Writing and Tutoring Centers shift to an online beehive of learning, engagement and supportby Jan Janes on Oct 9, 2020
The Learning Commons at Gavilan College is home to the Writing Center, the Tutoring Center and embedded English tutoring, a hub of services students can access for academic support.
“Students get targeted support and one-on-one tutoring,” said Megan Wong-Lane, English instructor who coordinates the Tutoring Center. “They can study with us for their writing, research, reading needs, or for a specific class.”
Last spring, tutors became even more in demand, as in-class instruction abruptly switched to online learning. They proficiently guided both students and faculty in the art of the zoom, sharing screens and uploading assignments.
“The embedded tutors provide huge support for both instructors and students,” said Jessica Gatewood, English instructor who coordinates the Writing Center. “Many students reported back that their ability to work with tutors last spring got them through the semester.”
Gearing up for the fall and continued online instruction, 26 students enrolled in a month-long online tutor training course last summer. The cohort of tutors has grown to 37. And Gavilan students can now receive support in accounting, biology, chemistry, math, statistics, writing and ESL conversational English.
Embedded tutors are requested by faculty to support students in their classes. The tutors reach out to students who haven’t logged on regularly or have lost Internet access, and get them what they need to succeed.
Tutors are a bridge, a campus-wide voice
“It’s amazing what we have heard from our tutors,” said Gatewood. “Tutors provide support to students, and also to the college. They bring information back so the college can make it actionable.”
Embedded tutors, in their dual role, can also offer faculty a different perspective. “Instruction can be a lonely process,” said Gatewood. “Based on student questions, tutors can see when students are confused, because students will share more with another student.” Embedded tutors can serve as the bridge between the student and the instruction to make it clear.
While classes continue online, the services have expanded. Tutoring is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The students who benefit from the program offer their feedback. “Thank you for making tutoring more equitable,” wrote one student. “I hope, in the future, the choice to access tutoring via this platform remains a possibility when everything goes back to in person.”
“We train at a high level,” said Wong-Lane, “It’s a robust training program that gives the tutors the basis to do their good work.” She noted they also do better in their own classes because they reach out to other tutors. “This is an attitude, a shift away from only needing tutoring if they start failing, to actively seeking support from others.”
“There’s one more layer,” said Gatewood. “We love what the tutors get out of it. The growth we see when a student signs up, first comes in, and they walk out changing their majors to education and working with youth.”
Philip Avila was one of those students.
Avila, standing, works with English students as they develop their English compositions
(photo taken before March 2020).
After graduating from high school, he did not want to go to college. But education felt like the thing to do. “In life you need a better education to pursue better things,” said Avila. Like many students, he struggled with working full time, attending classes, and at a loss about saving money to afford university tuition.
“I wanted to drop out every single semester,” he said.
A chance encounter with a NASA recruiter, visiting Gavilan to speak with STEM students, changed everything.
“He told me that writing scholarships, to pay for his education, became almost a full time job,” said Avila. “And he shared with me how to write them, which I now pass on to other students.”
Avila graduated from Gavilan College with a double major in liberal arts and general business in 2016. He transferred to UC Santa Barbara as English major and earned his BA in Literature and the Mind.
Returning to the Central Coast, Avila worked as one of the first embedded tutors in on Gatewood’s English class and knew he wanted to become a teacher. After a year of ‘degree debate,’ he enrolled at San Jose State University to work on his master’s degree. There, he is a full time student and a graduate assistant for a professor. Here at Gavilan he currently works as the program specialist and English fellows coordinator.
“One of the things I learned,” he said, “Don’t let fear and stereotypes about college hold you back. College is affordable.”
Alejandra Rueda took a different route.
Rueda works on tutor schedules at her desk in the Learning Commons
(photo taken before March 2020).
“I was drawn to this community college because it felt like a second home,” she said. “Gavilan has great professors and counselors that truly care for their students’ success.”Taking a zoology class, with a section in entomology, plus working in the tutoring center, helped to clarify her path.
“I liked knowing how others learn,” said Rueda. “As well as the many possibilities there are when you try to help others.” And she views insects as sometimes forgotten, but highly important in the ecosystem.
She graduated from Gavilan College in 2017 and transferred to UCSC as the recipient of the Karl S. Pister Scholarship, where she earned her B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Pursuit of an M.S. in Entomology is a goal for the future.
Rueda started working as a program specialist in Gavilan’s Tutoring Center while attending UCSC. “I wanted to give back to the community that gave me so much,” she said. “Without their support, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I want to help build the tutoring program as much as I can.”
Whether you want to receive tutoring services or explore becoming a tutor yourself, check out all the opportunities on the Learning Commons website.