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Clark Learning Center Re-Certified for Writing Tutor Program

learning center writing

SUNY Plattsburgh’s Claude J. Clark Learning Center Writing Tutoring Program has received the highest possible re-certification granted by the internationally recognized College Reading and Learning Association.

This re-certification means Learning Center writing tutors can receive CRLA certification for their work at three levels: Level One; Level Two as an advanced tutor; and Level Three as a master tutor. The center has been certified by the CRLA since 1992. According to the association, re-certification “means that the Learning Center has met CRLA’s high standards for tutor selection, training, direct service and evaluation as an integral part of its overall tutoring program.”

“It’s exciting to know that the writing tutoring program has been qualified at the international level,” said Regan Levitte, Learning Center assistant director and writing specialist. “The College Reading and Learning Association might get 3,000 applications for certification but only approve a third of those. It’s a pretty exclusive group.”

Reinforcement for Successful Work

crla logoCertification by CRLA provides recognition and positive reinforcement for the tutoring program’s successful work from an international organization. The requirements set “an internationally accepted standard of skills and training for tutors,” according to CRLA.

“We have to meet certain standards of excellence in our lesson plans, training procedures and structure to meet those three levels,” Levitte said. “Because of how the writing tutor programming is structured, students have to have a certain number of hours training and a certain number of contact hours tutoring.”

To become a writing tutor, students have to pass ENG 390: Theories and Practices of Writing Tutoring with a grade of B or higher. To reach each CRLA tutor level, tutors have to have 25 contact hours of tutoring; to reach Level Three or master’s level, they need 75 contact all in addition to the ENG 390 class.

Levitte said that while English majors do sign up, anyone can become a tutor.

“I’ve had accounting majors and biology majors. It’s open to any major who has a recommendation from a faculty member who knows their writing, very often their (required) ENG 101 instructor,” she said.

‘Always Loved to Write’

Class of 2021 alumna and English writing arts and literature dual major Cheryth Youngmann went through the program, earning a master level writing tutor certificate.

“I’ve always loved to write and always staunchly believed it’s a teachable skill,” said Youngmann, who serves as a public relations and media specialist at the Odum School of Ecology/ River Basin Center’s communication coordinator at University of Georgia.

“Freshman year, I took ENG 101 with then-assistant director and writing specialist at the Learning Center, Kate Mulhollem. Near the end of the course, she encouraged me to enroll in ENG 390. I took it the spring semester of 2018, loved it, and began tutoring the next semester,” she said.

Master Tutor Level

Youngmann began the process of going for her master’s level in tutoring and admitted there were times she didn’t get a lot of sleep.

“But I also had really understanding professors and supervisors. Like a lot of students, I was balancing work and academics with adult, family responsibilities, and they knew that. The couple of times I needed an extension on a paper or needed an appointment covered, professors and Learning Center staff showed up for me,” she said. “Every time I got overwhelmed and thought I was going to drop the ball, someone came and helped me juggle.”

Levitte said being a tutor in the Learning Center often has far-reaching benefits, including how to teach small groups, how to give feedback, working and interacting with people in a work space and more.

“All these are applicable in life skills,” she said.

Youngmann concurred.

“I know it sounds dramatic, but I have honestly wondered if tutoring at Plattsburgh altered the course of my life. I'd definitely bought into the narrative that English majors were unemployable,” she said. “I'm really pragmatic, so I entered college on a track that guaranteed employment after graduation. But I've always loved literature. I've always been a writer.”

When Mulhollem suggested she enroll in ENG 390, Youngmann had just changed her major to the English writing arts and literature track.

Tutoring ‘Offered Me the Confidence’

cheryth youngmann“Tutoring offered me the confidence I needed to stick with it, to believe I wouldn't be a starving artist — I learned that I was a great editor with a valuable skillset,” she said. “I graduated with well over two years of professional tutoring and editing experience. Especially since Learning Center tutors are asked to look over all writing — from lab notes to essays on women playwrights in the 1600s.

“My experience was highly interdisciplinary,” she said. “I call on that experience now as a science communicator for University of Georgia's school of ecology and freshwater science and policy center. Tutoring has been invaluable, too, in teaching my interns to write polished pieces for our sites.”

While her first job after graduation was working on a paint crew, she never gave up her plans to be a writer.

“I’d tell any recent graduates out there to not be embarrassed if it takes a while to land something in your field,” she said. “Work any job and pursue your passion on the side if you have to. I'd get home from a day painting churches and bell towers and write pieces on a freelance basis,” she said. It was through that work on the side that she wound up as news editor and general assignment reporter with Vermont News & Media.

“From there, I pivoted to my current role. It took me a while to catch my stride, and if it's taking you a while too, just know that's normal,” Youngmann said.

Tutoring in All Areas Available

In addition to writing support, the Learning Center also offers tutoring in all academic areas, English language learning support, academic personal training and more.

“I'll be honest and say that when tutees came in wanting you to write their paper, do all the work for them, appointments were a slog,” Youngmann said. “But mostly students were ready to engage in the process, and those appointments were seriously delightful. Watching students, sometimes for the first time in their life, leave with essays they were proud of never got old.”

“I think there’s a massive stigma to going to a learning center, but everybody needs help with something,” Levitte said. “That’s what the Learning Center is here for. What students find here are people who care and want the best for them. We want to see you succeed.”

— By Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs

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