By Eric Fergason
The SALT Center employs a team of tutors ranging from undergraduates to retirees. Each tutor represents a diverse community of individuals dedicated to student success. Last week, we posted an article on Advanced Tutors and sisters, Sam & Alex Stanley (class of 2014), in which we discussed their experience as tutors at the SALT Center, and the impact it has had on their college careers (visit our SALT Center Stories page to read more). This week, we are highlighting Master Tutor, Kathleen Jackson. Kathleen is an Air Force Veteran with a wealth of tutoring experience.
Kathleen’s tutoring career began long before she heard about the SALT Center at the University of Arizona. Kathleen attends a Mosque with a predominantly Pakistani congregation - many of the children struggle with speaking English, which has caused them to suffer in school. Years ago, a number of the families asked Kathleen (a native English speaker) if she could help, to which she happily agreed - she began tutoring middle and high school students, and found that she both excelled at and enjoyed it.
As Kathleen’s tutees moved from high school to college, she recognized that those who learned differently still needed her help. She wanted to continue to be a part of their success, so she began browsing the UA Human Resources page. When she saw an opening at the SALT Center, she thought, “That sounds like a perfect job for me!” Shortly after applying, a UA Veterans Representative called her for an interview, and, eventually, she was offered a tutoring position.
SALT Center tutors undergo a rigorous training regiment to obtain and maintain their tutor certification. In a matter of four semesters, Kathleen earned her Master Tutor Certificate. Kathleen recalled the phases of training involved in rising to the highest level of tutor certification, including observing other advanced and master tutors, self-evaluation, and training on assistive technology and Learning Disabilities.
Kathleen also mentioned a training video that made an impression on her: “The film shows a bunch of tutors who are taken to a classroom, where their trainer gets up and pretends to be a professor – he belittles his ‘pupils’ and says that they’ll never succeed.” Kathleen went on to describe how the trainer breaks character and explains that this is the way many professors make their students feel. This role-play contrasted the relationship between student and professor versus student and tutor, and highlighted the important role that tutors play in encouraging and empowering students, “It was a very moving video.”
In addition to extensive training, another requirement that Master Tutors must meet is the creation of a project that demonstrates their ability to help students become more independent learners. For her project, Kathleen designed crossword puzzles for students taking two specific courses: Comparative Religions, and The Religion of Islam. The crossword puzzles included answers to questions about Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Protestantism, and Catholicism. “It was a fun way for students to check their understanding.”
As a Master Tutor, Kathleen is responsible for the growth of other tutors at the SALT Center. For example, each tutor is required to fill out a Session Review for every tutoring session that they facilitate. In it, the tutor lists what the student wanted to accomplish, which strategies were used to help the student accomplish those goals, a summary of the session, and ways that the tutor can help the student become a more independent learner. The Master Tutors and the Learning Support Services staff review these documents and provide the tutors with feedback. Kathleen found that providing feedback to other tutors has actually improved her practice: “It has made me a better tutor because, as I think of ways to help the other tutors, I apply what I tell them to my own tutoring. I have to practice what I preach!”
Kathleen’s passion for what she does has been evident since the day she was hired: “I asked, ‘Can I stay as long as I am able?’ and they said, ‘Yes!’ I have enjoyed it immensely.” Kathleen’s abilities and rapport with students have proven to be an asset to the SALT Center. Students she tutored from the Mosque, who now attend the UA, have sought her out for help. Other students she tutored as a Regular and Advanced Tutor return to her as they continue their education: “A lot of students come back to me semester after semester.”
We are very grateful for Kathleen’s contribution to our program, and the value she have provided to our students. We hope that she’ll continue to support students and tutors at the SALT Center for years to come.