Writing Center Tutors Lead Workshop at National Conference

Posted on 12/8/2018 7:58:28 AM

Two undergraduate tutors from the Kathleen Jones White Writing Center at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Nick Gati and Emily O’Donnell, led a featured workshop at the Secondary Schools Writing Center Association, held November 9–10, 2018, on the campus of George Mason University, located in Fairfax, Virginia.

Tutors from Virginia and Massachusetts collaborated with Gati and O’Donnell on the workshop, which was attended by 31 writing center directors and tutors. Over 500 presenters and attendees from the mid-Atlantic region and beyond gathered for the conference.

Those attending the workshop learned principles and strategies for teaching and tutoring writing, including ways to help writers organize and develop ideas, collaborate for peer review sessions, and use different styles for different genres and audiences.

Gati and O'Donnell fielded many questions from the high school tutors about writing at the college level and how to challenge their peers to excel.The high school tutors also expressed concerns about the challenges of finding a diverse staff in schools that have large minority populations but tutors who are mostly white. Gati and O'Donnell also spoke about majoring in English Education at IUP and encouraged the high school tutors in attendance to consider IUP when choosing a college. 

The event’s keynote speaker was Kyle Boswell, a doctoral student in the English Department’s Composition and Applied Linguistics Program. Boswell teaches English and directs her school’s writing center in Michigan.  

Gati, a senior secondary English education major and Spanish and math minor, said the conference was important for his future career as a teacher. “I really loved leading the discussion because it made it clear to me how capable high school students are of thoughtfully approaching all of the responsibilities included with being a peer tutor,” he said.

O’Donnell, a senior secondary English education major and music minor, said the conference reinforced her desire to become a teacher after graduating from IUP.

Gati and O’Donnell have both worked at the Jones White Writing Center for two years, where they assist IUP students from all majors and levels with writing assignments. Their attendance at the conference was supported by the Kathleen Jones White Endowment, according to Ben Rafoth, director of the center, who said the tutors’ project reflected the high level of undergraduate research at IUP.  

“Getting to see high school students be so passionate about their writing centers—I felt empowered as a teacher by that. I was just very encouraged and inspired,” said O’Donnell. “It made me excited to be a teacher.”

To plan the workshop in the weeks leading up to the conference, Gati and O’Donnell brainstormed ideas with other educators. The soon-to-be IUP graduates hope to start writing centers in their own schools and said the SSCWA conference gave them the knowledge to put their plans into action. 

“I know that I want to be a part of or start a high school writing center someday because of the amazing students and writing center directors I had the pleasure of spending time with at the conference,” Gati said.