If teachers are the principle transmitters of education, tutors are the unsung heroes of academic success. Robeson Community College is joining colleges and universities around the nation Oct. 1 throught Oct. 7 for National Tutor Appreciation Week, a celebration that recognizes the efforts of academic tutors.
National Tutor Appreciation Week is recognized by the College Reading and Learning Association, which certifies tutor training programs around the nation and verifies that tutors meet approved program guidelines. The CRLA has been certifying programs since 1989 and more than 800 programs are now certified, including The Learning Center at Robeson Community College, which was granted approval in August.
The Learning Center at Robeson Community College employs 23 tutors in its facility. The Center, which opened its doors at RCC in February 2011, served about 350 students in its first year. In the first month of fall classes this academic year, about 150 students have already been tutored for approximately two hours per week in about 40 different subjects. The center offers tutorial assistance, a writing center and academic success workshops. A full-time director and instructional specialist and 23 part-time tutors serve in the Center. Certification review takes about a year. RCC applied in 2011.
James Bass, director of The Learning Center, insists that RCC’s tutors bring a wealth of knowledge and experience.
“We have some professional tutors who are retired school teachers with more than 25 years of teaching experience,” he said. “We also have tutors that bring years of professional knowledge to our center — tutors who worked as accountants, computer technicians and business people. All of these experiences are good exposure for students.”
William Aney served RCC as an English instructor for 10 years, before retiring and coming back to serve as a professional tutor. But his rich history is a plus to his vast teaching experience.
The Pennsylvania native and 1969 graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara lived through the McCarthy-era ‘50’s, the fight for civil rights, the anti-war movement, the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy. He came to Fayetteville to work as a Vista Volunteer for the Cumberland Community Action Program. After completing his time with the program, he spent 26 years as a high school English and math teacher in New York.
“Working with older students coming to college for the first time has been a pleasure because they take their studies seriously and find they have abilities they didn’t know they had or never got the chance to develop,” said Aney. “As tutors we get to see the pleasure a student feels on finding his or her own voice, or mastering some software, understanding some previously obscure math concept, or relating to and even enjoying a piece of literature.”
Preston Caudle became a peer tutor in 2010 after one of his instructors encouraged him to put his skills in English and reading to work helping others as a tutor.
Chiara Oxendine became a tutor this year after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Psychology. She is a nursing assistant at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, and hopes to become a physician’s assistant. She says that she is a tutor because it gives her the chance to give back to her community and enrich the lives of others.
Steven Byrd holds a bachelor’s degree in Literature and a master’s degree in Creative Writing. In addition to serving as a public school teacher in Robeson County and an English instructor at UNCP and NC State University, he worked as a professional writer.
“I like working as a tutor because I can customize lessons to help my students improve their skills, no matter where they are having trouble. The one-on-one interaction with students also allows me to see the students’ improvements firsthand,” said Byrd.
Training for tutors at The Learning Center is coordinated by Angela McNeill, instructional specialist.
While many students come to academic skills centers like RCC’s TLC because they need help in their course work, Bass insists that tutorial assistance can be an advantage for all students.
“It’s a resource. Our center also houses a writing center, and students at any level can come in to improve their skills and be more successful,” he said.
James Bass is director of The Learning Center at Robeson Community College. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.