Writing is my passion, but teaching writing comes in a close second. The most satisfying thing for me is to see the "tipping point" moment where something about writing unlocks for a student, and their confidence soars. I have worked a wide range of jobs that have made me a better teacher. I have worked as a journalist, grant writer, soap-seller, horse-trainer, and an operations and training manager. Currently, I think of myself as a "professional poet," since I am earning a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry at the University of Florida. I teach many English and writing courses, including freshman-level composition and rhetoric, technical writing, and creative writing. My life experiences have made me a more dynamic teacher, and my goal is to continue teaching in one capacity or another for the rest of my career.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: East Tennessee State University - Bachelors, Mass Communications
Graduate Degree: University of Florida - Masters, Creative Writing, Poetry
Travel (I have been to 14 countries), horsebackriding, reading, hiking, cooking! I love art in all forms -- theater, dance, ballet, visual art, music, and (my personal field) writing.
College Level American Literature
High School English
High School Level American Literature
Introduction to Poetry
Technology and Computer Science
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe in teaching young writers to teach themselves. Clear writing is also clear thinking, and I believe that anyone is capable of producing clear, professional writing. Writing is often a daunting task for students, but learning how to revise and organize writing is empowering. I teach students to recognize the mistakes they commonly make within the work they produce so that they can catch those mistakes before they happen. I am a strong believer in starting out with an organizational plan before the writing process begins, and then working through multiple drafts. I love seeing the progress that a student can make as they learn what is expected from their writing and how to meet those expectations.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
My goal in a first session is to learn where the student is at in the writing process, and then immediately create a strategy to help them improve. From our first session, I like students to feel like they have a way forward. Before creating customized learning strategy, I like to focus on a writer’s perception of their own strengths and weaknesses. I’ll ask questions-- What is scariest or most frustrating about writing for you? Where do you get stuck? What kind of criticism do you commonly receive on your writing? How comfortable do you feel with the writing process? How have you been taught to approach a paper or a large writing assignment? I also like to get a feel for a student’s personal history with writing; is it ever fun for them, or a form of expression? Have any experiences in the past (bad teachers, good teachers) shaped their perception of writing?
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Organization is a key first step. Many students do not feel comfortable creating a detailed outline of their paper before they begin the writing process. This can lead to problems like unclear writing, repetition, “filler” sentences, poor transitions, etc. Learning how to structure your own arguments and then write them in an organized way is vital to succeeding in an academic paper. Over time, students learn to see the common mistakes that they make in a paper if they are given strategies of how to avoid them. Practice, and learning how to rework a draft of a paper, are the best way to learn how to successfully write and edit your own writing.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
As a former procrastinator, I know how difficult motivation can be. In writing, it seems like students get stuck when they feel frustrated with the writing process. Staring at a blank page with a flashing line urging you to get started can create a lot of pressure. I think knowing how to organize your arguments, how to effectively research, and how to outline a paper creates the kind of motivation that makes writer’s block impossible. I also believe that time management is motivation’s best friend; learning how to spend your time effectively while writing will make it feel like less of a daunting task.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would change my approach. Working as a business manager taught me that not all people learn the same, and I think there is a bias in teaching writing academically that privileges people who are visual learners or auditory learners. Kinesthetic learners, or people who learn by doing, need to learn writing in a different way – lecturing isn’t enough. I think incorporating aspects of all three learning styles will make concepts more accessible.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading out loud and going slowly through the text is the best way to improve reading comprehension. On a test, reading comprehension can make you feel pressured because there are time constraints. The best way to feel comfortable with reading comprehension is to clear your mind, move your finger along the page (or, if you are practicing in a tutoring session, reading the text out loud) and pausing to work through anything you don’t understand. Practicing this will help a student feel more comfortable in the pressurized environment of a standardized test or exam.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
This changes from student to student, but I like the students I teach or tutor to know that writing doesn’t have to be scary. Writing also doesn’t have to feel like a subjective, unreachable thing. Because I teach English and creative writing in a university setting, I know what teachers expect from their students. Getting to know the students I tutor helps me learn the goals they have for themselves.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I think the way to get excited or engaged with a subject is to relate it to something you love. Finding a way to incorporate your own passions, or the things that you are an “expert” in, can help unlock some inspiration for your own work. Writing is a big tent, and the practice of writing can extend to a multitude of subjects.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Answering practice questions, writing flash-essays, and practicing writing outlines on-the-fly are great ways to make sure a student grasps the concepts we’ve been working on. If test anxiety is something the student struggles with, practicing timed tests (starting with a large amount of time, and gradually working our way down). There are many different methods that can help ensure that a student understands the many angles of what is expected of them from their assignments and the concepts they are learning.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I believe in the concept of kaizen, which means "small steps to success." The key to building confidence is to build skills carefully, and to make sure students know where they are succeeding and what their next step is.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Evaluation is most helpful when I compare a student's self-perception of their work with a sample of their work. I like to ask what criticism a student has received, and how this has shaped their beliefs about what they need to improve. I then compare this with their work as I tutor them along the way, and provide my own professional insight into their work.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I like to assess a student's learning style and use that to find what works best for them. So often, writing is only taught in one way in an academic setting. The traditional model is biased toward visual learners (people who can understand a concept by looking at it or reading it) and auditory learners (people who can learn easily through lecture, or by discussing something). However, a third way of learning is kinesthetic, or experience and demonstration-based. Kinesthetic learners need the physical experience of writing in order to learn. The hardest thing for a kinesthetic learner may be long essays or tests, but the way to get more comfortable with these requirements is to be able to use a pen and paper to outline, or a physical activity to grasp what otherwise might be more auditory or visual concepts. In other words, it's impossible NOT to tailor a tutoring session to the student's needs, because this is the best way to ensure their success.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
As an online tutor, the online tutoring platform is ideal. I like to use practice questions and writing prompts, so I can observe and talk through the writing process as it is happening. I love collaborating with a student in real-time.