Creatively Effective, Deeply Experienced, & Responsive Tutor
First, my technical details: I have a Ph. D. in American Literature and Poetics, over 20 years of experience as a professor writing, literature, creative writing, critical theory and thinking, and 6 as a tutor in Northern California and online. In both, I have worked with a diverse mix of students—of varied backgrounds, ages, abilities, ambitions, and difficulties—in this country, Middle East, and other regions. Second, my passionate devotion to teaching: every student I meet engages my interest, and that engagement enables me to draw from my students a precise understanding of their singular struggles and how best to address them effectively, efficiently, and supportively. All that I help my students learn—grammar, the composition of a powerful argument or personal statement for an application, the comprehension of a difficult text, the modes of negotiating the SATs, finding their creative voice or mastering of business writing—go far beyond any single skill, for all impart methods of critical and creative thinking and writing that they will be able to carry beyond our work together into every subject they study.
As a tutor, I love the surprises every session brings: each student is a singular being, with their own way of being and thinking, gifted with originality and power, even if they may now rest, with various degrees of silence, within. By listening to my students, reading their work, helping them express ideas that they barely know they have but deeply desire to articulate, I learn as much as I teach. Even working upon something as simple—as frustrating—as grammar or essay structure involves a conceptualization that forms the ground for complex critical thinking. Watching the unique ways in which such thinking emerges from each student teaches me, sets off creative sparks that feed, in turn, my own thinking and writing.
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Frequently asked questions
What is your typical process for working with a new student?
Listening comes first: I ask each student to talk about the class, project, subject, test, or application essay upon which we will be working. From this conversation, I begin to develop a clear sense of the work to be done, of both the intellectual matters to be conquered and the student's anxieties, desires, and interests, all of which must also be faced. From there, I develop a plan—not one that attempts to solve every problem a student may have at once, but one that works by conceptual steps, each of which builds upon the one before. This does two things: first, it builds the student's confidence as they succeed at one aspect of the subject, then the next; second, it helps the student develop critical and creative thinking, as they come to understand the logic of the process, sees how we have been progressing, how each step relates to the others to form a more complex whole.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
I have a BA summa cum laude in Medieval Studies from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in American Literature and Poetics from SUNY Buffalo. I have taught writing, literature, creative writing, and critical theory on the college level for over twenty years, most recently, for ten years, at Georgetown University in Qatar. Over the last six years, I have tutored students of many ages—middle school students to adults—of all abilities in the same subjects, as well as test preparation, college application essays, philosophy, multidisciplinary senior thesis research and writing, and business writing. Students who have worked with me have raised their grades and test scores significantly, deepened their critical thinking and writing skills, advanced their careers, found their creative voices, and enhanced their self-knowledge and self-confidence.
How did you get started teaching?
My teaching began, strangely, with my restaurant work: learning to become an excellent waiter in an excellent restaurant meant learning how to let the food speak through me, how to teach my customers sensations, the pleasures the dish they were considering would give them. This meant listening to both my chefs and the food itself, then allowing the food to find the words to express its true qualities through me. At the same time, my studies in wine made me a resource for my fellow waiters: the combination of that knowledge and my growing ability to allow the wine to speak through me led the owner of my restaurant to ask me to hold weekly sessions with them to teach them about the wine list and the way different wines could be paired with particular dishes. When I left restaurant service, moved to Prague, and began teaching English, I discovered that I had only to translate the skills I had already developed into the new realm in which I was working.
What types of students have you worked with?
I have worked with students of many cultures—the Middle East; Pakistan and India; Southeast Asia, China, and Korea; Northern Africa; Eastern Europe; and the United States, Canada, and Mexico—abilities, and ages—from middle school students to adults. This includes differently abled students, such as those with dyslexia (I am myself moderately dyslexic); those who excel in Math and Science but struggle in English and Writing; those who have suddenly, for uncountable reasons, begun to struggle there or lost the ability to write; those who may never have excelled in English but simply need encouragement and a rigorous but patient tutor who will make substantive comments on their writing and draw out their hidden thoughts about their reading; those whose abilities have been suppressed by the norms of the educational system; and those who need greater challenges than their schools can give them to fully develop their creativity and critical thinking.
What advice would you give a student looking to hire a teacher in your area of expertise?
Does the teacher think she knows everything and seek to impose her knowledge upon you, or is she interested in your original ideas and in helping you develop and express them clearly, precisely, and gracefully? Does the teacher assume she fully understands the literary work you are reading and know what it means, or is she interested in your interpretation and helping you fully ground it in the text and express it through a clear, well-structured, effective argument of your own? If the answer to either question lies in the first clause, you should seek another teacher, for you desire one who will respect you, listen to you, be open to the surprise of your ideas, and patiently work to help you bring them to their finest expression.
What questions should students think through before talking to teachers about their needs?
To the extent that I can explain them, what are my difficulties in the given subject? What, to the extent that I know, do I need help with? What do I dread when contemplating a tutor—what would my nightmare tutor do, which evil anime or Marvel universe demon would she be? Conversely, what do I dream of in a tutor—what do I most hope a tutor will enable me to do, know, think, discover, become?