Since graduating from the University of Chicago in 2007, I worked as an instructor for Selective Prep, a test-prep company in Chicago that helps fifth through eighth grade students prepare for the top junior high and high school programs. Each fall and spring session, I taught six or seven classes with an average of 15 students per class. We covered a range of topics from basic math concepts, such as fractions and decimals, to high school level algebra and geometry topics. We also reviewed grammar rules, learned how to break down a reading comprehension passage, and practiced strategies for vocabulary words. In addition to teaching, I have also written thousands of practice questions for these courses.
Most recently, I have worked as a tutor for another online test prep company, preparing over 100 students for the ACT, SAT, and PSAT. Given the remote nature of the online platform, I have found ways to connect with my students so we can successfully increase their scores through fully understanding the material and learning test taking strategies. My goal is to introduce students to a topic and then lead them to understanding through both explanation and practice. I pride myself in being able to break down a subject into a series of small, easy-to-understand steps so my students can more easily conceptualize the topic and therefore apply that understanding to more difficult questions. To ensure the student understands the concept, Ill frequently have them teach a problem back to me.
In the last year, I have been working more with students on homework help and subject matter rather than strictly test prep. This has given me the opportunity to work with students on a more long-term basis and see them not only learn how to do the processes required to solve a problem but also understand a topic and get higher grades as a result. I build on the concepts and material given in class so my students can better understand the topics at his or her own pace. I especially loves sharing the thrill and joy not only when my students see their grades improve but also when I see them understand the material, or the Aha! moment.
When Im not tutoring, I keep active by running, playing recreational soccer, and exploring new places on my bike. I am always up for a good challenge, so Im training for my second marathon, which I will run early next year. I also love reading both fiction and nonfiction and crocheting while watching movies.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Chicago - Bachelors, Psychology
SAT Composite: 1440
SAT Math: 710
SAT Verbal: 730
Running, playing soccer, biking, reading, movies, crocheting, cookies, current events
Elementary School Math
High School English
Q & A
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
For a typical first lesson, I start off by getting to know my student, not only with his or her academic strengths and weaknesses, but also his or her passions and hobbies. We'll then jump right into the material. If we're working through a test prep program, we'll go through an overview of the test, and then start with the subject the student needs the most help with. For non-test prep, we'll start working through the basics, building a strong foundation that we can use for harder and harder questions and concepts.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I encourage my students to ask questions as we work through lessons. For math topics, I help my students learn the concepts and reasoning behind the topics, so he or she can then apply those concepts to harder problems and more advanced topics. For reading, I guide my students through passages and stories to think about how characters and ideas are connected, so they can start to ask their own questions and think critically about what they are reading.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I use a few things to keep students motivated. First, I try to use topics that are relevant to the students, such as bringing in favorite books, movies, and the like. Second, I always celebrate my students' victories, no matter how big or small. I support them when they get something wrong, encouraging them to go back and see where they make their mistakes so we can fix them.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
First, I identify where the student is having difficulty. I break down the concept into short steps, and we'll go through each one to see where the trouble lies, so we can fix it head on. Second, I try to find a different approach the for the topic at hand. Sometimes switching out the details of the reading story or math problem can give the student that "lightbulb" moment we're looking for.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
The majority of students I've had in the past who've struggled with reading comprehension are also struggling with vocabulary, so we start with learning strategies and practicing drills to establish a strong word base. I then help my student understand the structure of the passage so we can learn about the author's intent in writing the passage. Finally, for hard sections, we break down the language and translate, so my students can better understand it.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
First, I try to see if there's a way to get the student's interests involved with the topic. I've found that many students understand a topic more if they can relate to it. Second, I break down the topic and work from the small steps up. These small steps tend to be easier and help build the student's confidence as we work toward harder and harder steps. As we go through the steps, I frequently ask students why we are doing the steps we're doing, so they can understand the concept behind the topic or question.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I always ask my students why we are doing the steps we're doing to solve a problem and what a number means in the scope of the problem. Students should know what they're looking for and why. I also encourage them to walk me through a problem or reading passage step-by-step, having them teach me.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
By celebrating their successes! Also, I have my students do multiple practice problems, to not only make sure they understand the material, but also to show them they know how to do it themselves.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
The obvious answer is to ask my students and their parents. Beyond that, I have them work through problems for math, and read through a passage and summarize it for reading comprehension. I don't interject and instead watch how the student solves the problems, so I can see how he or she thinks through the process.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Every student is different and learns in a slightly different way. After I learn how a student thinks, I develop a plan on how to best go through the material. I then keep tabs on how things are doing through short check-ins (like quizzes) and practice tests, if it's a test prep program. If we find out that something doesn't work, then we adjust as we go.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
For test prep, I like to use the material set out by the company who creates the test. Beyond that, I have built a personal library of materials I've created over the years, as well as resources from online tutor websites.