I am a recent transplant to the Portland area after spending the last 4 plus years in Ecuador. I have been involved in education my whole life both as a student and teacher/professor, in various environments. As a student of Spanish,I have reached the highest level- C2(Advanced/professional) but I continue to learn and grow, research the best learning methods and tools, and take this to the classroom. I have helped students advance, improve and grow in Spanish, English, TOEFL test prep, and poker, and have formed many great relationships along the way. I'm easy going but like to challenge and connect with my students and really feel I do a good job adapting to allow them to get the most out of our sessions, classes, and my extensive experience. Currently, i am in the process of publishing a book about gaining fluency in Spanish which breaks down in an easy fashion the self- study strategies, tricks, tips,and tools that I used to become fluent in the language. Outside of the education world I have held some other interesting professional positions, and have traveled both around the country and world extensively. All of these experiences have made me a better instructor and tutor and I hope to be able to help you advance in Spanish, ESL or whatever it is you are studying!
Undergraduate Degree: University of Delaware - Bachelors, Spanish
Graduate Degree: University of Arizona - Masters, Latin American Studies
Traveling, Spanish, Poker, Guitar, Basketball, Surfing, Learning, Good TV, Reading, My friends.
What is your teaching philosophy?
Connect with the student and understand at the outset what they hope to achieve. Learning a second language isn't just memorizing a grammar structure or a few words; it's about making a personal connection with the language or subject you are learning. When you learn something like a greeting or expression and can use it in a real life setting, you gain a true sense of accomplishment. You put down blocks and expand upon them, where each new thing you learn, you can immediately use. I strive to allow the student to see and understand this, make the process of gaining the information and building the blocks fun and not a chore, and guide them to where they aspire to go; whether that's just trying to past a difficult test, or becoming confident enough with the language to speak in the real world. I have been there and know what works and doesn't to succeed!
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
First things first- find out what the student wants and assess their level. The more I know about a student the more they will get out of the session and the quicker they will learn. Helping them realize learning a language is fun and not a job will change the whole way the grasp, improve and grow in it.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
As mostly an independent learner myself, after reaching an intermediate level, this is my specialty. I know the free resources, websites, podcasts, TV series, strategies, memorization tricks, etc., to help a student rapidly increase their learning. I am currently in the process of publishing a book on this topic which is all about self-study in Spanish and the tricks, resources and tools that one should use to speak fluently in the language.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Motivation is so important, it is hard to emphasize enough. By setting immediate, short-term goals, the marathon that is learning a second or other language becomes much more realizable and more importantly, enjoyable. Learning something you can use right away, where you can see and test the results right away, does wonders. It's not like learning some random theory that has no real world value. That is why learning Spanish or a language is, in my opinion, so much more fun than learning just about any other subject.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Find out why it isn't sticking, figure out how to make the information more personalized, walk the student through this concept and process which usually takes 2-3 minutes, and verify they have got it. It is something that is so common in foreign language learning, that once the process is understood, it can be applied to vocab, grammar, pronunciation, phrases, patterns, whatever. Making the concept or information your own, and connecting with it ensures it stays with you forever. Your brain needs to know the stuff is important or else it will just erase it from your memory. By connecting it to something already known or relate-able it becomes important. I go this process all the time!
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading is one of the 4 major skills in language, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. The key in a foreign language is choosing material that is both suitable to your level and something you are interested in. If not, it will mostly be a waste of time. I help students find fun and level appropriate material to use both in session and in their personal self-study time.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Knowing their goals and level really are the two most important factors at the outset. From there I can mold a plan to help them reach both short-term and long-term goals. Helping them realize the more they enjoy and connect with the subject, the easier it will be. It's like night and day, really. As we put down the building blocks, and they realize they are actually improving, the next steps in the road to acquisition or mastering a certain skill in the language becomes easier and something they tend to want more. It's a positive, self-fulfilling cycle.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Make sure they know the real benefits of learning the language. I took Spanish in H.S., did enough to get B's, but couldn't have cared less about retaining the information. But then I went to Puerto Rico on vacation and was blown away by the language, the palm trees, the beaches, the coconut drinks, Spanish guitar music, and the whole Latin Vibe. That made me instantly sign up for a summer semester abroad in Ecuador between my Freshman and Sophomore years and I haven't looked back since. You have to understand why you are learning the language, see the good it can bring to your life; in my case it absolutely changed it for the better, and try to make it personal. Even if you just want to pass Spanish I in school, realizing it helps your memory and creativity, and has various other positive effects is a good reason to put in some effort and go for a good grade in the class.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
A lot of learning a language comes down to approach and exposure. Choosing the correct materials is essential and is something that I am very confident doing for students of all levels. There is so much out there that as a student and teacher I use to help my students advance, or myself advance. Having put in so much time at this, especially during my recent years in Ecuador, I have all the necessary resources at my disposal. I use these materials in conjunction with teaching techniques related to memorization, pronunciation improvement, breaking down boring grammar rules in an understandable and systematic way, reading and listening comprehension tips, and other language based skills to allow the student to advance efficiently and quickly in the subject.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
The more a student starts to use what they learn in the real world right away, the more confident they become.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Ask them! Speak with them in the language and give them practice questions. It is fairly easy to determine what a student’s level is and what they need work, at whether that's speaking, vocab, listening, test taking strategies, pronunciation, or a combination of these areas. But it really comes down to what they want out of their sessions and time with me, and once that is established I move on to form a plan of attack.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I am flexible, easygoing and more than anything, tutoring in order to help the student. As such, I will adapt however necessary to make sure they get the most out of their sessions with me. Adapting and being flexible has allowed me to be successful in a number of fields, especially in the field of education.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I use lots! There are so many sources of information I personally use and utilize for my class sessions, many of them coming from online, and others from things I have created. In many cases, a student will have specific course related objectives and consequently using the class textbook will be necessary and beneficial. But the other tools I know of will act as reinforcement or supplements and will also be very helpful.