I'm an enthusiastic and dedicated tutor who truly loves seeing my students grow and excel. I have high standards for them and for myself. I'm patient and flexible, and I believe that learning should be a positive experience (and sometimes even fun!) I'm committed to nurturing each client's individual strengths and self-confidence. I have over fifteen years' experience teaching students of all ages, from first grade through to graduate school and beyond.
I've taught a wide range of subjects, but my favorites are the language arts: writing, critical thinking, rhetoric, grammar, and public speaking. I'm passionate about helping my students learn to do efficient and meaningful research and to craft excellent essays. My goal is to help them think clearly, respond deeply to what they read, and communicate even their most complex ideas with precision and power. I also teach the verbal sections of standardized tests like the ACT, SAT, GED, and GRE.
In our first session, we'll articulate your needs and goals. Together, we'll create a clear and manageable plan for reaching those goals, so that every minute we spend together will count. After each session, I'll assign challenging homework to help you master new skills quickly.
I have a master's degree in British history from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a B.A. with honors in comparative literature from the University of California. I'm an AMI-certified Montessori Elementary School Teacher, and also a graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. I have an especially strong background in writing, linguistics, Shakespeare, and European history.
I love spending my free time with animals, including horseback riding and volunteering with my local shelter. I'm also a big fan of live theater and storytelling events. I'm secretly working on a novel.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of California-Santa Cruz - Bachelors, Comparative literature
Graduate Degree: St. Andrews University, Scotland - Masters, Early modern British history
Reading, writing, travel, horseback riding, Shakespeare, Doctor Who
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Language is at the core of our humanity. Developing language-related skills is a fast track to academic success, and it also opens doors to a richer and more fulfilling life. I’m here to help my students achieve that. Whatever my client’s current skill level, I meet her there and guide her onward with kindness and enthusiasm. In our first session, we assess the student’s situation and articulate her goals. Together, we then create a clear and manageable plan for reaching those goals. I expect my students to work hard and do their very best. I combine those high standards with a positive, supportive attitude. I believe learning should be a positive experience, and I’m committed to nurturing each client’s strengths and self-confidence. I’m patient and flexible, and I'm always happy to talk through questions and review material as many times as the student wants me to.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I start a first session by making sure that my student and I have (as far as possible) a distraction-free space to work in. That means privacy, quiet, and all electronics put away. My first goal is to establish a positive, supportive relationship with the student. I’ll ask questions about the particular subject area that we’re going to be working on, and I listen carefully to what she says. What’s been discussed in class? What work has she done so far, and what are her thoughts and feelings about it? Where does she feel stuck? Are there textbooks or other class materials that we can look at together? Together, we assess her current strengths as well as the areas where she needs help. We articulate exactly what she wants to achieve through our sessions. Then we create an explicit game plan for reaching those goals. This becomes a written document that the client and I can both refer to as we go along, to keep ourselves oriented and on-task. By now, I’ll have a sense of where a good starting point might be. I’ll introduce the student to a new perspective or technique that will (hopefully) pique her interest. I make sure that she’s feeling confident with the new information, and then I assign challenging (but manageable) homework to help her practice. I make sure she knows when and where our next meeting will be, and what she needs to do between now and then to prepare. I ask her if she has questions or other thoughts to share right now, and I invite her to email me if questions arise before our next session.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Helping a student move toward independent thinking and learning is one of the main goals of tutoring. Exactly how I go about it depends on the age and experience of the student. Often, a student will have trouble in this area because he’s struggling with an emotional challenge -- shame, anxiety, discouragement, or lack of confidence -- springing from bad experiences in the past. Part of my job is to create a safe, trusting space in which the student knows that I’m on his team, because learning can only happen in a positive environment. At the same time, I make sure he understands that I expect him to work hard and do his very best. Here are some other ways I support intellectual independence: * I engage the student in the process of planning our work together and assessing progress. * If work is not getting done, I expect him to discuss the problem and offer possible solutions. * If I think the student is disengaged because his classes are too easy, I give him more challenging work to do. * I encourage him to take charge of his own education, and I show him ways to go about doing that: keeping a journal about his own interests and ideas, reading independently, getting involved in peer tutoring. * I emphasize the student’s strengths and help him find ways to use them. * I never do a student’s work for him.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Lack of motivation can be a symptom of anxiety, shame, or shaky self-esteem. If a student fears that she’s not good enough to succeed at an academic task, she may stop trying rather than risk failure. That’s one reason why I strive to recognize and support each student’s strengths. When a student knows that he is heard and valued, he’s free to learn. Low motivation can also come from boredom. If I think a student is not feeling challenged by the material, I’ll add a layer of complexity to the task. Finally, I make sure that my students understand that tutoring is an active process for us both, and that we’re working together. Both of us need to be committed and engaged in order to achieve results.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
All of us encounter concepts that take us a little extra time to understand. When a student is having trouble, I back up and find the place where he first began to feel confused. We then go over the challenging material again. I may move more slowly; I may ask more questions inviting the student to explain the ideas to me as he understands them. I may give him more background information if I think that context might help clarify things. Finally, I may look for ways to link the difficult material to other ideas or subjects that the student already feels comfortable with.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension is a sine qua non of academic achievement. Its development has to be supported in different ways depending on the age and skill level of the reader. Here are some strategies that have worked for some of my students: Encouraging them to slow down. Many children learn basic literacy skills, then develop a habit of skipping ahead as they read. Making sure that the student has reading material that interests her. Making sure that the student has an environment free of distractions and interruptions. Teaching the student to ask mental questions as he reads, then look for the answers. Teaching him to summarize. Teaching vocabulary. Teaching the student how to infer the meanings of unfamiliar words by looking at context. Especially for small children, one of the best ways to support their reading skills is to give them an environment rich with books of all kinds, and with good conversation that uses a wide vocabulary. Read to them, tell them stories, and encourage them to tell stories of their own.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
When I meet with a student for the first time, I have three goals: to establish a good rapport, to discover her current level of skill and understanding, and to help her articulate her goals for our sessions. Together, we create a clear and manageable plan for achieving those goals, so that we both stay oriented and on-task throughout our time together. I ask the student a lot of questions, and I listen carefully to the answers. I show enthusiasm and positive energy. If humor arises during that first session, that's great. I want the student to know that I'm here for her and that I have faith in her abilities.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
First, I make sure the student understands that confusion is a natural part of the learning process. It.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
My favorite way to do this is to invite the student to explain the material to someone else: either to me, or to a peer who is genuinely learning it for the first time. Teaching demonstrates proficiency, solidifies mastery, and brings excitement and confidence. Other techniques include having the student write about the material, and having her apply it in a creative way. (This last possibility works better with some subjects than with others: sonnet structure lends itself to creative exploration, while SAT multiple choice techniques do not.).
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Confidence comes from accomplishment. Whenever I see a step of progress or an indication of growing ability, I make sure that my student knows about it. She needs to know that she can rely on me to give genuine, discriminating feedback on her work. I frequently ask students to assess their own performance before I give them my opinion. I do that to teach them to respect their own judgement, which also helps build confidence.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I ask students lots of questions about their academic experiences, and I listen. What do they enjoy doing? What worries them? What do they like to read? Who are their favorite professors or teachers, and why? I look at any work that the student may have available: essays, test scores, homework assignments. Finally, I ask them what, specifically, they want to accomplish by working with me. Once we've discussed all those things, I have a good sense both of the student's long-term academic trajectory, and of the immediate skills and concepts that they need to acquire. I also understand something about his learning style and interests, which may help me choose materials for us to work on together.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
My tutoring is always adapting, because I'm always listening to the student and observing her responses. During each session, I make notes on concepts or skills that the student may be having trouble with, and I then use those as the basis of my next lesson plan. When I see her expressing eager enthusiasm, I may guide her toward some extra reading about the topics that she finds rewarding.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I use my own written handouts when I teach test preparation or basic skills like grammar or essay writing. I often have my students keep a vocabulary journal and bring it to each tutoring session. The student and I both need to come prepared with writing materials. Sometimes I also use photocopies of essay prompts, test questions, and bubble answer sheets.