Author: SSWCA

February Digital Roundtable Recap: Planning and Proposing a Session for SSWCA 2018

In an effort to build community among secondary school writing centers and to provide more opportunities for directors to collaborate, SSWCA is pleased to announce our Digital Roundtable Series. Each month, SSWCA member schools are invited to join us for an informal discussion via GoogleHangouts. Each month’s topic and guiding questions will be announced in the month leading up to the roundtable.

On Tuesday, February 13, SSWCA President Kate Hutton hosted the first SSWCA Digital Roundtable, which focused on planning and proposing sessions for SSWCA’s Seventh Annual Secondary School Writing Centers Conference, “Process and Progress. Kate Hutton of the Herndon Writing Center (VA), SSWCA Vice President Trisha Callihan of the Eagle Writing Center at Osbourn High School (VA), and tutor leaders Abbie and Arleigh of the West Springfield Peer Tutors (VA), participated in this month’s roundtable.

The following notes were generated from our conversation.

Potential Proposal Topics for Directors + Tutors

  • How does your center build empathy for clients or tutees?
  • How do you encourage teachers to trust your tutors?
  • How can tutors help to support and sustain a center as directors transition out/in?
  • How do centers recruit and retain tutors?
    • Who are your tutors?
    • Does your staff represent your student body?
    • How do you recruit tutors?
    • How do you recruit tutors from groups who are under-represented in your staff?
  • Writing workshops: scheduling, promotion, effectiveness
  • Hot topic: group session tutoring
    • How do you train tutors to tutor in groups?
    • How do you prepare tutees/clients to be tutored in groups?
  • What structure(s) are in place for students to students sign up to be tutored in the center? How do you manage these?
    • Paper sign-ups
    • Digital sign-ups
    • Combination
  • Decentralizing the peer tutor center
    • How do you make the best of an inconvenient location?
    • How do you establish yourself as a learning center if you aren’t able to officially label yourself a “center”?
    • How do you manage competing tutoring services in your school community?
  • How do you implement incentive programs to encourage students to be tutored?
    • Party for class that has highest % of attendance at center during time frame
    • Random prize drawing for a student who has worked with a tutor (i.e. basketball game tickets, Prom or Homecoming tickets, etc.)
    • Random prize drawing for a teacher whose student(s) have worked with a tutor
  • Tutoring as Labor
    • How do you prepare tutors for the emotional labor of tutoring peers?
    • How do you and your tutoring staff build morale?
  • How do you encourage tutors to respect professionalism policies & tutor outside of school hours?
  • How do you implement  tutor liaisons to teachers and academic departments?
  • How do you develop community and a sense of belonging among your tutoring staff? (And how do you avoid tutor cliques?)
    • Tutor trees or tutoring families
    • Tutor houses similar to Hogwarts houses
  • How do you promote your center?
    • 50 cent poems
    • Cookies and Composition
    • National Day on Writing Celebration
  • How do you budget and fundraise when you have no budget?
  • If your staff of returning tutors are working on SSWCA proposals, what do you do with Seniors and non-returning staff?
    • Herndon – Legacy Project (Seniors and non-returning staff propose and implement a sustainable component to the writing centers
    • Experienced tutors prepare binders with resources for tutoring every subject

Suggested Resources for Research

  • Data compiled by your center. This may include:
    • Sign-in sheet data
    • Post-conference evaluation data
    • Tutoring Logs
    • Tutor observations
    • Teacher interviews
    • Tutor interviews
  • The Peer Review
  • Writing Center Journal (This link will take you to JSTOR. You will need to log in with your institution’s credentials.)
  • WLN: A Journal of  Writing Center Scholarship
  • Tutor training manuals, including:
    • The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors (Ryan and Zimmerelli)
    • The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors (Murphy and Sherwood)
    • A Tutor’s Guide: Helping Writers One to One (Rafoth)
    • Tutoring Writing: A Practical Guide for Conferences (McAndrew and Reigstad)

Save the Dates for Our Spring 2018 Digital Roundtable Series:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 7:30 pm- 8:30 pm EST

Thursday, April 26, 2018 7:30 pm- 8:30 pm EST

Saturday, May 19, 2018 1:00 pm-2:00 pm EST

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 7:30 pm-8:30 pm EST


Announcing Our First SSWCA Digital Roundtable!

Join us for our first SSWCA Digital Roundtable!

We invite directors from SSWCA member schools to share ideas for potential conference presentations, ask questions about the proposal writing process, and share strategies for guiding students through the proposal writing process. Registration is currently open to SSWCA member schools. Join today!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018: Register here.

Saturday, February 17, 2018: Register here.

Announcing the SSWCA Logo Design Contest

We Need a New Logo! You Need $$$!

Starting today and continuing through Friday, January 12th, the SSWCA board will be accepting submissions for a new, polished logo which captures our hope of building a secondary school writing center community across state lines. Tweet and share your designs with the hashtags #SSWCA and #CAPTAgoesNational to submit your entry. One winner will be chosen by the SSWCA board and will receive a $150 Visa gift card. Happy designing!

CAPTA’s Newsletter Updates

Welcome back to school! It has come to CAPTA’s attention that our weekly newsletters don’t always make it past school email firewalls and into your inboxes. We don’t want you to miss out on our important conference updates, including registration information, travel grant and registration waiver opportunities, housing/lodging options, CAPTA renewal for 2017-2018, and the conference schedule, all NOW available!

Here is a link to the update we sent out last week via Mailchimp. If you’d like to subscribe to our updates from a personal email that may be more likely to receive our newsletter updates, you may do so here.

CAPTA Conference 2016: A First-Year Tutor Attendee Review

Natalie Glover is a current 10th grade tutor at Peters Township High School Writing Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

I am a part of the Peters Township High School Writing Center in Pittsburgh, PA, and this past year was my first experience at the CAPTA Conference.  Although I was not presenting, my peers had been working to prepare a presentation for several months, and I went along as support.  Our former writing center teacher had presented the opportunity to attend; I saw it as a chance to learn more about the possibilities for the developing a writing center back at our high school.  

Once the much anticipated day of the conference had arrived, I was nervous, not knowing exactly what to expect.  One of my friends (who was presenting) and I were there early enough that we were asked to help set up a few last minute details, and all of the adults were extremely welcoming and grateful for the help.  This immediate kindness from everyone involved calmed my nerves and assured me that it would be a great day.  

Once the introduction was about to start, all of the students and presenters had congregated in the main room, and I was amazed.  The loud, crowded room was filled with an amazing passion for writing and sharing ideas that would benefit everyone.  The atmosphere was relaxed and was encouraging to the flow of ideas.  Sitting there, I was almost overwhelmed with the magnitude of creative and ambitious minds in the room, but it was an unforgettable experience.  

Each of the sessions I attended was conducted in the same manner, not too formal, but still informative and intriguing.  Following each presentation, the group of coaches from Peters would discuss new ideas that were shared and ways that we could possibly adapt them to our center.  Many of these ideas have been implemented since then and have contributed to our success as a group!  

This was my first conference ever, and it was such a positive experience that it most definitely will not be my last.  I will even be presenting at  the 2017 conference along with my peers.  Hopefully, we will also be able to contribute to the sea of incredible ideas that are fostered throughout the gathering of different writing coaches.   

CAPTA’s 2017 Conference Keynote Speakers

The Capital Peer Tutoring Association is thrilled to announce our keynote speakers for this year’s conference CAPTA 2017: People, Purpose, and Passion to be held on Friday, December 8, 2017 in Arlington, VA!

We welcome Jeffrey Austin, founder-director of the Skyline High School Writing Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan and current IWCA Secondary School Representative, and Christine Modey, Peer Writing Consultant Program Director at the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan, to share with all conference participants their experiences around meaningful collaboration across secondary school and university writing center sites. We look forward to hearing from Jeffrey and Christine, both during their dual keynote address on Friday morning as well as in their interactive workshops for directors in the late morning and afternoon. Conference registration is now open here.

Past keynote speakers at CAPTA events include Dr. Jennifer Wells (CAPTA 2016) from New College of Florida and co-editor of The Successful High School Writing Center: Building the Best Program with your Students and Dr. Andrew Jeter (CAPTA 2013) from Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois and founder of the Chicagoland Organization of Writing, Literacy, and Learning Centers.

JEFFREY AUSTIN teaches Humanities and serves as the Writing Center Director at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he was named a 2017 Washtenaw County Teacher of the Year. Jeffrey is also the current Secondary School Representative for IWCA.

His writing center life began as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan when his poetry professor nominated him to be a consultant in the Sweetland Center for Writing. Although he didn’t know it at the time, Jeffrey’s work at Sweetland would become an essential part of his teaching pedagogy, as he works to help his students multiply their funds of knowledge in their own writing through growth-oriented and process-minded dialogue. One of Jeffrey’s main goals in founding the Skyline Writing Center was to create a learner-centered space where peers could meaningfully dialogue with one another about any kind of writing at any stage of the writing process.

Since 2012, Jeffrey and his Skyline consultants have conducted thousands of sessions in their Writing Center, in classrooms, and online, organized three Writing Prize competitions to financially support emerging student voices, published five issues of Teen Spirit, an award-winning literary magazine, and formed an enduring collaboration with the consultants of the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan.

Jeffrey earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Political Science and Master’s Degrees in Teaching and Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Michigan.

DR. CHRISTINE MODEY is a lecturer in the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan, where she teaches directs the Peer Writing Consultant Program and teaches courses in peer consultant training and new media writing. She has taught first-year writing courses on the themes of art and technology; suffering, justice, and community; physicians and their patients; and the history of the book. Her current research, conducted with colleagues at Sweetland, concerns the interactions between writers and consultants in Sweetland’s Writing Workshop.

She lives, gardens, reads, and cooks in Ann Arbor with her husband, children, Labrador retriever, and two cats.

Spring 2017 Elections for CAPTA Tutor Representatives

This spring, CAPTA will hold elections for the two open student representative positions on the CAPTA Executive Board. Applications for the 2017-2018 CAPTA Student Representatives to the Executive Board due by Friday, May 26. The elected representatives will serve a terms from June 2017 to June 2018. Board members will meet on a monthly or bimonthly basis, as agreed upon by the Board itself via Google Hangout.

Student Representatives (two open seats): The elected student representatives will be responsible for providing input to the board and advising them on student-centered issues. As they are elected by their peers, they will have voting rights on the board. Student representatives will be responsible for reaching out to peer tutors, facilitating partnerships between schools, and maintaining peer tutor and alumni contact lists.

Tasks include:
Coordinating bi-monthly CAPTA tutor gatherings
Collecting and managing submissions for and editing tutor-written CAPTA Blog posts of the week
Designing and helping distribute promotional materials via the web and in CAPTA schools
Corresponding with and planning events with CAPTA school-based liaisons
Other tasks to help further CAPTA projects, such as those associated with the annual conference, the directors’ retreat, and partnerships between CAPTA schools

Any current peer tutor at a CAPTA-affiliated secondary school writing center is eligible to apply. Student representatives should expect to participate in CAPTA activities approximately 2 hours per week in addition to attending meetings. Representatives are also expected to communicate with the Board on a regular basis. One year term.

Please consider running for a position. Serving on the board is a great way to promote the work of writing centers, meet writing center colleagues throughout the region, and gain valuable learning experiences.

How do I apply?
Complete and submit this Form by the May 26 deadline.
Online elections will be held from May 29-June 2. We will send a link to the voting ballot to all CAPTA Writing Center Directors. They will share the link with their tutors.
The new board members will be notified via email by June 7 and officially welcomed at a“transition board meeting” held by our current Student Representatives on a date agreed upon by those attending. This meeting will occur over Google Hangout.

Thank you and please contact me with any questions.

Stephanie Passino
CAPTA Board Secretary

The Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association (CAPTA) exists to build community among secondary school writing and learning center directors, tutors, and partners; promote advocacy for peer-driven programs that transform schools by empowering student leaders; and support development and sharing of local resources for new and existing centers.

Twitter: @CAPTATutors
Facebook: CAPTA Writing Center Tutors

Writing Center Spotlight: Hawk Writing Center

Social media: Twitter @HSWritingCenter ; Blog
Director: Stephanie Passino; @Ms_Passino

Hayfield Secondary School is home to almost 3,000 7th-12th grade students. It is a very diverse school located in Alexandria, VA in Fairfax County. Our writing center is made up of 36 students this year; 14 second year tutors and 22 first year tutors. Our center primarily functions during the school day (lunch periods) and was established in 2013.

What makes our center unique is the fact that we can support 7th-12th grade students during the school day. Since we are a secondary school, we have the opportunity to support our younger writers and show them that the writing is not only a process but that it should be collaborative. We’ve also worked very hard to make our center reflect our school’s population in terms of students gender, race, grade level, etc.

Our center supports all subject areas, but we primarily work with history and English classes (most likely because those classes assign the most writing). We’ve hosted several workshops (college essay workshops, SOL writing workshops, science fair writing workshops) over the years. To make these workshops so successful, we typically co-host them with the Career Center or honor societies. We have also been supporting the 5th graders at the elementary school across the street. This outreach program takes place twice a week during our class. Tutors work with the elementary school students on various writing skills.

Our writing center is a part of the Advanced Composition class. We are on a block scheduled, so the class is held during 5th and 6th period (2 sections), our lunch periods. In order to be a tutor, students must take the class. Students can take the course for three years and earn 3 years worth of elective credits.

Within each class period, there is a student who serves as our Writing Center Recruitment Chair. This student works closely with me to come up with new ways to advertise our class and incite students to become tutors. To recruit, we generally hold a meeting after school and present at our electives fair. I also ask all of the English teachers for students they would recommend for the program. Once I get their names, I’ll send them a letter to let them know that they were recommended for the class because of their writing skills and leadership abilities. This recruitment strategy has worked well in the past, but we are always looking for new ideas. With required courses such as Personal Finance and gym, students often have limited space for electives in their rigorous schedules.

WIthin our center we have committees and leadership roles. The leadership roles include: Tutor Manager, Tutor Manager Apprentice, Statistical Analyst, Event Organizer, Outreach Coordinator, and Recruitment Chair. Students apply for these positions. Each class typically ends up with 2-3 tutor managers. These roles have different responsibilities. The descriptions are included in one of the handouts. Each class also has designated committees. The goal of the committees is to delegate work and tasks for major projects (workshops, fundraisers, etc.) The committees are as follows: Teacher Relations, Student Relations, Media & Marketing, Technology & Communication, Fundraising, and Event Liaison. These roles and committees have been modified/adapted from the roles Centreville High School used in 2012.

My proudest accomplishment is building our center from the ground up. I developed an interest in the high school writing center while student teaching at Centreville High School. My advising teacher, Alison Hughes, was the director, and she inspired me to create a center that fosters creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.

I’ve designed/adapted the majority of the assignments in Advanced Composition to align with Kelly Gallagher’s, Write Like This, text. He advises that students practice writing for “real-world” purposes. Students focus on a particular form, audience, and purpose with each writing task.Tutors go through the writing process just like the tutees that come to the center. The tutors continuously get tutored to reinforce good tutoring practices and to learn new techniques. In our center we use the principles and practices from The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors to train our new tutors. After reading several chapters of the text, tutors role-play scenarios, participate in small group discussions, and reflect on their new take-aways through writing.

Our Mission Statement: “The Hawk Writing Center seeks to provide students with quality assistance through peer tutoring. We aim to foster the growth of writing skills within our community through active collaboration in a positive environment where creativity is encouraged.” Our class created this statement in 2015.

I’m hoping to refine the mentor-mentee program our center has adapted over the past two years. I don’t think I use the experience and skills of our 2nd year tutors as much as I could when training the new tutors.

As a CAPTA member school, our writing center has all of the resources to reach out to other centers, but we haven’t quite made this happen. We attend the CAPTA conferences, a few tutors joined a CAPTA tutor get-together in the fall, and are going to the retreat this summer, but our outreach with other centers generally ends at this point. My goal for this year will be for our tutors to visit at least one other writing center.

Workshop with an ESOL class – students were brainstorming and organizing ideas for a Hero Essay.

Tutors delivering “Good Luck” smarties to our 8th and 11th grades classes before the Writing SOL.

Tutor Training – Discussing the types of “hats” tutors wear during a session.

2nd year tutor presenting the basics of the college essay at our annual College Essay Workshop.

Keeping Cool Under Pressure: Presentation Tips for the 2017 CAPTA Conference

Beth Harar is an At-Large Member of the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association. Questions? Email her:

For the last few months, you’ve worked hard to put together a solid proposal for the CAPTA 2017 Conference. Your proposal is organized, engaging, and original. You’ve submitted it to the CAPTA committee and are one-hundred percent ready to wow your audience.
There’s just one little snag – you actually have to stand up in front of your peers and pull it off.
For some of us, presenting in front of a crowd is easy. For others, not so much. However, there are some important public speaking and presentation tips everyone should keep in mind for the big day.
1. Dress for Success
Remember – you are attending a professional conference, so you want to dress the part. Look classy, but keep it comfortable. If you aren’t accustomed to walking around in three inch heels, a day-long conference is not the place to break them in.
2. Be Friendly and Make Eye-Contact
Your audience is genuinely interested in what you have to say. Greet them with a smile and make eye-contact during your presentation. This engages your audience, and makes you an approachable presenter. Practice with your family and friends; it gets easier with time.
3. Speak Up
Chances are, you’ll be in a room packed with people. More bodies means more background noise. Make sure you speak clearly and loudly so that your audience can hear your words of wisdom. When you first start your presentation, don’t hesitate to ask the people in the back if they can hear you. By doing so, you grab their attention and can start strong.
4. Avoid Distractions
Most people are naturally nervous when they present. Be conscious of repetitive movements, like pacing, swaying, or foot tapping. Practice your presentation as much as you can to avoid unwanted words and sounds like “um” or “uh” from dominating your workshop. These distractions can detract from the important information in your presentation.
5. Interact With Your Audience
Don’t be afraid to walk around and talk to your audience. It’s a great way to engage them in the presentation, and to encourage participation. The best times to do this are when they first enter the room, while you have them completing small tasks or group work, and while they are packing up to leave. Not only will they feel more connected to your presentation, but they can offer unique insight and ideas you may not have considered.

If I can offer one last piece of advice, it is to be yourself! As a writing center tutor, you have valuable experiences to share with your audience. Relax, take a deep breath, and remember that your audience is here to learn from your valuable experiences.