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So You Need to Learn a Language

Spanish and teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.....Well, that's what I have degrees in, but I wouldn't distill it down to such a fine point. I'm more of a linguistic and educational survivor/refugee more than anything. A language "whisperer" if I may. I first got interested in Spanish language because I felt that I was confined to a teeny little world, and guess what, I WAS! But decades later...

I've seen amazing changes in people's language skills: kids from age 2 to 62 read and speak better, negotiate real life situations, and get whatever job done that needs to be done thanks to non-traditional language teaching methods. I'm talking about things that researchers have proven for the past 40-50 years about learning languages that still goes unused in the vast majority of language classrooms; unless you are really conversing after receiving tons of listening and reading input, it just ain't happening. Most importantly, I suppose, as a teacher I classify myself one of those students - because my personal education never stops.

Brief Origin Story
I grew up reaching out to my own local small-town community, part of which is a Hispanic community. Spent time talking to migrant workers at the grocery store who asked me to help them with simple things. I spent my early 20s working hard for landscape and construction companies, learning words and phrases never considered in any college classroom. Later I got into business and medical Spanish, and progressed towards learning the necessary grammar and vocabulary to communicate in Portuguese. They are definitely not the same! Now I can have conversations in those languages no problem, and even passed a few tests saying I'm kind of good at it.

What did a masters in teaching languages get me besides a ton of student loan debt? A tried and true methodology that I have picked apart, reassembled and verified with my own real-life experiences. A system that can change for you, probing the depths of your abilities and supporting the weak areas with those that are stronger. Also, I passed a few tests saying I'm good at it.

How You Can Do It

If you are a "shortcut now" person, you will soon find out that there are no shortcuts in language learning- just like you can't take a bunch of supplements and benchpress 500 lbs. But there are things you have probably never tried or imagined that will make you feel like you did just do that! What we will do together is frame out a mental structure or area that is uniquely "you." Your language needs, level, and related skills: Do you need phone, texting, or email skills? Can you read? Do you have a set of digital tools you need to be proficient with in that language?

After establishing that personal zone of growth, you can grow - because you will WANT to grow- as a language user and language community member, not a multiple choice box-checker. That's not all you will earn- you will also be able to take that system to any new foreign language situation without a teacher. You will not only learn how to take "the test" (and do well) but also learn BEYOND the test in a way that is useful to you and everyone you come into contact with. Don't wait too long!

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Terry’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: College of Charleston - Bachelors, Spanish

Graduate Degree: College of Charleston - Masters, ESOL


SCUBA, gardening, guitar, exercise. Exploring!

Tutoring Subjects

AP Spanish Literature and Culture

College English

Conversational Spanish



High School English



Middle School Math


Spanish 1

Spanish 2

Spanish 3

Spanish 4

Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

The differences of each student should be channeled to fuel the classroom experience. I use research-based methods that will engage and empower.

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

Introduce myself and my methods, allow the student to self-identify areas of instruction that are of the highest priority to them, and allow the student to experience what a lesson with me can do for their progress.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I do this throughout the lesson by encouraging research, demonstrating digital citizenship behaviors, and fostering sustainable skills that have both local and far-reaching impacts on the global community.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

Motivation can wane or become boredom when the student feels that the material isn't relevant to their personal trajectory. I combat this by getting to know the student, incorporating their interests, and using critical thinking questions.

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

I would break information down into chunks that the student can process with better success, model a positive outlook, and show the student how the material could be relevant to them.

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

Explicit modeling of the strategies one by one is important. Then I would discuss where and when each strategy is used, and prompt the student to describe when he or she sees those strategies being used. We would take the skill apart and practice using it, followed by a short practice assessment.

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

The student needs to be able to feel anticipation for his or her learning. I do this by employing a catchy headline for the lesson. The student can see how the course material fits their wants and needs. I typically use web content, digital projects, and interpersonal communication to bring the classroom alive.

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

I focus on the student's interests, finding out what they are good at, and use that as a lever in the right direction. I use encouragement frequently, and inform the student's parents of jobs well done.

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

I informally prompt the student to explain in his or her own words what to do or what the material is about. I present guided opportunities and then independent practice. Finally, I apply their knowledge to the real word in open-ended tasks.

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

By scaffolding the student's progress bit by bit until they can perform by themselves. At first I would model almost 100% of the material, then let the student demonstrate their independence after mastering the concepts one at a time.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

A student typically already knows what their needs are and will tell a tutor. I then identify what the student's work needs are from past work that they present. A student may simply need to reorganize their thoughts about one part and relearn another part. A brief pretest will let the student indicate what they need.

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

Every student is different, so teaching style must vary for each individual. Through pretests, identifying areas of need and student interests, and employing open-ended questions that allow student investigation, the student becomes the master on their own terms.

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

Web-based video content, real-world examples, digital portfolios, and practice that mirrors what students will want to know as global citizens.

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