Hi! I’m Erika, and I live in Blair, Nebraska. Tutoring students in math is a passion of mine. I believe a tutor must have the success of each unique student as her top priority. I am especially interested in helping my students who struggle a lot with math - to help them gain the confidence and ability to use their mathematical knowledge in their own personal situations outside the classroom. All students learn math in different ways, and I work really hard to read my students - to know what is or is not working and why. I try to be lighthearted and energetic in my teaching, and I try to build a relationship with each of my students so each of them knows I am interested in them as individuals, not just as math students.
I have been a stay-at-home mom of 3 kids for over 16 years, and it is time for me to try something new! Since I taught all levels of high school math, and tutoring is so important to me, I chose to pursue a position with Varsity Tutors. Aside from tutoring, I also own a creative business, making tshirt and memory quilts, bulletin boards, and more. I enjoy traveling and reading, as well
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Nebraska-Lincoln - Bachelors, Secondary math education
ACT Composite: 33
Reading, traveling, sewing
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I choose to tutor math because I love numbers and I love to help students succeed in mathematics. There is no better feeling than when I see my student "get it" and smile because the math finally "clicked".
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The first session with a student is very casual. I have no agenda, no schedule, and no major expectations. I want to get to know the student and his/her likes and dislikes, his/her personality, his/her learning styles, his/her pros and cons regarding math, etc. I try to get this information through casual conversation and asking questions. I do not use any kind of a pretest or formal evaluation in my first session.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
One of my main goals with students is to help them learn how to take notes and actually study math. Too many students are not taught these skills, and these skills are what create an independent learner in a variety of disciplines. I teach note taking methods, I teach study methods for tests, I provide examples of notes and problem solving for the student to refer back to, and I try to work and teach problems in the exact way that I want the student to work the problem on his/her own.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Positive reinforcement. I always go back to something the student has done right and say, "See? You did this. You accomplished this. You succeeded. So it can happen again and again and again." It doesn't matter how small the accomplishment may be; it only needs to be positive and a success. I say, "It may take more work, more time, more struggle, but it can happen. We made it happen last time, and we can make it happen again.".
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If my student is struggling, I usually try a different method of presentation such as a visual approach, an auditory approach, a comparison to a real-world situation, a hands-on experiment with manipulatives, a change in the words I use, and more. If those techniques do not seem to work, I go online and research other educator's suggestions for teaching the given concept.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I usually ask my student to teach the topic to myself or another individual in order to determine their level of understanding. I feel that observing a student teach a concept gives me the best opportunity to test their full comprehension of the process. In addition to this practice, I regularly have the student do problems on his/her own as we go through the material, and "pop quizzes" are also a good technique.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
In every situation, I find something the student is doing right - a topic he/she full understands and can succeed at. I ask him/her to show me how to do it, to explain to me how to do it, to work a quick "quiz", etc. Then, I emphasize, "See? You did this right! You could even TEACH me how to do it! I want you to teach your MOM how to do it! You got a 100% on your quiz!" During the beginning stage of working with a student, I do this regularly, after each topic. As time goes on, I use it as needed with the goal that his/her confidence builds to the point where he/she does it all on his/her own.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
My first 2-3 sessions are spent observing the student a lot. I ask the student to work problems, to explain how he/she does the problem, to explain where he/she gets confused, to show me the topics that make sense and the topics that are confusing, and more. The more I observe, the more I am able to assess the student's learning style, personality, strengths and weaknesses (both mathematically and in character). I use those observations to build my tutoring plan.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I try to always use the materials the student possesses. I want the student to be able to go back and look at something we worked on alongside his/her book, notes, worksheet, etc. I also emphasize writing things out - I write things out for the younger student, and I ask the older student to take his/her own notes. Notes accompanied by examples and practice problems are my number one choice for materials.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
When working word problems in math, I always encourage drawing pictures, first and foremost. Next, I encourage the use of underlining, circling, crossing out, using colored pencils, and more. I want students to see that there's a lot of words in word problems that are not relevant to the problem. "Circle the values you'll use. Cross out the extra information. Underline the operation words. Write down the useful information, and quit reading the original problem." This is also a note-taking technique, and I really feel it's a life-long skill that serves students repeatedly in their education.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
In our initial meetings, I try to read the student immediately to know whether he/she responds to a casual/joking/lighthearted atmosphere or a more structured/get down to business/no joking atmosphere. Then I use those techniques to help the student feel more comfortable with me. Gaining the student's respect and trust is a top priority for me. If I gain these 2 traits first, and I do my job well, the learning will naturally follow.