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Erik

I received my B.S. of Mathematics and Physics from the University of Iowa in 2009. While pursing my degree I felt invigorated tutoring undergraduate students in the Physics Tutorial Room and it sparked my interest in math and science education. I have three years of tutoring experience working with TRiO Student Support Services in individual and group settings. I also have many hours of experience tutoring students in subjects like Geometry, Algebra II and Precalculus at City High School of Iowa City. My favorite subjects to tutor are Algebra II, Precalculus and Physics because I feel the content has a good amount of variety and I have a lot of experience tutoring them.

I find it very satisfying to engage students and help them reach their academic goals. I am enthusiastic, have good communication skills (communication includes listening!) and always come organized and prepared for sessions. Students learn differently and I do my absolute best to provide a personalized service and use teaching strategies that will help them the most. I am a strong believer that by establishing an easy going and positive atmosphere it allows the tutor and student to be comfortable asking any questions, give honest answers and contributes to a "learning partnership" rather than a more traditional and imposing teacher/student relationship.

My tutoring style is to first try to teach by using questions instead of by lecturing. When a student is able to discover a solution themselves it is easier for them to recreate it using their own problem solving methods later. I like to break difficult problems into smaller pieces that are easier to understand and explain each step. I believe the most effective way to learn and retain something new is to relate the material to a few key concepts rather than trying to memorizing lots of bits of information.

I look forward to getting to know students academically as well as personally. Life is so busy we can get caught up in completing our checklists and forget to give attention to the experiences and relationships with the people that surround us. I believe fostering personal connections is essential not only for successful teaching and learning but to living a fulfilling life.

Undergraduate Degree:

University of Iowa - Bachelors, Mathematics/Physics

Physics and math education, philosophy, history, science fiction books and movies, hiking and backpacking, role-playing games, dogs, stand up comedy, cooking

What is your teaching philosophy?

My teaching philosophy puts emphasis on developing critical thinking and problem solving skills. You can forget facts but you cannot forget understanding. Helping students understand the problem solving process is tool to help them become self-sufficient learners into the future.

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

During the first session I first like to start out with an "ice breaker" and get to know them. I tell them about myself and ask questions about their interests outside of school. I like to ask them what their academic goals are and if they have any specific learning needs. I might ask a few preliminary questions before we get started to gauge where student is succeeding and where they may need improvement.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I think one critical aspect of helping students become independent learners is to teach by asking questions that probe their understanding. Sometimes students simply need to get the process of thinking along the right pathways to answer their own questions. Secondly I try to incorporate the resources students have available while I'm not there (like their book or the internet) into lessons so they get used to investigating using them.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

Bring enthusiasm to the session! I give positive encouragement and take notice of each successful step a student makes. Learning new stuff is hard and the human brain isn't good at learning when embarrassed or frustrated. Being empathetic and a good listener is important to know when to break the content into smaller more easily digested pieces.

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

There are many things I could try. First I try to break the content into pieces and focus on understanding each piece. Another technique I use is to solve a different, simpler problem that gets at the same concept.

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

First I make sure the student is comfortable with the elements of the passage (i.e., word definitions, the meaning of specific notation, etc.). I like to have the student read the passage out loud and stop reading whenever they are held up by something. I also try to put the passage into context by asking questions like 'what is the authors purpose?' or 'how does this relate to what we already know?'

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

During the earliest meetings I ask for feedback. I'll kindly ask if the session is proceeding in a way that helps them learn. I think being an attentive listener helps me gauge what strategies work best. It all depends on the student but generally breaking problems down or using specific examples work well.

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

Bringing my own excitement about learning and a positive vibe sometimes "rubs off" on students. I also think explaining how the content might connect to the student's life can make them more engaged.

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

I like to have the student explain their reasoning in how they came to their solution. Sometimes students can get a solution without understanding all of the steps they used to get there. I'm aware of many common on pit falls that trip students up and give them problems to solve that help highlight those.

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

I always give a lot of positive feedback and support. I remind them that learning something new is difficult and everyone struggles with new ideas.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

I'll ask the student what their goals are. If appropriate I sometimes ask their mentors (guardian/teacher) what they believe the student needs the most. I can tell a lot about what might help students most by looking at some of their old exams or homework.

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

I try to gauge what will help the student the most. One student might need help reviewing old concepts in order to fully understand the current ones the class learning. Another student might have a good handle on all the concepts but need many practice problems before an exam to feel confident. I try to be flexible and attentive to focus our time on what will be the most productive for the student.