A Mother-Daughter Westmont Story
Chloe Howard ’22 grew up wearing Westmont T-shirts and attending basketball games on family visits to Santa Barbara. The daughter of two alums and the granddaughter of two longtime education professors (Gayle and Ruth Tucker), she enrolled at Westmont for its small campus, close-knit community and personal student-teacher relationships.
During his semester with Westmont in Mexico, Gabe Grabowski ’19 loved speaking Spanish and learning about and being a part of Mexican culture. When he returned to campus, he started tutoring students in Spanish to get more opportunities to speak the language.
He spends two evenings a week in the library working individually with Spanish students. “A lot of regulars come by, and I enjoy watching them grow as Spanish speakers,” he says. “One of my goals is empowering students to find answers for themselves and make myself obsolete. I’ve learned to let the student hold the pen—to focus on helping each one learn and not just get an answer from me.”
Gabe never sought tutoring for himself. Now he thinks he would have benefitted from it and encourages all Spanish students to come by not just to get practice speaking but to spend time with each other and form a community.
A co-leader of the Potter’s Clay vacation Bible study team, Gabe has done some translation for the ministry. “The pastors I’ve met in Mexico have really influenced me,” he says.
He comes from Spokane, Washington, and majors in both Spanish and history. “I love the conversations we have in history classes,” he says. “I think we can ask good questions of the past and the present.”
Gabe has applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to hold writing workshops in Argentina for a year in 2020. He has also asked about working with Westmont in Mexico in fall 2019. He thinks about pursuing teaching or writing as a career.
“Westmont professors really care for students,” he says. “That’s why I want to be a teacher and a good tutor.”
When Karis Cho ’21 sat down with a fellow student to review a paper, she realized she needed to connect with the client personally. To put the student at ease, she asked about classes and activities and listened carefully. Before even seeing the paper, she discovered her client’s anxiety about this first college writing assignment.
“Emotional support can matter more than advice on grammar and structure,” Karis says. “I praised the strengths of the paper, offered some suggestions for improvement, and encouraged the client as a writer. I want to help students become better writers, not just fix their papers.”
An Augustinian Scholar and English major in her second year at Westmont, Karis began tutoring at Writers’ Corner this fall. She meets with students and takes a training class from Professor Sarah Skripsky, learning the theory behind writing centers and how best to help students strengthen their skills. She’s working on a paper herself about the role of laughter in tutoring. “Humor helps people relax and open up to more difficult or sensitive conversations,” she says. Like all Writers’ Corner tutors, she keeps a log, documenting her work with students and reflecting on what she has learned and how she can improve.
Karis also serves as a teaching assistant (T.A.) for Old Testament scholar Sandra Richter, Robert Gundry professor of Biblical studies. Working with Theresa Covich, coordinator for library academic initiatives, Karis leads a weekly two-hour study session for Old Testament students to help them succeed in the class and prepare for exams. Not only does she review course material, but she discusses how to study effectively and synthesize information. “I tell students what they need to know and how they can know it,” she says. Grading Old Testament exams helps Karis see where students are struggling and provides insights for her tutoring.
“I often function as a counselor as well as a tutor, encouraging students and talking them through issues with their work,” Karis says. “It’s a great learning experience for me too as someone interested in both teaching and spiritual formation.”
Caleb Rodriguez ’19 became a tutor for Writers’ Corner when a professor recommended him for the job. He took the required class, learned about theory and developed his own philosophy of tutoring. For example, he approaches first-year students differently than those in their second or third year.
“I tend to be more proactive with them because they’re just starting to figure out how to write at the college level,” he says. “I try to give more experienced writers the room to see their own mistakes, and I ask them why they did something before recommending changes. I want to keep the integrity of their voice but also meet the demands of academic grammar.”
After reviewing a paper, Caleb develops a plan for improving it, giving the client options. “We work together,” he says. “It’s not just me editing. They’ll read the paper out loud, and I’ll make recommendations and ask if they want to make the changes. I love being part of the creative process and helping students learn to write better.”
After his sophomore year, Caleb spent the summer in South Korea and Taiwan with Emmaus Road, teaching English to children. Part Korean, he visited the city where his grandmother grew up. Teaching cross-culturally has helped him tutor students who speak English as a second language.
Caleb keeps busy singing in choir, serving as a copy editor for the Horizon and volunteering for the Sea Center and the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara. He thinks about attending law school. Committed to activism and social justice, he wants to combine his passion and the skills from his two majors, biology and English, to become a lawyer who helps people.