I am a self-described grammar geek, and I really enjoy helping students understand the WHY and the HOW of the Spanish language. I believe Spanish is a beautiful language and I love watching others come to appreciate it as much as I do.
I am a patient, knowledgable, and experienced language educator and tutor, covering beginning to intermediate-advanced Spanish levels. I have a Master's degree in Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures in Spanish, with an emphasis on linguistics. I do, however, enjoy Spanish literature and studied, at great length, a variety of literary periods in graduate school. For the past three and a half years, I have been teaching a variety of Spanish courses at the college level, though I enjoy working with students of all ages. In fact, I spent a school year teaching Spanish to three-, four-, and five-year-olds.
I look forward to helping you, or your student, find success and a love (or at least tolerance!) for the Spanish language.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Iowa - Bachelors, Marketing, Finance, Spanish (minor)
Graduate Degree: Colorado State University-Fort Collins - Masters, Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures: Spanish
Traveling, reading, cooking, teaching, practicing yoga, exercising, hiking, biking.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe it is critical to create an encouraging and positive learning environment. I want my students to feel like they are an integral part of the learning process and they therefore must be encouraged to participate (which is always a bit easier to do when tutoring!). Furthermore, all this must be carried out in a positive way; I believe students should be made to feel successful and should always be encouraged to continue learning. If ever a student feels like a failure or like they are not capable of understanding the material, they will shut down and the learning process will end. Another, perhaps equally important, element of my teaching philosophy is the need for empathy. It is important to help students understand that their struggles are not unique to them; I, too, learned Spanish in a classroom, and I, too, encountered great difficulty with certain grammar elements. I was able to overcome these difficulties, and so will you.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I can help a student become an independent learner by allowing them to take ownership of our tutoring sessions. I make them responsible for helping select the material we will cover, and they can also share with me ways they think will be most useful in helping them learn the material. I like to position myself as a "facilitator," so the student takes a greater leading role in the sessions.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a typical first session with a student, I like to have a conversation about their previous experience (if any) with Spanish - when and where did they study the language? In which ways did they feel they were successful? Which parts of the language, or learning process, proved to be more challenging? I like to ask several background questions so that I can really understand where the student is coming from, and how their past experiences have helped them get to where they are today. I also like to ask open-ended questions that allow the student to give me a lot of feedback regarding study strategies and goals for the tutoring sessions. From there, we can begin to design our tutoring sessions, making sure to address the needs and concerns of the student.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I believe one of the best ways to help a student stay motivated is with encouragement. When a student feels like they are being recognized for their efforts, and are being noted for their success, they are much more likely to continue to want to learn and study. I also think that incorporating "check-points" into the tutoring plan helps students to stay motivated. When they see a clear path to their goals and know how to prepare, it becomes easier to stay on task and stay motivated.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, I think it is important to have a conversation about where, specifically, the breakdown in understanding is. Sometimes this requires using contextualized examples, so that I can clearly pinpoint where there is a gap. After uncovering the issue, I would spend additional time covering the topic again, perhaps from a different angle, and incorporating subject-related questions that the student can answer. This way, the student is actively involved, and will hopefully find that they do, in fact, understand a little about the topic. Additional practice problems or questions can prove useful as well. Finally, I would be sure to include extra practice with this skill or concept at our next session (or next few sessions, depending on the concept), to be sure that the student now fully understands the concept.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
One of the strategies I have found to be most successful when starting to work with a student is immediately establishing an open line of communication. I want the student to feel as though they can ask me any question, at any time. I think it is equally important that I ask the student questions, too, in order to accurately gauge understanding of a concept. By doing this, the student becomes an active participant, and hopefully is more engaged and keyed in to the work at hand.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I thoroughly enjoy helping students to get excited about Spanish! Because they are learning a language, that often times leaves a lot of room to incorporate topics the student is interested in: sports, pop culture, literature, etc. I like to mix grammar lessons in with news, information, and facts that are relevant to the student. For example, if a student is interested in swimming, I can use verbs and ideas that relate to swimming to highlight a lesson on conjugation, or prepositions. By presenting the student with something they are already familiar with or interested in, the student will hopefully be more likely to engage the material.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
One technique I enjoy using after a lesson to be sure that a student understands the material is to ask for a summary or explanation. I like to allow the student the ability to process the information we have covered by offering a summary of what we did, or an explanation of how to, for example, form questions in Spanish. Not only can I directly gauge the level of understanding, but the student also has yet another chance to digest the information presented by repeating it aloud. Another technique to measure understanding is provide the student with practical practice questions, where they can apply what they have learned. This could include open-ended questions, questions with multiple choice answers, or fill-in-the-blanks.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I build a student's confidence by offering consistent, regular feedback. I always like to point out the successes, and highlight right answers. This signals to the student that the work they are doing is producing real results, and it encourages them to continue to learn. I also think a warm, sincere smile, and words of encouragement go a long way to signaling to a student that you believe in them and their abilities, and so should they.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I think the easiest, most successful way of evaluating a student's needs is to have a direct content-specific conversation with them about what they think they already do well, and what they would like to work on. From there, I make notes to pay special attention to these areas, even if they have said they have already mastered a certain concept (there's always the possibility they may have learned a concept incorrectly). Throughout the course of our first couple of sessions, I can readily spot other areas that may need attention, and can then tailor the subsequent sessions accordingly.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
The types of materials I typically use during a tutoring session depends heavily on the needs of the student. If the student is currently enrolled in a Spanish class, I will work with them through the textbook they use in their class. I also have my own bank of resources that includes a variety of textbooks, practice books, and short novels (to help with reading comprehension and pronunciation). If a student is more interested in conversation practice, I like to find topics of interest (i.e. food, health, politics, theater) and search for articles in Spanish, online. The student and I can both read the articles in advance, and then have a conversation about the material. A paper and pen are always useful tools during a tutoring session, as they help to provide an illustrative element to the lesson.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
To help students struggling with reading comprehension, I find it useful to begin with a smaller section of a relevant reading. I ask them to read through the section and tell anything they can about what they just read. From there, I can begin to identify where the gaps in understanding are. Then, I ask the student to pick out any verbs, nouns, or adjectives that they recognize, and see if they can put together any meaning with the information they have. We can then continue to fill in the blanks by identifying other key words (beginning with verbs). Assisting with learning comprehension is best viewed as a process, and should be broken down into smaller, easier to digest sections. This serves to not only help piece together a bigger picture, but also give the student confidence as they are able to pick out things they already know, and then build from there.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I adapt my tutoring to the student's needs by continuously assessing the student's progress in the subject. If I notice there is a gap in understanding, I will slow down the lesson, and review the area where the student seems to be struggling. Maintaining an open line of communication with the student, whereby he or she is giving me frequent feedback about their level of comfort with a certain concept, is also helpful in allowing me to adapt the tutoring sessions to meet the needs of the student. Another way I adapt my tutoring sessions is by learning early on the methods by which the student learns best. I can then tailor my lessons and the practice activities so that the student has the greatest opportunity to retain the information from the lesson and find success in studying Spanish.