Birute R.
Expert IB English Writing & TOK Tutor/Examiner, Holds a Master of Arts with 20+ Years of Teaching Experience.
Master of Arts in Medieval Studies, University of Toronto
Bachelor of Education in English and History, University of Toronto
Bachelor of Arts in English and History University of Toronto


I have a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree from the University of Toronto in history and English. I also have a MA and B.Ed. also from the University of Toronto. I partially completed an MA in Applied Linguistics from the University of London. As an IB teacher and IB coordinator, I have attended at least 5 workshops to complete my certification in IB subjects or IB positions. Finally, I have been an IB examiner.

Teaching Experience

I have been a teacher for over 20 years and have worked in the IBDP for 15 years. My teaching experience has mostly been in international schools around the world. These include Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Oman, Malaysia, Singapore, India, China, Italy, UK, and Germany. Some of these schools were IB and others were universities in which I taught Academic Writing and Interpersonal Communication.

IB teacher/ IB Coordinator, Sunway International School- Malaysia

ESL Department Head/Teacher, Singapore American School- Singapore

IB teacher/IB coordinator, American International School of Cairo- Egypt

Academic writing/reading, Canadian College- Egypt

IB English Lang and Lit./TOK, Tarsus American College- Turkey

Academic writing, grammar/Reading, Kazak-British Technical University- Kazakhstan

Centre Academic Studies, Al Akhawayn University- Morocco

National Curriculum Lit. Exam Prep., Shanti Bhavan- India

What is your teaching philosophy?

Education is a life-long pursuit. You never stop learning and schools should create the environment that makes this possible, making this an organic part of a person’s life. As a teacher, I am always learning and always asking questions about what I see, hear and think I know. I love words and I know how powerful they can be. I teach with a passion for these words to help students understand how they were used by the great minds of the past and are used in the present. In these times of “fake news”, education should prepare students to be able to read, listen and think critically so that their opinions are based on strong foundations of reason, logic, and true knowledge. I believe in using humour and compassion to engage and motivate. We are interconnected and knowledge is also interconnected and transdisciplinary, so we can no longer serve up a subject in isolation but see these subjects as a part of humankind striving to know, understand, apply and advance ourselves.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

I must first know where you are as a learner, what your expectations are for yourself and for me. Both student and teacher create a team that sets out the goals and the strategies that will be necessary to apply in order that these goals are met. Although we might be studying a literary text, the starting point has to be the student’s context and the writer’s context that creates a unique experience for each reader. The IB is concept-driven and these BIG IDEAS are what bring literature to life. The lesson should uncover these big ideas and apply them to the student‘s experience. The doors to different subjects, cultures, historical periods will find their way into the lesson to reveal the interconnectedness of knowledge. I know that at the end of a course these concepts might be all that will remain. Since high standards in thinking and writing are set by the IB, I will do all that I can to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to score well on the exams and assessments.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I believe that independence comes from confidence. If students know they have the skills and the knowledge and have been well prepared then they can work independently. When you are learning to ride a bike, at first, someone is holding you up and running alongside you, but in time that supports isn’t necessary and the rider can do this on his/her own. The support is like scaffolding on a construction site until the student is ready to stand independently. This process takes time and patience but is essential at all stages of a student’s education.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I have such passion for words and ideas and am so enthusiastic that my motivation is infectious.
There will be times when motivation will wane and I will patiently keep working to ignite the flame again. My experience tells me that this will happen. I will try different strategies to facilitate learning. I will support through my words and my patients that it is possible to achieve the levels of understanding that the IB expects. I have kept a sample of writing early on and when times get more difficult I will share this work just to illustrate the improvements that have already taken place. All students are surprised that so much has happened in writing and understanding they were not even aware of. This can only motivate the students to further work

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

Developing a skill takes practice. If a student has a problem with writing, then she should do a lot of writing and get feedback from the teacher. Some students don’t like to write, but the reality is that in post-secondary education, IB, and careers writing is an essential skill that helps in clarifying and organizing thinking. If a concept is difficult to understand then the teachers need to try a different approach, use different examples, illustrations, questions, and just keep opening as many doors to the concept as possible.

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

Reading has many elements that need to be developed. First, there is vocabulary that must be taught implicitly and explicitly. Vocabulary can often be understood by how it works in a sentence or a paragraph. Understanding how English writing is organized: where is the thesis statement, topic sentences, concluding paragraphs, structure, or arguments. Teaching skimming and scanning to improve reading speed. Finally, understanding context so that even before beginning a text a student will know what to expect. Helping the student develop enjoyment in reading generally is also very important.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

Since teaching is both and art and science I know that research has shown that making comparisons, examining similarities and differences, applying real-life experiences to academic work are just some of the strategies that are known to produce successful students. Humour is a painless and often thought-provoking tool that relaxes and allows the stress of difficult work to seem less so. The expectations of the IB must be made clear by using samples of work that received a high grade and these used as a model for, not imitation, but inspiration. When you know what it should look like you are more likely to reach the standard.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling with?

My own passion for words is infectious. I often find that students have not become excited because their teachers lacked that excitement. There is no such thing as a boring subject. Every topic has so many interesting pieces to it and the teacher’s job has to be to create a learning unit that will have Big Ideas, music, poetry, news, and views.

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

All subjects are not in individual boxes. The IB is especially interested in the interconnectedness between and among subjects and also the interconnectedness of peoples. If you start with where a student is and what is known and build from there, no technique is off-limits.

How do you build a student’s confidence in a subject?

As I have stated already, confidence is connected to developing skills, practicing, working independently, defending ideas, researching. You are confident because you have done the work and are ready for whatever is asked of you.

How do you evaluate a student’s needs?

At first, the student guides the teacher on what is needed. As the relationship develops and I get to know you better I come to understand other needs that should also be met. This is constantly evaluated and discussed to make should there is an understanding of why something is being done. Students always do better when they know how the activity fits into the bigger picture.

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student’s needs?

The first rule of being is a teacher is to teach the student where he/she is. There is an IB curriculum that needs to be completed, but sometimes going back a few steps is necessary before moving forward. If the standards are clear in the IB or any other program, then an organic growth, pause, retreat, review, and advance is always taking place. It is not enough to just march through the content because what will be asked in the exams is much more than a regurgitation of the content but analysis, argumentation, opinions backed by evidence.

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

I use material from the internet, from my resources in having taught the course for so long, from popular culture from anywhere and everywhere.

Teaching Skills

Subject Skill Level
English as a Foreign Language
Extended Essay ​(EE)
Language A: Literature And Language HL
Language A: Literature And Language SL
Language A: Literature HL
Language A: Literature SL
Language B HL
Language B SL
Literature And Performance SL
Theory of Knowledge​ (TOK)
"Think before you speak, read before you think." Fran Lebowitz I think, therefore, IB.

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