Patti Weekes


Patti Weekes

Director of Learning Assistance

Director of Learning Assistance Patti WeekesTutoring services started at Saddleback College in one small room on the main floor of the college library. In the early eighties, it grew to rooms on the library’s 3rd floor.

In 1986, Maude Shambrook, my French professor sent her entire class to the Learning Assistance Program (LAP) to sign up for tutoring. Walking into the LAP changed my life.

At that time, the LAP was located on the 3rd floor of the Saddleback College library. Tutoring space was limited to three rooms; however, the spirit and enthusiasm of tutors helping fellow students to succeed spread beyond the walls of three rooms. I had never experienced such a warm environment of support.

1990 was a time for growth and change at the college. Admissions and Records, Counseling, faculty offices, and administrative offices moved from the library’s first floor into the new Student Services Building, and the LAP moved into their old space. With over 5,000 square feet of space,  the LAP began a 20 year period of growth. Volunteer tutors were welcomed with open arms. All tutors were interviewed and approved by Saddleback faculty. All participated in semester-long training, and volunteers were approved by the Board of Trustees.

The LAP tutoring team grew to between 100 and 150 tutors. The tutors were passionate about education and helping others to succeed. The tutors’ enthusiasm inspired them to volunteer ever increasing numbers of tutoring hours in the center. In 1992, the first tutor was honored for volunteering over 100 hours in one semester. The President of the college and the Division Dean signed a certificate of appreciation for the tutor. They attended an end-of-semester celebration and awards ceremony to personally thank the tutors and celebrate student success.

The LAP end-of-semester celebrations honored tutors and celebrated learning. They started as a simple pot luck but grew into events where tutors, students, staff, faculty, and administrators joined together to create a multi-cultural feast of tasty dishes. Music, balloons, and decorations were added. Even a microphone and sound system were added for honored guests to talk about tutoring and student success.

Through the years, all the Saddleback College Presidents--from Constance Carroll in the late 1980s through early 1990s to Tod Burnett who came in 2008--participated in the end-of-semester celebrations. “100 Club” volunteers grew from one or two retired individuals per semester to up to eight tutors of all ages being awarded certificates. In fact, the first tutor to volunteer 200 hours in one semester was a student tutor. A few years, degrees, and achievements later, that tutor oversees math science drop-in tutoring today!

The LAP changed many lives. One day, John Russo, a vision-impaired student came into the center requesting tutoring assistance for a history class. This was before many innovations in computer technology, and I wondered how we could give this student enough support to succeed. He began attending sessions with a wonderful retired man who tutored history and loved helping students. It was a successful combination. Later in the semester, I received a phone call from the history professor. He told me about an inspiring young blind man who was holding peer tutoring sessions in the cafeteria before class. He recommended that I talk with the student about becoming an LAP tutor. Although blind, he was gifted in learning, retaining knowledge, and sharing what he had learned with others. He became one of the LAP’s most popular tutors. When his groups filled to 30 or 40 students, and we ran out of chairs, students happily stood or sat on the floor.

Not stopping with group history sessions, he tutored in many subjects. A math professor built a peg board with strings and movable parts to help him in a math class. Soon the tutor was tutoring math concepts to fellow students with the same tool. This accomplished LAP tutor attained the “100 Club” and was named Tutor of the Year. He went on to be the key note speaker at the regional Tutor’s Conference held at Saddleback College. Tutors, faculty, and administrators from over 15 colleges and universities attended the conference. Today, John is teaching at Northeast Texas Community College. In fact, last year he was named alumnus of the year and asked to give the fall 2012 graduation commencement speech. Success stories abound around tutoring at Saddleback College.

Located on the 1st floor of the library, the LAP served between 1,700 and 2,000 students each semester. Even with all of the activity caused by 150 tutors and 1,800 students, nature added to the bustling environment. Mom raccoon with three babies delighted students and tutors when they made their nightly visit to the vending machines outside of the LAP’s front door. Rabbits, an occasional ferret, coyotes, and deer found a safe habitat at Saddleback College. Even a campus bobcat was photographed and featured in the Lariat, the campus newspaper!

One year, a red tailed hawk made her nest next to the LAP in high trees along the math/science building. Our students and tutors were excited when three chicks were born. One  fledgling, my favorite hawk, sat in a tree just outside the LAP and screeched to mom for food. She can still be heard screeching to her mate and circling in the sky above the college.

Nature still surrounded the tutoring center when it relocated to Village 8 during the library remodel. The LAP established a hummingbird garden outside of the building to attract birds and butterflies, and to help students find the temporary LAP location. Quail, road runners, flocks of crows and occasional snakes crossed students paths as they found the new location for the LAP.

The Learning Assistance Program made its home in Village 8 for 2 ½ years as the library building was remodeled to form the Library and Learning Resource Center (LRC). Today the LAP, renamed LRC Tutoring and located on the second floor of the library, continues to offer one stop student support to Saddleback College students.

LRC Tutoring, the Reading Lab, the Writing Center, the Language Lab, and the Computer Skills Lab are staffed with faculty, staff, and tutors. All offer support for students enrolled in classes at Saddleback College.

A quantum leap has been taken in tutoring support on campus. LRC Tutoring now has faculty scheduled during all open hours. Faculty recruit, interview, approve, train, and supervise tutors. Tutors support the specific curriculum and teaching methodology used in the classroom. Some classes have embedded tutors, learning communities have been formed, and exam review sessions added. Group tutoring has been established by faculty and faculty-appointed tutors. Faculty evaluate tutors and tutoring on an on-going basis to ensure tutoring excellence and provide innovative student support. Student success, demonstrated by retention, persistence, degree attainment, and transfer, guide tutoring efforts in LRC Tutoring.

It is a new beginning for tutoring at Saddleback College. No matter what name the tutoring center has or where the tutoring support is offered, tutoring helps students reach their dreams. In some cases, like mine, tutoring has changed lives.

In 1986, I was a mom raising three children at home when I signed up to take a French class at Saddleback College for personal enrichment. Due in part to weekly visits to the LAP for tutoring support, I completed French 1 and received an “A” in the class. “Now it’s time for you to give back and help other students succeed,” was the cheerful demand of the tutor!

The French professor encouraged me to pursue a degree. “Each class you take” she insisted, “makes you stronger and more able to make a positive difference in the world.” My passion for education and helping others to succeed grew with each class. Tutoring reinforced everything I learned in the classroom. A Saddleback scholarship helped when I transferred to UCI. Landing a position as an instructional assistant in the LAP, helped finance my Master’s Degree from Pepperdine.

Taking a class at Saddleback College gave me an opportunity to “follow my bliss,” as Joseph Campbell would say. Other authors write, “If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life.” In another four years or so, I will retire after 30 enriching years working at Saddleback College, but LRC tutoring will continue to change the lives of students lucky enough to find their way to the center. It is an area full of caring tutors, faculty, and staff who are waiting to offer support to change lives.