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I was once told by an administrator that I have the ability to reach students that others struggled to reach and motivate, oftentimes at-risk students, and I found this one of the highest compliments of my career. I find it my greatest goal to make sure that all students, from those seeking the highest standards to those struggling with basic skills, can understand themselves, can define their abilities, and can work forward to becoming all that they are meant to be.

My years of teaching experience have helped prepare me with two important abilities: seeing language arts as a means to develop students' awareness and ability to communicate more effectively, and a greater appreciation for the individual student through balanced and effective classroom teaching and management. I teach because I have a passion for teaching, but mostly, because I care about reaching and inspiring each student from a wide array of backgrounds and abilities.

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Don’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Dordt College - Bachelors, English

Graduate Degree: Concordia University-Saint Paul - Masters, Education


Reading, writing, travel

Tutoring Subjects

ACT English

ACT Reading

ACT Writing

American Literature

British Literature

College English

College Essays

College Level American Literature

Comparative Literature


English Grammar and Syntax

Essay Editing

High School English

High School Level American Literature


Public Speaking


SAT Reading

SAT Writing and Language

Test Prep


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

Being a teacher means going through a personal evolution of a sorts. The process is an ongoing reflection of what works, what doesn't work, and the continual realization that it is, indeed, a never-ending process. Where that may give a beginning teacher a sense of disillusionment, and maybe even despair, it's also one of the greater motivators after one teaches for a number of years. As well, within this motivation is also a recognition, the understanding of how change can make your role improve, but how intrinsic abilities can also be defined and strengthened. I believe that I have been given a love for students and a strong faith in them and in their ability to overcome anything to grow, learn, and develop. In my early years, so much energy was put into shaping curriculum, and that certainly has its benefits. In later years, so much energy has gone into shaping learning through both formative and summative assessments that show evidence of students meeting very strong, attainable learning goals in the English curriculum, and there is great benefit in these skills as well. It has been in the years in between that my real strengths have been developed, and those strengths are in developing communication skills that have enable me to connect, support, inspire, guide, mentor, and coach students from a wide array of backgrounds. Being a white dad who adopted trans-racially certainly didn't hurt my understanding and development, but I do know that my ability to care about students and see into their world, understand their culture, and truly care about them and their world, is probably the most defining and important step I have taken. Students know I care. I believe that a teacher needs to be able to know their content, build their lessons in community with their colleagues, but no single task has produced more results for me than my care for my students. Yes, a wonderful lesson plan, a continued and consistent series of lessons in a unit and a yearlong plan of powerful learning opportunities is so very important. But caring is a contagious thing. Promote it through modeling, and you might see how students grow in their caring for themselves, their learning community, their future.

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

I would want to get to know them, their strengths, their areas of concern, and try to build a sense of direction to goals they wished to achieve. This would set the tone for their learning.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

By helping them build the tools to achieve learning goals on their own.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I would try to find a connection between what we were studying and their personal interests. As well, I would help them understand the material from a more basic to more complicated series of steps to help them feel success at each part of the process.

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

I would look to find the disconnect; I would want to take the information back to the point of where there was understanding, and then rebuild with different examples.

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

Typically, I would help them engage in the text by slowing down reading, asking questions of the text, making connections, and also trying to get the "gist" of the information rather than letting some complex words cause distress and disengagement from the text.

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

I think that understanding a student's goals and getting to know what they are interested in are very important to building a connection with their learning.

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

Success can be a great motivator. Often, if a student can be shown how to understand a difficult concept and it becomes easier to fit into a greater understanding of the world, he or she can become more engaged.

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