Throughout an unconventional career including newspaper journalism, graphic design, seafloor microbiology, and refining biofuels from algae, I've always done all that I can to help students and colleagues of all levels succeed. As much as I love to deepen and broaden my understanding of the natural world, I also really enjoy helping open this world up to others. I have bachelor's degrees in newspaper science and biology from Syracuse University and the University of South Florida, respectively, and a PhD in biological oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A lifelong fascination with biology has led me to learn about nearly all aspects of the subject in depth, and I am available to tutor students at the high school level or above in biological subjects, including ecology, evolution, zoology, microbiology, environmental science and oceanography as well as earth science subjects such as geology and paleontology.
I believe in student-led learning, tailoring my tutoring and teaching to each student's particular needs, understanding and enthusiasm as much as possible. Following the old adage, I endeavor to teach students 'how to fish,' rather than give them the 'fish,' or easy answers. In my experience, students retain understanding and knowledge better if I help them learn _how_ to find or reason the answers themselves. I have assisted in teaching oceanography at the graduate level, and taught microbiology at the college level. During both of those experiences, I have successfully implemented concept-based teaching methods that substantially helped students stay engaged and become more comfortable with the subject material they were trying to master. In particular, I find memorization an unhelpful tool for teaching complex subjects, as the memorized information is difficult to retain without regular use. I find students can be much more successful by learning concepts and habits of thinking, which they can later use to rediscover or reason their way to a solution as needed.
Outside of academia, I am an avid home-brewer, vegetable gardener, film buff, book worm and sea kayaker.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of South Florida-Main Campus - Bachelors, Biology, General
Graduate Degree: Massachusetts Institute of Technology - PHD, Biological Oceanography
Gardening, Kayaking, Camping, Homebrewing, Cooking
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is to use questions and discussion to assess a student's current comfort level with the material, and then use participatory examples, metaphors and concepts to help them move forward by building on their existing understanding. While I sometimes recommend memory-based tools for remembering names or concepts, I de-emphasize memorization as a learning tool and focus on concepts and visuals. All students learn best in different ways, and I think it's critical for teachers and tutors to be flexible in how material is presented and questions are answered.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I typically will first explore their difficulties with the material, their objectives in the short- and long-term (as appropriate), and, if possible, learn a bit about their preferred learning style. Then we can form a plan for moving forward together.