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My experience with tutoring began with helping out juniors and seniors at the age of thirteen. I was in an Algebra II class at 13 and a pre-calculus course at 15, left me feeling awkward and out of place amongst older students; however, tutoring was my way of bonding with those students and of being accepted amongst them. This experience led me to fall in love with its positive associations and with what was overall a rewarding experience.
When my Algebra II lecturer told me she knew of a boy – he was in fifth grade and struggling heavily with mathematics – who could use a very kind and patient tutor, she asked me if I would ever consider giving professional tutoring a shot. Since then, I’ve tutored grades five through ten, helping out in elementary school mathematics, pre-algebra and Algebra, though I have tutored a little bit of Geometry.
It was incredibly rewarding to see students’ grades improving, along with their confidence and ability to both treat me as a professional and speak comfortably with me. I learned that helping build confidence was a key part to grade improvement.
I began tutoring in English at the age of 15, tutoring two eighth grade boys through their English assignments, oftentimes alongside assigned essays. I gained experience teaching different methods of brainstorming, outlining and constructing an essay, sometimes approaching it from a humorous and quirky angle. I had been taking college English courses since I was 13, passing those courses with A’s, and I had gained quite a bit of knowledge from those courses. I am also a prolific creative writer, and this helps when it comes to writing narrative essays or helping with poetry or fiction assignments. A university course that I took in my freshman year of university, however, was likely the course that taught me the most, and it has allowed me to bring fresh, helpful material to my students.
At the age of 16, I began working with an Educational Therapist. Working with an Educational Therapist has often caused me to be creative in my approaches. I’ve gained experience working with students with different ranges of learning differences, allowing me the creative freedom to come up with alternative methods of teaching. Because of the learning challenges they have experienced, many of these students feel stupid and/or set apart from their classmates. This helped me learn that confidence, and even a student’s social confidence, is a key part to improving grades, and I believe that learning alternative approaches to their work helps improve that confidence. Seeing their grades improving and becoming a more integrated part of the classroom boosts self-esteem. I’ve also learned that many students with learning differences are gifted in other areas of study; I believe that these areas of study need to be complimented and highlighted whilst areas of difficulty are being worked on.
Students need to be encouraged and taught that they are capable of raising their grades and they need to learn that they are capable of raising those grades themselves. Too many times I’ve seen students who have been ashamed to receive tutoring when many of their classmates were not, and too many times I’ve had to praise students, explaining that attending tutoring proves that they have a solid work ethic, that they’re smart about their studies and willing to learn; it also helped assuring them that I, too, have received tutoring in my past. It’s important to remain professional, but I believe a key part of tutoring is also being there for the student and providing them with a kind and patient ear. Oftentimes, I start out my sessions taking a few minutes to ask about their day and let them clear their mind before we get down to business and focus on tutoring. There is a balance between being seen as something of an authority figure but also as someone the student can be comfortable around and relate to, and as a college student, I believe that this gives me an advantage over many adults.
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