I am passionate about learning, that's why I spent my time in college pursuing three majors. I care not only about what we learn, but also how we do so. I value scientifically proven methods of low stakes quizzing and interleaving of topics in my teaching. I find that students who realize how to learn become much more engaged in their material, regardless of what it is they are learning. My degree in classical studies has given me a command of language of which I am proud, and this, coupled with my training and work as an actor, has enabled me to communicate concepts to students with numerous, precise, and individualized explanations. Students are often shocked by how bearable their least favorite subjects become when they're not so painful or scary. I try to give them the tools to make that happen.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Xavier University - Bachelors, Classical Studies; Philosophy, Politics, and the Public; Theatre
Theatre, video games, music, and reading (from Homer to Harry Potter).
10th Grade Math
10th Grade Reading
10th Grade Writing
11th Grade Math
11th Grade Reading
11th Grade Writing
12th Grade Math
12th Grade Reading
12th Grade Writing
6th Grade Math
6th Grade Reading
6th Grade Writing
7th Grade Math
7th Grade Reading
7th Grade Writing
8th Grade Math
8th Grade Reading
8th Grade Writing
9th Grade Math
9th Grade Reading
9th Grade Writing
Elementary School Math
Elementary School Reading
Elementary School Writing
High School English
High School Writing
HSPT Language Skills Prep
HSPT Math Prep
HSPT Quantitative Prep
HSPT Reading Prep
HSPT Verbal Prep
Introduction to Poetry
Middle School Reading
Middle School Writing
Study Skills and Organization
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Teaching is not fundamentally about offering students facts--that is the purpose of reference books and "Google." Rather, teaching is about showing students where such facts come from, why these facts are meaningful, and how these facts connect in such a way as to improve our understanding of our world and our experience.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would assess where their level of comprehension is and what their reason for coming to tutoring might be. Then I would proceed to lay a ground plan and tackle a few manageable and immediate problems in the topic area to get our feet wet before developing a more comprehensive lesson for the next meeting.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Learning is like walking: one begins by doing it assisted and then sees what the support does and develops the strength to do so on their own. I believe students become independent learners by being guided carefully and slowly encouraged to solve increasingly difficult problems with less and less help, until I, as a teacher, am more a cheerleader/fact-checker/problem-maker than an aide.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Students who are discouraged usually only lack the knowledge and the tools to understand that they can easily learn on their own. I believe all the aid a student needs to be motivated is the understanding that I will be there to point them in the right direction, but that they can certainly traverse forward without my help or anyone's.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would ask the student first what he or she is struggling with, in an attempt to help them learn to self-diagnose such problems. Often, the next step is simply to rephrase in "layman's terms" by offering a simple, concrete, and often absurd scenario which applies the principle in question. Having done this, I would have the pupil perform a series of exemplary problems, talking through the steps (after they've suggested what comes next) and relating each step to its correlate in the silly example provided previously. The absurdity of the example makes the concept able to "stick" in the mind while the application of the same allows the stickiness to take effect.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
At the most basic level, I have students begin by creating simple, visual representations of the passage - either as a "brain map" in the case of nonfiction, or a flow chart in the case of fiction. The former allows students to illustrate and thereby clarify for themselves the ways in which the ideas, themes, and examples in a passage relate to each other. The latter clarifies the cause and effect relationship of the narrative. For fiction, once such causal relationships are established, I urge students to understand the passage formally by looking for the key components of a standard plot (beginning/set-up, major dramatic question/conflict, complications, crisis and climax, and ending/falling action). This helps ensure that they see all the vital elements of any story. Finally, in fiction, I use the same sort of thematic brain-mapping as in nonfiction to tie together major events and images in the story to help clarify the passage's themes and the author's intent.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I find that students respond well to having methodologies explained to them (e.g. why so many tests or quizzes, why constant review exercises, or why is the pupil always required to try before getting an explanation) as it earns trust. I begin reviewing as early as week two, constantly asking students to do the types of problems we learned in prior sessions, and I suggest students try to write down 3-5 key ideas (ones which they feel they may need to be reminded of) after each session - ideas which they can go back and revisit in the form of an ever-growing list. And, of course, I always start with a diagnostic test (unless such a test has already been administered and can be provided) to find the pupil's current level of mastery of the subject material and pinpoint areas of improvement for future sessions.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Students relate to different subjects differently. With vocabulary and mechanics, one need only provide the student with interesting and creative example sentences in most cases, while reminding the student of how much diligence in these areas will put them ahead of their peers. Students tend to engage in reading comprehension when they are provided with a good text and shown the power of its writing. Many students spurn reading, but when they encounter something like "Fahrenheit 451" and made to think deeply about the imagery and vivid horror of the world, they cannot help but become invested, especially when this occurs apart from judgmental classmates in a one-on-one environment. Mathematics is one of the hardest subjects for older students to engage in, but often, one need only explain the relevance of a given problem type to generate some interest. Often, textbooks make misguided, cheesy attempts at this, but students respond better to in-person attempts made about their lives specifically. If a topic is too abstract, and such a tangible example would necessarily be artificial, students often become interested when they are taught why a mathematical concept is important for future mathematics. This, to the surprise of some, can indeed generate interest in students generally put off by math.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
True mastery of material means the ability to use that material creatively. In the case of vocabulary or mechanics, this means the ability to implement concepts and words learned in one's own writing, and so I ask that students compose their own sentences on a topic. In mathematics, the material can be used creatively in solving new types of problems which tie new material with old in ways not yet explored. Beyond simply asking students to complete problems like those reviewed in sessions, I ask them to try and take problems one step further and see not only how correct their answer is, but, more importantly, how close their train of thought comes to the correct way of solving the problem. And, of course, spaced, comprehensive testing ensures that material is understood and not merely memorized for the short term.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Students find confidence in a content area by solving problems they know are difficult, learning that their difficulties are not unique or unusual failings, and by thinking of the content in down-to-earth, non-jargon-based terms. To these ends, I strive to challenge my clients with problems as hard (if not harder) than what they are likely to encounter elsewhere from an early stage in order to acclimatize them to such questions; to provide anecdotal evidence that I, someone I know, or that people, in general, have undergone similar struggles with the given content, and to provide palatable, often absurd, image-based examples which are unintimidating compared to formal definitions or rules.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I evaluate a student's content needs with diagnostic testing in the relevant material. I assess their learning needs by watching how they interact with and approach questions. Based on their attitude, confidence, analytic ability, and work ethic, I am able to gain an understanding of what a pupil needs in order to improve. I adjust my discipline to encouragement ratio, the repetitiveness of the work I assign, and the structure of my lesson plans accordingly. If a student has trouble investing or paying attention, perhaps I interweave problems and topics, switching areas every 20 minutes, or perhaps I introduce items one week and hold off on revisiting them for a couple of weeks so they won't become stale or uninteresting. I believe the most important way to understand how a student learns is by finding what aspect of traditional learning environments is causing them not to engage the material, and figure out how to circumvent that element and allow the material to be delivered in a manner that corresponds to how the pupil's brain is most capable of receiving it.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
As I said before, I format lesson plans, customize homework assignments, and sequence the order of concepts covered with an emphasis on the way a pupil's brain works using both evidence seen in sessions and principles of cognitive psychology. For example, if a student struggles with English vocab because he or she does not read much on his or her own, I create a system of lessons which allows him or her to contextualize such vocab words. I have him or her find half of the week's words independently in assigned reading and discuss their function in their respective passages, while also providing a list of the other, contextless half of the week's vocab words and asking him or her to create sentences for them based on some unifying topic which is important to him or her. I assess what learning techniques proven to be effective by empirical study do and do not come naturally to a student, and then help that student to learn to use techniques which they have neglected while also employing and celebrating those which they have stumbled upon already.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I try to work with a client's in-class materials so that I know that I am aiding them in ways that will not only foster learning, but will also maximize in-class improvements. If these are insufficient or unavailable, I draw from a large range of resources, including practice worksheets I have archived and problems found in textbooks. If I find none of these sufficient, I will often write problems or tests myself to ensure that my clients get the precise help they need. In other cases, I may appropriate problems from various worksheets to target specific issues I see the client facing.