I have taught for over seventeen years and still smile while doing it. I have taught everything from AP English and I.B. Theatre to English classes with many students with special needs. I am an experienced SAT and ACT verbal instructor, and I love seeing light bulbs go off in the heads of my students as we work through the various patterns used in standardized testing. I believe that everyone can learn, and I think finding what reaches particular students is what makes a teacher great. Having the opportunity to work one-on-one with students and tailor lessons to their needs is what I enjoy most about tutoring.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of North Florida - Bachelors, English
reading, writing, kayaking, theatre
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I think that everyone can learn. I think many of us learn in different manners, and when working with my students, I try to find the best way to reach each one. Whether a student is a high achiever who is trying to improve an already high score on a standardized test, or someone who has always struggled with grammar, I try to work to find the best way to help my students learn what they need. The amazing thing about knowledge is that once you have it, it can't be taken from you.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Upon first meeting a student, I feel that it is important to establish a comfortable relationship. It's not helpful to a student working with challenging material to be faced with someone with whom they are not comfortable speaking. I work hard to find out what my students need to know, and I work hard to make sure that my students feel comfortable telling me when they don't understand. Finding out what a student really needs is always the most important thing that I do in a first meeting.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I think that the best thing I can do to help a student become an independent learner is to help that student not only learn the knowledge that I bring to the table, but to also know how to go out and find that knowledge. Many times students are either not exposed to resources, or simply don't know how to look for them. My job is to help them not only on their search, but also to learn how to search when I am not there. The magic doesn't happen when I am in the room. The magic happens when they learn to apply the skills on which we have worked.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I think that encouragement is the best way to help a student stay motivated. Usually when students are not motivated, it's not because they don't want to be successful. Everyone wants to be successful. Often what we perceive as a lack of motivation from a student is actually fear or discouragement. Empowering students is my goal as a teacher.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I think that if a student is struggling with a concept that it's important to look at the concept from a different light. The question that I find comes out of my mouth most when teaching is, "Does that make sense?" If a student tells me that something that I have said doesn't make sense, then I usually try to work on explaining the concept differently. It never hurts to understand why something is true for more than one reason.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Many people struggle with reading, and understanding what they have read. I explain to my students that reading is like anything else. If I want to improve at tennis, I play tennis. If I want to be a stronger runner, I run. If I want to be a stronger reader, I must read. Many people love to read if you can help them find something interesting to read. I try to help students find things that they enjoy reading, and I also encourage parents to help their children find that magic book that can't be put down. The hard thing is that we can't always read what we like. I encourage my students to read things that challenge them. If a young man tells me he hates reading fiction, then I ask him to read it. I don't ask him to read fiction to the point that he despises reading, but I ask him to read it enough that he can work on becoming better. Standardized tests and jobs will ask us to read things we don't excel at understanding. Sometimes the things we fight to learn are the things at which we eventually become strong.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
The most effective thing that I have found when teaching students is letting them know that I can teach them anything they need to know about a standardized test, or grammar, or some other big, overwhelming monster. Once we have established that we can do it, the rest is simply doing it. I also find that living in an area as competitive as the Washington, DC, area, it is important to let students know that improvement is paramount. Everyone will not make a perfect score on everything, but anyone who works hard at something should be able to show growth and improvement.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Getting a student excited about a subject or interested in a subject can be tricky. I find that sometimes explaining why a subject is important, or showing the real life application of that subject, can help a student understand the beauty of a subject. One of my brother-in-law's is a sub-sea engineer. He is much older than me, and for many years he tried to explain to me what he did for a living. As a teenager, this frequently went over my head. A few years ago though, when the BP Oil crisis happened, I suddenly found myself fascinated by my brother-in-law's career. I try to remember this when explaining things to my students.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Assessment is a teacher's best friend. When working with a student I think it is important to assess the student initially, and at the conclusion of your sessions. This helps you understand what they need, and it also helps you understand if that student has reached the goal that was initially set. Many times as teachers, a nod or smile can be deceiving. Students don't always know what they don't know. As a teacher, it's your job to find that out.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
There is a concept known as scaffolding in teaching where you begin to build knowledge and then build upon it. When a student can see mastery of the smaller parts of a challenging subject, it allows that student to feel confident enough to continue to work on harder concepts.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Evaluating a student's needs should be done in a variety of ways. The first time that I meet with a student I take some time to talk to both the student and the student's parent(s). Both of these people are my clients, and it is important that we are all on the same page as to what goals we hope to reach. I think that it is also important to give a student an initial assessment, if applicable. One example of this would be asking a student to take an SAT in order to create a baseline score. Administering similar tests throughout the process allow me to track student progress.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
As I mentioned in other answers, I usually ask students and parents what their needs are, and what they expect of me, and I try to create an end goal. I also try to find out what a student is understanding, and if I feel a student is not comprehending something, I work to present or explain the material in a different way.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Over the years, I have learned to be flexible. In every situation, you will not have the same resources. In one home you might be given a quiet place to work with lots of room to spread out your materials. In another home you might be at a small table with a cat rubbing one leg, and a dog sleeping by your feet, and occasionally walking over to slobber on your hand, as you try to not look as you are protecting your books from drool. For this reason, I have learned to travel light and to bring effective tools. As I have generally taught SAT and ACT, I usually bring tests to the house to work on, and I may leave some for students to complete as homework. I also bring sheets of paper for grammar work, and use these in lieu of a blackboard.