High School Teacher Creates a Space like No Other: The CB South Writing Center

High School Teacher Creates a Space like No Other: The CB South Writing Center

 A CB South High School teacher had big plans for a Writing Center at her school. Two years ago, she visited over a dozen universities to get inspiration. Then it was time to build.

Ms. Tannous, the Writing Center faculty director, said that this took a ton of research and proposals with Ms. Reisinger. “She has always wanted to do some type of writing center. We had talked about it, but it did not exactly fit in our old schedule,” said Ms. Tannous. Now with lunch and learn it is a “perfect time” to have one, but she said there was also complications due to Covid.

Ms. Reisinger then took a half a year sabbatical, during which, she went to study and visit many different local universities, writing centers. Ms. Reisinger visited Villanova, Temple, and West Chester University. Ms. Tannous visited Pitt, Princeton, and the Bucks Community Academic Center as described by Ms. Tannous.

After Ms. Reisinger came back, both teachers put a ton of effort and thought into this and started putting together proposals and doing more research. They both noticed that the writing centers that were collaborative or “thriving” were the ones that were in main populated places with windows, not the ones with four walls no windows and locked away in a corner.

Most writing centers at the universities had online websites where they could analyze their data, schedule appointments, and give and receive feedback. This was “a common denominator” Ms. Tannous said, that was found in all the college writing centers, and both teachers wanted to replicate this.

Ms. Reisinger and Ms. Tannous also did not want a “remediation” room for many kids who struggle, where they would be tucked away. They wanted a space where anyone can get help. “Every writer needs a reader,” Ms. Tannous said.

“Given start to finish there was a lot of leg work,” said Ms. Tannous. She continued to explain that despite the work that went into this, everyone was supportive and all for it. Ms. Reisinger and Ms. Tannous got the final stamp of approval in January of 2022, and they began their work.

This time last year the Writing Center began to form. Both CB South teachers spent significant time and effort. Ms. Tannous painted three rooms and patched up the holes in the walls. Spending two full weeks in the summer she collaborated with maintenance and other staff members to make her dream come true.

The teachers hired a sign company to make decals on the windows and walls of the writing centers. Around March of 2022 Ms. Tannous said she needed to train her first group of tutors, which started in the spring. By11 September of 2022, the Writing Center and all the tutors were ready for business.

Ms. Tannous said, “[The Writing Center] is a new resource that you want to use not just as a new writer in the high school but something that you’re going to come back to as a junior as you start college and career prepping and then again as a senior.” She explains that the center is designed to be useful for all grades in your academic journey as a student.

She said that the Writing Center is something students want to get comfortable with, it is a more relaxing place than some people might think it is. They are not there to tell people what to do or what they did wrong. “We are actually here to be a companion as you’re writing something,” she said.

One of her favorite memories was when they finished training their very first group of tutors in May when they celebrated the progress. Everyone was happy and proud of what they accomplished from the beginning to now. Everyone was so excited to get started in the fall.

Ms. Tannous is now excited to have her first group of senior tutors that will get a cord at graduation. This cord will show that they were Writing Center tutors and she said that it will be something special not only to them but to her and Ms. Reisinger.

The Writing Center currently has about 50 tutors who are high school students who dedicate their time to people and helping them become better writers and fix their work. They will lose 24 seniors and they are hoping to finish and “comb through some possible sophomores to fill those 20 to 25 spots.” Ms. Tannous said.

To become a tutor, students must take certain steps and be qualified to help people with their writing. Ms. Tannous said that you must first show up to an interest meeting to learn what it is like to be a tutor. Next, you must have a little experience in the Writing Center to get familiar with the tools they offer. Then, you must have some teacher recommendation to see if you are academically qualified and have good grades. Then, if all of that is finished and good you are good to start training.

Tutors will start in early March, with training for 2 months which is 16 sessions which will then end in May. Ms. Tannous explains during tutor training you will make a project that “will feed directly back to the Writing Center,” she said. Some examples could be a handout, a PowerPoint, or a video that they could post on their website.

Then they will finally graduate from tutor training in May, and you will start being a tutor in September of that year. You will be required to have a “certain number of hours every week and then ongoing training just depending on what we are seeing with our writers and some of the needs that we have as tutors but also that were seeing what the writers need.” She said.

The Writing Centers prime time is during Lunch and Learn. According to the Writing Center website on cbsd.org, students can schedule 30-minute sessions during lunch. If that is too much time but students still want help, they can just grab one of the resources like handouts for any literary struggle you might have, or a dictionary, writing utensils, post-its, paper, and even MLA guidebooks.

When walking into the Writing Center, you will notice it does not look like a normal classroom. There is a ton of different comfortable seating options. “We have nooks.” Ms. Tannous said. They wanted to create something that is comfortable but is perfect for still interacting with someone one on one. The Writing Center has high top tables, low tables, smaller collaborative four person seats, comfortable chairs, stools that can be moved anywhere when just listening not really writing, and even couches.