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My education in English Literature began early, as did my passion for the subject: I first learned to scan poetry, diagram sentences, and write essays while in grammar school. After earning the highest PSAT and SAT scores in my high school’s history (and becoming a National Merit Scholarship Finalist in the process), I traded my senior year of high school for my freshman year of college when I entered Washington University in St. Louis at the age of 17 years. I earned a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in French, and a B.S. with High Honors in Journalism and Communications. After working as a journalist (and winning numerous nationwide awards in news- and feature-writing), I decided to head back to school – this time to Rutgers University, where I earned an M.A. summa cum laude in English Literature.

While in graduate school, I learned how to write 50-page papers without blinking an eye and how to format said papers using the Modern Language Association style guide. Just as importantly, I began teaching others to do the same while tutoring at the Rutgers Writing Center and teaching freshman English Composition.

Between that time and this, my passion for the written word has never waned; I have spent more than 30 years as a professional writer and copy-editor, including two years as a co-writer of a book that became a Feature Selection in the Book of the Month Club. I have taught English Literature and SAT prep to high school students, just as I have taught writing and sentence structure to college students and English as a second language to adults privately throughout my teaching and writing career. I also have mentored my staffs of writers in the jobs I have had as a writer and copy-editor in the fields of finance (including jobs at Bank of America and Wells Fargo Advisors) and medicine (jobs at Elsevier and Pfizer).

Sharing the knowledge I have accrued brings me fulfillment and a joy that I try to instill in my students during each class or session. My teaching style is to listen, demonstrate, and guide. For example, in graduate school, I learned to write 50-page papers without blinking an eye and to format said papers using the MLA style guide. If a student needs help with an essay assignment, I recount my writing process, which includes brainstorming, prewriting, and revising again and again. I also try to be silent periodically, to give the students time to think and prepare and to share their needs and questions. I also am not afraid to be wrong or not know the answer. These instances allow the student to be wrong without shame and to learn how to find the "right" answer. I have dozens of online and hard copy resources to share, which provides a demonstration of how to search for assistance. If time is short, I look for patterns of errors that can be tackled in a single session. My goal always is to give my students the tools and self-confidence to work independently well into the future.

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Phyllis’ Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Washington University in St Louis - Bachelors, English Literature

Graduate Degree: Rutgers University-New Brunswick - Masters, English Literature


reading, writing, and volunteering for organizations

Tutoring Subjects



ACCUPLACER ESL - Reading Skills

ACCUPLACER ESL - Sentence Meaning

Adult Literacy

American Literature

British Literature



Essay Editing

Expository Writing

High School English

High School Level American Literature

High School Writing


Spelling Bee

Study Skills

Study Skills and Organization

Test Prep


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

Patience, silence, and humor are the backbones of my philosophy. I must enable students to learn at their pace and in their time. I try not to fill up each session with talk, so that students have the opportunity to think and ask questions. And, if I do not laugh at least once a session with a student, I have not succeeded, because I believe humor is the key to a good life and a good working relationship.

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

First, I would get to know the student and find out how they want to use our time together to achieve their goals. We cannot work well together unless we understand each other and have a plan of attack for the session.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I believe that tutoring involves creating an independent learner -- the better I am at tutoring, the less my students will need me as a tutor. The way to achieve this goal is to let the student always hold the pen, metaphorically and literally. They work while I guide, they talk while I listen, and they find the answers while I watch and coach. If independence remains the focus from the beginning, it will naturally be the result.

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