I graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor's degree in English and Creative Writing, then went on to earn two masters' degrees (English Literature and Language from the University of California at Los Angeles, and Applied Linguistics/ESL from the University of Hawaii). I took a short break from teaching to care for my parents---but even then I found a way to continue learning by going to culinary school (I love to cook! I love to eat!), earning degrees in Culinary Arts and Pastry before I returned to teaching once again.
But formal schooling is only one way to continue learning. Traveling throughout the world has given me another kind of education, broadening my perspective and deepening my understanding of the world. I have taught in Hawaii, where I was born and raised, as well as in Singapore and Jordan, where I taught and learned from students from all over the Middle East and Asia.
Learning goes hand in hand with teaching, and as much as I love learning, teaching has been the joy of my life. As a high school English teacher, what I most enjoy is the process of working one-on-one with my students. In these conferences, I am a learner, too. I learn what makes students tick, what sparks their interest, deepens their curiosity and crystallizes their understanding;
I find that students often know more than they think they do. There is a rhetorical question that reflects this idea: "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" As a teacher, I think my role is to help learners recognize what they already know and to identify what they still need to figure out. So I ask lots of questions. Asking students questions not only helps me understand how students learn, what they already know, and what they need to learn; it also helps them recognize how much they already understand. And this builds their sense of confidence and motivates them to learn even more. Best of all, it fosters their love of learning.
Learning can be many things---hard, frustrating, mysterious---but it is always worthwhile; it is always a joy to watch the light dawn students eyes as they master a concept. There is nothing more satisfying than learning---unless it is teaching!
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Stanford University - Bachelors, English/Creative Writing
Graduate Degree: University of California-Los Angeles - Masters, English
GRE Verbal: 760
Meditation, yoga, reading, hiking, watercolor
10th Grade Reading
10th Grade Writing
11th Grade Reading
11th Grade Writing
12th Grade Reading
12th Grade Writing
9th Grade Reading
9th Grade Writing
College Level American Literature
High School English
High School Level American Literature
High School Writing
Introduction to Fiction
SAT Subject Tests Prep
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Having a command of their subject matter and continually striving to learn even more about it are the hallmarks of good teachers. But this is only the beginning of what are required of a great teacher. To be truly effective, teachers need to learn about their students themselves: What do they already know? What are their goals? What style and pace of learning suit their needs? What obstacles do they face? What are their strengths? By continually cultivating this understanding, teachers form a connection with their students that allows them learn deeply and to cultivate the understanding, qualities, and skills that are the essence of a meaningful education.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I ask a lot of questions, I listen to what students say, and I respond by interpreting their answers and asking more questions. This approach gives students the time to discover, develop, refine, and revise their own ideas about a given topic, and, over time, it shows students what it means to think for themselves.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I would invite them to set goals. Long-term goals motivate us to set off in a certain direction. Intermediate and short term goals guide us along the path and provide smaller challenges to overcome. Every time we overcome a smaller challenge, it spurs us on to meet the next challenge. Step-by-step progress keeps us motivated to keep going until we reach our goal.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would draw on all the student's abilities. Some students grasp a concept better when they draw a picture or a diagram of it. Sometimes, it helps to think about it metaphorically, or to draw a connection between the concept and a personal experience. And of course, simple practice can work miracles.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
It depends on the particular obstacle a student is confronting. Sometimes it helps to hear a passage, or to read it aloud. Pausing to define certain words can untangle the meaning of a phrase or sentence. Summarizing the meaning of a sentence or paragraph, identifying the main idea, or paraphrasing a phrase or sentence can all be effective ways to develop comprehension.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I think it's really important to understand what goals students are trying to achieve, why they want to achieve them, and what obstacles they think they might have to overcome to achieve their goals. I think it's important to find out what students already know, too. All of this helps me get to know students, and forming this connection makes our learning partnership stronger and more effective.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Learning is always more exciting when it seems relevant to our own experience or our own aspirations. Sometimes we are asked to learn things that don't necessarily seem relevant to our lives, but if I can help students see the connection between, say, rhetorical principles and how to persuade people to take better care of the environment, or invest in their startup, or to sway them to their point of view, they find it's not only easier but more worthwhile to learn these rhetorical concepts.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I ask a lot of questions, I listen attentively to the students' answers, and then I ask more questions based on their answers. I might ask student to apply a concept to a new situation or context. I might ask them about important concepts in the material. I might ask them to identify the assumptions underlying a text, or to explain what the implications of the text might be. I might ask them about the rhetorical principles that form the framework of the text, or how the text uses figurative language to develop its meaning.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I think confidence emerges when we succeed in achieving our goals. Every time we accomplish something that gets us closer to our goal, we gain confidence. Success breeds success. So I think setting long-term goals and identifying the steps we have to take to achieve those goals is a very effective way to progress, and our progress builds our self-confidence
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I think it's important to use several methods to evaluate a student's needs. One way is to ask them what they think they need; another way is to invite them to read or write a passage or explain a concept. Yet another way is to look at the work they have already done, or the feedback they have already received from teachers and parents. All of these approaches provide relevant and useful information to help the student and I move forward.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I give students time to think before they respond. I rephrase questions. I ask students to tell me what they think I am asking. I give students all the time they need to practice a given skill, or to ask questions. All of these approaches are based on being attentive to and respecting the students' individual strengths and preferences.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
This really depends on the individual goals of each student. I like to use materials that I think would interest them. I select passages from my own reading, I create my own material to tailor it to what a given student needs at a particular time.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
One thing I make sure to do is to ask students to identify as clearly as possible what they want to achieve in our sessions together. It's so important to set well-defined goals---otherwise, how will we know if we wander off course? How will we be able to measure progress? I also like to ask students to reflect on the obstacles they think they will meet along the way to achieving their goals. Just recognizing what the challenges will be is the first step in overcoming them. It is easier to meet challenges like time management, organizational skills, developing specific skill sets when you have recognized them and developed a plan for how to work with them.