I received my CELTA (Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English) in Budapest in 2004, after teaching in the Peace Corps in Georgia near the border with Russia. From there, I spent four years at a British language school in Kiev, Ukraine, where I taught all ages and all levels, including absolute beginners and Cambridge certificate courses. I also tutored individuals and pairs, adults and children, in my free time. Upon returning to the US, I completed a master's degree in nonprofit management, and am currently working on a second master's in European and Eurasian studies at George Washington University, where I also tutor Kazakh exchange fellows for the Central Asia Program at the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies. My bachelor's degree in international relations is from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
I am an English teacher, but also a language learner. I have taken university-level French, Russian, and German, studied Latin and Spanish in school, and have taken classes in Persian and Arabic. I understand how it is for language learners, so I assess the needs of the student and go from there. Due to my experience with Russian speakers, I am especially adept at anticipating areas of difficulty with word order and grammar that are different in Russian and English. I prefer the TEFL style (English as a foreign language, like you learn in university) over the TESOL style (English to speakers of other languages, which is less grammar-focused and more oriented towards dealing with situations in new countries), but can teach both. I have experience teaching immigrants in the US and TOEFL as well. The main thing is that I want my students to set the pace for their learning. We can tailor lessons to your needs, addressing your strengths and weaknesses, keeping in mind your individual learning style, whether you prefer learning by doing, listening, writing, reading, or speaking.
I have been a bicycle rider most of my life, and use my bike to get around town. I love animals, especially cats and dogs. I have been a vegetarian almost thirty years, and love trying food from other countries. My main theme in life is to stay curious. I am always interested in learning about other places and how they are similar to or different from the US. For this reason, cultural discussion is usually part of our lessons. I especially like learning about everyday cultural differences, but am also interested in traditional music, dance, and religious practices of other countries.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of NC - Asheville - Bachelors, International Relations
Graduate Degree: George Washington University - Current Grad Student, European and Eurasian Studies
bike riding, exploring new places, trying new vegetarian dishes, taking care of animals, listening to older people talk about history, keeping up with international affairs
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
The student sets the pace; the teacher adapts to the student’s needs.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
First sessions involve speaking, writing, and grammar assessment. We check the pronunciation, comfort level, and grammar knowledge, then talk about the timeline and expectations. After that, we make a plan and decide on the materials we'll use.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I recommend some tried-and-true grammar books with activities and answer keys, but also suggest watching videos and writing down words you recognize. I'm a big fan of word-building; if you don't know a word, but you recognize the root is similar to another word you know, and you know prefixes and suffixes, you can probably guess the meaning and understand whether it is a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. I encourage students to not fear mistakes. Relax and keep trying. Use every opportunity to communicate, even with strangers, so you can challenge yourself to become fearless. Take charge of your learning!
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Focus on what you have already achieved and how it has gotten you closer to your goals. Don't push yourself too hard; try to relax by watching a movie with subtitles for a while if you have overdone it on the reading and grammar. You can switch off learning actively and passively. This will keep you from burning out.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I design my lessons for the individuals I teach, so even though I bring a lot of experience, I don't push one way of doing things. We regularly assess our progress and adapt the lessons to focus on where the weak areas are. We target the lessons to see improvement as soon as possible so the student doesn't feel we are ignoring any areas they need help with.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
That's easy. I'm motivated and excited, and know how to get students to share their interests with me. I can tie the lessons to what is relevant in their lives so they engage better. I like learning about my students and their cultures, and we can forget sometimes that we are working because we're integrating their lives into the themes of the lessons.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?