A photo of Debra, a tutor from Carnegie Mellon University

Debra

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I have been teaching Chemistry at the college level at a variety of colleges in support of various health and engineering programs since 2003. At Apollo (Carrington) College, I taught Chemistry for the Dental Hygiene program.

At DeVry, I taught three chemistry courses in support of the Clinical Laboratory Scientist program, at ASU and Scottsdale Community College, I taught majors organic chemistry to pre-med, pre-vet, pre-PA, and pre-pharm students. At Glendale Community College I teach Fundamental Chemistry. At Grand Canyon University, from 2011-2015, I taught and was course lead for General Chemistry I and II for pre-med, forensic science, and engineering disciplines as well as Fundamental Chemistry for the nursing program.

I enjoyed teaching CHM101 (nearly identical to high school chemistry) and putting a friendly face on Chemistry for so many of whom might otherwise be dreadful of the subject; and I teach in a manner that anticipates the way students think, offering strategies and approaches that can be applied to many situations.

Not only have I taught Chemistry for over a decade, I have practiced it in the pharmaceutical industry (in development of an ultra pure standard for a co-compound of Cylastatin (antibiotic) at Merck and Company, Danville, PA in 1989; as part of the team to develop the first HIV vaccine, Crixivan, at Merck Sharp and Dohme Research Labs in the early 1990's); and in the food and beverage industry as director of Quality Assurance (Three Rivers Bottling 1998 and Nutracea 2007).

I am prepared to take on the challenge of mentoring young learners with insight into the thought process, interpretation hurdles, and problem-solving 'traps' that accompany learning science and Chemistry in particular. I am excited to draw upon her repertoire and offer it to the enthused, eager young minds.

Debra’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Carnegie Mellon University - Bachelors, Chemistry

Graduate Degree: University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus - PHD, Chemistry

Hobbies

decorating and gardening

Tutoring Subjects

Algebra

AP Chemistry

Chemistry

College Chemistry

High School Chemistry

IB Chemistry

Math

Science


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

Over the years of teaching chemistry, my greatest challenge has been not as much the conveying of subject material as it has been the convincing of students that chemistry is valuable knowledge. I have had students with career goals including that of firefighter, forest ranger, nurse, physical therapist, physician assistant, dentist, M.D., architect, early childhood educator, and biomedical engineer. As you can see, this covers a broad range of interests. Motivating students to see the bearing that chemistry has on their specific field is a common occurrence. One of the first things I like to do is ascertain the fields of interest within my class so that I may seek out applicable examples for use during lecture. I strive to use analogies that will spark interest in and portray purpose to a general audience. With this newly found relevance and hence new disposition, students are more responsive to a subject that they once deemed both grueling and unnecessary. This is not to say, however, that the material becomes easy to learn. It still requires hard work. Learning chemistry takes both commitment and confidence. Because students have made the decision to come to college and/or to undertake the necessary coursework to meet the qualifications for a degree, the commitment part is usually implicit. The confidence, however, is not as forthcoming. Chemistry is unique in that it unfortunately has been stigmatized as being ‘impossible,’ causing a large percentage of students to approach the subject with trepidation. I seek to foster a confidence that will allay these fears by persistently drawing upon the students' prior knowledge while demonstrating how they can build upon an existing foundation which is all their own. I discourage memorization and instead promote the use of resources. Access to resources ranging from the Periodic Table to books of tables such as the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics to colleagues, and even Google, frees the student's mind from the chore of accumulating facts and permits focus on the heart of the problem or concept. It is this type of critical thinking that builds confidence, inspires creativity, and spurs a drive for more knowledge. There's a great feeling of pride when one has grasped an intellectual concept or solved an intricate problem because of the intrinsic value that lies within the ability to succeed. I take reward in preparing students to succeed confidently.

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

Ascertain their level of Chemistry. Inquire as to the major area of issue. Gain information on my client's understanding. Make a plan to address any gaps and discuss goals.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I teach areas of most common mistakes and methods of building autonomy into problem-solving and content learning.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I draw upon their current background and make small stretches in increments to build confidence and success.

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

I have the student ask me a question so as to determine where the confusion lies. If it seems that there is only a small detail, then I would address only that part and keep moving. If it seems that there is need to repeat or start from an earlier point, then I would do that.

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

I teach students cues to look for and how to 'go after' the key pieces of information efficiently.

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

Always, finding out the background knowledge, and building bridges from that to the current content.

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

I would seek to demonstrate how the skills apply to the field of study they wish to pursue.

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

I watch students solve a problem from start to finish, beginning with reading and interpreting the question to carrying out all steps of the solution and then explaining their rationale.

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

I work problems along with the student and confirm correct answers. This is very rewarding and instant for the student.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

It is a mixture of observing, listening during one on one sessions and getting feedback on test performance, etc.

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

Again, I watch the student demonstrate his/her understanding by carrying out problem solving steps. I look for areas of hesitation or confusion.

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

I use what the student is currently working on or struggling with.