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Sarah Buckalew
Personal Statement

In Haiti, I worked with local teachers to create a more self-sustainable education system. In Biloxi, Mississippi I helped rebuild vital infrastructure (disaster relief) and spread goodwill. My mission was to learn about these people and places, but also to more deeply understand how cultural differences inform world views. I stayed open-minded and was tolerant of their different culture, which yielded better results. I am a traveler at heart, yet the destination is not as important as the mission I am charged with completing.
My hope and dreams of being an educator and speaking Mandarin, Chinese started when I was sixteen. I began taking college courses my sophomore year of high school and, because of that, graduated college at age 20. I participated in many humanitarian activities like starting a fundraiser for CARE International at 16 by myself, but focused on learning the language and improving myself through education. I am dedicated to what I believe in, and I have met my goal of ten years: becoming fluent. This is one reason why I was the youngest Peace Corps volunteer out of 86 who were chosen to serve.
Although I love adventure, I am also realistic and reliable. Many experiences have helped me mature and formed my character in a positive way. I was humbled by the refugees and immigrants whom I taught ESL to as a Columbus Literacy Council volunteer. I realized how privileged I was, and found I had a talent for teaching. I was part of an accounting summer program for minorities, including women, at OSU in 2010. It taught me that our past doesn't dictate our future. We can change our outcome, society, and the world through hard work, dedication, and a positive mindset. It also challenged me to reach my full potential.
Volunteering in third world countries also gave me perspective. I appreciate what I've been blessed with so much more now. There were frustrating moments at times, specifically when my students didn't want to learn English, but I could speak to him or her in their own language. When I was in Haiti, just taking time to interact with the school children made a huge impact on them. To someone who has very little, personal relationships are incredibly important. Both the Haiti Empowerment Project and my work in Liangshan, Sichuan, as a volunteer teacher, are ongoing projects to foster self-sustainability and create dialogue. The students and civilians know they can invest in me, because I invest in them.
After my college-affiliated study abroad and service trips, and my Peace Corps experience, I was not satisfied. I doubt I can ever be truly satisfied until I do the best that I can. Because of that, I returned to the Yi minority regions in Liangshan, Sichuan province. I have continued altruistic endeavors and understood the people more, and what I can do to help them. Promoting multicultural understanding and being an advocate of the poor are two things I strongly believe in.
Because of my advanced skills at speaking Mandarin, I can break the language barrier between Chinese and Americans. Roughly one in five people are ethnically Chinese. Mandarin is the common language of the second largest country, and citizens of Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, and other neighboring regions also speak Mandarin. A citizen, who is bilingual in Mandarin and English, such as myself, can theoretically communicate with more than half of the world's population. Many cities in China are growing at an incredible rate. The push for modernization and ongoing development will not stop, and will need experts in Mandarin to help this growth. China will constantly be looking towards America, not only as a trading and business partner, but also will constantly evaluate our policies and those policies' repercussions.
Being bilingual in Mandarin and English means I am in high demand for China related careers. Studying the traditional Yi mediator's political structure, and the modern political structure in Sichuan, I will have understood the way policy in Liangshan, Sichuan functions. I can also better predict the intentions of Chinese counterparts. In graduate school, I have taken several courses in Chinese on Chinese perspectives and negotiating in Chinese. With this knowledge, I can predict Chinese politician's real intentions and form strategies based on those intentions.
I believe my calling is to do youth development and help young people discover what they want. I want to guide them, like so many great teachers have guided me. My first Chinese teacher gave me the confidence and encouragement to pursue Chinese in advanced courses, and thanks to her I have now received a Master's in Chinese studies. Also, I want to maintain a healthy environment for my students to grow in, and provide them with support and guidance.
I am successful when my students respond to challenging material with strength and conviction. This means I have ignited an interest to learn difficult material and pursue the answers with further questioning and research. I know when I am successfully teaching when students can answer each question correctly, can reference the educational resource where they found the answer, and go above and beyond by mentioning something further about the topic. In other words, I have taught students well when they master the content.
I want only good outcomes for my students. I want them to have confidence in their abilities and skills. I want them to feel empowered. I hope that they can critically think and make connections and patterns in their work, that goes beyond my teaching field and curricula. To attain these outcomes, I have created supportive learning environments.
Supportive environments are created when students are provided with clear guidance, listened to, and respected. In my classroom, no one can judge, badmouth, or disrespect others. If so, they have consequences such as not participating in activities or being asked to leave for a short time. I never criticize students, never shame them, and never raise my voice at them. Instead I try to encourage them to do their best, and tell detailed reasons as to how they should improve their work.
Hands on learning and repetitive practice are good strategies I have used in my teaching. I have also tried to use immersion, since I teach English as a Foreign Language. Students need to remember vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, etc. If they use rote memorization this becomes boring quickly. I like to play games, introduce challenging tasks, and force them to think in their second or third language. This helps them structure sentences differently and is highly effective.
To teach, one also must learn. My learning goals include learning how to engage shy or introverted students. Students have a wide range of expectations and skills. My goal is to reach every student in a way that validates their learning style and needs.
To be an effective and skilled teacher, I must collaborate with both students and my colleagues. I collaborated with fellow volunteers to create exemplary course content and share ideas and tasks. Later a TEFL supervisor checked it and gave me feedback. I also collaborated with Chinese teachers to better understand how to cover material that would be on English tests. Otherwise, I would be teaching interesting content, but said content would not help students achieve and pass mandatory tests. I am okay with giving up authority and control to help my students succeed and get good jobs in the future.
When I first became a teacher, I had little experience and worked very hard to become a competent instructor. Now, I have taught for four years and feel I have mastered teaching language. My students have gone on to become tour guides, workers in the hotel industry, and veterinary physicians. Some have done a work-study program in the States. My native fluency in English has given them more of an advantage, and they are better prepared to work abroad or for foreign companies. I am very proud of my students and what they have accomplished.

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Sarah’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: The Ohio State University - Bachelor in Arts, Chinese Studies

Graduate Degree: The Ohio State University - Master of Arts, Chinese Studies


reading, studying

Tutoring Subjects


Fiction Writing


Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese 1

Mandarin Chinese 2

Mandarin Chinese 3

Mandarin Chinese 4

Middle School Writing

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