Teacher Spotlight: Justin Kim
Throughout the summer, we shine a spotlight on the expert teachers at MEK Review. All of our instructors are experts in their field with years of experience and content knowledge. And we are honored to share their insights with you!
This week, we spotlight Justin Kim.
Mr. Kim is a Math teacher with MEK Review, who is currently teaching High School Honors Geometry, High School Honors Algebra II, SSAT Math, and AP Statistics.
The following is an interview between him and our content writer, where he shares words of wisdom for students applying to college, how to succeed in tough AP and Honors Math courses, and reading recommendations to help you build good habits!
Teaching at MEK
Interviewer: What is your favorite part of teaching at MEK?
Kim: I really enjoy working one-on-one with my tutoring students. Teaching math is like completing a puzzle. As the instructor, I’m trying to figure out what my students are struggling with, and once I’ve identified the problem, I look for the best way to present new information to them. Seeing students figure out a problem they’ve been struggling with is so satisfying.
Interviewer: What inspired you to become a teacher?
Kim: Teaching was always something I wanted to do. Many of my jobs in high school and college revolved around teaching. In high school, I worked as a tutor at a learning center, and in college, I was a TA for a few classes.
Words of Wisdom for Students Applying to College
Interviewer: Where did you go to college?
Kim: I graduated from Boston College in 2019 with a degree in Math and Computer Science. I really enjoyed my time there. Boston is a great college town.
Interviewer: What are some words of wisdom you have for students applying to college?
Kim: Students get caught up in the name of the colleges to which they are applying. But, in the end, it’s how they spend their time at that school that matters most. Students can have a fulfilling experience wherever they go because it’s all about what they make of the years they will be there.
Also, students need to make sure that when they are building their admissions portfolio, they are choosing extracurricular activities, internships, and volunteer experiences that are meaningful to them. Participate in activities because you enjoy doing them, not because they look good on an academic resume. Remember that the journey is just as important as the destination, which is why it’s essential that you enjoy the process of getting to where you’re going.
How to Succeed in Challenging AP and Honors Courses
Interviewer: What is your advice for students who want to succeed in challenging Honors and AP Math courses?
Kim: For most students, I suggest reviewing class material during independent study sessions. The best way to reinforce a topic is to teach it to yourself and to see if you can understand a challenging concept by explaining to yourself in your own words.
With larger classes, it’s harder to focus class time on the specific areas each individual student is struggling with. As an instructor, I have to cater to everyone. In order to succeed, students need to take control of their study sessions by focusing on what they are having trouble with and then reviewing what we go over during class. It is not enough for students to attend class, they need to continue their work outside of class time.
How to Overcome the Biggest Test Prep Struggle
Interviewer: What do you see students struggle with the most in your classes?
Kim: Oftentimes, test prep students struggle with motivation and stamina. As part of their MEK classes, they take a practice test every week that’s around three hours long, depending on the test. Students get tired and lose sight of the bigger picture. But practice early on is necessary for later success. They don’t realize that if they get a great score the first time they take a test, they won’t have to take the test again.
Interviewer: How do you think students can build mindset and stamina for challenging AP or admissions tests?
Kim: It comes down to exposure to the test and improving test-taking skills through practice. Test-taking is actually a skill of its own that needs to be built, and the best way to build that skill is by taking practice tests often. In order to see improvement, students must sit down and practice, so that when it comes to test day, they know what to expect from the questions and how it feels to be in a timed testing situation.
Interests Outside of MEK
Interviewer: What do you like to do outside of MEK?
Kim: These days I’ve been trying to go on more walks and exercise when I can. I also enjoy playing video games and reading.
Interviewer: What was the last book you read? Do you have any book recommendations?
Kim: I recently read Atomic Habits by James Clear, which I really enjoyed. It definitely changed my mindset. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to build good, long-term habits.
I’d also recommend Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. As an Asian American, I resonated with many of the author’s experiences and saw parallels between her story as well as the stories of people I know.