I received my Bachelor of Science from Western Washington University and my Master of Science from the University of Oregon, both in chemistry. After graduation, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a synthetic chemist before starting a PhD program. While I ultimately decided not to complete my doctorate, I did discover I had quite a passion for teaching chemistry. I then started teaching test prep courses and tutoring students, and later I started teaching general and organic chemistry at Seattle Central College. Tutoring especially appeals to me because breakthrough moments don’t always occur while class is in session. Every student has a slightly different way of wrapping his or her head around a given concept. By engaging students one-on-one, I can get a feel for their specific situation and how they relate to a given topic, and modify my teaching style and examples to fit their needs. In my spare time, I am an avid homebrewer and I also enjoy sports, video games, and being outdoors.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Western Washington University - Bachelors, Chemistry
Graduate Degree: University of Oregon - Masters, Chemistry
Homebrewing, cooking, sports, video games, personal finance, camping
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy, especially with respect to tutoring, is to understand as much as possible about each student's specific situation and how they relate to particular topics in class. Obviously, students who seek out private tutors are for the most part struggling in class, which is usually because the instructor's teaching style doesn't resonate with the student, not because they're stupid. My goal is to find alternative ways to present what I know in a way that will work best for the student, recognizing that the best method will vary quite a bit from one student to the next!
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
As a tutor, the most important part of the job is to understand how the student thinks. To that end, I would spend the majority of the first session getting to know the student, their goals, the parameters of the class or test, and assessing how they think about problems in class. I would bring problems for us to work together and ask the student to talk me through their logic as we solve them. When there's a particularly tricky part, I might offer a suggestion as to how I would approach it. From there, we can come up with a list of topics to dive into in greater detail in future sessions.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
When I first start with a new student, my strategy is to observe how the student approaches problems and tries to solve them. I ask the student to talk me through their logic. I will only offer guidance if he or she is completely stuck. In this way, I can really focus with a student on the particular aspects of a given problem that are giving them the most trouble.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
If I wanted to be sure a student really understands a particular concept or how to solve a particular problem, I would ask them to explain it to me. I would start by asking them simple questions first, and then get harder as they understand more.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I think the best way to build confidence is to come up with a strategy with a set of discrete steps for how to solve a particular problem. That way, even if a student doesn't know exactly how to solve the problem upon reading it, at least he or she will have a good place to start. Taking things step by step is always simpler and less intimidating than trying to think about a complex problem all at once!
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
First, by asking a lot of questions. What are the student's goals? If he or she is currently getting a B and wants an A, we might focus on the hardest problems I can find and go over the most complicated minutiae. On the other hand, if he or she is failing and simply needs to pass, we would instead focus on the nuts and bolts, really nailing down the most crucial concepts and ignoring much of the minutiae. Second, by observing how the student thinks and solves problems. Every student has a slightly different way of wrapping his or her head around a given concept, and understanding that is the key to meeting a student's needs.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I find most students struggle more with the problem-solving aspects of science classes more than the conceptual aspects; therefore the bulk of the materials I use would be practice problems, solved on a whiteboard or pen and paper. However, for certain concepts and certain types of problems, molecular models can be very useful as well. When appropriate, I also like to use YouTube videos to illustrate directly observable phenomena.