Teacher Spotlight: Karina Soto
Karina Soto is a Math Teacher for MEK Review. This Summer, she is teaching SAT Foundation, SAT 1400, Exam Prep 8, SSAT/ISEE 8, and tutoring in Math.
The following is an interview between her and our marketing writer:
Teaching at MEK
Interviewer: What is your favorite part of teaching at MEK?
Soto: My favorite part of teaching at MEK is helping the students with exam prep. Previously, my primary job had been tutoring students in their math courses, such as Calculus, Algebra II, and Geometry. But MEK’s extensive teacher training program showed me how to teach students test-prep strategies and skills for the SAT and SSAT that I think are really interesting and valuable.
Interviewer: What’s your key to student engagement in the online classroom?
Soto: The key to student engagement is to ask a lot of questions and make the students feel comfortable. If students feel comfortable, they will want to volunteer. Sometimes I have to resort to cold calling on students for responses.
Interviewer: Do you find that there’s a certain type of question that gets more student responses?
Soto: I’ve found that it’s not a specific type of question but the way you ask a question that will inspire the students to volunteer an answer.
I let them know that I’m a shy person. And when I was a student, I’d try to hide and not get called on when the teacher would ask a question. So, I understand that anxious feeling. That’s why when I ask questions, I tell the students that even if they give me a wrong answer, it’s ok. And I give them the opportunity to answer questions any way they need to in order to make them more comfortable.
Interviewer: What is your advice to students who want to earn a perfect 800 on the SAT math section?
Soto: My advice is don’t overthink it. As part of the MEK teacher training, we have to take several SAT exams. And when I first came to MEK, I didn’t know that there were specific strategies to taking the test. But the more SAT exams I took, I quickly realized that there’s a system, and that there is nothing to be scared of or anxious about when it comes to the test. Sometimes the question posed is even telling you how to find the answer. It’s important to remember that you’re given the answer choices, so use the choices. You don’t have to figure the answer out by yourself. Sometimes students forget that. But the SAT is giving you possibilities, so use them.
Interviewer: How do you think students can build mindset or stamina?
Soto: This might sound funny, but I think students need to have fun with the test. I’m a little biased because I like doing math. But in my teacher training, I felt just like the students. I felt that pressure to get an 800 on the math section and to prepare, prepare, prepare in order to get the perfect score. But once I realized that the SAT is a test being given to high school students of all different levels, and that it isn’t some challenging exam that only the top minds can figure out, it lessened the pressure considerably. The test writers are trying to trick you into choosing the wrong answer. If you have fun with it and know that you have everything you need to figure out the right answers, that mindset and confidence will help you succeed in getting a perfect score.
Interviewer: What inspired you to become a teacher?
Soto: I actually didn’t even realize that I was becoming a teacher. It’s funny because I was a shy, anxious student. To think my career ended up being at the head of the classroom was ironic. From a young age, I always liked helping people. And math is actually a hobby of mine that I pursue in my spare time. It frustrates and upsets me to hear students say that they don’t like math or that math is too hard because I believe that math is for everyone. It’s a beautiful subject. So, I was inspired to become a teacher because I wanted to give students who didn’t believe they could be good at math the confidence to excel.
Interviewer: What are some words of wisdom you have for students applying to college?
Soto: My advice would be to choose a major in something that actually interests you. I found that many people who chose their majors based on how much they could make financially after graduation regret that decision. They ended up not liking what they’d studied and wishing they’d majored in a subject that they took an elective. So, choose a major that actually interests you. And when it comes to choosing schools, it’s not so much about what school you get into, but what you make of your experience while you’re there.
Interviewer: What do you like to do outside of MEK?
Soto: Well, math! That’s certainly one thing. I really like to study philosophy and logic. And I play music, specifically the flute and the piccolo. I also enjoy reading and like to read books in the horror genre. One of my favorite authors is Stephen King. My favorite book by him is The Stand.
Interviewer: Any book recommendations for high schoolers?
Soto: The academic books that come to mind are 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I love these books. It’s really fascinating how these authors from the past were able to write vividly about a future that we are currently living in. That we can see what they wrote about coming to fruition is mind blowing to me.