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I recently relocated from Brooklyn to the Fort Lauderdale area. I have worked as the scientific editor for the Journal of Cell Biology and graduated last year from Columbia University with a Ph.D. in Pathology and Cell Biology, and before that attended Duke University, where I received a B.S. in Biology.

I have a strong passion for the biological sciences and love to foster that passion in others. As far back as high school and throughout my undergraduate coursework, I've had a natural knack for working with and teaching my peers. As a graduate student, I worked as a teaching assistant for first-year medical students, gaining valuable experience working with upwards of about 100 students. I also spent much of my time as a graduate research scientist mentoring undergraduate students in the lab, teaching them the skills necessary to perform research and working with them to develop independent projects.

I am personable, patient, and positive with every student. I understand that meaningful learning has to evolve from within and cannot be simply thrown upon the learner.

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Shawn’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Duke University - Bachelors, Biology, General

Graduate Degree: Columbia University in the City of New York - PHD, Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine

Test Scores

SAT Math: 800


Running, yoga, cooking, hanging out with my dog

Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

As a teacher, I aim to guide students to reach answers and understanding on their own, rather than "dropping" knowledge on them and expecting it to be retained. Every student deserves a teacher that is patient and positive, and I hope that by coming with this sort of attitude, the learning experience will be more impactful on my students.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

I would want to gauge the student's knowledge level and identify their weaknesses within that subject, so I would likely run a variety of practice questions by them. Does the student have any strategies for tackling the problems and do they work or not? Does the student freeze up and just guess at the answer? I would also talk with the student to try and get a feel for their level of interest in the subject itself. Students that come into tutoring feeling that they dislike the subject will require a different teaching strategy.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I try to teach students the strategies they need to answer any question, rather than just getting them to the answer of the question right in the front of them. I also encourage my students to take a chance and try to answer before I step in and correct them. In my opinion, the student has to learn to not be afraid to try and fail sometimes. Practicing in this way helps develop the student's instincts in the right direction.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

Patience and positivity! I think it's important to regularly encourage the student and remind them that they are capable of learning the material in front of them. In addition, I think it's important to be aware of how the student responds to being corrected, as one doesn't want to potentially reinforce negative self-perceptions they may have about their abilities. If I see the student getting frustrated and losing motivation, I would mix up the content that they're working on, perhaps throwing in some easy questions before coming back to whatever is challenging them.

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

I would consider totally different ways to teach that skill or concept. Students have such a wide variety of ways to learn, so I would always try to adapt my teaching strategy to best meet the student's needs. In my experience, coming up with a personalized mnemonic, like a story or a visual image, can be very helpful for students to retain skills and concepts that might not come naturally. (I still remember mnemonics from my own high school math courses that I use to this day!).

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

I was also a student that struggled with reading comprehension in the past (I'm a very quantitative-minded person). I found personally that reviewing the questions to be answered *before* doing the reading helps to prime the mind, such that the answers jump out during the reading. When my strategy changed in this way, I noticed a huge difference in my comprehension abilities.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

Encouraging the student to do things on their own, even if it means making mistakes along the way. That is, not just showing them how it's done. Also developing mnemonics with the student to help them internalize the strategies to be used again later.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?

This can certainly be tough! I find that useful strategies include finding ways to make the learning experience more fun (e.g., creating learning games) and developing students’ perception of the subject so that they can appreciate why it matters to learn it in the first place.

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

It seems like an obvious answer, but testing them! Taking the time to step back and observe without intervening is the best way to see if the student has retained what has been taught. I would also consider ways to challenge the student with questions that require them to adapt their strategies and dynamically address new problems. I want the student to recognize that their toolbox does not have to be limited to just the problems that we have covered.

How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?

Practice, encouragement, and recognition of their successes (even if they seem small). I strive to help the student to first believe that they are capable, and through practice come to realize how capable they truly are. Once the student feels that they can handle the problems ahead, the confidence in the subject follows naturally.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

I have the student engage with the material with as little intervention on my part as possible. I want to observe their strategies and habits, and try to identify those areas that are most problematic. I then can focus on what will work best for that student (e.g., developing new strategies that will work well for them, breaking problematic habits, etc.).

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?

If a particular tutoring strategy is not working, then I reconsider my teaching style and try to come up with "outside of the box" solutions. This of course requires paying regular attention to the student throughout the learning process and gauging whether they are truly retaining the material (e.g., by varying the challenges presented to them, simply speaking with the student and asking how they feel about it).

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

This depends on the subject. For mathematics I find that pen and paper can often suffice, but for biology, providing pictures and videos can help tremendously. The internet is also always a wealth of resources for any subject!

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