Achievement Center transforms in hybrid learning model


By Kate Emmanuel and Abbie Preston, Staff Reporters

In previous years, the Achievement Center was filled with tutors and students tackling difficult school assignments together. Tutors are still helping students achieve success, but this year, they’re doing it from behind a screen, which has led to many aspects changing. The Achievement Center is a resource where students can get support from teachers in writing, math and science classes. It is open throughout the school day, so students can stop by during their free periods.

For students participating in the hybrid distance learning model, where they can attend school both virtually and in-person, they are offered a virtual or in-person tutoring session. Math tutor Ashley Renning has taught during the school day through her computer to students both in Conestoga and at home.

“I had a student sit in the cafeteria and call me from the cafeteria. And even though they were in the building, they just felt more comfortable, which is absolutely fine,” Renning said. “We are holding in-person (tutoring, and) we’re doing virtual. It’s kind of whatever the student needs.”

One issue tutors are facing is the inability to fully understand students’ struggles due to the lack of connection when on computer screens or 6 feet apart from their students. Since some students are uncomfortable turning on their cameras and unmuting their microphones, tutors struggle to perceive how well students are grasping the concepts they are being taught. Renning describes the lack of emotional and verbal communication as one of the biggest obstacles she has had to overcome. 

“Because I can see if somebody is not understanding the way that I’m explaining (the information), I change the way that I’m explaining whereas, virtually, they don’t even have their cameras on, and their mics are muted,” Renning said. “It’s difficult for me to tell if they’re understanding it, or maybe if they have a question that they don’t know what they want to ask.”

In addition to not seeing student’s faces in person, tutors also cannot see  the material their students are working on, making it hard for them to track their progress. Tutors suggest students to share their work with their tutors in advance to solve this issue. However, the only downside to this solution is that the student has to schedule an appointment in advance, which eliminates the option to drop-into the Achievement Center. 

“Sometimes some students like to go over homework problems. Some students just like to review some notes. So it all depends on the student and it depends on what specifically they want to be reviewing,” Renning said.

The Achievement Center also provides students with assistance from the National Honors Society’s (NHS) student tutors. The NHS tutors bring a unique perspective to the room, since they are teaching from personal experience and can understand student struggles. Due to social distancing guidelines, NHS students are not permitted to help their peers in the Achievement Center this year. Science tutor Mindy Gusdorff explains why this is a disadvantage to the Achievement Center tutors.

“Usually I have this pool of resources known as the NHS students, and I don’t this year. I was like, ‘Oh okay, what am I going to do now?’” Gusdorff said.

NHS tutors’ assistance is an asset not only loved by Gusdorff, but also by NHS student tutor Ansh Goyal. Goyal explains what a valuable experience tutoring in the Achievement Center was for him.

“There’s a bunch of different (service) hours opportunities (for NHS students) outside and around the community, but really, the Achievement Center was my most liked service hour because I loved going in and helping people learn. That was one of my favorite ways to give back to the community,” Goyal said.

For a student attending an in-person tutoring session, they are still required to maintain social distancing guidelines. Tutors still ask that the students log into Microsoft Teams, even during an in-person session, so the tutor can see the material the student needs help with.

According to the tutors, it is important to ask for help, especially while learning in a virtual environment. One of the most important factors of virtual and hybrid learning is not hesitating to ask for extra help.

“It’s okay to ask for help, and it’s a good thing to ask for help. There’s nothing normal about this year, and we’re all going through it. We’re going through it together,” Gusdorff said.