From Writing Center Visitor to Writing Center Developer

Title slide for the presentation by Shana Schmidt (MA ’19) to the Writing Center staff (8 Oct 2021)

On Friday, October 8, our Writing Center Staff, including tutors and administrators, enjoyed a visit from our tutor alum, Shana Schmidt (MA ’19).

As Stacia Gray, serving as Writing Center Director, puts it, “Shana’s presentation sparked good questions and discussion about Writing Center pedagogy and accessibility. She offered a lot of ideas for our staff to consider — especially those who are Secondary Education majors who would like to introduce Writing Centers or incorporate their tutor training and experience into their future school systems and classrooms. There was so much to relate to in Shana’s educational journey at K-State and in her hard work to establish the Writing Center at Rock Creek High School.”

Our tutors agree.


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Photo: Shana Schmidt shares her experiences during and after K-State.


As tutor Sarah put it, “I loved Shana’s discussion of the kinds of tutors you can have in a Writing Center. Being a tutor does not mean you have to be a perfect writer; instead, it is often more important to be able to communicate effectively and foster an environment built on positivity so that your tutee can feel comfortable.”

Tutor Ethan said, “As a future high school English teacher, [Shana’s presentation] showed me that there is an incredible opportunity in writing centers that exists, not only confined to colleges.”

Tutor Cosette said, “Shana’s talk about how her high school Writing Center’s student tutors interacted with fellow students made me think about how we college-aged tutors interact with students. Some of Shana’s tutors were focused more on being friendly and welcoming, while others were more focused on providing high-level technical advice. Hearing about how each tutor approached their work differently showed me that we tutors can approach students from different angles to best suit their needs.”

Tutor Morgan said, “It was interesting to see just how passionate Shana was about teaching. It was really clear that she gets a lot of joy from what she does, and she really cares about her students.”

Adding extra pleasure to our All-Staff meeting: other than a quick outside snack-and-chat meeting earlier this semester, this was our first in-person meeting since Spring 2020. Tutors and staff have been flexible in moving all tutoring and training online during the pandemic, but we had missed seeing one another in person.

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As Stacia put it, “seeing the interest and smiles in everyone’s eyes around the conference table was a real treat.” Ania Payne, Online Tutoring Coordinator, found it “energizing to have an in-person meeting again, and it brought a renewed sense of togetherness to our writing center team.” Tutor Cosette said “the staff meeting was my first opportunity to meet many of my coworkers in-person. Getting to know each other online and then meeting in person later is such a surreal feeling!”


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Photo, left to right: Stacia Gray and Ania Payne


Shana suggested that we work together to discover some ways for our Writing Center at K-State to collaborate with the Rock Creek High School tutors. Both tutors and Writing Center staff were intrigued by these possibilities. Cosette said, “I would love to collaborate with the Rock Center tutors! I think having them visit us would be a learning opportunity not just for them, but for me as well. I feel that we undergrad tutors could learn from their enthusiasm and dedication to their work.” Ethan said, “I’d love to have the tutors shadow us in the K-State center, and I’d even be interested in going to watch how their high school center operates. I learned a lot, and I’m incredibly interested in learning more!” Sarah said, “I would love to collaborate with the Rock Creek Writing Center tutors, and I think it would be fun to schedule a meeting with them where they come to campus and get to see the Writing Center, while also getting to talk to all of us tutors.”

As our staff meeting wrapped up, Shana, Deborah, and Stacia remembered the events that brought us together.

While Shana was an undergraduate enrolled in Stacia’s English 310 class, she brought an assignment to Hale Library for a Sunday night tutoring session. While tutoring Shana, Deborah was impressed by her enthusiasm and curiosity. These two aspects are key to successful tutoring, so Deborah kept in touch with Shana, recruiting her to enroll in ENGL 500 “Writing Center Theory and Practice,” now a requirement for Secondary Education majors with an English concentration. Shana’s research for the class led her to work toward a M.A. in English, conference attendance, more research projects, and tutoring in the Writing Center at K-State.  All these aspects were part of Shana’s desire to found a Writing Center at Rock Creek High School.


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Photo, left to right: Deborah Murray, Shana Schmidt, and Stacia Gray


In the early morning hours before school officially begins, Rock Creek High School peer tutors and writers work together to become better writers. As Ania put it, all of us were “inspired by Shana’s passion for writing centers and her story about how she created a grassroots writing center for Rock Creek.” We look forward to future collaborations with Shana and these high school tutors.

— Deborah Murray, Instructor and Assistant Director for the Writing Center

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