I am pleased to offer my services through the VarsityTutors program. This opportunity to work with students is very much in line with my original interest in teaching and service. My motivation began more than 30 years ago as an adjunct instructor teaching business communication at Tulsa Junior College. That experience, and an interest in politics sparked by 13 years growing up and going to schools in the Middle East, Nigeria and Spain, contributed to my pursuit of a career in education.
I graduated from the University of Tulsa with a journalism degree. I put that education to work as a newspaper business writer, advertising director, and in corporate employee and public relations. In the early-1990's I earned my Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and took a position as a budget analyst for the Tennessee governor's office. I then returned to the University of Tennessee as a doctoral student and instructor, and earned my Ph.D. in political science in 1998. Since then, I served on the faculty at the University of Tennessee, the University of New Hampshire, and Northeastern State University in Oklahoma.
As a faculty member, I taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in political science and public administration (for a detailed list, please see my vita on this website). In addition to developing and teaching those classes, I particularly enjoyed personalizing teaching/learning materials and/or working with students with learning differences. I was also responsible for student advising, directing student internships, extra-curricular efforts to help students with formal writing and research, resume writing, job search assistance and advice, and more.
As a VarsityTutor, I am pleased to offer my knowledge, skills, and experience to help students achieve their learning goals. Thank you for your consideration.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Tulsa - Bachelors, Journalism
Graduate Degree: The University of Tennessee - PHD, Political Science and Government
Reading, tennis, scuba diving, travel, going to the beach.
College Political Science
High School Political Science
High School Writing
Study Skills and Organization
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is derived largely from my experience as a younger student, a working professional, a graduate student/"educator-in-training," and a practicing assistant professor of political science. That experience suggests that, as a teacher, I should try to encourage a relaxed learning environment that is open to active participation, and in which goals, course objectives, and expectations are clearly presented and understood by my students. As a teacher, I try to avoid the pitfall of under- or overestimating the learning maturity and life experience of students. My memory tells me that, for some students, a structured, controlled learning environment may be the best vehicle for learning, and puts me in the position of being a "director" serving as the source of guidance and information about a particular subject, and leading the way through the "fog". However, the education setting also includes students with different attributes: many with a record of life or work experience, more or less self-motivation, more or less self-direction. For them, I would hope my role would be as a resource providing an opportunity for active discussion and applied learning activities [rather than passive absorption] that helps them to use and share their own knowledge and skills to develop a better understanding of a particular subject area. I make every effort to incorporate current, relevant material in my teaching, and my goal is to make this material relevant to the everyday life of each student in my class. I like to work toward creating a learning environment in which students can apply what is being discussed and understand how it can be used in everyday life. As a teacher/tutor, I work to make historical facts "come to life" in the student's comprehension of today's environment. At another level, I try to help students make the necessary connections between abstract theory and concepts, and day-to-day practice. My experience also suggests that students learn for their own reasons. For some, it is to fulfill a curriculum-based requirement they must complete if they are to proceed in their educational and later careers. Others may have a personal desire to enhance their understanding of a subject and learn to use the material in their own lives. In any case, I feel that I am responsible to respect each of them as individuals, to do my best to provide an environment that treats each individual fairly and presents goals and objectives clearly, and, ultimately, to encourage them as independent "learners."
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I make every effort to incorporate current, relevant material in my teaching, and my goal is to make this material relevant to the everyday life of each student in my class. I like to work toward creating a learning environment in which students can apply what is being discussed and understand how it can be used in everyday life. As a teacher/tutor, I work to make historical facts "come to life" in the student's comprehension of today's environment. At another level, I try to help students make the necessary connections between abstract theory and concepts, and day-to-day practice. My experience also suggests that students learn for their own reasons. For some, it is to fulfill a curriculum-based requirement they must complete if they are to proceed in their educational and later careers. Others may have a personal desire to enhance their understanding of a subject and learn to use the material in their own lives. In any case, I feel that I am responsible to respect each of them as individuals, to do my best to provide an environment that treats each individual fairly and presents goals and objectives clearly, and, ultimately, to encourage them as independent "learners."
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
The basic answer is that people tend to learn concepts when they are presented in terms that begin with the most basic knowledge about a skill or concept, and then add more complex details/information as each level of knowledge is absorbed/learned. The degree to which those steps are broken down and presented is set with an understanding of their learning differences.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
In my view, a key responsibility of a teacher/tutor is to try to gain insight into how each student learns/comprehends information differently. Reading comprehension can be difficult for any number of reasons: reading level, familiarity with a subject, information processing issues, and more. Figuring out what is complicating that ability to absorb information can help provide answers to helping students who struggle with this kind of issue. Once that is determined, a variety of approaches can be developed to help students overcome the obstacle.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
This is a time to identify the details of the challenges a student confronts, their background in the topic area, any prior work they've done on this subject, and their goals/objectives to be achieved with tutoring assistance. Once those details are established, it helps for me to provide the student with my initial thoughts on approaches to overcoming any issues in this subject area and discuss their ideas on how their learning style can best be served with tutoring help. This information helps me to work with the student to develop the best approaches to enhancing their learning about a particular subject.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
In my experience, clearly explaining my expectations based on the student's goals and objectives is the first step toward motivating them toward successful learning. The second step is recognizing their achievements as they progress in their curriculum. Ultimately, when a student is aware their efforts are what moves them toward achieving their goals, motivation tends to follow.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I have found that two-way communication is key to success. Encouraging students to describe their goals/objectives, their past experience in particular subject areas, the particular obstacles they've confronted with the subject area, and the nature of their prior learning experience in this subject area is a great starting point. Then, working with students to establish their learning styles, develop confidence in their ability to learn the material, and clearly define how their goals and objectives can be achieved helps lay the path for an individualized teaching/learning environment.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
From my experience, helping students grasp why a subject is actually relevant to their lives and their ability to understand the world around them is a starting point. Then, working with students to define their learning styles/differences, and helping them overcome obstacles they've experienced in a subject area can provide them with the expectation that they can succeed.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I think this will depend on the particular student. Generally, I am convinced it is far more important that students learn how to think rather than what to think. Depending on a student's goals/objectives, objective testing may be the needed tool. For others, subjective assessment from discussion about subject matter may be the needed tool. Or, using essay question approaches may better tap the student's understanding of material.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
In my experience, successful progress toward personal goals is a great confidence builder. Whatever their learning differences, students should be encouraged that their goals are in reach, that together the student/tutor can define and work toward success, and that students should be recognized for their progress.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Elements of this assessment are based on the student's goals/objectives. I also try to assess a student's prior experience in a subject, reasons for any obstacles they may have confronted in their earlier exposure to the subject, or any other insight into their learning style/differences. As we go through the tutoring process, a student's progress also serves as an assessment of our success/difficulty with defining and addressing their learning needs.