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Don M.

UCSD grad, credentialed English teacher, published author, editor

Orinda, CA (94563)

Travel radius
16 miles
Hourly fee
$45.00
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I have a current California credential for English, and am an experienced, caring teacher. My degrees are in public speaking and English literature, as well as my M.A. in Education. You may notice I have qualified with Wyzant in most of the humanities; that is because I am a lifelong student and love to learn about many subjects. I am also a professional writer and editor of both fiction (mostly historical) and non-fiction (mostly business, education and travel), and can provide samples and testimonials for both. Most importantly, I really want every person I help, whether child or adult, to succeed and enjoy the fruits of his or her efforts. I am patient and encouraging, and try to make learning fun. As a credentialed teacher, I have current background checks on file with two school districts.

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Don’s subjects

ACT English

As a college applicant, I scored in the 99th percentile in all English disciplines. Reading and non-fiction writing skills (especially essays) are not magical, they involve a logical process which can be taught by a knowledgeable and patient instructor. In addition to comprehension and analytical skills for both fiction and non-fiction, I give a strong focus to vocabulary and understanding of syntax because those are the basic tools of good reading. General punctuation will also be stressed, because a strong command of punctuation is important to understand the important elements of each sentence and the relationship of the phrases.

ACT Reading

As a college applicant, I scored in the 99th percentile in all English disciplines. Reading skills are not magical, they involve a logical process which can be taught by a knowledgeable and patient instructor. In addition to comprehension and analytical skills for both fiction and non-fiction, I give a strong focus to vocabulary and understanding of syntax because those are the basic tools of good reading. General punctuation will also be included, because a strong command of punctuation is important to understand the important elements of each sentence and the relationship of the phrases.

ADD/ADHD

I had some issues with ADD as a young student, and my son had ADHD. My son went through the Orinda school system, which is very demanding academically. When I took my master’s degree in education, I did several research projects on ADD/ADHD and other learning disabilities. That knowledge helped me tremendously when teaching students who had those and other learning challenges. Being aware of those challenges and knowing how to adapt lessons and teaching modalities to accommodate them is a huge step in helping the student to succeed.

ASVAB

The ASVAB is probably the most comprehensive test I've encountered. Other than a few direct math problems, however, most of the questions revolve around a knowledge of English comprehension and reasoning. Clearly, a knowledge of auto mechanics and science is a great help, but some of the answers can be figured out through logic -- assuming understanding of the question and possible answers. In that sense, it's much like the GED. While not an expert in science and mechanics (my son is a mechanic), I know enough to help. More importantly, I know how to take and teach this type of test so that a passing grade can be obtained. Having been in the Army myself, I know that your MOS (Military Occupational Specialty; or rating in the Navy) is more a matter of interest than prior knowledge, so you should be able to get into the MOS you love the most.

CBEST

The CBEST is a lot like the GED. In order to enroll in a teacher education program, I not only had to take the CBEST, but pass two very long and difficult tests, the PRAXIS and the SSAT. Since that time, those latter two tests have been replaced by one that is shorter and, I am told, much easier: the CSET. As a teacher in adult education programs, I was responsible for both standard high school subjects and the GED for those who did not wish to complete their diploma courses. While the math and reading components of both the CBEST and GED are fairly basic, many students who fail do not pass the written portion. While I am certainly competent in math and reading, writing is actually my strongest suit, and where I can absolutely help any student improve their skills.

Classics

As a student of both history and literature (B.A. in English and Comparative Literature), I have a strong academic knowledge of classic literature from Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" to Ovid's "Metamorphoses" to the Norse story of "Beowulf". I have taught these subjects, written essays on them, and studied the mythology behind them. However, a scholar cannot separate the actual history of those and other civilizations, from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt to as far west as Mesoamerica, if he or she is to truly appreciate the classics. Now I even write historical fiction novels on such broad topics as the Eastern Roman Empire and Elizabethan England.

College Counseling

After advising countless students regarding both the options of formal education after high school and how to succeed at the higher level, I wrote several articles published on Yahoo! Voices on the subject. Regarding options, I will state that I do not advise every young person to attend a 4-year university, or necessarily a large, prestigious university if that is their direction. I think the key to success in any endeavor – education, career, relationships, etc. – is happiness. If you are happy with your choice, you stand a much greater chance of enjoying success. That’s why, to me, the art of advising students as they progress past high school is more about helping them find a “fit” to their desires than it is about recommending a specific path. Sometimes, small, specialized colleges will work best. Sometimes, a technical school or an apprenticeship program might be called for. For whatever option the student chooses, there are then things they should strongly consider in order to prepare for that challenge and to practice while they are matriculating.

English

As a credentialed and experienced English teacher, I am extremely knowledgeable of all technical aspects of the language. I also have a degree in public speaking, and can be of great assistance with spoken English. As a writer and editor, I'm also very familiar with some of the finer nuances of both fiction and non-fiction. My background includes both practical knowledge of reading and writing in business for more than 20 years as well as my academic knowledge. I truly love to help all students gain the same skills that I have worked for during my life.

ESL/ESOL

I have taught ESL for both school-age and adult learners. That includes speaking, reading and writing. My training for teaching credentials included knowledge of and sensitivity to those with special needs, including non-native speakers. Whether for school, business, or social purposes, I am an experienced teacher.

European History

History is more than just memorizing names and dates. It is a relationship between the people, their complete culture, their physical environment, and how all of that impacts the rest of the world or is impacted by the rest of the world. I have studied as many aspects of European history as I can, including religion, literature, politics, geography, art, and so on, in order to better understand the people and events that shaped the course of their society. I have learned how one civilization or time period affected those that came afterward. Having traveled extensively throughout Europe and having written numerous travel articles, I can combine my academic studies with practical knowledge of the history of Europe, and how that history relates to the rest of the world.

GED

I taught GED skills at the Mt. Diablo Adult Education Center, and to my own son here at home. My students have all passed. Regardless of whom you choose as a tutor, I suggest you start increasing your vocabulary right now, today. That is a critical component of the GED, as I’d be happy to explain if you select me to help you.

Grammar

As an English teacher, I had to pass some rigorous tests measuring grammar and syntax. These are interlinked, but not the same. Syntax is the order in which we place the words to convey an exact meaning. (“I do like you” is totally different from “Do I like you”, especially without the punctuation!) Grammar is more a knowledge of the various parts of speech and how to conjugate (modify) the words depending on certain references, such as timeframe and relationship, in order to make the meaning perfectly clear.

There is also the element of “perceived correctness”, which distinguishes “educated” from “colloquial” speech or writing patterns. Now, as both a writer and editor, I deal with these issues on a daily basis from a practical standpoint, as opposed to the somewhat more academic viewpoint I took as a teacher. Thus, for both speaking and writing, and for academic usage or fiction, I am happy to be of help for all students.

ISEE

Regardless of which of the three levels of the ISEE your child is taking, it is probably the first comprehensive test in their life. One of the challenges of the ISEE will be the timed sections, and the overall length of approximately 2-1/2 hours, which is a long time for a child to sit, in addition to possible anxiety. Other than the math section, the other four revolve around language: verbal and quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, and essay writing. Fortunately, the art of test taking can be taught so that the stress level is greatly reduced. My approach is to combine general knowledge materials, especially vocabulary and syntax, with sample ISEE questions, including timing practice responses, in order to increase both skills and confidence. This is also an excellent time to teach basic test-taking techniques, which include time management. I have taught those skills to many students. I know how to help!

Literature

As a life-long lover of literature, I have read thousands of novels, shorts stories and poems from all cultures. My B.A. is in English and Comparative Literature from UC San Diego. As a teacher, fiction writer and critiquer, I have learned a great deal about the art of understanding and interpreting literature. I have written essays and lesson plans on how to understand literature and write essays on the subject. Good literature is a reflection of life and the human experience, and I love to share my knowledge of the written word.

Marketing

Marketing is the overall term for any individual or business attempting to get their product or service in front of potential buyers. It starts with research and ranges in execution from word-of-mouth campaigns to full-blown advertising/PR blitzes. I spent more than 22 years in the industry, starting as an agency advertising and PR writer and finishing as Director of Marketing. My clients were retail, B2B, and even highly technical. In addition to my degrees, I took many courses in business and statistics. I have performed every aspect of the trade, from writing and directing broadcast ads to attending "social" functions and giving very formal presentations. I feel very confident that I can be of great assistance in helping anyone to gain a strong understanding of marketing knowledge for any given industry.

Microsoft Word

I have used MS Word as a teacher, editor and writer since 1989, when it was first released on Windows. I have created many types of documents, including presentations, scripts and books formatted for print and ebook. I now work on the Windows 8 version.

Praxis

In order to enroll in a teacher education program some years ago, I had to pass two very long and difficult tests, the PRAXIS and the SSAT. Since that time, those latter two tests have been replaced by one that is shorter and, I am told, much easier: the CSET. As a teacher in adult education programs, I was responsible for both standard high school subjects and the GED for those who did not wish to complete their diploma courses. I have demonstrated my subject proficiency, and have taught many students how to prepare for timed tests.

Proofreading

Proofreading is a skill that ranges from technical aspects (spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax) to intermediate writing skills (word choice, sentence variation, clarity of meaning, good transitions, etc.) all the way up to content comments. In non-fiction, content comments include strength of thesis and evidence, logic, interpretation, and argumentation. In fiction, they include character development, plot line, technical errors such as anachronisms and inconsistencies, factual errors, and suggestions on other content improvements. Thus, the spectrum can go from the most simple to extremely complex. Not only does the expertise of the proofreader – or critiquer – vary within those levels, but the charges for input should also vary accordingly.

PSAT

Other than the few probabilities and statistics questions, most of the math on the PSAT is fairly basic. Most students taking the PSAT have problems with the English. The latter requires a good knowledge of reading comprehension, sentence construction (syntax), and essay writing. All English questions require a good vocabulary. My approach is to combine general knowledge materials, especially vocabulary and syntax, with sample PSAT questions, including timing practice responses, in order to increase both skills and confidence. This is also an excellent time to teach basic test-taking techniques, which include time management.

Public Speaking

I have an undergraduate degree in public speaking, and competed in tournaments while in high school and college (both for school and public organizations, such as Toastmasters, Lion's Club, Law Day Oratorical Contest, etc.). As a teacher, I have taught public speaking numerous times. For one year at Pittsburg High School (CA), I taught writing and public speaking at the academy.

Reading

Reading skills are not magical, they involve a logical process which can be taught by a knowledgeable and patient instructor. In addition to comprehension and analytical skills for both fiction and non-fiction, I give a strong focus to vocabulary and understanding of syntax because those are the basic tools of good reading. General punctuation will also be included, because a strong command of punctuation is important to understand the important elements of each sentence and the relationship of the phrases.

SAT Reading

As a college applicant, I scored in the 99th percentile in all English disciplines. Now, during the summers, I teach SAT prep at a private academy in Pleasanton.

Reading skills are not magical, they involve a logical process which can be taught by a knowledgeable and patient instructor. In addition to comprehension and analytical skills for both fiction and non-fiction, I give a strong focus to vocabulary and understanding of syntax because those are the basic tools of good reading. General punctuation will also be included, because a strong command of punctuation is important to understand the important elements of each sentence and the relationship of the phrases.

SAT Writing

As a college applicant, I scored in the 99th percentile in all English disciplines. Now, during the summers, I teach SAT prep at a private academy in Pleasanton.

Essay writing skills are not magical, they involve a logical process which can be taught by a knowledgeable and patient instructor. I begin with comprehension and analytical skills regarding the prompt, and have a formula for setting up the essay that can be applied to any prompt. All of the elements scorers look for -- strong thesis, clear evidence, logical arguments, sentence variety, etc. -- are strenuously addressed. Vocabulary and general grammar are also stressed. Because this is a timed test, related test-taking skills are also covered.

Social Studies

Having traveled extensively throughout the world, including working in several foreign countries, I can combine my academic studies with practical knowledge of social studies. As a liberal arts teacher, I have taught history, but I am also well-versed in various governments and economics. I have written historical fiction for years, and the research and writing I have done has given me a very broad perspective of social studies both from an historical standpoint and from what exists today, and why certain societies have the values they hold.

SSAT

There are two critical knowledge areas of the SSAT: math and vocabulary. While there is some logic to the English portions, both reading comprehension and verbal questions require a good vocabulary. Although the essay is not scored, schools usually take a close look at the writing ability and thoughts of the student to determine placement. Regardless of which of the three levels of the SSAT your child is taking, it may be the first comprehensive test in their life, with timed sections. Fortunately, the art of test taking can be taught so that the stress level is greatly reduced. My approach is to combine general knowledge materials, especially vocabulary and syntax, with sample SSAT questions, including timing practice responses, in order to increase both skills and confidence. This is also an excellent time to teach basic test-taking techniques, which include time management. I have taught those skills to many students. I know how to help!

Study Skills

There are many approaches to good study habits. The first step is to develop a schedule that fits in with the student’s personality as well as his or her life: ease or difficulty of certain subjects; household chores and obligations; extra-curricular activities; and general recreation/ relaxation. Once a comfortable schedule is established, study skills become a lot easier. Where do you do certain work (e.g., school, home, with a study group, etc.) for the optimum environment? How much help do you need and how long should you spend on each subject? What resources or augmentation (e.g., visual aids, background music, video shows or lectures, etc.) will reinforce your learning? I believe that a student who is satisfied with how study skills fit into their lifestyle will be much more productive than one who is forced to fit a mold.

TOEFL

As a measurement of aptitude for university level work, the TOEFL IBT demands a much higher level of vocabulary, reading comprehension and writing ability than most tests. Moreover, unlike most other tests of English, the TOEFL contains a spoken portion. This measures your hearing comprehension (to a certain extent) as well as your ability to articulate both words and thoughts in English. For English learners, this skill clearly requires an exposure to conversation with someone who uses a high academic vocabulary and syntax, as well as articulates much better than the average citizen. I am pleased to say that I can offer exactly that sort of assistance.

Vocabulary

There are two basic elements to any language: vocabulary and syntax. If you do not know the words being used (or what word you should use), you cannot grasp or convey the exact message you wish -- and sometimes you can be terribly misunderstood. The same goes for syntax, which is the order in which words are placed in a well-constructed sentence. Certainly, Greek and Latin roots, prefixes and suffixes are important to academic and scientific English, but the basic elements of vocabulary can be taught in a much more holistic way. I believe in strengthening vocabulary while working on other important aspects of the language, such as reading and writing skills, rather than trying to memorize a list of words.

World History

While I have studied world history academically, I have also traveled extensively throughout Asia and Europe, some in South America, and bits of Africa -- not to mention North America! I believe my personal knowledge of the countries and cultures augments the book knowledge I have gained. Rather than just names, dates and places, I want to instill in my students a sense of the relationship within and between the cultures and politics of the entire globe when studying world history.

Writing

I also have a vast experience in other forms of writing. Having started my career in advertising/PR as a copywriter, I spent 20 years total in marketing, writing everything from commercials to business plans. During that time, I also sold short stories to various publications. As a teacher, I have written dozens of academic articles, many published on Yahoo! Voices. I am a featured travel and personal finance writer for Yahoo. I have sold dozens of articles to Yahoo and other sites on such subjects as politics, sports, personal finance and small business. For the past ten years, I have written several novels (you can find my young adult novel "Miranda's Magic" and my historical fiction novel "Zenobia" on Smashwords) and screenplays, as well as short stories. I can honestly say my writing knowledge spans all aspects of the art, including journalism.

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Education

UC San Diego (English Literature)

Chapman University (MEd)

Excellent Tutor Don is patient and knowledgeable of the subject matter; explains concepts in a way I can understand it; I would highly recommend him. ...

— Audrey from Alameda, CA on 5/14/13);

Hourly fee

Standard Hourly Fee: $45.00

Cancellation: 12 hours notice required

Hourly rate is for tutoring. Travel fee may apply. For editing or re-writing services, charges are specific to the work (either per page or flat rate), and are negotiable.

Travel policy

Don will travel within 16 miles of Orinda, CA 94563.

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