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.
Writing college essays can be a challenging and time-consuming task. I work with high school seniors to write successful college application essays for individual colleges, the Common Application, and dual degree programs such as the BS/MD. As an experienced English and writing tutor, I help students write in their own voice in a clear and coherent style. Topic selection is important: I talk with students about their interests and activities, then push them to choose subjects and stories that will convey passion, pride, and humility about themselves. Tone is also important: As students write their essays, I work with them to be sensitive to the values and perspectives that guide college admissions officers. To ensure that final drafts are literate and free from grammar and punctuation mistakes, I review, critique, copy edit, and proofread drafts. Equally important, I also monitor students’ progress to be sure that they finish the job with quality essays in the required time frames, including for early notification, early decision, and scholarship deadlines.
Identifying potential "best-fit" colleges for students to consider, visit, and eventually apply to often constitutes the most critical part of college counseling. Having been an undergraduate student at UCLA, a graduate student at Northwestern University, and a teacher at Vassar College (as well as Chicago-area universities), I know the strengths and weaknesses of large public universities, mid-size private universities, and liberal arts colleges. Through my work as Director of College and University Programs for the American Bar Association, I know faculty and curricular programs at many universities and liberal arts colleges. Drawing upon these experiences, I provide students and their families with an informed perspective on a wide variety of colleges, including merit aid opportunities to help pay for college.
Students applying to medical school, dental school, and other graduate and professional schools also reach out for help. Here, I work with older students to write compelling personal statements and supplemental essays about their academic achievements, jobs, shadowing, research, volunteer work, and personal interests. I also prep these students for their critical on-campus visits and interviews. We do mock interviews that practice--and build in students--the skills to present themselves in a confident, poised, and knowledgeable tone. As students navigate the complicated and lengthy process of securing a seat in their entering class, I continue to offer advice and support.
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. It is hard to write an essay about nonfiction material without doing background research. For novels, short stories, and poems, students must analyze the text to uncover both the literal and symbolic meanings of the work.
Teachers expect students to pay close attention to tone, narrative structure, the author’s use of literary devices, and character analysis, attributes, and motivations. As a writing tutor, I teach students how to analyze texts and "close read" passages. Then, I work with students to move them from analysis to clear and effective writing that meets the requirements of argumentative essays or creative writing. To achieve a high level of success in reading and writing, 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.
In sum, I focus on preparing students to understand the readings at the highest level, write effective in-class and take-home essays, study properly for quizzes and tests, and successfully complete homework assignments. To achieve this, I tutor students -- primarily in honors and AP English -- on a regular basis that takes into account student needs and parent desires.
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 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.
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.
Successful writing requires a series of steps. I work with students to develop ideas for their topic, write a clear thesis statement, organize their narrative, and integrate text citations to support their claims. In particular, I teach students the key elements of a successful argumentative essay, the cornerstone of writing in high school and college. Once a first draft is completed, I help students to edit (improve logical coherence as well as paragraph and sentence structure) and proofread (grammar, punctuation, and spelling). I work primarily with high school students, occasionally with college students and adults in the workplace.
In honors and AP English classes, I teach 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 prompt, including a focus on analysis rather than plot summary. Depending upon the class assignments, we also work on various forms of creative writing, including memoirs and first-person narratives, journals, poems, and imitation writing that parallels the prose or poetic style of famous writers.
The best way for students to improve their writing is to practice--especially different forms of writing and on topics/materials of interest to them. I frequently assign independent writing to extend and enrich classroom assignments and build better writing skills. Through my work as a writer, editor, and tutor, I have learned how to help students and adults communicate with more skill, polish, and persuasion.