Teacher Spotlight: Elise Kim
Elise Kim is a Math teacher at MEK, who teaches Honors Geometry, Honors Algebra II, MLC Math, SSAT/ISEE test prep, and BCA Prep Math.
The following is an interview between her and our content writer:
Teaching at MEK
Interviewer: What is your favorite part of teaching at MEK?
Kim: My favorite part of teaching at MEK is the people I get to work with, students and teachers alike. I’ve met so many great students. Their motivation motivates me!
I also get to work alongside a team of amazing teachers who are determined to help our students succeed. Their dedication to produce results is inspiring.
Interviewer: How long have you been teaching at MEK?
Kim: I’ve been with MEK for four years. Originally, I planned to take a gap year after college before starting dental school. But right after I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I started working here part time. I enjoyed teaching with MEK so much that I ended up taking a full time position.
Interviewer: What inspired you to become a teacher?
Kim: I grew up in this area and was really lucky to have great teachers throughout my life that I looked up to. Especially because being a student was such a huge part of my life, that was so valuable. It was thanks to them that I was able to graduate as valedictorian of my high school and become the first in my family to go to college, despite my family’s financial struggles. I feel that teaching is my way of giving back.
Aspirations in Dentistry
Interviewer: What inspired your interest in dentistry?
Kim: I’d always wanted to work in health care. Dentistry was interesting to me because it’s very hands-on. It’s an art. You’re sculpting teeth and helping people gain confidence through their smile. I like that the work is very visible and has an immediate positive impact on the person you’re working with.
Boosting Confidence in Math
Interviewer: Like dentistry, building confidence in students is a big part of teaching. How can students build math skills and boost their confidence?
Kim: The most important thing students can do to build math skills is to practice what they learn in class outside of class. Students cannot have the mindset that simply attending class is enough to understand concepts sufficiently. Becoming a strong math student requires ample time applying learned strategies to a variety of problem types during independent study sessions. Students must review their notes and practice what they learned in order to see progress. That’s when the confidence comes, when they know they’ve put in effort into driving their own progress and see that their understanding has improved because of it.
I always try to make my students feel comfortable reaching out for help as well. I tell them that everyone learns at a different pace, so it’s important to take advantage of extra help sessions with the teacher if something isn’t clicking.
BCA Prep Math
Interviewer: Along with MLC, you also teach BCA Prep math. What sets BCA Prep apart from other programs?
Kim: The BCA Prep program sets high expectations for students. The best I can describe it is tough love. We don’t want to accept anything but the best from our students because it is their futures that are being built, and we work with young minds at an age where some are not yet experienced with disciplining and dedicating themselves toward such a significant concrete goal (in this case, admission into top high schools). We teach students how to apply specific, proven strategies when encountering challenging question types, help them build test endurance through a strong mindset, and instill reliable study habits that we hope they will carry with them long after their time in the program is completed.
Interviewer: Earlier you mentioned taking a gap year between college and dental school. Do you have any advice for students applying to college?
Kim: I’d say to start looking into colleges early. Don’t do what I did, which was to start all my college applications during winter break of senior year! Since I was the first in my family to go to college, I was overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge and where to begin. Reach out to teachers and counselors. Look into schools that are compatible with your personality and your goals. Once you become really invested in a few schools, you will have a better idea of what to work towards and that excitement and motivation can make for a stronger personal statement when applying.
Interviewer: Where did you go to school?
Kim: I went to Swarthmore College. It’s a small liberal arts college in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which was just the right fit for me. Swat has a unique arrangement along with Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, and UPenn where students are actually able to take courses from all four schools, which was an incredible opportunity.
Interviewer: What do you like to do outside of MEK?
Kim: I’ve been exploring a lot of different interests. For a few years I took up kickboxing and was really obsessed with it. Then a couple of years ago my friend dragged me along to my first intense hike, and I’ve been hiking whenever I get the chance ever since. I also play tennis and recently fell back in love with reading.
Interviewer: Do you have any book recommendations for students?
Kim: I’m sure students have tons of classic literature or nonfiction texts being recommended to them. Outside of those, I think graphic novels are underrated. There are actually some really wonderful graphic novel adaptations of classic novels like Animal Farm and The Great Gatsby.
One great read would be Maus by Art Spiegelman. It’s a nonfiction work that illustrates, literally, conversations that the author had with his father, who survived the Holocaust. It also serves as a memoir as it depicts the author’s complicated relationship with his father. The story is very impactful and well told.