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When you're learning, I'm happy.

Learning sometimes requires brute force, but I think students make the most progress when they're relaxed. My goal is to get students into that zone. I've worked with learners as young as six in West Philadelphia and as old as seventy at the Sacramento Food Bank. Building sustainable two-way communication is essential in education, and I've probably learned just as much from them as they've learned from me. I enjoy teaching a liberal range of subjects; writing, literature, and composition tickle a very different part of my brain than math and the sciences.

I cut my teeth in the City of Brotherly Love, where I studied biology and music at the University of Pennsylvania. I first fell in love with Philly at LIFT, a resource center in North Philadelphia where I connected low-income clients to non-profit community resources. Then, I parlayed this experience into a position organizing UC Davis undergrads at a community health clinic in Sacramento. In Philly I was president of the Penn Band, and I still gig on trombone out West.

David’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: University of Pennsylvania - Bachelors, Biology, General

Test Scores

SAT Math: 770

SAT Verbal: 740

SAT Writing: 780

GRE Verbal Reasoning: 168

SAT Subject Test in World History: 780

SAT Subject Test in Literature: 740


trombone, bird-watching, bagels

Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

Students learn best when they are relaxed. Sometimes relaxation demands that the student studies hard to assert ownership over the material. Sometimes relaxation entails only a change in mindset.

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

In a typical first session, I would want to know about the student's objectives and time frame in which they plan to meet them.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

Developing a study pattern is key. Once a student turns studying from a chore into a compulsion, no external motivation is necessary and learning inevitably follows.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

Different students are motivated by different incentives. Focusing on goals often works best, whether that goal is the positive feedback of the next good test score or goal on the horizon of attaining a dream job through academic advancement.

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

It is first important to ensure that the student understands all conceptual underpinnings of the skill at hand. For example, it would be difficult for a student to understand DNA polymerization if she did not first understand the molecular structure of a nucleic acid monomer.

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

Students who are struggling with reading comprehension most often are struggling to understand small component parts of the reading. It is important to slow down the reading enough to ensure that each word is understood before addressing overall meaning.

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

I need to meet the student as person before I start to work with the student as a learner. Skills assessments can be unrepresentative of skill level, so (particularly near the beginning of work with a student) it is important to make sure the student is neither ahead of nor behind the lesson at hand.

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

In a word, encouragement. No student learns best when they feel as though they're doing badly. Students learn best when they feel like they're doing well, so positive feedback is key. Progress, rather than raw performance metrics, should be the focus.

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

Some of the best techniques that make sure that the student understands the material are techniques that match the test. Mock tests are great when available. Flashcards are good for rote learning of large volumes. To make sure that a student understands material on a deep level, the student should be able to explain the material back to the teacher in his or her own words.

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

As mentioned in a previous response, positive feedback is key to building confidence. Furthermore, familiarity breeds confidence. If a student develops solid studying habits, that student will in turn become more comfortable with the material.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

The first step to evaluating a student's needs is to ask the student what their goals are. For example, a student who is deficient in calculus skills does not need to learn calculus unless that is the specific objective of her studies. Then, practice exams are a good way to assess skill level.

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

First, It is important to match the pace of study with the student's speed, the progress of any classes in which she might be enrolled, or the rate at which an exam is approaching. Second, some students learn more visually than others; it is important to assess this early on, and draw on the whiteboard more or less accordingly. It is also important to assess the student's need to learn the specific material of the course or exam versus the student's need to learn the study skills necessary to teach themselves the material.

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

I make liberal use of the whiteboard. A good diagram can be used to explain topics even in subjects like English and history. When rote learning is required, flashcards come into play.