I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. In the 35+ years since graduating from college, I have used my engineering, science, and math skills in two ways, primarily as a full time Chemical Engineer helping large corporations manufacture chemicals and fuels, and also as a part time teacher, teaching high school algebra, geometry and chemistry. I found teaching much more rewarding than working as a Chemical Engineer because it affects the lives of the next generation.
Since I was a child I have always loved science. I loved science class in elementary school and biology and chemistry in high school. But I did not love math until seventh grade when our math teacher made math seem easier and more enjoyable. After that, I excelled at math through high school (algebra 1 and 2, trigonometry, analytical geometry) and college (college algebra, 4 semesters of calculus, and differential equations). I had the highest math grade point average in my community college where I took all my college math courses. I credit my junior high math teacher with me becoming an engineer. In a similar way, I would love to help young people at not only doing better at math and science, but at excelling in these subjects, in their future careers and in life in general.
I am currently tutoring general math, general science, Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry and Chemistry. I like tutoring rather than teaching because I can work at the student's pace until he or she catches on, without being concerned with ignoring the other students. My favorite subject to tutor is algebra because I have found in my career and in my personal life that algebra has been the most practical and useful.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
The teacher's task is to encourage, stimulate, or promote learning. One of the most important concepts I hope to impart to students is that learning is a process that never ends. It is not just for one's school years. Learning math and science can be very enjoyable. Math and science can be used to better understand the natural world.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Find out what the student knows about the subject and what problems he or she is having, or what concepts he or she is having a problem grasping. I will try to make them feel at ease by smiling and being positive about the outcome of our tutoring sessions.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
In order to become an independent learner, one has to like the subject they are learning. They have to want to learn. If you enjoy something you will want to learn to do it better. I will attempt to make math and science enjoyable, and will convey to the student how much I love math and science, which resulted in a 35-year career which I enjoyed, and also made good money doing it.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
By showing him or her that math and science can be fun and enjoyable. Learning a new concept can give one a feeling of accomplishment and a desire to learn the next concept. This is the key to learning.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Repetition is another key to learning. If a skill or concept is not learned well, one cannot go on to the next concept without getting overwhelmed or discouraged. I will repeat the discussion and/or attack the issue from another angle until the skill or concept is learned. Otherwise we cannot go on to the next concept.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
My expertise is in math and science. I have always found learning math by reading a math book is most difficult. I learned math from math teachers. But science requires good reading comprehension. I recall in organic chemistry class in college, I read each chapter twice so that I would comprehend the subject well. I would suggest a science student who has reading comprehension issues to obtain a reading tutor.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I taught high school math and science for several years in the past. I found that some students are not comfortable with learning a new subject, and are not comfortable at first with a new teacher. So I tried to make them feel at ease with me and through my enthusiasm of the subject, and making it fun, to help them feel at ease with learning the subject.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
This goes back to learning a subject because you want to, not because you have to learn it. One way is providing real life examples of how I used math to solve a problem as an engineer. I recall several algebra students who insisted they would never use algebra in real life. I would respond that you can't say for sure what career path you will take, but even so, learning algebra helps one think more clearly. And learning any new subject gives one a feeling of great accomplishment. That is my goal as a teacher or tutor.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I will constantly ask questions to make sure he or she understands. I will also use repetition. I will have my students show me they understand by solving problems on their own as I watch.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
By praising him or her as they progress, and being patient as they struggle. By encouraging them to not give up. I will pledge to not give up on them, so they hopefully will in turn not give up on themselves.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
By asking a lot of questions to determine where they are in the subject.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
If I am not getting through to a student, that is, they are not grasping the material, I will slow down and/or attack the subject from a different angle. I will provide more problem examples, and walk the student through these as slowly as needed.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
The student's text book, my own text book on the subject, sample problems from the website, my own sample problems, a calculator, and paper and pencil if the tutoring is in person.