I recently completed my Ph.D. in American Literature from Morgan State University. I earned my Masters degree in English from Hofstra University and my BA in English from Immaculata University. After graduating with my BA, I went to Lima, Peru and taught English in a private all girls school for 2 years. I am currently an adjunct professor at two Philadelphia area universities where I teach American literature and academic writing. I have been teaching at the university level since 2007. I also have experience working in a university writing center where I helped students plan, draft, and revise academic papers. I have also taught SAT prep (Critical Thinking and essay writing) over the summer.
I believe that learning can be fun and I do my best to make it so. I try to make my classroom atmosphere (online or otherwise) a laid back and comfortable place for my students to be. I want them to love coming to class and to be just as ready to laugh as to learn. I would love the opportunity to help you understand and appreciate the beauty of literature or to demystify the semicolon.
Mary Beth’s Qualifications
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Immaculata University - Bachelors, English
Graduate Degree: Morgan State University - PHD, American Literature
Reading, playing field hockey and softball, hiking, laughing
College Level American History
College Level American Literature
High School English
High School Level American History
High School Level American Literature
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe that one of, if not the most important part of teaching is providing the students with a clear purpose of what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how am I going to help them. I have always appreciated teachers who brought the past into the present or molded esoteric theory into a practical application; it immediately made my education relevant and necessary.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Talk to him or her. I believe that getting to know my students is key to helping them learn. I'd like to know his or her interests and what he or she likes to do outside of the classroom. I may ask them to write something for me - just so that I can see how they write and think.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I believe that every student is an individual. My goal is to make them realize that as an individual, they have specific capabilities and potential. I try to make them aware of such abilities and show them how they can apply them to learning, education, and thereby, life.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I would explain to them that learning never stops. Learning is the basis for growth and growth is the very foundation of life. It's not a matter of staying motivated, it's a matter of growing and living.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would break the concept down to its most basic components and then explain them individually.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I would go through a paragraph sentence by sentence and help them to gather facts or explore unfamiliar words in order to get at the main idea of each sentence. From there, we would look at the meaning of each sentence and then try to decipher the overall idea of the paragraph.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I have found that simply getting to know my student is the best way to teach him or her. If I know how a student thinks or how he or she reasons, then I am better able to tailor a lesson to meet his or her skills or way or thinking.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I would explain to them that school or education is not a job or a chore - it is a life skill. Learning does not cease once one graduates. Every experience is a learning opportunity. Their goal, now, with this subject that they don't enjoy, is to decipher what that lesson is, find that hidden meaning because life works in the same way.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
It depends on what the material is, but I find that a mix or objective and subjective testing works the best in my area (literature). Consequently, I give objective tests about dates, themes, characters, and plots of literature to be sure that they know the context and history of certain writings. I also assign essays to ensure that they are able to articulate and apply literary theories in addition to analyzing characters, plots, themes, and symbols.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I would break down concepts or readings so that the student can understand the most basic ideas or meanings. I would continue to do this until the student is able to complete such a task on his or her own. From there, we would move on to larger theories or ideas.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I often ask my students for a writing sample on the first day of class. Why? Because one's writing tells me a lot about a student. I can understand how one thinks by looking at how he or she creates sentences or links (or fails to link) ideas. I can also decipher how much one knows (or doesn't know) about articulating ideas or meaning.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
When I first sit down with a student I try very hard to identify the student's strengths and weaknesses. I point out their strengths and encourage them to be aware of them and build off of them. Pointing out their strengths often puts them a little more at ease and boosts their confidence. From there, I assess their weaknesses and offer suggestions. Once they are at ease, they are usually are more receptive to criticism.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
It depends on what the tutoring session entails. If we are working on writing, I like to use the student's own work. I would read the writing aloud with the student so that he or she can hear and see his or her mistakes. With regard to teaching literature, I would obviously dive right into the piece itself. Identify the main characters, plot, diction, or symbols and then discuss how they contribute to the overall theme of the work.