I have always enjoyed mathematics. I know well that this is not the case for everyone, even for most people. I like helping students overcome the difficulties and frustrations that they encounter. Having been a math teacher myself, I actually have some disagreements with the way that math is typically taught. I think the fact that so many students get turned off of math should be an indication that maybe something needs to change in the way that we teach it.
In addition to math, I like reading, listening to music, and am also a big Cub fan. I even worked for the Cubs from 1988 through 1991, where I was an usher and later a crowd management officer. For a couple of games, I was even stationed on the field as the "loose ball retriever." Today I continue to listen to Cub games, at least some innings of as many as 150 games or so. I'm a big fan of Pat Hughes, their "play-by-play" announcer. I actually prefer to listen to him then watch the games on TV.
For my education, I attended Deerfield High School in the 1980's. I then attended Loyola University Chicago, where I attained a BS in Mathematics and Computer Science, an MS in Computer Science, and a Secondary (high school) teaching certificate. While at Loyola, I did a lot of tutoring for their tutoring center. Mostly as a result of this, some years later I became an adjunct professor there, and also at Northeastern Illinois University.
I did my student teaching at Loyola Academy in Wilmette. Following that, I was hired by Loyola, where I taught math and computer programming for five years. While there, I also helped out with the ministry program, driving students to ministry activities and going on an immersion trip with students to Appalachia.
An illness caused me to leave Loyola Academy, but awhile later, it was then that I was hired by Loyola University and Northeastern Illinois. I taught 2 classes per semester. I did this for about 2 years, and taught mostly intermediate and college algebra.
Following my college teaching, another full-time position became available at another high school - Carmel Catholic in Mundelein. As with Loyola Academy, I taught math and computer programming for Carmel. I was really one of the first long-term computer programming teachers there, and taught both Introductory Programming and AP Programming.
At some point, the classroom format began to change. There was a substantial increase in different kinds of technology incorporated into everyday teaching. Our department chairman utilized the concept of the "flipped classroom," where he would prepare Youtube videos of himself demonstrating lessons. Students would go home and watch his videos, then return to school the next day to do homework problems based on the video demonstrations. I wasn't comfortable teaching this way, and I felt that it was time to get out of the way and let the newer teachers, who were more comfortable with this, take over.
I still enjoy helping students who struggle with math. I have been a math tutor, really since my high school days, but especially now since having left my full-time position. After many years, I think that I I am pretty knowledgeable about the kinds of difficulties students often encounter. For example, I am well aware of the struggles that geometry students (and others) typically encounter with mathematical proofs.
I especially like tutoring, because I enjoy the 1-1 relationship with a student. I like helping people and encouraging them, motivating them to believe in themselves and develop their abilities. I enjoy working with them as they overcome their obstacles. Doing this makes me feel that I have something of real value to contribute, and that I am of genuine help to other people.
Loyola University Chicago - Bachelors, Math and Computer Science
Loyola University Chicago - Masters, Computer Science
What is your teaching philosophy?
I think education is critical to success in life, in that in opens doors for you. I think the role of the teacher in creating an atmosphere where everyone feels invited, respected and encouraged to participate is vital to student success and comfort in the learning process.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I try and make the student feel comfortable so that they can relax. I do this by being mindful of how I relate to them and their concerns. Students may be anxious because they are in a situation where they may not feel confident and I need to put them at ease as best I can.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I point them toward resources that I have found that have been helpful to students in the past, which they may access and explore on their own.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I would be patient - always, but especially when they are experiencing difficulty, and strive to help them through whatever they find challenging, giving them confidence that they can succeed.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would try to find something related to the concept that the student can directly relate to, or I would try to simplify an explanation so that it was easier to grasp. I would be mindful of the difficulty level of the practice they were doing and adjust it if necessary.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I try to have them slow down. I have them read a bit and then summarize for me what they have read. Sometimes this problem is related to trying to move too quickly through the material.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Trying to make them feel comfortable - being very mindful of how I speak and listen to them. It is very important to demonstrate empathy and gentleness.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I would see if there was any way that I could relate the subject to something that they do value or find interesting, such as a hobby or personal interest.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I try to make sure they are usually the one holding the pencil - not me. I make sure that they can do work with me guiding them, and not doing it for them - which would not result in as much confidence.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I start with problems or material that is relatively easy or simple, and wait for them to demonstrate mastery on basic things. Then I gradually increase the difficulty level as their confidence with the basic material forms.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I listen. I ask them what their experience is and I try to be as patient and empathetic in what they say as possible. I may them to demonstrate something for me so I can see where they are at with a particular matter.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I watch and see how the student is progressing. If they are confident where they are I try and move them forward with something new or slightly more challenging. If they are having difficulty I try to slow down and help them regain confidence.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Since I tutor math, I typically have a calculator available. There are some apps on the calculator (for example, enriched graphing capabilities) that often prove helpful. I have plenty of paper and writing utensils.