I originally began my undergraduate career as a nursing major, because I wanted a job where I could learn science as well as help people. In my sophomore year, I took the chemistry nursing course and it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I decided to change my major to chemistry and pursue a different path. This was a difficult decision for me since I was not one of the people who thought science was easy and never had to study, I had to work very hard to understand the concepts and work through the problems.
My struggles with chemistry everyday and my ability to work hard and learn anyway are some of the reasons why I teach. Students struggle with the same material I did and had the same frustrations. I can 100% relate to their feelings.
My tutoring strategy builds off of using simple analogies to understand concepts and clear explanations to understand problem solving and strategies. I strive to create a safe learning environment for asking questions and saying "I have no idea what's going on. I need help."
As a third year graduate student at Stony Brook University, I have been a teaching assistant since my time in undergraduate. I have taught general chemistry (I and II), honors general chemistry, and a graduate/undergraduate listed biochemistry course. I have won two teaching awards, one just for graduate students in the chemistry department in their first year and the second a university wide teaching award from all graduate students in all departments. I have tutored high school students and mentored middle school students. My career goal is to be a chemistry teacher either at the collegiate or the high school level.
I like to approach each student individually and try to understand their experiences so that I can help relate chemistry to their life. It is the central science after all!
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Adelphi University - Bachelors, Chemistry
Graduate Degree: Stony Brook University - Current Grad Student, Chemistry
Brazilian jiu jitsu, Kickboxing, Reading, Rabbits, and the Flash
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe that a lot of students have the capability of being great thinkers and great problem solvers, but suffer from low confidence. Students will say they don't know when they actually do know, but are afraid that they are wrong. If science has taught me anything, it's that it is ok to be wrong sometimes! I like students to build confidence in themselves and have a safe learning environment in which to achieve that. I work to help build understanding through the use of analogies that bring in familiar topics and ideas to explain what may be foreign and hard to visualize. A great analogy is simple and requires a deep understanding of the subject matter.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a typical first session with a student, I like to introduce myself and ask the student what they want to get out of tutoring. Do they want to be able to answer all the questions? Do they have problems understanding what the problem is? Do they not have any idea what is going on? I want to be able to assess where the student is mentally on the subject at hand, before moving forward with the session. Depending on if there is a review for a test coming up or just going through topics, I would want to ask questions about that topic (generally) to see how the student does and if there is any background knowledge that appears to need bolstering before getting to the heart of the issue. Then we would go through problems, or go through an explanation of the topic. How the students does on the problems will determine, whether they adequately understood. I always like to let the student know where to focus and what's important and why. I like to have interesting facts and ways to help them remember. I will always try to bring up something from early on in the session near the middle or the end to reinforce what we were talking about. The first session is a "getting to know you" and it's really an opportunity for me to see where they are at and how they approach the subject and for them to see if they are comfortable with my teaching style and how I explain the information. Every student is different but I would try to approach each first session in this way.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I believe very strongly that confidence as a student helps build the foundation for independent learning. It's like this: if you do not believe that you are a strong swimmer, would you be likely to go headlong into the ocean and swim? Probably not. But if you believe that you're capable and can do it, you're more likely to take the risk. My job is to help build the ladder of confidence; you start small and take little gains each time -- maybe answering a question right that they weren't confident on, or solving a problem start to finish. Sometimes it's as simple as saying, "You can do this."
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I know the hardships of waning motivation and trying to stay focused. One of the ways I try to stay motivated is through inspiration. I'm more likely to keep working on something when it's interesting to me. So I use that technique with my students. Why not balance an equation that is happening inside your body right now? Why not solve for the products of a chemical reaction that we use every day?
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If a student has difficulty learning a concept, it's not the student's responsibility to change what they're doing-- it's mine. I should try to explain it in a different way, maybe with a different medium or a different analogy. I have to be creative enough and know my topics enough to be able to assess where my student is coming from and how I can alter my approach to suit them.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension is such an important part of problem solving. There are several things that you can do. The first is to slow down! So many students struggle because they are reading so fast they aren't even computing what they're reading. A second skill to learn is how to pick out key phrases or words to identify -- so when they read the question, even without the details, their minds switch into a type of thinking. A third is to break down where the struggles are occurring -- is it vocabulary, is it the syntax, or is it the concept?
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I'm a real person who struggled with science but was able to push myself to study it because I love it. Science does not come easy to me, I have the knowledge that I do because I have worked hard at it and put in countless hours studying. I try to relate to the students and let them know that I remember where they were and that this is hard and new and scary. I like to be able to relate to the students that I teach because I know that that's what I needed when I was in their shoes.