I have always had an affinity toward mathematics, but did not decide on a career in education until a year after I earned my B.A. in the discipline. Not knowing exactly what job path I wanted to take when I first graduated from college, I worked for several months as an attendant at a psychiatric ward at a research hospital. While I was considering the idea of returning to college to earn a degree in psychology, I learned that I could earn extra income by substitute teaching during my days off from the ward. I found that I enjoyed teaching so much, I began cutting back my hours at the hospital in order to pick up more days as a substitute teacher, and eventually enrolled in education courses to earn my state certification.
When I began my first full-time mathematics teaching position, I discovered the joy of helping students appreciate the rich intricacies of mathematics, as well as witnessing their overall sense of achievement. I have been fortunate to teach in independent schools that stress the importance of students and teachers learning together, emphasizing the fact that a teacher’s responsibilities extend beyond the classroom. Indeed, I have found the one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is the privilege of serving as an adult role model for my students. A privilege that I took seriously every time I walked into my classroom.
In terms of academics, I believe that students, when placed in appropriate courses, rise to a high level of accomplishment if they are given the appropriate challenge and are encouraged to succeed. The teacher must create an atmosphere of trust by demonstrating genuine care. Further, the classroom environment must be such that students feel that their questions are welcome, their opinions valued, and ideas encouraged.
On a personal note, some of my favorite on-campus experiences have included occasions when I played music with students in an informal setting, or joined them in a game of “hackey-sack” on the lawn during lunchtime.
Why did I spend most of my adult life in as a teacher? Simply put, I love the energy and optimism I encounter in my classroom, and value the insight my students provided. Aside from being blessed with the opportunity to convey my enthusiasm for mathematics, I found that it is in the cooperative process between myself and my students – the act of being taught while teaching – that continued to renew my commitment to education each and every new school year.
As a tutor, I am able to enjoy all of the benefits mentioned above with the added bonus that I can work with individuals and help them reach their specific goals more efficiently.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Utah - Bachelors, Mathematics
Graduate Degree: University of Utah - Masters, Statistics/Management
SAT Subject Tests Prep
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe that students, when placed in appropriate courses, rise to a high level of accomplishment if they are given the appropriate challenge and are encouraged to succeed. The teacher must create an atmosphere of trust by demonstrating genuine care. Further, the classroom environment must be such that students feel that their questions are welcome, their opinions valued, and ideas encouraged.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would start by mentioning my experience as a classroom teacher and private tutor, and then find out how the student feels about math in general. I would ask how well the student has done in the past and what his or her current progress is. I would also ask about the areas of difficulty -- both in terms of content (which topics are challenging) and evaluation (homework, tests, projects, etc.). Finally, I would encourage the student to ask questions as soon as they arise.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
After helping a student with a problem, I would ask for a summary of the technique. I would then tell the student I would like to observe the student's work on a similar problem as if the student were tutoring me instead of the other way around.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I always try to keep sessions light by maintaining a sense of fun and by interjecting humor. I would also mention where the skills are needed in real-world situations, i.e., applications. Another important aspect is the importance of giving the student positive feedback and constructive criticism to help the student understand that success is possible with effort.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would ask the student which aspect of the concept is particularly challenging. Also, I would demonstrate various strategies for solving the problem or understanding the concept; this would include algebraic, numerical and graphical ways to look at the problem, as well as using the Socratic method, comparing the concept to one the student is comfortable with and using drawings, manipulatives and other learning aids.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Word problems in math often require translation to get to the actual question. I would help the student isolate phrases that can be translated into algebra and to put together the pieces in order to solve the problem.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
It is essential to have a positive attitude and to encourage even the most timid students as much as possible. I find that if I show students that I truly care about not only their understanding of math but also their overall success and well-being, they tend to put forth their best effort.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I would talk about real-world applications that involve the subject matter; if possible, mention something that the student is interested in or might find intriguing.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I find that diagrams are often useful; manipulatives can be quite helpful as well. Conversation is essential in that a student can help me zero in on where the particular confusion is. Even if the student appears to understand, I give another question to see how well the skill is applied.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Giving the student multiple opportunities to demonstrate success is important, especially once they've reached the point where they can do all the steps without assistance. I like to include review problems in tutoring sessions to make sure the student retains the concepts and to remind them that they have established these skills.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I ask questions about process. For example, when I give a problem to see if the student understands, I ask them to explain the solution process step-by-step. It is easy to determine areas of strength and weakness by asking "mental math" questions as well as requiring the student to write out solutions that require multiple steps.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I have a variety of methods including visual presentation, verbal instruction, Socratic method, games and analogies. One must read the student while tutoring in order to apply correct methods.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Pencil, paper, graphing calculator, protractor, compass & ruler.