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Melissa

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I fell in love with reading and writing in my high school English classes. It was because of the teachers. Most of them graduated from Saint Joseph's College, and knowing early on that I wanted to be a teacher like them some day, I eventually graduated from there too with a Bachelors of Arts in Secondary Education with a focus on English. Saint Joseph's College not only shaped me as a teacher, but also as a writer. After I graduated, I landed an internship for a Manhattan-based music magazine which eventually turned into employment. I spent four and a half years writing for print and learning the endless rules of grammar. This has been most beneficial for my students whose writing continues to blossom. As a music journalist, my schedule was flexible and I was able to maintain several tutoring jobs throughout the city as well as Long Island. Currently, I teach English Composition at Saint Joseph's College where I am also earning an M.F.A. in Creative Writing where I will continue to pursue my hopes of becoming an author.

For the past seven years, I have tutored students for the ELA Regents Exam, PSAT, SAT, ACT, SHSAT, 7th NYS ELA Exam and the Mark Twain Entrance Exam. I specialize in critical reading, vocabulary, grammar, and writing, and believe that my approach to content is what shines. Learning has to be an interactive experience. You have to be engaged, you have to see the purpose, and when students do, they excel. A lot of these state exams and tests are designed to fail hasty test takers, but my techniques allow students to eschew these pitfalls. In addition to tutoring, I have three years experience teaching high school English: American Literature, AP English Language & Composition and AP English Literature. Some of my best days have been in these classrooms, and it is my passion to explore the world of reading, writing and language with students.

I am very familiar with the aforementioned tests. I take each and every one of them and analyze them with eyes of a student so that I can recognize where common errors can occur. Then I explain each question. If a student and I are covering the Writing section (grammar) of the SAT, I explain the rules and mechanics of each question. This is something I wish my past teachers did. Instead, they simply read answer keys "It's not A, B, or D because the sentences are not grammatically correct. Next question..." I take the time to explain areas of struggle and tailor students' needs because it is what I would want for myself and my children.

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Melissa’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Saint Joseph's College-New York - Bachelors, Secondary Education

Hobbies

I enjoy reading, writing, painting and listening to vinyl records. Antique stores are my favorite kind of stores and I frequent them often. I also love to travel. Some of my favorite places include Ireland, Paris and Nashville, TN.


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

Learning is a two-way street that is shared by both student and teacher. Without this harmony, education falls in the cracks. I believe in a student-centered classroom that allows students to be active participants in the learning process. As a result, they become confident both in and outside of the classroom. Accountability is essential ,and I expect strong efforts from my students. Every student does have the potential to succeed, but this has to be tailor-made for each individual student. Based on his or her abilities, I find an array of challenges to facilitate learning. Learning is a scaffolding process, and when students see how subjects can enhance the other (for example, history and literature: the 1920s and The Great Gatsby), they are more prone to understand complex and abstract ideas. As far as test prep is concerned, I refuse to simply read the answer keys to students. Too many times do tutors reiterate dry rhetoric when "explaining" answers: "A, B and D contain grammatical errors, so the answer is C." I take each test like a student would, so I can find the common pitfalls that they tend to fall into. This has been very successful for both students and me.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

First, I would get to know the student by asking about his or her interests. This is two-fold: it establishes a rapport with the student, and allows me to find ways to implement methods of teaching. For example, if Tommy, who loves astronomy, has difficulty with analytical passages, the hardest out of the three types on the SAT, I would find articles from the Washington Post or New York Times on astronomy and teach him the techniques this way.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

It is all about confidence. Working 1:1 with a student allows this confidence to augment because there is more accountability to be held. Secondly, the student must ask questions constantly. The ability to think for yourself is a remarkable thing and whenever a student is able to ask a question, whether it's asking what an oxymoron is, or asking how to form a thesis statement, then that student has become an independent learner.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I am well-versed in this area. I typically share a personal experience with students about my struggles in both middle school and high school. Once they see how we all struggle, they are more prone to open up and challenge themselves.

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

I will differentiate the material. For example, if a student has a difficult time with the vocabulary on the SAT or ELA Regents, I will teach Latin roots, the building blocks of language. Once concepts are broken down for students, the obstacles become a lot less apparent.

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

I first would ask the student to find articles that interest him or her. Students need to remember that reading is a pleasure and a privilege. There are many tools I teach that target each type of reading passage. Typically, analytical passages are the most challenging because they require students to do more steps. Comparing and contrasting is essential in this case. I teach students to circle specific transitions and then they are able to begin digesting these "scary" passages with ease.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

Annotating passages and other reading materials, drawing pictures to understand complex themes, interactive games for vocabulary and peer editing for essay writing.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?

I am eager to find fun and engaging ways to help troubling areas. I have plenty of games that I have created that focus on grammar, spelling and vocabulary just to name a few. Once students see that learning can be fun, the tasks become much easier.

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

I would first begin with questioning. Can the student define terms like thesis statement and transitions? Next, I would model instruction and then provide exercises for that student to work through. Lastly, to assure learning, I would ask the student to write a thesis statement for an entirely new prompt to assure that he or she has learned the task at hand.

How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?

I first explain to students the benefits of learning this particular subject. Let's say we are tutoring for the SAT and Lisa has to memorize 100 vocabulary words. She doesn't quite see the importance of having a bigger vocabulary. After she has studied the words, I would find a news article or a debate and have her read/watch it. When she is able to see or hear those vocabulary words in context, she will feel privileged having known these words. It's all about relativity. When a student sees the importance of a topic, he or she is eager to learn and understand the topics.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

I typically administer a diagnostic test and focus on the student's strengths and weaknesses. Based on that, I am able to tailor lessons and activities. If Michael has trouble working in time constraints for the SAT, I would first help him work through the reading and multiple-choice questions, then work on timing last. It's important to understand the material before crunching time.

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?

I am a very patient person and I am a people person. As a result, I am able to understand pretty well what a student needs to succeed. If a student is struggling heavily with essay writing, I would work with the student in writing an essay at a level he or she is comfortable with. Then we would work from there--enhance vocabulary, vary sentence structures, include transitions, etc.

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

Vocabulary flash cards and games I have created, a dictionary (download dictionary.com to your phone for free!), and I am big on sample essays. This helps students understand the Do's and Don't's of essay writing.


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