I am a science Ph.D. who is looking for a teaching job. I have four and a half years' experience at mentoring gifted students, and over three hundred hours' experience at tutoring STEM subjects, at both high school and college levels. I like seeing a student first understand something, and I have often done so.
I have taken education classes in order to learn about teaching. I know this knowledge is already helping me become a better tutor, and may help me become a college professor someday. These classes have acquainted me with various student-centered approaches I can use to reach verbal, visual and kinesthetic learners.
If I know what a student needs to discuss before we meet, I draw upon Schaum's Outlines to first acquaint myself with a topic, so that a student and I can work efficiently to help them learn. I get a lot of repeat business from students who have realized that they are filling their knowledge gaps quickly. These students also see their understanding grow and their grades improve.
My interests are in chess (my rating is about 1700 USCF), board games, cooking and historical fiction. My book collection runs to over a thousand hardcover and paperback books, and I am starting to read electronic books as well. I have sold books on Alibris, and have traded hundreds in Little Free Libraries and upon the PaperBackSwap and BookMooch book trading websites.
If you are a student looking to fill knowledge gaps in STEM subjects, please consider working with me to do so quickly and effectively.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Houston - Bachelors, Mechanical Engineering
Graduate Degree: University of California-Berkeley - PHD, Nuclear Engineering
chess, books, board games
AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
AP Physics C: Mechanics
High School Chemistry
High School Physics
Middle School Science
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Every student can learn, but all learn at very different rates. I typically ask a student to tell me where they first had problems, and start there. We then go at the student's speed. Once the student considers they have dispelled their confusion, we go on to other topics. Depending upon whether they are verbal, visual, or kinesthetic learners, I will try different approaches to do all of the above.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would first ask them to pinpoint where they first had trouble with the topic. This helps them focus their minds and get ready to work. I then ask them how they tend to learn best, and then proceed into corresponding approaches to help them dispel their confusion.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I walk them through how to do a problem, and I point out things about the problem and the topic they are trying to learn. I also encourage students to do odd-number problems, with answers in the back of the book, so that they can check their answers and gain confidence in their command of problems and the subject.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
A parent cannot threaten or reward a student for not being or being motivated. A student makes their choice to be motivated or not. I show them how well they can do this or that problem, and then point out harder ones only involve just a little more added detail. Just like a driver can see they are going uphill by looking in their rear view mirror, a student can see how far they have come up until now, and build confidence in their ability to reach the top of the hill/understand the subject.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would look at how well they learned things coming up to this, such as simpler math concepts that lead up to a harder one. I would have them try to do simpler problems, and slowly introduce difficulty, so that they can identify and overcome a gap in their understanding.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I would use a scaffolding approach - if they cannot read at a particular level, I try to have them read at a lower level, and slowly introduce difficulty, in the form of more detailed words or phrases. Once they can learn some of these, they might come to read at a higher level.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I have them identify just where they believe they lost track of the class in the tutored subject. We start there, and I try to back up and use a scaffolding approach to see where they lost the thread. Once they have it, we work quickly to help them catch up to their class.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
A student gains motivation if they see what interesting things they could do with this subject. A math or physics problem could address a subject in which the student has an interest. If I can then help the student understand they will get there if they work with me, we can use the scaffolding approach to keep working until they get to where they want to be.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
In STEM subjects, students often do problems to find, hone, and ascertain their mastery of a subject. As I am explaining a problem, I often stop to ask a student about the limits of integration, say, or another important detail about the question. This is a student-centered approach which, in my experience, helps a student own the topic and their learning of it. I have even been known to write down problems and then in a later session check these problems for a student, so they can show their mastery of a given topic. This not only helps them learn a process, but also gives them confidence in their being able to use it. I also recommend that math students do odd-numbered problems and compare their answers to answers in the back of the book, for the same reason.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
When a student comes to me, I immediately seek to find what gaps in their knowledge are giving them trouble. I am patient and kind, and encourage them as we work to help them learn. Upon filling these gaps, and finding they can now do work that once eluded them, students gain confidence. I also write down problems, or alternately, encourage math students to do odd-numbered problems and compare their answers to those in the back of the book. Students who do this in their own time gain both proficiency and confidence in themselves and the process.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I can quickly tell whether a student has the student skills (i.e., note-taking, studying, practice and other discipline) to do well in a class. If that student does not have them, I try to model them for the student, and encourage the student to develop them. Often, though, my student is skilled, but needs help understanding something to fill a gap in their knowledge. About twenty percent of the population are verbal learners, who only need to hear about something to learn about it. The remainder are evenly split between visual learners and kinesthetic learners, who needs to see something or do something to learn about it, respectively. If a student has drawn pictures in their detailed notebook, I consider they are either visual or kinesthetic learners, and plan activities accordingly. Everyone also learns at different speeds. A student has ways to tell me whether they are understanding me, following the activity and learning the topic. I can speed up or slow down as they need to go faster or slower.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I can speed up or slow down our progress through a topic, depending upon whether they are understanding the activity. Depending upon how they learn, I can either counsel (for verbal learners, which I don't met often), or draw pictures of a problem (for visual learners), or walk a student through doing a problem. I often have a student do a problem, walking them through it in a student-centered approach. This coaching approach does help them gain proficiency and confidence.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
In general, I don't use materials that are much different from what a student would use. I draw upon my knowledge of STEM topics, and they supply paper, pencil and calculator. Online, I use the capabilities of a shared whiteboard to walk through a problem. I use PDF files, for I have a wand scanner, which I can use to make a PDF of example problems I have written for a student. I can then upload these problems to our shared whiteboard environment. Online, I can also call upon Schaum's Outlines I have in STEM subjects. Both online and in person, the student is the one who does any calculator work. If I am tutoring in person, I typically use a sheet of paper out of their notebook, and a pen from my shirt pocket, to illustrate a problem or to write some. I have often been able to go through textbooks with such a student, to find gaps in their knowledge and fill those gaps.