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I am a graduate of Portland State University (Master of Fine Arts in writing) and Northern Michigan University (Bachelor of Science in English). Over the course of six years spent studying, I have published half a dozen essays and won two writing awards. In graduate school, I taught four different college writing courses: remedial composition, general composition, environmental writing and introductory nonfiction writing . Primarily, I tutor English, writing (especially creative writing and essays) and grammar.

Teaching -- that is to say, working alongside students to help them become stronger writers -- has shown me how to awaken the power of speech, expression and life enhancement within students. Not every student of mine has experienced an "Aha!" moment through their writing or my teaching, but some have and that means the world to me. The best instructors I've had were the ones who were down in the trenches with students, examining the wonders and processes of writing alongside them, rather than preaching from a podium. I aim to emulate this in my own teaching style.

When I am not writing or teaching, I love to knit, bake/cook, hike, play volleyball and snowboard.

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Mackenzie’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Northern Michigan University - Bachelors, English Writing

Graduate Degree: Portland State University - Masters, Nonfiction Writing

Test Scores

ACT Composite: 30


Writing (especially essays, journalism and science writing), reading, knitting, cooking, baking, volleyball, snowboarding.

Tutoring Subjects

ACT English

College English

Elementary School Writing


English Grammar and Syntax

Essay Editing

High School English

High School Writing

Middle School Writing

Spelling Bee

Test Prep


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe that teaching is a two-way street. Rather than talking at a student from an authoritarian stance, a good teacher works alongside the student, discovering things with them while still maintaining professionalism and providing a knowledgeable framework to help the student move forward.

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

I would first assess the student's level of exposure in the field, to make sure I won't cover anything he or she doesn't need to cover. I would then assess the student's learning style -- do they learn best by listening, or would it help if I drew diagrams? Do they learn best with flashcards or by acting out scenarios? And finally, before moving forward, I would assess the student's goals, both short-term and long-term. What do they hope to get out of this single session? What do they hope to get out of the assignment they're working on? What do they hope to get out of their education as a whole?

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

To help students become independent learners, they need resources. I would direct them to online resources and, in case the Internet isn't always accessible, resources within their community such as books to check out at libraries and experts they can talk to. I would also try teaching students techniques that have worked for me, both personally and as a student, in expanding my own education independently: things like reading passages aloud to find errors, making flashcards to remember things, making mnemonic devices and outlining my ideas.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

When a student feels bored or discouraged, it can be tough for both student and tutor to move forward. However, this is vital to student success. I would help the student step out of a currently frustrating environment by asking them to envision where they want to be a year from now. Three years from now. Ten years from now. Then we would work together to trace back to the current assignment, lesson or class. How does what we're working on right now affect your future down the road? What do you want to get out of this? What do you plan on learning after you've mastered this skill?

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

I would first step back and examine my own teaching strategy. If a student is trying and still not understanding something, it's generally not all the student's fault -- responsibility lies with the teacher too. I would turn to my own resources: online material covering the subject, other teachers I've previously worked with, as well as information about the particular student's age range or demographic. Understanding the student's exposure to certain information can help drastically in furthering their knowledge. I would ask the student to tell me everything they know about this topic, to assess their understanding. Then I would decide how to move forward at an accessible, comfortable pace, until we've covered what we need to cover.

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

To help students with reading comprehension, I would ask them to put the information in a different context from writing. Visualize what is happening on the page, act it out, listen to it when you read it aloud -- is it clearer when you put it in a different medium? I would also have the student attempt to simplify the writing. If we were reading Emerson, for instance, and came across a wordy, tough passage, I would ask the student to take it slow and figure out what each sentence means, one at a time. Then we could piece the bigger picture together.

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

Assessing the student's knowledge of the subject and goals for learning the subject are vital to succeeding as a teacher. It's also important to communicate boundaries and goals I want to accomplish, aligning them with what the student has told me.

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

I would try to help the student see the real-world application of the subject. Nothing zaps the fun out of learning quite like knowing you'll never actually need the information!

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

I prefer to quiz students with small questions along the way to see if they're picking up what we're discussing. I would also ask them to summarize what they've learned at the end of each session so A) I can assess what we covered and B) we know where to start during our next session.

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

Encouragement, encouragement, encouragement. Even if progress is slow or small, pointing out the successes of a student is vital. Any progress is good progress. I would let the student know what positive changes I've noticed, especially if we've worked together over several sessions. Helping a student see where they stood before and where they stand now can really boost confidence.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

First and foremost, I ask the student to identify their needs. If I am noticing something that the student did not address, I will bring it up to them: "How has [a certain teaching method] been helping you lately? How can we improve upon that? What different approaches can we try in the future?" Or I may simply point it out: "I notice you're having trouble focusing today. What can I do to help you buckle down for the rest of this session?"

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

Again, I think as soon as a student fails to retain information that's been covered repeatedly, it's time to adjust the teaching style. I would attempt to remedy this by exploring other avenues of learning. If we've been primarily reading texts and discussing them, I might try to draw diagrams of what we've covered instead. If we've been outlining an essay, then maybe we should try a different method of brainstorming. If a grammar lesson isn't getting through by diagramming sentences, then maybe we should try flashcards. I think adapting a teaching style to the needs of a student requires good listening skills, perceptiveness and willingness to try new approaches.

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

If in-person, I like to teach using whiteboards/chalkboards. I also like to have books/guides on hand: grammar books, style guides (if tutoring a journalism lesson), and writing prompts. I also have a notebook, in the event that a whiteboard isn't available. I ask that the student always bring a notebook and a writing utensil, in addition to the assignment.

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