by Austin Giles
At each occupied table in the writing center of Whatcom Community College there is a pair of people, tutor and student, together discussing the ways to improve the essay before them. The main things being discussed: developing, organizing and illustrating ideas.
An excerpt from the writing center’s mission statement explains, “The reader’s role is to assist as the writer explores his or her ideas and options.”
Katie Chugg has been with the writing center for six years. “I love hearing about what students are doing and thinking,” she said. “They come from such diverse backgrounds.” Tutoring has rewarded her with a clearer vision for writing.
“When you start teaching something, you learn more,” Chugg said. She now can read a paper and see its strengths and weaknesses.
“You’ll see something that completely delights you and something that doesn’t make sense,” said Chugg. It is her job to help students smooth out the rough parts of their essays. When students are working on something that’s really important to them, they want it to be more professional and she’s there to help.
When writing center director Sherri Winans is considering which tutors to hire, she looks for “somebody who is open, interested and engaged.” She has been the director since 2001 and says that working with the staff is one of her favorite things about the job.
Applicants submit a sample of their writing for consideration in being hired but training happens in the writing center. There is a weekly meeting on Wednesdays when tutors discuss AP style, grammar and ideas. “We’re studying teaching together,” says Winans.