GMU SSWC 2013 Conference

On Friday, October 11, 2013, Fairfax County Public Schools Writing Center Directors partnered with the Northern Virginia Writing Project at George Mason University to host the third annual Secondary Schools Writing Center Conference. This conference lead to the founding of the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association, now SSWCA, in 2014. The conference was keynoted by Dr. Andrew Jeter, founding director of the Niles West Literacy Center and former IWCA Secondary Schools Representative.

The conference also included a panel for directors and administrators entitled “Transformations from the Center Panel Q&A”, moderated by Amber Jensen of Edison High School. The panel featured Dr. John Banbury (Principal, Oakton HS, VA), Justine Burke (Tutor, George Mason Writing Center, VA), Janice Jewell (Director, Herndon Writing Center, VA), Matthew Kasper (Director, St. Paul’s School, MD), Andre Sanabia (Former Tutor and Student, University of Virginia), and Susana Zelaya (Tutor, Edison Writing Center, VA).

Student Presentation Schedule

Third Annual Secondary Schools Writing Center Conference

George Mason University, October 2013

Session A Presentations     9:25-10:15 am

SESSION A1: Gold Room

Connect or Reject: How Teachers’ Opinions of Writing Centers Transform

Sarah Velasco-Kent & Monty Westendorff, Edison High School

Two second year tutors from the Edison Writing Center will explore how teachers’ opinions of writing centers change.  How do they come to trust and rely on the writing center? Why are some teachers resistant? By sharing video interviews with teachers, presenters will engage participants in an analysis of teacher perceptions and beliefs. Participants will discuss how to better communicate with teachers and build their trust. [40 min]

SESSION A2: Room C          

Passing the Pen from ‘Me’ to ‘You’: Examining the Role of the Center and its Tutors

Ava Shafiei, Oakton High School

At Oakton, The Center aims to transform perceptions of the learning and thinking process. Through roundtable discussion, will discuss the transformation from an “I to you” state of mind to a “he/she to we” thinking process that enables change in the identity of peer tutors while developing a culture of learning in the academic environment.” [40 min]

SESSION A3: Room D            

How Obstinate are You?  An Exploration of Human Limitations

Robin Dixon, Oakton High School

Not all humans have the same innate capacity for change.  By participating in a short writing activity and discussion, tutors take away an improved self-awareness about their own capacity for change, an understanding of human limitations for change, and how to best utilize their knowledge to influence these limitations. [40 min]


Transformation from the Counter: A Yummy Metaphor for the Tutoring Process

Jei-Si Ang & Sophia Padilla, West Springfield High School

In this presentation, the extended analogy of baking in a kitchen to tutoring in a writing center will be explored.  Participants will come out of the session with a tasty snack and an understanding that tutoring can be a messy but rewarding process. [40 min]

SESSION A5: Room TBD        

We Have No Title…

Laura Merton & Christina Fleckstenstein, Oakton High School

…But we will transform your thinking. Changes take many forms: Amanda Bynes– good girl gone wild; metamorphosis– caterpillar to butterfly; high school– awkward freshmen to accomplished senior. But is change the same as transformation? We will discuss how to define transformation and how it unfolds in a tutoring session. [40 min]

Session B Presentations                                                     10:25-11:30 am

SESSION B1: Gold Room               

Altering the Image: Making the Writing Center an Inviting Place for All Tutees

Breana Tate & Amanda Cerva, Oakton High School

Tutors, Amanda Cerva and Breana Tate, will share their writing center’s attempts to transform the center’s environment. The presentation will include a visual activity followed by discussion. It is hoped that participants will realize the importance of the center’s physical environment and take away ideas to implement in their own centers. [20 min]

“Do I Have to Go?”:  Transforming the Center from Requirement to Preference

Emory Hudgins & Sydney Schaedel, TC Williams High School

The TC Williams Writing Center has helped students become confident writers, helped teachers view writing differently, and promoted an atmosphere in which writing takes many forms and is valued. This session will be a discussion with tutors and the audience focused on how to transform the way students and teachers view writing. [20 min]


SESSION B2: Room C                        

The Psychology of Tutoring

Lacy McCleskey & Kate Veltman, Oakton High School

We intend to explore using Bandura’s Learning Theory to transform the tutoring process.  While students may currently view tutoring as a way to improve their grades, we hope to transform that thought into a more learning-centered goal.  Writing centers should be viewed as a place for learning and personal growth. [20 min]

The Crossroads of Tutoring and Writing

Daniel Vedova, Jean Jeon, & Lydia Coiner, Herndon High School

We will begin by asking students to write about what transformation means to them in respect to the writing centers. Using a wordle diagram, we will discuss the significant topics on transformation. The second half of our presentation will consist of discussions led by the three of us on the transformations in the following areas: Interdependency among students, and teachers, communication, and dedication. We will use Power Point during the presentation to facilitate the discussion. [20 min]

SESSION B3: Room D              

Pel-I-Can Make a Difference: Demonstrating How Tutors Transform the Writing Process Through Origami

Katie Kowalski, Jemma Stratton, & Catherine Wiedmann, Centreville High School

This is a workshop that teaches how to fold origami pelicans to demonstrate the transformation of a student’s paper with and without the help of a tutor. There will then be a discussion about how Writing Center tutors benefit students and their writing.

[20 min]

Transformations Through Word Choice

T.J. Yang, Herndon High School

This presentation will essentially be about the importance of word choice both as a descriptor and as a mood-setter and how the usage of certain words (or the lack thereof) helps allude to the author’s message and theme. [20 min]

SESSION B4: Room F     

On Cloud 9: Taking Advantage of the Lesser-Known Features of Google Docs

Emily Murphy, Edison High School

Even as Google Docs becomes more widely used and appreciated in writing centers, there are still some practical features of the program that remain hidden from the eyes of tutors. This interactive presentation aims to inform tutors about these secrets of Google Docs with a demonstration, short discussion, and the distribution of a quick-reference visual aid. [20 min]

The Reformation (No, Not That One)

Eric Lim, Oakton High School

Within the Oakton center, I have spear-headed the introduction of the internet into our tutoring process by lobbying for the creation of an online tutoring program, in which tutoring sessions could occur over cyberspace. So far, as a compromise to some opposition from other tutors, I established an online scheduling system, by which tutees can guarantee an appointment before they physically come down. I plan to present my work in center adaptation at the conference, emphasizing the importance of reform. [20 min]

SESSION B5: Room TBD                                   

Dealing with Offensive and/or Unresponsive Tutees

Taseen Haque & Evelyn Wang, Oakton High School

Tutors often encounter offensive material in tutees’ writing. This presentation will share tutors’ experiences with such situations and stage an example tutoring session. After the initial presentation, participants will join in a seminar session in which they discuss their experiences and compile tips for dealing with offensive writing. [20 min]

Breaking the Ice: Ways to Overcome an Uncomfortable Tutoring Session

Emily Clem & Michelle Song, Centreville High School

Michelle Song and Emily Clem will facilitate an activity in which students will draw pictures of each other after answering questions about themselves to the group. Students will then admire their drawings as Michelle and Emily present possible ways to “break the ice” to make for more personable tutoring sessions. [20 min]

Session C Presentations              12:30-1:40 pm

SESSION C1: Gold Room                               

The Evolution of the Writing Center from a Ford Model-T to a Cadillac Escalade: How Technology Has and Will Improve the Efficiency of Writing Centers

Parmvir Chahal, Edison High School

This presentation will consist of creative renderings of the use of technology in the Edison High School Writing Center in the past, present, and future. After the presentation, participants will engage in a group discussion about the implementation of technology in other writing centers. Technological creativity and questions are encouraged. [40 min]

Showing Off Your Game: Wearing and Decorating a Style as a Tutor

Phoenix Jitpaisarnsook, Edison High School

In the same way that people possess unique qualities, tutors also have a unique style that they bring into tutoring conferences. This presentation will explain the idea of transformation within a tutor as they find and develop their style of tutoring, as well as influential motivators that may drive them. [20 min]

SESSION C2: Room C      

Transformation of Tutor Identity

Silvana Smith, Oakton High School

Guided by questions and anecdotes, we hope to analyze self-image and the expectations held by our community through the eyes of students versus tutors. We will explore how transforming into tutors has had affected our roles within our community in order to better understand the dynamics of our learning environment.  [20 min]

A Change for the Better: Academic and Personal Transformation through Tutoring

Alex Mitter & Haley Moore, Centreville High School

Within the writing center, benefits are reaped by both parties that go beyond the tutoring session. After a single session, participants leave with a learning experience that not only shapes their future writing but aids in establishing identity. Participants will learn about the personal and academic benefits that tutoring offers. [20 min]

And the Frog Transformed into a Prince: The Transformation of a Tutor’s View of the World

Adrienne Stolte, West Springfield High School

Transformation of a tutor as an individual will be compared with three main phases of the life cycle of a frog. How a tutor should view this transformation will also be presented. [20 min]

SESSION C3: Room D                                               

We Have No Title…

Laura Merton & Christina Fleckstenstein, Oakton High School

…But we will transform your thinking. Changes take many forms: Amanda Bynes– good girl gone wild; metamorphosis– caterpillar to butterfly; high school– awkward freshmen to accomplished senior. But is change the same as transformation? We will discuss how to define transformation and how it unfolds in a tutoring session. [40 min]

Transforming Personally, Professionally, and Academically within the Writing Center

Danya AbdelHameid & Emma Munis, Edison High School

A personal reflection of two volunteer tutors, Danya and Emma, will reference their tutoring experiences and discuss their personal, professional, and academic evolution to workshop coordinators within their Writing Center. Through this panel, the tutors hope to generate a meaningful discussion regarding the crucial transformation witnessed by writing center staff from one-on-one tutoring, to group and workshop settings and the benefits such a transformation brings about for the Writing Center community. [20 min]

SESSION C4: Room F           

Reconciling the Eternal Conflict Between Ideas and Implementation

Monica Hanratty, Oakton High School

Education’s attempts to emphasize “process” over “product” are misguided, since they overstress the “how” instead of the “why.” Through interactive discussion, this presentation will inspire tutors to implement a new model of critical thinking. [40 min]

Glowing, Growing, and Transforming through Tutoring

Emily Weeks, Laura Bentley, Sam Chanesman, & Mariam Ansari, Herndon High School

In our presentation, we will address the changes that occur within writers as they take on the role of a tutor. Part of our presentation will be centered around the changes of a tutor personally and the relationships they form as well as how several individuals become a whole. [20 min]

SESSION C5: Dewberry Hall

A Brave New World: The Transformation of College Application Essays in Recent Years

Daniel Herrera, Edison High School

As the number of students who apply to multiple colleges has increased, colleges have become more exclusive. The presenter will discuss the effect of this phenomenon on students, tutors, and ways writing centers can help applicants with their college application essays. There will be times for discussion with the audience. [20 min]

“Virginia is for Writers” High School Writing Center Initiative

Ethan Bottone & Gwendolyn Hale, University of Mary Washington

The “Virginia Is for Writers” Initiative is a project in which we are attempting to set up writing centers in high schools across the state, as well as bringing already existing writing centers into a network of centers that  promote writing and tutoring in high schools in an effort to prepare students for life after graduation, be it  college or work. This session seeks to address many of the initial pitfalls we have encountered when starting high school writing centers as well as the successes we have had. Attendees will gain insight into how to begin a writing center by acknowledging the culture and staffing issues of the school as well as how to motivate and hire qualified student tutors who will serve to promote an atmosphere of trust among students and teachers. Finally, this session will seek to address issues of budgets when starting writing centers. [20 min]