My passion for teaching revolves around the "Aha!" moment when a student's understanding grows - along with their confidence and curiosity. Its exciting to see someone discover the elegance of a mathematical formula or principle and helping them discover it is particularly rewarding. Its even more rewarding when a student's own excitement leads them to probe further - hungrily asking questions whose answers extend through to other topics and other subjects. But the most rewarding part of teaching is when the student's curiosity extends far enough to challenge the teacher because at that moment BOTH of us have an opportunity to grow. I have a deep appreciation for education and the transformative effect it can have on people's lives.
In my experience, students of all ages learn best when they feel both confident and curious. I build students' confidence through skills development and by simplifying complex concepts to their core components. I foster curiosity by relating subject material to issues that the student is personally interested in and by using flexible lesson plans which allow tutoring sessions to be intriguing explorations instead of just homework help or test prep.
My general approach to tutoring uses three main strategies:
1. I focus on identifying student's greatest challenges and addressing those first.
2. I relate the material to the student's life by showing them "real-world" applications or easily observable examples.
3. Whenever possible, I leverage student's existing knowledge and teach widely-applicable problem-solving skills to foster an appreciation for how interconnected things are.
Who Am I?
I am a cancer scientist; I use a combination of Math, Biology and Computer Programming to look for changes in DNA that might effect how well people respond to certain types of medicine. I graduated from Hunter College where I began both my career as a scientist and as a teacher; first tutoring my classmates and later as a teaching assistant in classes that covered Math, Biology and Computer Programming. I am also a scout troop leader; I teach 11-16 year olds a wide range of life skills which often overlap with S.T.E.M. topics. My hobbies include robotics, performance arts (acting, magic, dance, etc), cooking and camping.
Undergraduate Degree: CUNY Hunter College - Bachelors, Biology and Psychology (Double Major)
What is your teaching philosophy?
Curiosity and confidence facilitate learning. Identify and address the student's greatest challenges first. Relate new material to what the student already knows and/or cares about.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Get to know the student's strengths, weaknesses, personality and interests through a combination of assessments and conversation. Finish the session off working on something the student finds challenging.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Relating subject matter to the student's interests goes a long way to fostering curiosity and independent learning.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
For students who are discouraged or overwhelmed I would do two things: build on their existing skills to grow their confidence and break complex topics down to their fundamentals (something I am particularly good at) to make them more manageable. Alternatively, some students need to be challenged more to stay interested. I would challenge them by scaling up the difficulty of their practice problems, reintroducing familiar topics in new contexts, and by presenting advanced, related topics.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Break the skill/concept into its component parts and figure out what the student knows/does not know to identify the major stumbling block. If the student does not understand something, I would explain it in the context of things they do understand. If the student's understanding is complete but they need practice/confidence, I would present challenges and gradually scale the difficulty up as the student grows more confident.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Asking pointed questions about a reading draws a student's attention to subtle details in the writing. Asking students to decipher long, unfamiliar words based on their root/pre/suffixes before looking up their definitions teaches deductive thinking and builds their vocabulary. Suggesting pleasure reading targeted at the student's interests encourages them to continue developing reading skills in their free time.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I would use multiple-choice questions that feature wrong answers that appear correct depending on specific gaps in the student's understanding. I would also use non-multiple choice questions structured such that they reveal specific details about the student's understanding.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
By building bridges between what they know and what they are struggling with. By helping them solve problems and gradually reducing both how much help I offer and how difficult the problems are. By congratulating and praising their successes in an honest, non-patronizing manner.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
By having them complete assessment quizzes, by speaking with them/their family and by paying attention to environmental/behavioral factors that might be important.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
By learning the student's strengths and weaknesses, I can focus on topics that will produce positive results. By learning the student's interests and personality, I can tailor the content and presentation style to match.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
The student's own school books, lots of scrap paper, a smartphone/laptop computer, and miscellaneous props specific to that session's content (ex: dice or playing cards for probability experiments).
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
During my first session with a student I have two goals: to get to know the student and to give the student a positive learning experience. If the student learns something from me during our first session and enjoys it, they will be much more motivated during future sessions because of it. Getting to know the student makes it easier to give them a positive learning experience.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Students get excited about a subject when they feel that it is relevant to them and/or fun. By getting to know my student's interests and personality, I can better relate the subject matter to them, and I have a better chance of presenting the material in a way that they will enjoy.