engagement in tutoring is to create a Socratic dialogue that mirrors the collaborative approach to problem solving favored in the STEM industries. This allows us to approach challenges as a team with the ultimate goal of demonstrating the keys to becoming as life-long problem solver.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Most of the time relating mathematical skills and concepts to real-world applications of interest to the student helps build engagement. This is where my experience in the International Energy, Environmental and Infrastructure markets is beneficial.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Assessments both qualitatively and quantitatively are necessary to adequately evaluate understanding. This can be accomplished on an ongoing basis during tutoring, and in concert with feedback obtained from the student's teacher.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Success breeds confidence. Prepare the student to be successful and watch his confidence soar.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Talking and working with the student, his parents and his teachers or other support professionals.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Developing conceptual understanding is an iterative process. It may take several tries with different methodologies to master a difficult concept, and I must adapt my style and approach as a tutor with each iteration until acceptable results are achieved. The student's success is my own...
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
They vary depending on the subject. With geometry, for instance, I like to teach theorems using physical models that allow the student to work out the underlying rationale for themselves before rendering it using proper mathematical parlance.