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Teaching is an important part of my life. I recently retired after 20 years of teaching elementary students with learning disabilities. I was able to develop a strong relationship with my students by working with them in small groups over several years. I often had to play the role of detective as I attempted to uncover skill deficits that made their learning difficult.
I began my teaching career fresh out of college as an English teacher in a high school in McMinnville, Tennessee. I loved teaching what I loved so much--reading and writing--but I was concerned that so many of my students lacked basic reading and writing skills. I left that teaching job to go to graduate school and earn my master's degree in English. Rather than returning to the classroom after graduate school, I spent 9 years as a writer/editor at the Nashville Banner and Vanderbilt's Alumni Publications. It was while I was writing a story about a special education study at Peabody College that I got the urge to go back to the classroom as a special education teacher. I'm looking forward to using my teaching and writing skills as a tutor in this next phase of my life.

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Mary’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Univeristy of the South - Bachelors, English

Graduate Degree: University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa - Masters, English

Graduate Degree: Bandervilt University - Masters, Special Education


hiking, reading, gardening, kayaking

Tutoring Subjects

American Literature

College English

College Level American Literature


Essay Editing

High School English

High School Level American Literature

High School Writing


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

My philosophy is that most people love to learn unless there is an obstacle, such as a skills deficit. The teacher is responsible for the student's learning, and if there is a skills deficit, a good teacher addresses it so that the student can learn the material.

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

In the first session, I would evaluate the student's strengths and deficits in relation to the tutoring area. Together, with the student, I would come up with objectives we would work toward in the tutoring sessions.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I can help a student become an independent learner by actively involving him or her in the tutoring process by sharing baseline assessment data and learning objectives. As tutoring progresses, the student will be given more responsibilities outside the tutoring sessions.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I would help a student stay motivated by varying the types of teaching methods, choosing those the student prefers. I would also begin each session with a review of the progress made thus far in the tutoring sessions.

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

I would determine what underlying skill deficit is making the learning difficult. It might mean reteaching a basic skill from earlier learning. I would then model mastering the problem by utilizing that skill.

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

I would use the guided reading approach in which students read aloud with me, stopping to answer questions about the text. I would also use the graphic organizer using who, what, when, where, and why.

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

I like to find the skill deficit that is hindering his or her learning and begin work to correct that.

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

I would get them involved from the very beginning in knowing their strengths and deficits. We would chart these through graphs and continually update them to show progress.

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

Working one-on-one would enable me to use observation as a tool, but I would also rely on periodic and short tests to gauge their understanding.

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

I think confidence is created initially through a warm and trusting relationship with the tutor. As the student's mastery of the subject grows, so also does his or her confidence.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

From the beginning, I rely on the information that tutor gives me and from there, I proceed to my observations of their strengths and deficits based on their work and test scores.

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

I would adapt to the students' needs in different ways, including the choice of materials we use, the pace of the lesson, and the number of breaks we take during the lesson.

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

I begin with diagnostic tests to determine skill levels. For reading, I use books categorized by reading levels, workbooks, and graphic organizers. For writing, I use graphic organizers. For both reading and writing, I use computer generated programs in addition to paper and pencil tasks.

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