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PrepNow Tutor - Alexandra O.

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Alexandra's Bio

After entering college with 64 credits already completed thanks to her International Baccalaureate diploma, Alex graduated from Florida State University with Honors and with two degrees: a BS in sociology and statistics and a BA in French and international affairs. As a senior, she was recognized with an Academic Leadership Award and a Star Student Award. Her Honors thesis, which investigated how nonprofits mobilize resources for immigrant populations in Washington D.C., received almost $7,000 of funding and received the Best Sociology Undergraduate Paper Award and the Bess H. Ward Honors Thesis Award. It went on to be published in the Journal of Undergraduate Ethnography.

She also did research in rural Morocco on the local women's movement, for which she received $8,000 in funding and two other awards--the Moellership Award from the FSU Center for Leadership and Social Change and the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award from the FSU Center for Undergraduate Research.

After graduating, Alex proceeded directly into a fully funded doctoral program in Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. She recently completed her Master's and is continuing toward her PhD She does research on issues related to addiction and rehabilitation, including the impact of parent addiction on children's well-being.

"In one way or another I feel like I've always been a tutor," Alex says. "I was always helping my peers in math, showing them the simpler ways to solve problems." In high school, she even held her own review for her IB History exam, attended by eight or nine of her peers! She carefully reviewed all of the material they had covered through the previous two years. As an undergraduate, she tutored more than 30 student athletes in courses ranging from statistics and mathematics, to French and English, to sociology and international affairs. "Many of them were stressed out, and needed help with both their time management skills and clarification on how to complete assignments," she says. "Quite a few had ADHD or ADD. I developed strategies to help keep them on task--for example, every 10-15 minutes when they would get distracted, I would allow us to talk about something fun for 1 - 2 minutes and then redirect them back to the task." Alex combined these motivating breaks with questions targeted to keep students actively participating in the learning process.

As a junior and senior at Florida State, Alex was a leader in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, a position offered to only 11 students in the entire undergraduate body of more than 30,000 students. Both years, she instructed a class of 20 first- and second-year students on the research process in the social sciences. She worked with the students individually to develop and successfully complete an independent research project related to their interests and coursework. She also served as a Course Mentor for an Honors sociology seminar, leading small-group discussions, helping students improve their writing, and working alongside the instructor to assess how well students understood the content. "This experience helped me build my teaching skills and help me understand better how to communicate material," she says.

Now as a graduate student, Alex has worked as a teaching assistant, meeting with students one-on-one to provide them with assistance on the material, leading discussion sections that reinforce concepts and provide clarity, and tracking student progress. "I constantly engaged with students in office hours to clarify concepts, provide mentorship, and review graded work," she says. She has also been actively involved in the local community, volunteering at free legal clinics, doing community advocacy, and tutoring low-income/under-served students in math, from middle-school material to college-level statistics, including algebra, geometry and calculus. "My tutoring experience has been particularly rewarding," she says, "as I have had the chance to work with students with learning disabilities or who have not had the opportunity for one-on-one instruction in the past--despite needing it."

"I love teaching because you're constantly interacting with people, engaging in discussion, and seeing the gains that students are making," she says. "I also have a personal conviction to share the knowledge that I have. I've been so privileged to get a great education, have access to all of the books/journal articles/online resources that I could ever ask for, and have an advanced degree--I truly believe that it's my personal responsibility to share all that I've been given. I've seen how much knowledge and understanding can empower students, giving them confidence in themselves to become people who make valuable contributions to the world."

"At the core of my teaching and tutoring style is connecting to students," Alex says. "I think this is important for two reasons: They will 'buy in' more to what you're working on, and you can better understand their unique needs and learning style. The better I understand where students are coming from, the things they find most challenging, and what their goals are, the better I can tailor lessons to them, employ better strategies to meet their learning needs, and make learning as painless as possible. Also, when students know that you care about them as people, they are more invested in their success."

In high school, Alex was actively involved in Model United Nations, Math Team, French Honors Society, and Art Honors Society. She volunteered at her local Kiwanis and at a nursing home. In college, she was on the Social Science Leadership Council and Vice President of Alpha Kappa Delta Sociological Honors Society. She was a PeaceJam mentor and was involved with a wide range of advocacy and non-profit organizations that worked on immigration issues.

These days, when she isn't researching and teaching, she loves being outside. "Hiking and camping are two of my favorite things to do," she says. "Growing up in Florida and then moving to Southern California, I really love going to the beach--whether it's to read a book or catch some waves." Fitting in fun isn't easy with her school schedule, but she continues to enjoy reading and art. "When I was younger, during summer break I would check out 10 books from the library each time I went, and read them all in a day or two. While I don't have that kind of time anymore, I still always have a book I'm working on finishing. The same goes for making art--while I don't spend as much time doing it as when I was in high school, I still enjoy making decoupage collages from old magazines and newspapers." She also enjoys cooking, especially baked goods! Her specialty is gourmet cupcakes filled with everything from fruit to chocolate bars.

Fun fact: Alex's 9-year-old, one-eyed "puggle" (that's a pug/beagle mix), Fetty Woof, often accompanies her when she teaches discussion sections--and always wears a bowtie!

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