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John R.

Tutors English, Writing, Literature & College Essays/Counseling

Deerfield, IL (60015)

Travel radius
25 miles
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I tutor students to enhance their skills in writing, critical reading of fiction and nonfiction, and social studies, to help them succeed in high school, college, and on the job. As a Ph.D. (Northwestern), I have taught/mentored students at several colleges, worked with high school students on college search and application essays (and with older students on personal statements for graduate and professional schools), directed college and university programs for a national association, developed web-based lessons for students, and led workshops and edited magazines for teachers. Through these professional experiences, I have acquired the skill to write successfully—in content, clarity, and tone—for different audiences, a skill that I seek to build in all my students.

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John’s subjects

American History

The subject of U.S. History covers more than three hundred years of people, places, and events (major and minor), from the pre-colonial era to the present day. History textbooks are typically thick and dense, often nearly a thousand pages long. Teachers expect students to master details but also to understand, analyze, and write about broad themes (such as economic transformations, war and diplomacy, and American diversity) across historical time periods.

Having taught American Government at several colleges, I have a knowledge of and familiarity with the related field of American history. I work with students to build upon and refine the knowledge and interpretations of U.S. history that they bring with them from middle school and elementary school brushes with our nation’s history.

For students in AP classes, I also work with them to analyze and successfully write about the topics they will face on the DBQ and standard essay questions on the AP test.

College Counseling

For high school seniors, I work with students to write successful college application essays for individual colleges and as part of the Common App. As an experienced writing tutor and college consultant, I am able to help students write in their own voice in a clear and coherent style, with an appropriate tone that conveys some passion about their interests, and free from grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.

For those who choose to apply to 6, 8, or even 10 colleges, completing the required essays can be a challenging task. I work with students to ensure that they finish the job with quality essays in the required time frame.

For high school juniors and their families, I also offer a full range of services in the college search process, including working with students to identify a diverse range of colleges to visit and preparing students for visits and interviews with admissions staff. I also advise families about the merit aid opportunities to help pay for college.

Having taught on the political science faculty of Vassar College and as a lecturer at DePaul University, Northwestern University, and the IIT-Chicago Kent College of Law, I understand the educational issues surrounding college choices. More recently, I worked as the Director of College and University Programs for the American Bar Association, where I visited more than 50 colleges across the country, evaluated undergraduate programs, and worked with college administrators and faculty.

Criminal Justice

I am the author of articles and essays on the criminal courts and criminal justice system, published in peer-reviewed academic journals such as Law & Society Review. Among the topics I have addressed are plea bargaining, sentencing, and the politics of court delay-reduction programs. I have also taught courses on criminal justice at the IIT Chicago Kent College of Law.


Improving in the subject of English requires attention to critical reading, writing, and research. These individual elements are highly interrelated—e.g. it's hard to write an essay about nonfiction material without doing background research. For novels, short stories, and poems, it is necessary to do textual analysis to uncover not only the literal but also the symbolic meanings of the work.

Teachers expect students to pay close attention to narrative structure and the author’s use of literary devices. To better understand the story, I encourage students also to examine (and even research a little) the historical, political, or cultural setting as well as the author's personal background.

As a writing tutor, I help students learn how to put their analysis and personal observations into clear and effective writing. To achieve a high level of success in reading and writing about fiction, I expect students to annotate—to highlight, yes, but also to make marginal notes, summarize sections or chapters, and expand their vocabulary, thereby following the guidelines of most teachers, curriculum experts, and the College Board.

I work with high school students in regular, honors, and AP English classes. Some students may hit a roadblock with a particular writing or reading assignment, while others may benefit from yearlong tutoring. I work with students in both situations, including assigned summer reading.

Government & Politics

American Government is a long and detailed narrative about our nation’s political history, structure, institutions, and public policies. Having taught American Politics & Government at several colleges and universities, I am able to help students achieve conceptual understandings of the three branches of government and the political process, both in historical perspective and current times.

I also try to use current events and controversies to bring alive and revisit some of the issues that are often so dryly presented in textbooks.

Beyond these broad topical areas, students also need to master (i.e., understand and memorize) the many key terms and phrases that are included in standard American Government textbooks and on tests. I work with students on their teacher-provided review questions and packets to be sure that they thoroughly know and understand these concepts and terms, so they can perform at a high level on multiple-choice and short-answer tests and quizzes.

I also work with students to prepare them for the AP Government test, which–unlike the AP US History test–requires a very precise knowledge of key concepts and terms on its short answer “essays” (FRQs).


Learning how to read, interpret, analyze and critique fiction can be challenging for many students. While English teachers use some nonfiction stories and essays, fiction – poems, short stories and novels – is the primary reading in composition and literature classes.

As an avid reader of serious fiction, I work with students in AP, honors and regular English to enjoy and learn from their assigned readings in fiction. I ask students to pay close attention to narrative structure and literary devices, but I also encourage students to examine (and even research a little) the historical, political, economic or cultural context in which the novel or short story is set. To help achieve these tasks (and remember the plot), I expect students to annotate—to highlight, yes, but also to make marginal notes, briefly summarize sections or chapters, and write up new vocabulary, thereby following the guidelines of curriculum experts, teachers and the College Board.


I am an experienced editor and proofreader, having edited national magazines for social studies teachers at the college and high school level. I know the AP style manual and am also familiar with those of MLA and Psychology.

Public Speaking

I have spoken at a wide variety of professional meetings in political science, law, and social studies. Examples include presenting research papers, chairing scholarly panels, leading workshops for high school teachers, etc. I have also taught classes at several colleges, with class sizes ranging from 15 to 75 students. All of these examples are the result of a once-shy 14-year old who undertook speech and debate in high school and competed in regional tournaments.


I believe in using a variety of materials to encourage high school students to improve such reading skills as comprehension, analysis, and recall. These can include both fiction and nonfiction books, hopefully which connect with the topical interests of individual students. I also make use of short stories, magazine essays, newspaper articles, quality educational websites, and classroom materials. Effective annotation of novels and short stories is important for most students.

Practice in writing helps to build and reinforce reading comprehension. Therefore, I try to use these two elements together in most tutoring situations.

Social Studies

I have a Ph.D. in political science and have taught political science and sociology classes at the college level. I also served as Director of School Programs (K-12) for the American Bar Association. Currently, I am a member of the National Council for the Social Studies; for this organization, I have led workshops at its annual conference, written articles for its main publication, and served on committees and as a reviewer.

Study Skills

Improving study skills requires more attention to organization, better time management, and effective preparation for tests. Many students under-appreciate the value of homework, especially the importance of practicing what tests will ask and learning concepts, skills, and facts.

Time management is a challenge for most students, who spend seven hours daily in school, (often) participate in sports or clubs after school, and then face a tall mountain of homework with seemingly so little time to finish. Improved organization skills, especially using technology (e.g., calendars on tablets and smartphones to track upcoming tests, projects, and writing assignments) will lead to better time management.

Test preparation requires students to study differently, depending upon the type of test (e.g., multiple choice exams that emphasize people, places, dates, and other facts versus essay exams that reward writing skills and broader understanding of concepts).

These are some of the study skill areas where I work with students, usually as part of tutoring in English or social studies. I also try to adapt to the goals and individual needs of each student.


Parents often ask me: How can we improve my child’s vocabulary? With the decline in reading books for pleasure, the near-death of newspapers and the easy-reading style of most websites, students are no longer challenged to build or expand their vocabulary. Even the National Spelling Bee competition has recognized the problem, now requiring not only correct spelling but, in the later stages of the competition, correct definitions of words.

There is no single, agreed-upon way to improve vocabulary, either inside the classroom or in a tutoring setting. But one important approach is to ask and expect students to read challenging materials at or above grade level, so that they have and use the opportunity to see, read and learn new words. The source doesn’t matter – whether a book, magazine, newspaper article, essay or short report on the web. Use challenging sources for topics and genres that interest your student (think sports biography rather than ESPN update, for example, or a coming-of-age novel but set in a different country or time period).

Using flash cards to drill words and their definitions may help a bit in preparing for the SAT, but this won’t contribute much to long-term vocabulary building and retention. Reading, annotating books and using challenging words in writing are the best paths to vocabulary improvement.


Writing is both a technical and creative process. I work with high school (and older) students on how to research and develop ideas for their topic, organize their narrative and its key arguments, and (where required) integrate citations to support their arguments. Once a first draft is completed, I work with students on revisions to improve logical coherence, paragraph and sentence structure, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

In honors and AP English classes, I work with students to critically analyze the fiction or nonfiction text, consult (where appropriate) outside sources on the historical and political context of the work, and write papers that meet the teacher’s criteria and excel at interpretation or analysis.

The best way for students to improve their writing is to practice--especially different forms of writing and on topics of interest to them. I have experience writing and editing a wide variety of books, articles, essays, reports, and brochures. Through my work editing and tutoring, I have learned how to help authors of all ages communicate with more skill, polish, and persuasion.

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UCLA (Political Science)

Northwestern University (PhD)

Above and beyond! John not only helped our son through the whole college-essay-writing process but he also gave us invaluable advice about the college search, offered insights into the application process, and helped our son strategize different approaches to getting noticed in this highly-competitive undertaking. He met with us after our son had sent in all his applications to discuss what happens next and to giv ...

— Paula from Evanston, IL on 3/2/14);

Hourly fee

Standard Hourly Fee: $45.00

Cancellation: 3 hours notice required

Travel policy

John will travel within 25 miles of Deerfield, IL 60015.

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