Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avowed space enthusiast, astronomer, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Educator and Advocate.
Having grown up with the Space Race, I developed a love of space very early on. Fortunately, with an Engineer father and Accountant and Tax Preparer mother, I had no excuse to be bad at math. I could be bad at art (and am!!), but math was not a subject I was permitted to be bad at. I truly love math.
My high school provided me with three great tools for my future: of all things, in this small town in Indiana, it had a planetarium. I took the only astronomy course the spring of my sophomore year and I was HOOKED!!!!! OMG. This was IT!!!! My high school astronomy teacher had studied astrophysics at Indiana University, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
My high school also provided me with an absolutely excellent, and female, physics teacher during my senior year. While most of the class struggled, it quickly became my favorite class. The teacher was roundly disliked by seemingly everyone but me (she was a tough grader, and knew she was preparing most of the students in the class to study engineering at Purdue, so she made it hard for us, so we could get used to what to expect at Purdue). Many years later, I learned that a petition was passed around amongst the parents to try to get her removed. When the petition came to my mom, my mom refused to sign it. She said I loved the class, was doing well in it, and loved the teacher, and couldn’t, in good conscience, sign a petition to remove the teacher when I was doing so well. The teacher finished out that school year, and I remained in contact with her for several years after graduation.
The last gift my high school gave me was the desire to leave. That area was, and still is, predominantly Rust Belt jobs, lots of auto industry, at a time when the economy was terrible, unemployment in the area was nearly 20%, and my dad’s employer nearly went out of business, because the prime lending rate was so high, no one was building anything. I always saw myself sitting on some mountaintop, peering at the heavens through some gigantic telescope. Alas, that dream did not come true. Purdue, being the rightly deserved, “Cradle of Astronauts,” was the place I went. I earned a degree there, albeit not the one I really wanted, and left and went to work.
With a nascent computer industry all around, I used my Purdue programming skills to work my way into computer sales. That eventually brought me to California over thirty years ago.
After tiring of the office job I had, I went back to school to learn new programming skills. Programming languages come and go so fast, it seems you always have to be learning a new one in order to remain employable. I learned Visual Basic at Saddleback College and then went to work writing software.
That lasted several years, until the Dot Com boom and bust of the early 2000’s. It seemed everyone was getting laid off when the Dot Com bust hit, myself included. I looked around and saw the state of things, realized I’d never really wanted to do that, anyways, but had kind of fallen into it, and opted to go back to school. I enrolled at Saddleback College as an astrophysics major and aerospace engineering minor.
I probably haven’t been that happy before or since. I truly loved learning and, especially, getting to do math and physics all the time. Once again, I was blessed with an extraordinary, female, physics teacher. She was tough, but, if you passed her class, you knew you knew your stuff.
After taking everything I could at Saddleback, a two year community college, I transferred to UC San Diego. Let’s just say UCSD and I were not meant for one another. I took Stellar Astrophysics, Engineering Thermodynamics, and Partial Differential Equations there, all of which I did well at, but the general environment at UCSD was not well suited to me.
It is at this time that I began tutoring. I had tutored some of my fellow classmates at Saddleback, and all had responded well to my style of teaching. I figured I’d have a go at it as a more full-time job. The rest, as they say, is history.
I have lost count of all the students whose grades I helped improve. I’ve had students who would not graduate from high school if they did not pass their AP Physics class. I’ve tutored single moms who’d gone back to school, freshman struggling through Algebra, lots of conceptual physics, multiple students from the same family, and people who call the week before finals and desperately need help, and everything and every subject in between. Through it all, I have dearly loved what I do. The satisfaction of imparting a “light bulb moment” to a student is worth the over 40 linear feet of math, physics, and chemistry books I keep to tutor with.
As time has gone on, though, I have been frustrated by the limitations of one-on-one tutoring. Students don’t get out of school until 2:30 ish, often have sports or extracurricular activities that demand their time, and there is only so much of me to go around. Nearly everyone of my students over the years has said something along the lines of, “you explain this so much better than my teacher does. Why aren’t you the teacher?” Well, there are a lot of reasons for that, the biggest of which is probably that I think that people who can teach and manage a classroom of over 15 students should be sainted. I don’t have that in me, and I have the utmost admiration for those who do.
It is in that vein, then, that I have chosen to develop my tutoring knowledge into online courses for every course I have tutored. This will make the material available to a far wider audience, and it will save hundreds of dollars over the price of individual tutoring.
I freely admit that I do this for very selfish reasons. It is no secret that I have long wanted to go to space, and am frustrated that it has been nearly 50 years since a human being has been on the Moon. We want to set foot on Mars, and, at some point, someone is going to want to do interstellar travel. For that, we need engineers and scientists. Nothing would please me more than knowing that one of the students who I tutored, whether in person or through one of my online courses, went to work in the space program and helped make those dreams come true. I hope you enjoy the materials I have created. I welcome your feedback and suggestions for improvements, and can’t wait to hear the number of grade levels your student’s grade increased by after using my online courses.