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I'm a graduate of Hamline University, where I acquired a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. I also did graduate work at Hamline in Language Arts education. I was a student of music for many years, and have a Bachelor's degree in Music from the University of Colorado, Boulder where I studied voice. Having been a serious student of music in the past, I of course enjoy classical music; my favorites these days are the Baroque masters.

I have been teaching English courses online for several years now, and it's been an excellent job for me as a parent since the hours are so flexible. Now that my child is grown, I'm interested in spreading my wings a bit and meeting students face to face as a tutor.

My favorite subjects to teach are English Composition, Rhetoric, and research essays. I also am a grammar nerd and love to help students build their skills in this area.

I love animals of all kinds and have a dog and a cat, who don't really get along with each other! I spend too much time breaking up their little spats, I think. But I wouldn't give them up, mostly because they're so entertaining.

I also enjoy baking and cooking ethnic foods, and since I live near the Mississippi River I take advantage of our running paths on a regular basis. I love to be outside in the fresh air.

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Mary’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: University of Colorado Boulder - Bachelors, Music

Graduate Degree: Hamline University - Masters, Creative Writing - Literature


baking, cooking ethnic foods, and running

Tutoring Subjects

College English

College Essays

Comparative Literature

Creative Writing


English Grammar and Syntax

Essay Editing

Essay Writing

Expository Writing

Fiction Writing

High School English

IB Extended Essay


Persuasive Writing



Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

I have a strong desire and passion to really know my students and understand their goals – to take education up several notches and personalize it while maintaining assignment and course objectives. By knowing what drives my students and what their goals are, I can tailor the work to their needs, and also help them see how their writing skills apply to their everyday lives.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

I like to begin my sessions with a brief conversation 'icebreaker'--what are your interests, for example, and from there we would move on to what you are looking for from the sessions. We will review the assignments and rubrics and what you've done so far. From there we can come up with a plan together for further development.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

Students become independent learners when first they create environments for themselves that feel comfortable and pleasant. I would encourage students to share where they do most of their work, and then we can talk about options. The second thing that's important for developing independence is creating a step-by-step plan for completing an assignment. This involves writing down the steps and including a time frame for completing the steps. These elements are all-important at the beginning stages of assignments, and will reduce the stress (and procrastination) that comes with ambiguity about what needs to be done, and when.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I help my students stay motivated by regular encouragement about any setbacks, and with outreach.

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

If a student has difficulty with a skill or concept, I use a technique known as 'scaffolding', which involves beginning with something the students knows, and building on that knowledge to the next conceptual level. I also encourage a student's open expression of what he or she feels is missing from their understanding.

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

My approach with reading comprehension would begin with asking my student to identify the particular area that's difficult, and then to rephrase what he or she thinks the author is saying. I encourage students with comprehension issues to express their thoughts openly without fear of making mistakes.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

Creating a comfortable and safe environment while remaining focused on the assignment goal is my overall strategy for successful teaching.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?

I help students get engaged with a subject they're struggling with by discussing the potential they're showing for success and how completing an assignment, especially a difficult one, creates a sense of accomplishment and freedom.

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

To be sure students understand the material, I stop frequently to see if they have any questions. I also ask them to keep a journal and write down what was covered in the class or session, which we then review in the next session.

How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?

Scaffolding is the most effective means to build confidence, since it begins with a foundation of what is known. I find it works best to build incrementally and slowly when confidence in a subject is low.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

I will have a conversation with students about what they feel their needs are. I will ask what has been accomplished so far, and review all the relevant materials for the assignment. I will also include a parent's or teacher's input if that is appropriate.

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?

Depending on what the needs are, I can approach a subject more slowly or quickly, include more grammar and usage lessons, or more visual learning materials. I believe in differentiated learning practices.

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

Depending on the needs of the students, I use graphic organizers, English grammar and sentence structure worksheets, computer graphics, links and websites for APA and MLA formatting.

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