A great teacher must go beyond the lesson, so to speak, to ensure that his or her students have a reason to retain what they learn. Any literate person can read the information in a textbook, but it takes a special kind of person-one with a passion for teaching and the desire to teach beyond the words on the page-to have a truly positive effect on students. I have always tried to make my classes enjoyable for my students, and in turn, I have enjoyed these classes immensely.
I have been able to employ this ideal in a number of settings. I have been a full-time teacher for four years: I taught two levels of Latin at Parkway North High School, a public school in St. Louis County, Missouri; I have taught three levels of Latin (Introduction to Latin, Latin A, and Latin I), as well as enrichment courses (for 6th grade math, 7th grade English Language Arts, and Algebra I) and an SAT Prep class (for 7th graders participating in the Duke TIP) at Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan Middle School, a new magnet school in Houston Independent School District; and I have taught Latin 1A (7th grade), Latin 1B (8th grade), and Computer Technology (a 12-week elective for 6th grade) while employed by Hill Country Middle School in Eanes Independent School District. In all these classes, with students (grades 6-12) at varying levels of proficiency, I have been able to apply my philosophy toward teaching, and in all these classes I have helped my students succeed; these students met and exceeded goals I had set for them and goals they had set for themselves-some of my formerly struggling students even went on to become the first members of their family to earn a high school diploma. It is this philosophy that I would employ as a Varsity Tutor, thereby ensuring that students surpass all expectations and find success (however they may define it) in all that they do.
Undergraduate Degree: Washington University in St Louis - Bachelors, Classics
Graduate Degree: Washington University in St Louis - Masters, Teaching
SAT Composite (1600 scale): 1570
SAT Math: 780
SAT Verbal: 770
SAT Writing: 770
GRE Quantitative: 770
GRE Verbal: 670
AP Latin: 5
AP English Language: 4
AP US History: 4
SAT Mathematics Level 2: 760
AP Music Theory: 4
SAT Subject Test in Mathematics Level 1: 760
music, sports, movies, cooking
What is your teaching philosophy?
A great teacher must “go beyond the lesson,” so to speak, to ensure that his or her students have a reason to retain what they learn. I had a 9th grade English teacher insist that the purpose of education was “to get the jokes,” and he proved this point by having us watch an episode of The Simpsons based on Golding’s Lord of the Flies (after we had read the novel, of course). My 11th grade physics teacher used his experience in martial arts to explain the scientific principles behind breaking blocks of wood and concrete; he then demonstrated this feat. In 12th grade my Latin teacher drew parallels between the poetry of Catullus and a then-popular song by James Blunt. I have no doubt that lessons like these made all of my fellow students want to learn; in addition to this, such lessons made me want to teach. Not only were these teachers doing their job by spreading knowledge to young minds, it was patently obvious that they genuinely enjoyed what they did. I found this incredibly inspiring. This is the philosophy I take toward teaching. Any literate person can read the information in a textbook, but it takes a special kind of person—one with a passion for teaching and the desire to teach beyond the words on the page—to have a truly positive effect on students. I have always tried to make my classes enjoyable for my students, and in turn, I have enjoyed these classes immensely. I have learned an invaluable lesson in instruction thanks to the example of my outstanding teachers.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In my first session, I like to get to know the student, and have the student get to know me; it is important to establish a friendship, partnership, and rapport before setting out on our journey to success. It is also important for me to discuss, with parent and student present, what our goals are, so we know what to accomplish.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Tutoring and teaching are not simply a transfer of information; rather, my goal is to teach all of my students how to think critically and develop problem-solving skills, which will be useful not only in academic settings, but also in the "real world." Like the old age, if you give a man a fish, he has food for a day; teach him how to fish, and he has food for the rest of his life.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Once we've established a goal, a visual representation of that goal is a great way to motivate. For example, simply having an eraser or a beverage koozie with the logo of a certain college may serve as a constant reminder of that toward which we're working. It's also important to recognize progress, so we can remember how far we've come.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
It's always easier to learn things incrementally. Looking at the component parts of a concept, we can achieve it bit by bit. Additionally, it is helpful to connect a seemingly difficult skill to something we can already do, and work from there.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reflective reading is very important. We've all had that happen to us, when we've been looking at the same page for minutes and haven't taken in any information. Pausing at each paragraph (or sizeable chunk) and asking ourselves information-based and deeper questions, coupled with note-taking and highlighting, can help us identify and remember important information that we've read.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
We need to treat learning as a fun and enjoyable adventure/journey. A student already spends 40 hours a week in a school; adding more of that isn't helping anybody.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
My level of energy and unique sense of humor help me make learning fun, even with a seemingly dull subject. Also, having a good bead on a student's interests can help find links between that and our difficult subject. Finally, reinforcing the real-world applications of these disciplines can help us see the importance of powering through our issue areas.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
There are multiple methods of learning information: seeing, hearing, doing, etc. But the best way to RETAIN information is to teach it. Having the student explain a concept in his/her own words demonstrates without a doubt that the understanding is there.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Recognizing all progress and achievement, no matter how small, with words of encouragement, a high-five, or some trinket (like a piece of candy--everyone loves candy), serves as a huge confidence boost.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
That first meeting with parent(s) and student helps us diagnose our needs and develop a plan toward success.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Adaptability is key as a classroom teacher. Tailoring a lesson to many learners at multiple levels with different methods of learning is sometimes difficult. One-on-one, however, it's easy to see what works (and was doesn't), so we can focus on those strategies that help most.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Pen, pencil, paper, highlighter, calculator, textbook, notepad, loose-leaf paper, worksheets, technology--all these are our friends in tutoring.