I have taught in high schools and universities in the Midwest and Northeast for nearly a decade and a half. Whether as a Latin teacher, Humanities professor, or Historian, I strive to connect my students to the past. I never thought history was relevant until one day in college, I stepped onto the Basilica Aemilia in Rome and was - like in some movie - stunned to physically feel that I was putting MY foot somewhere Julius Caesar had once put HIS foot. It wasn't just possible - it was a fact. I have never recovered!
It is this sort of a-ha moment that I hope my students find. I approach each student question as having multiple ways to get to the answer and, as a former college math major, I also try to get at cultural and linguistic problems from unexpected angles, like through the scientific method or pythagorean theorem. I reject the idea that some people can only do math and science while others only excel in English or History. I try to help students find strengths in one aspect of their lives to lead them to strengths and confidences in other, more unexpected subjects.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Villanova University - Bachelors, History; Classics
Graduate Degree: University of Wisconsin-Madison - PHD, Art History
Group Fitness, Marathons, Hiking, Travel
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I tell all my students that my goal is to haunt them, but in a good way. Whether studying ancient Roman architecture, the Victorian Gothic, or world’s fairs, whether in a classroom or coffee shop setting, my goal is to help students discover the sometimes surprising and exciting personal connections between their own experiences and the past. Once you know the past is relevant, learning it, understanding it, and using it becomes so much easier! No matter how distant the past, it is still relevant to our modern, twenty-first century lives.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
It's important to get a sense of what the student likes or dislikes about the topic - it's often less about skill and more about finding the reason for the subject to matter.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
As I have already mentioned, I love to help students find connections between past and present. I try to find new angles of looking at the problem, new reasons that the issue is relevant to the student, so that the next time a similar challenge appears, s/he has confidence not only that s/he can succeed, but that s/he can also believe that it is important.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I think setting up clear paths to success, multiple viewpoints on a topic, and measurable goals lead to great motivation. There is not just one way or one plan, and I try to strategize with my students on the best plans and options for them and their interests and learning styles.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
It's all about finding other ways. There is no one way to learn a language, or remember historical facts, or see a painting. Instead, I aspire to help my students find multiple options and to connect the difficult concept to something easier or more natural or that seems more important. I find most difficulties come from a frustration over relevance blurred with a belief that there is only one correct answer. I try to help them see that neither is true!
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
It's all about connecting to something that they already care about. As an historian, I see history alive all around us - I have not yet met a student I could not share that awareness with in some way.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I am a firm believer in repetition - not necessarily the old-school memorization style (although that can be very effective for some learners), but in asking students the same question lots of ways - getting them to find a way to respond from many different angles.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
If I can connect a student's struggles to something they already feel confident in, we are already making progress. For example, I once had an engineering student in an art history class who told me he couldn't ever "get" art history because it wasn't rational. As a former math major, myself, I suggested he consider each work of art as an experiment to which he could apply the scientific method...not only did he go on to minor in art history, but I have found that and similar cross-discipline approaches to be incredibly successful ways to channel one strength to create another.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Students are often very upfront about their needs and, coincidentally, way off the mark. Conversation about issues unrelated to the problem, like why they like or excel at other classes or topics, is often the most helpful knowledge for me in beginning to work with a student. I need to learn how to speak their language, and everyone is just a little bit different.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I always have multiple strategies or approaches to a problem. After talking to the student about their needs and starting one plan of attack, I am not afraid to back up and try a different approach or focus on a different aspect of the problem - circling around until we come to a solution.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Depending on the student's needs, I can work from the text, develop my own worksheets, or even direct students to engaging online resources.