I started out as a French teacher for government officials who needed to learn French for their diplomatic posts or other assignments. I was able to bring many students from complete beginner to completely fluent within one year of studies. I was also able to help them eliminate their ‘English’ accent when speaking by introducing the ‘triangle vocalique’ and the associated mouth movements, as well as rhythm and prosody. I am fluent in French, Spanish and speak German comfortably – and used my experiences with these languages while teaching.
My success as a teacher also came from the fact that I learned, researched and then explicitly taught ‘how we learn’.
I later studied international relations and became a linguist analyst for intelligence agencies and the department of defense. I continued my research and learning about international policies and economic history, but felt an urge to return to my passion for teaching – and in particular working with young people.
After taking students on community-service projects in Guatemala, Honduras Costa Rica and teaching in schools in Ghana, Ecuador, Peru and Belgium, I decided to take all of my insights about learning – and in particular how our beliefs about ourselves affect our learning and behavior – into graduate studies.
I chose NYU in order to dive into neuroscience, particularly neuroplasticity, and the study of fear and affective states. There, I worked with a postdoctoral fellow, Lasana Harris, on studies on stereotype content, disgust, moral decision-making and neureconomics. My thesis was on Factors Influencing Empathy, and looked at emotion recognition, mirror neurons and sensory-motor frameworks. I was also mentored by Dr. Joran Josipovic, whose work on mindfulness and meditation inspired me to spend several months at various monasteries and learn from teachers from India and Vietnam.
After that, I decided to take all of this into my work as a school counselor, and started presenting ‘brain workshops’ to students, parents and teachers. Demand grew and I continued to research and expand the industries I was learning from.
I now live in Chicago and offer workshops to education departments, schools and organizations throughout the US and worldwide.