Ruth Spurlock Kim is an advocate for teaching in ways that embrace all the different kinds of diversity in
A graduate of Smith College, Ruth has worked as a teacher in a variety of community-based settings.
She spent one year as a Fulbright teacher at Northern (Arctic) Federal University in Arkhangelsk, Russia,
teaching English and growing international friendships. Since returning to Pittsburgh in 2012, she has
taught and mentored at-risk kids and youth at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Children’s Museum of
Pittsburgh, and Best of the Batch Foundation. Her work focuses on culturally responsive multi-cultural
education, language teaching, and program development. At the Carnegie Library, she created World
Family Day, an event where volunteers read children’s stories in their native language, donated food from
around the world, and shared cultural crafts with 90 kids and parents.
During 2014-15, Ruth completed a Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, where she learned about the
interaction between government and nonprofit sectors in community building. While in Coro, she worked
on projects impacting different communities in the Pittsburgh area, including developing a comprehensive
curriculum to bring the Dignity & Respect Sportsmanship program to local schools with Best of the Batch.
Ruth lives with her husband, Howard, in Pittsburgh, and writes the blog GlobalJabouble.com about
globalization, love, and her travels abroad.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Smith College - Bachelors, Comparative Literature / Russian Civilization
SAT Math: 700
SAT Verbal: 760
SAT Writing: 800
GRE Quantitative: 154
GRE Verbal: 167
Walking in the park, reading, trying out new restaurants, thrift shopping
High School English
Study Skills and Organization
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
My philosophy for teaching is my philosophy for life. We have to listen to understand each other, ask a thousand questions, and we have to not be afraid to make mistakes and be wrong sometimes. When I meet a new student, I ask questions about where they are, what they want to learn and why. I listen deeply and ask follow up questions so I understand as well as I can where my student is coming from. I try not to think of my students as students. We are co-learners, discovering the world together. Sometimes I can show people ideas of ways of thinking that they haven't experienced before. Sometimes I learn more from my "student" than they do from me. We're in this together.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a first session, I want the student to do most of the talking. I'll ask questions about what their goals are, why they're on the path they're on, what they already know, and what they struggle with. I'll ask about what their best and worst learning experiences have been in the past, what they're most afraid of, and what they're most excited about. I want to get to know you and how you learn best, so I can provide an experience that's best for you.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
In the age of the Internet, there are endless resources online you can use to learn on your own. Even if you don't have a computer at home, you can go to the library and use the Internet for free there. But there are definitely strategies and styles of learning that work better for some people than for others. I'll try to help you discover the way that you learn best, and suggest some strategies for how to engage that.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Motivation ultimately has to come from you. I can help you come up with a set of goals that you feel are realistic, and create incentives that will work for you. And we can tweak your learning plan as we figure out what works best. If I have to, I'll send you texts every 20 minutes to remind you to go over your flashcards! Or I'll go with you when you get yourself your reward Starbucks latte. Whatever works for you!
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would incorporate a skill or concept you're struggling with into a larger, broader lesson. It can be frustrating to just repeat something you're struggling with over and over again. So, we will repeat it, but we'll also break it up with things you're good at and feel confident about. I'll also try multiple different ways of explaining the concept or practicing the skill. And I'll always endeavor to put it into a larger context so you gain a muscle memory for how this skill will be used in the real world, or how this concept fits in with the bigger picture of the field we're studying. Nothing makes sense in a vacuum.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
For reading comprehension, I'd start with something the student does understand. I'd ask what their favorite book, movie, YouTube video is. We'll read or watch it together, and I'll ask you to tell me what happened. Then we'll read or watch something similar and do the same thing. And then we'll move on to something a little farther away or more complex. And so on. You always have to start from what you know.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I always start by asking questions and just trying to get to know the student, put them at ease, and adapt my teaching style to their learning style.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
As always, it's about understanding what the student cares about, and what their goals are. If I can find a way to link the material to what they care about, it helps them understand the importance of succeeding in that subject, even if it's not their favorite. If they're struggling, I try to find the places where they can find success, and build confidence from there.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I ask students to repeat back to me a concept we've been working on, in their own words. Or, if it's a grammar concept, I may prepare a short worksheet for them to do, to see where they may still be making mistakes.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I always point out where they are doing well in that subject, even if it's a small thing, or even if it's simply an attitude towards studying that I know will be successful in the long run. I try to relate my own experiences with that subject or with struggling with material to let them know that the struggle can end and they can achieve a level of competence and even expertise as a result of the hard work they're putting in.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I start by asking the student what they need, and what their goals are. I may do a quick worksheet or test to see where they're at. If it's a language, I may have a conversation with them in the language, or ask them to write something short about their day in the target language, to gauge where they're at.