I am a recent grad of UC Santa Cruz, currently preparing to apply for law school. I tutored for awhile in high school, and in furthering my own education during undergrad, realized that I wanted to help others grow in their own education. I spent 5 months this past year living in Cusco, Peru, earning my TEFL/ESOL certificate and teaching English. I love learning new languages (dabbled in Swedish, French and Russian as well as near fluency in Spanish) and want to share this passion by educating others. Even though most people study language and writing for practical reasons, I hope some can also see the beauty in verbal expression, or the fascinating way in which different languages overlap and reveal their unique cultures, history and development.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of California-Santa Cruz - Bachelors, Politics
SAT Verbal: 710
SAT Writing: 720
AP Calculus AB: 3
AP English Literature: 3
AP English Language: 3
AP US History: 4
AP Psychology: 5
AP U.S. Government & Politics: 3
AP Spanish Language: 4
PSAT Verbal: 62
PSAT Math: 62
PSAT Writing Skills: 67
Playing piano and guitar, writing, travel and running
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I hope to inspire my students through my own passion for language and writing, to show how applicable the art of verbal expression (in English or foreign languages) is in everyday life, and how these skills can be used creatively as well. I think intrinsic motivation is a significant aspect of education, and can be strengthened by a learner seeing the value of learning a concept or skill beyond simply getting a certain score.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Typically in my classes on the first day, I would do ice breaker activities to establish rapport, gauge the students' personalities and expectations, and ease into the material. Depending on which subject we're working on, I would do some type of diagnostic exercise. For example, for Spanish have a short writing prompt and speaking activity to highlight strengths and weaknesses and come up with a longer-term study plan based on that.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I think asking questions is an important part of active learning and analysis. Teachers and tutors should ask questions that stimulate a student to think more deeply (What is the author saying? Do you agree? How would you argue against this point?). Constant exposure to questions and being pressed to come up with answers can condition a student to instinctively ask similar questions and interact with a text, consequently understanding it more completely (this is mainly in reference to critical reading). In another area, such as language, comprehension-checking questions are as important, but there is more freedom to involve other tools. For example, introducing a student to a musical artist, book, or podcast in the foreign language can spark greater interest in it, increasing their motivation to study and understand.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Techniques for keeping students motivated vary mostly based on age. For example, it is easy to keep younger kids on task with the reward of candy or a game. More universal strategies could be constant praise, making lessons dynamic and interesting, and knowing when to take breaks so the student doesn't burn out. I think incorporating creative projects that also help practice the subject is important. For example, learning a song in a different language or writing a speech about a topic of choice but having to use certain vocabulary terms. This can differ as well depending on the interests of the specific student.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
My approach to confronting difficulty learning a concept would depend on the context. For example, in a language class, sometimes a student just needs repetitive drilling of vocabulary throughout each session or extra worksheets and reference pages for a certain grammar point. Difficulties in something like reading comprehension or writing require different tactics. For critical reading, I'd start with a base of having the student give feedback on everything they took from the passage and, if they misinterpreted, ask for their reasoning. Depending on whether it's an issue of understanding vocabulary vs. content, I'd focus on flashcards of common terms or methods of identifying key phrases that signal an author's point or tone.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I would pinpoint whether a student is struggling because of too many high level vocab words or because they can't identify the main point, argument, etc., or both. Vocabulary can be more easily confronted with tools like flashcards. To build on that and assure comprehension I'd assign exercises that involve production of knowledge, like having the student write a story using 5 of the vocab words, for example. I'd also encourage reading dense, high-level literature to complement studies. For students who struggle with grasping the concept of what the author is trying to communicate, I think discussion is beneficial, having the student read through something then share what they gathered from it. I'd ask lots of questions to understand what led them to their conclusions then talk about the connotations of different words that indicate tone, and how to pay attention to such details. Assigning short written responses to passages would be beneficial as well.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I think flexibility is key -- starting off without having too concrete of a plan because students have very different needs and it's best to work with them individually to identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as best learning style. Especially when working with younger students, keeping their attention is important so switching up between different activities and intermixing games that are related to the lesson are necessary. For example, in ESL or other language teaching, verbal games like "two truths and a lie" in the language being practiced are fun and still constructive.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
In writing and language, there is a lot a freedom in learning tools and I think one of the easiest ways to motivate students in a certain subject is to relate it to something they care about. For example, introducing a song in Spanish can make it more accessible and still be used as a reference for certain vocab or grammar points. In regards to writing, there are a variety of creative projects like speeches or argumentative essays based on prompts that interest the student. Reworking what they’ve written to incorporate certain vocabulary or elaborate on their point, depending what areas need improvement, could follow this.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
In my TEFL/TESOL training they emphasized the use of comprehension check questions (CCQs) of increasing levels of difficulty to ensure comprehension, which can be applied to critical reading or vocabulary as well as language learning. One level is a simple yes/no question about the concept (Does the author like dogs?). A level up from that is a 50/50 question (Is the tone positive or negative?). The goal is to get to an open-ended question (What is the author's argument?), which requires production of the concept being studied and thus confirms understanding.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Constant, enthusiastic praise is crucial in both motivation and building confidence in the subject. In addition to praise when something is done correctly or well, I think it's important to point out a student's progress, even the smallest steps, to highlight their strengths and give tangible evidence that they can accomplish something in this subject.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I try to start off by establishing a rapport with my students and getting a feel for their personalities and in older students, often they will communicate their own learning styles and problem areas. Most students' personality traits are apparent within the first couple of meetings (whether energetic, quiet, easily distracted, lacking motivation), so I would tailor lesson plans to fit those different approaches. I'd probably try a few things (writing, speaking, music, role playing dialogues) as well to see what the student enjoys the most. In reference to the material that a student needs to address specifically I'd have some diagnostic exercises (short writing responses, conversation practice) to assess which aspects of the subject they need help on.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I’d diagnose a student's specific needs in the subject with short assessments in reading, writing and speaking to know what areas to work on. In addition, I'd talk with the student about their preferences and learning styles in order to adapt those to the content. If a student likes writing, I would assign daily journals with a different prompt for language practice, or short essay responses to passages for critical reading. Auditory learners might enjoy incorporating music into a lesson, and kinesthetic learners may want to find a way to make aspects of the lesson into an active game.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
In my teaching experience, having a whiteboard was the best tool just for keeping notes of what we've covered and having students get up and participate. In language learning, it helps to draw visuals for vocabulary. In addition to that, I'll sometimes do cut out words for students to unscramble into sentences, memory matching games with vocab words, Pictionary or Scrabble. In tutoring something other than a language, like reading or writing, I'd use grammar or vocab reference sheets whenever pertinent or flashcards. I always bring my laptop as well for videos or online activities that complement a lesson.