My parents instilled in me the understanding that hard work, with a bit of good luck, is the secret to being both happy and successful. I have always tried to live by that notion and, to date, have no real regrets.
I have always committed myself fully to the endeavors that I feel were important in my life. I am proud to have been successful in academics, having received a masters in the life sciences, as well as a degree in medicine followed by a successful and rewarding career in emergency medicine. I know the value of study and education.
I have had the pleasure to be in teaching situations in several arenas. While in graduate school, I worked for the NC state park system for several years as an environmental educator. I was also a teaching assistant at NC State University at the same time. While in medical residency, I was responsible for the teaching of those in classes below me, both in the clinic and on hospital patient rounds. I also have experience teaching, at the high school level, in a private school in Raleigh, North Carolina. I have always enjoyed these experiences.
From another perspective, it has always been clear to me that some of the most important influences in my life have been my teachers. I am very excited for opportunities to teach French or Spanish. I have a home in Brittany and I spend my summers there. I have also travelled extensively in Spain, Mexico, Central America and South America.
Undergraduate Degree: UNC - Bachelors, Biology, General
Graduate Degree: North Carolina State University at Raleigh - Masters, Ecology
Languages, Photography, Art, Fitness, Nature
What is your teaching philosophy?
My experience, both as a student and as a teacher, has taught me that the secret to learning is the "desire" to learn. Some students are motivated by grades, some are motivated by family or responsibility. There also exists a large group of students who question the value or "need" to learn a particular thing. It may not be a subject that interests them or, perhaps they question the utility of a particular knowledge base. My favorite teachers have always been those who know how to make a subject relevant or even enjoyable. I had this issue in high school, with math and physics. Why should I care about vectors, statistics, derivatives, and load forces? My good teachers were able to demonstrate that, although not used, as such, on a daily basis, these concepts are critical in problem-solving. Why is it easier to jack up a car with a longer handle on the jack? Why does a car burn more gas with acceleration or at high speed? Just an awareness of these issues improves our thinking. Knowledge needs to be relative to a student's needs and interests. Whether it be math, language or science, knowledge and awareness contribute to the ease and enjoyment of our lives. I am often asked if I feel like I wasted time earning a master's in life science before becoming a physician. My answer is always that my life has been enriched by my understanding of how the world works and by my great pleasure of being a part of it. It makes me a better citizen and a better person. I could go on as to how success in learning relates to a "reward-based" culture, or how it contributes to self-esteem, self-confidence, etc. My basic approach is to make learning relevant. It is also the case that many students don't know how to learn. It is important, in education, to emphasize thinking; to allow the student an opportunity, not just to memorize material, but to think through the questions and discover things for themselves.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Students are motivated in different ways. Primarily, I think that students need to feel that they are making progress and that they are "getting it". I would anticipate discussing with my students how they feel about their progress or their lack of progress. I would investigate how this learning makes them feel about themselves and about their lives, in general. Some students respond well to simple rewards, verbal kudos or "attaboys". Many take pride in their new knowledge and their new abilities in once troubling subjects. Relating motivation to success can be a productive cycle.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
It is basic to find out why a student is having trouble with a skill or concept. Is there a basic knowledge deficit that is preventing further learning? Some students are better abstract thinkers than others. Is there a way to redefine the material in a more concrete or relative way? Is there a motivation problem? Is there, perhaps, something in the pupil's life which is distracting or interfering with concentration? The way to intercede when a student is having trouble is dependent on the cause. No fix works in all situations. Address the cause first.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Again, this may be a cause/effect situation. Is this a new problem? Are the student's abilities on a level with the new demands? A teacher needs to recognize the limits of his teaching abilities. Depending on the circumstance, I would enlist the advice of a qualified professional.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
It is important to establish the student's needs and expectations at the outset. What does the student want from me? Following that, I will attempt to establish the student's strong and weak points, using his strengths, where useful, to overcome his weaknesses. Does the student have trouble only with French grammar, or is this person having trouble in other classes? We need to establish realistic goals and to recognize when these goals are being achieved. I need to be sensitive to the feelings of the student and to look for feedback often, especially early on.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
As mentioned earlier, it is vital to relate current challenges to future success. It is very important to make the material relative and meaningful. Recognizing and rewarding achievement, no matter how small, is also very important for some students as motivation toward further success.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Does the student feel comfortable with the new material? Is he/she able to repeat the concepts in his/her own words? I have, on occasion, asked students to teach me back what they have just learned. This accomplishes several important things. In addition to satisfying my concern that they have, indeed, learned the material, it reinforces the concept and, thereby, cements the concept in a more personal way. It also builds his confidence for new material going forward.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
A student's needs are often evident. Sometimes the lessons are quite regimented or scripted and the needs are clear. Often, students can very well articulate their needs. By measuring the student's' progress on a regular basis, the needs are often easy to assess.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
One must be ready when accepting the responsibility to teach to recognize one's own abilities. Some approaches work better with some students than with others. Some subjects are more fact-based. Some are more thought-based. Some require memorization, while others require an understanding of concepts and interpretation. The learning of these different materials will require different approaches.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
This depends largely on the subject. In language learning, I believe that repetition and practice are paramount. Exercises, either written or spoken, are helpful. In biology, I have used drawings to identify features of the material in question. Some students are visual learners. Presenting concepts visually can be helpful.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Early on, I would attempt to determine the needs and expectations of the student and family. Then, after discovering what subject material is in question, I will discover where on the gradient the student is. We will mutually establish goals and the learning pace of the student. I would anticipate discovering how the student learns best. It would also be of some value to learn what subjects come easily to this student, and why. The same applies to those subjects with which the pupil struggles. What are the student's interests outside of school? Can they be made relevant to the subject at hand? Following this first meeting, I would also make every effort to reinforce any weaknesses in my own knowledge base to assure that I am up to the challenges and responsibilities that I will face.