Sign up online for NSC tutoring!



SEATTLE, WA                                                October 8, 2018

Fall quarter tutoring is underway! And now, with a new system, you’ll be able to log into the North Seattle College Student Learning Center from a desktop computer, laptop or smart phone, from anywhere on campus.

The center helps students with language, math, science, business and accounting courses. The writing center, helping students with English.  Walk-in one-on-one tutoring is free and does not require appointments. Two of the tutoring centers offer help with math, science, accounting and business.

Tutoring centers are located in the Health Sciences and Student Resources Building. To use any center services, you need to login, at You’ll need to set up an account, using your student ID number. You can use your own laptop or phone or computers in the building. You will no longer need to sign up at the front desk or write on a printed signup sheet in any of the tutoring centers.

Once you log in you’ll get a page with the headline “SLC.” Click on “Dashboard” to get a menu asking you to pick which tutoring center you want. You then type in the subject you’re working on, and if you’re sitting in a tutoring center you can also type in the number on the table or the computer where you’re sitting. You can also pick the tutor you want from a drop-down list.

Next, you click on “submit” and a tutor in the center you’ve chosen will find your location and come to help you. The system will say your request is on “hold” while you’re waiting and will mark “start” when your session begins. It will also record the starting and ending times.

Printed directions for using the new system will be available.  The new system is designed for convenience; student will no longer have to “clock in” at the front reception desk any more before seeing a tutor because they can access the system from any computer or device.

The new system was initially intended to replace an older, failing one in the Math & Science Learning Center. But the developer, NSC fourth-year applied-sciences major Shota Takada, also expanded it for use in all four tutoring centers.

In addition to speeding up signups, the system will readily track numbers of students being tutored each day and “make tutor scheduling more efficient,” says Takada, who is also a tutor in the Math & Science Learning Center.

If the new system is shut down for any reason, students will use previous methods of requesting tutors. Those include pushing buttons on the older electronic system at the Math & Science Learning Center; placing flags for desire subject matter on tables at the Accounting & Business Learning Center; and using hand-written signup sheets at the Page One Writing & Language Center and the Biology & Chemistry tutoring center.

The tutoring centers are located in the Health Sciences and Student Resources Building. Here is where you go for help, and the hours tutors are available:

FOR ACCOUNTING and BUSINESS, Room 1636A: The Accounting & Business Learning Center provides tutoring for classes in accounting, business law and statistics,  economics, information technology, and computers. Tutoring there is available from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

FOR BIOLOGY AND CHEMISTRY, Room 2642A, upstairs. The Biology & Chemistry Learning Center offers tutoring seven days a week. Tutoring is available for anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, microbiology and organic chemistry.Tutors are available for anatomy and physiology and biology from 2:50 to 5:50 p.m. Monday, 1:50 to 5:50 p.m. Tuesday and 9:20 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Saturday.  For other subjects tutoring is available from 1:50 to 5:50 p.m. Tuesday, 2:50 to 5:50 p.m. Wednesday, 1:00 to 5:50 p.m. on Thursday, from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. Friday and from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. Sunday.

FOR MATH and SCIENCE, Room 1639: The Math & Science Learning Centerprovides tutoring for pre-college and 100 level math, computer science, physics and chemistry. Hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Friday and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

FOR WRITING and GRAMMAR: Page One Writing & Language Center, Room 1634,helps with reading, grammar, pronunciation, essays, personal statements, resumes and other college writing. Special “navigating” sessions are available for students in selected English courses. Each day each student can receive two 30-minute tutoring sessions, at least 30 minutes apart. The center is open from at 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Friday and from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday

FOR WORLD LANGUAGES:  Tutoring is available on weekdays for American Sign Language (ASL), Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.   Hours for individual tutors in specific languages vary through the week.  For tutors’ individual hours, check the printed schedules posted in the lobby of the tutoring center, or read the  world language website at:


Shota Takada



Page One’s grand lady of grammar


Rita Smilkstein

SEATTLE, WA,   September 24, 2018                      By LARRY LANGE

Rita Smilkstein has never quit reading or writing.

At age 11 she gave herself the assignment of walking from the waterfront to her family home and then describing the journey.  But by then she was already an experienced writer: she started at age 5 with a kindergarten poem, which she posted on a school bulletin board alongside the standard class notices. Later, another of her poems was published in a teenage-literary magazine.

“I liked thinking about things and putting them down on paper,” she says. “I was always reading. My mother used to come up to my room and tell me, ‘go out and play,’ but I wanted to stay in…I always loved to read and write.”

She still does. After years of teaching college English and having published three books about teaching, it’s possible that someone has used her techniques to teach you what you know about the language. And it’s no surprise that she went on to teach not only students but also teachers.

It’s been a lifelong commitment.

She began teaching at summer camps. Later she developed her English passion into a bachelor’s degree at the University of Iowa, a master’s degree at Michigan State University and a doctoral degree at the University of Washington, all majoring in the language.  For her master’s thesis at Michigan State, she wrote a play that was performed by the university’s drama department.

She had a knack for finding teaching jobs at the right moment. She got one of the first posts at Westchester Community College, near New York City. when it was newly-opened and needed people with her background. When she and her family moved to Seattle for her husband’s new job at the University of Washington, she got a part-time English teaching position at North Seattle College  — just as it was opening up in 1970 and needed staff.

Five years later, when the state legislature approved funding for more fulltime teachers, “I got to be one of those teachers” at NSC, she says.

While she taught, she kept writing.  She wrote “The Successful Student’s Handbook” to help students navigate the college system, something she saw many students were not able to do.

As she worked she noticed that many students didn’t learn well from traditional textbooks. “We weren’t defining the basics,” she says.  So she set about doing just that, focusing on the building blocks of the language, such as subjects, verbs and prepositional phrases, to make sure students learned those so they could improve their writing.

“I gave them sentences to work on,” she says of her students. “I figured out a better way to do it.” Her second book, “Tools for Writing,” gives a series of exercises to help students understand the basics. It includes a quote from a student who said that after using Smilkstein’s methods, “I can see a sentence in little pieces now. That makes it easy to see everything. When it was all in one bunch I couldn’t see what it was.”  The book is still used to teach English at NSC.

Smilkstein continued learning.

As she continued teaching she realized she needed to know more about how people learn. She studied how the brain learns, and obtained a doctoral degree in educational psychology at the UW. Her dissertation was a study of students who learned by her methods and how much they advanced. The thesis for the dissertation was the name of what became her third book: “We’re Born to Learn: Using the Brain’s Natural Learning Process to Create Today’s Curriculum.”

The book’s message is that we all can and do learn. A central point is that as our brains are stimulated and we communicate with others our brain cells multiply and we know more. In the book, Smilkstein writes that her purpose was to “make it possible for students to be the eager, motivated, successful learners they were born to be.”

She’s still reading – often two or three books at a time.  Her most recent ones include biographies of writer Anne Sexton and American revolutionary Thomas Paine. She’s also started reading a volume about Jewish history.

She’s still writing, and still teaching students English.  She retired as a fulltime instruction from NSC  in 1998 but  continued teaching, part-time, at Western Washington University’s satellite campus in Everett. She came back to NSC in 2014, when the Page One Writing & Language Center opened new, larger quarters in the Health Sciences and Student Resources Building.

When she was invited to be a tutor there, she said she was delighted to accept. Now she not only helps students but answers tutors’ questions about the finer points of English.

When students work with her, they can expect to be helped to learn and succeed.

“It’s a great way to spend your time together,” she says.


Books by Rita Smilkstein


Learning English words, for good

SEATTLE, WA   September 25, 2018                       By TRACEY L. STINSON

Vocabulary is something that students get stuck on—they see or hear a word they don’t know and they can’t get past it. Matt Warburg is hoping to change that bad habit with his weekly workshop, “Focus on Vocabulary.”

In his new class, which is open to any NSC student, he usess a flash card system that students can carry with them everywhere. “I want to help students develop a structured system, so they can study on their own,” he said.  He also helps students to learn word relationships and root words. For example, a word like “transport” has the root words, “trans” and “port” which can be turned into many other words like “transit” or “portal.” “Transport” is a verb which can then be turned into a noun, “transportation,” or an adjective, “transported.”

In his previous teaching with mostly Chinese students, he learned that they relied too much on translation and looking up a word in the dictionary. They would become overwhelmed, miss the meaning and use of the word and even  after looking it up, they would forget it. Instead of doing that, if students used the word up to ten times in their daily lives, then it would be a part of their memories Warburg also recommends that students study vocabulary at least 20 minutes every day; one way to do that could be to use the new word in conversation or emails.

With his flash card method, he wants students to “be able to effectively study vocabulary on their own and develop good study habits.”

“Focus on Vocabulary” is a Page One workshop held in room 1634B of the Student Learning Center. It is offered every Tuesday this fall quarter from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.


Matthew Warburg discusses vocabulary with students

Learn English simply: “Talk Time”

SEATTLE, WA,  September 25, 2018                                By TRACEY STINSON

“I recommend Talk Time to anyone who isn’t good at speaking or who is good at it, but not confident,” said Julia Korneeva, a level 6 student in the Intensive English Program (IEP). “I didn’t feel confident at all. I didn’t want to go to grocery stores and speak to shop workers.”  She learned about Talk Time from her listening class instructor.

Talk Time is an informal conversation group that is led by American English native speakers.  It is open to any ESL or international student who wants to practice conversation skills. Julia said the Talk Time tutor really helped her. “She was really nice and brought up topics that we were interested in.  After a few times, I became more confident. It’s easy – just come and talk and there’s no homework.”

When Julia came to North Seattle College (NSC) in September 2014, she had little experience speaking English. She was educated in the Siberian region of Russia. “My schools focused on academic reading and writing, but not speaking. Most graduates can’t speak English casually, and can’t speak without a Russian accent.”

Her teachers in Russia taught translation only, which she thought was “old-fashioned, boring and useless.” She then found an English class that was taught by British and American teachers.

“I wasn’t used to this style of teaching – it was really entertaining.” After two months, she could speak English using simple grammar. Jobs in her field of tourism and hospitality were scarce in Russia, so she and her husband made plans to move to New Zealand.  However, once she found out that her cat, Chein, would have to stay in quarantine for six months after they moved there due to the country’s strict biosecurity restrictions, she decided to let her husband go ahead while she and her cat came to Seattle, so she could continue improving her English while getting her pet the appropriate health certificates to avoid quarantine when she joined her husband.

When she came to NSC, she expected to learn practical English skills. “I thought I’m going to write better and read better – but Talk Time makes me speak better.” Like many other ESL and international students, she wanted to live in a country where English is the native language.  However, she hit a roadblock when trying to converse with native speakers.  “Americans don’t want to speak to you, and there’s always a chance they won’t understand you.  Making friends is hard – Americans aren’t patient.”

Julia values her experience with Talk Time.  “It is so fun!  It is good that the college has this opportunity to practice speaking. You have to defeat your fear of mistakes. I was terrified when I first got here.  I’m not afraid of mistakes now – when I don’t understand, I just ask.”

This is a student success story:  Julia is currently working in web design in New Zealand.  She hopes to pursue her MBA soon at University of Auckland.

(Talk Time meets in the Student Learning Center, Room 1634B, on Tuesdays from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. and on Thursdays from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. this quarter, with tutors Marguerite Weibel and Lora Bennett)



Tutoring, and sometimes karate

SEATTLE, WA,  May 14, 2018                              By LARRY LANGE

At the moment accounting tutor Yumi Burg has her dream job. Maybe some day she’ll also teach karate.

Burg has been a tutor at the NSC Accounting & Business Learning Center for two years, inspired to do so by a teacher. It allows her to be paid while she completes her associate’s degree in accounting.

A more important reason, though, is “that I wanted to work for helping people,” she said. As an immigrant applying for residence in Seattle, “both interviewers asked me what I want to do in America. I answered them that I didn’t have a specific occupation name for my future job, but I wanted to help someone if I can it. Through the tutoring job, I’m helping students (and)…partly fulfilling a dream.”

Born and raised in Kashiwa, Japan, near Tokyo, Burg came to the U.S. after she met her husband.  She’s done a fair amount of traveling. “Although I’ve never lived in other countries except the United States, I used to visit Germany, Austria, Italy, Singapore, and South Korea. I liked Korean food and culture, so I went to Seoul, Korea six times for enjoying a vacation.”

She’s also had experience in business, something that will help her students as well as her own career. She learned things at work. At a small merchandising company in Tokyo she served as an assistant sales representative and as secretary to executives. But she also managed accounts payable and receivable by herself because there was no accounting staff.

At that point, “I’d never learned the accounting skills but I needed to accomplish them as an extra task. That was my first experience with an accounting job,” she said.

She also had to be creative.  Working later as a receptionist and clerk for a Honda dealership, “I had to manage not only creating various documents for employees and customers but also creating the financial statements, including papers for paychecks,” she said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have a coworker who helped me, including a manager, so I had to resolve all problems of the job by myself at the office. At that time, I’d still never studied the accounting, so I bought a book for learning bookkeeping so that I could resolve any issues for my job. That is my second working experience of the accounting job.”

In these ways, she helped herself navigate her earlier jobs.” I learned that even if I lacked knowledge, I could open a door, or find a way, depending on my own efforts,” she said. “In other words, it was not impossible to change my life.”

“I have experiences of working at the accounting section, but my degree which I earned in Japan doesn’t match to my job history,” she confessed. “If I want to get a job with good benefits, I need to take higher education in the U.S. In addition, I liked bookkeeping and I have good ability and skills with numbers. This is the reason for choosing accounting work.”

Good feelings now come when she helps students make progress learning business and accounting principles.

“When a student understands or figure out his or her issues with my help, it makes me happy,” she said. “Some of them were helped by my tutoring, and then we became friends.  I’m learning something new, which does not relate to accounting classes, from them. That is my best part of the tutoring job.”

She advises students to focus on the issues in their courses that they have trouble with, to make sure they understand them when they end their educations and begin careers.

“Everybody begins with one step for building a career, even a specialist,” she said. “If you ignore a small issue, it might be getting bigger later. To ask a question is not embarrassing, so please tell us what now you are stuck in.”

Burg’s off-the-job passion is karate, which started when she watched Hong Kong action movies. “At the time, my hero was Jet Li,” she recalled. She earned a black belt as a high-school senior, abandoned the sport for a while, then resumed it after moving to Seattle.

“Karate is part of my relaxation,” she said. “Karate teaches me to be a strong person not only physically but also mentally.”

Now every Saturday she practices her sport, trying to improve and teach it.  To do this “I need to promote myself to at least one higher grade of black belt. Teaching skills are necessary to be a karate instructor, so the tutoring job is useful to learn how to help students.”

Once she earns her degree she hopes to get a bookkeeping job “and work until my retirement. After I retire …I want to start a tutoring job again. By that time, I hope I will become a karate instructor.”

She isn’t sure where she’ll eventually live. She and her husband may return Japan to care for her parents, or they “might move to Iowa, his home state, to enjoy our retirement life. If he wants to move to a third country, of course I will go to there with him, because everywhere will be our hometown.”


Our tutoring skills are becoming known


Tutor Disko Praphanchith at work

VANCOUVER, WA, May 5, 2018

North Seattle College’s navigator program is becoming better-known every day.

The program places English-language tutors in selected developmental English classrooms, where they immerse themselves in individual teachers’ assignments and readings and set aside special times to help students.

The program is now seven years old and has proven to be a big help to students, getting them more involved in learning and improving their performance and grades.

Now staffers at other colleges are learning about North’s program and thinking about how they could develop one of their own.  The North program was among programs recognized last week at the annual Assessment, Teaching & Learning Conference held this week in Vancouver, WA.

The conference is organized by the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges. It meets every year to discuss teaching and learning methods. This year’s gathering was attended by more than 250 educators from the Pacific Northwest and California. Eight NSC faculty members and staff attended and participated.

The NSC navigator program’s benefits, operation and history were described in detail at the conference by Daniel Tarker, director of NSC’s Student Learning Center; Jamie Wilson, NSC English instructor and coordinator of the Page One Writing & Language Center; and Deborah Lange, a veteran English tutor and navigator at Page One.

The benefits: more tutoring and discussion time with students who need it; helping create “social learning,” between students; and finding ways for teachers get their material across to students who are having difficulty.

“Teachers will actually adjust their lesson plans based on they hear from students” through the tutor “navigators,” Wilson told conference attendees.

Tutor “navigators” serve as teaching assistants, translating instructors’ assignments and readings for students who are struggling with the material. They meet students in the classroom and at other scheduled times, when students get more chances to ask questions and can absorb material at a more comfortable pace. It allows students more time with tutors and helps them become more confident. Time spent in the extra sessions can count toward credit in English 080, a developmental course.

The program began in 2011 at NSC after students pushed for more study sessions as a way to better learn their material. It is now supported partly by state funds and partly by student fees. It has consistently improved student performance; students in “navigator” classes achieve higher grades than those in English courses who are not in the program, according to NSC statistics.

At the conference on Friday, May 4, Tarker, Wilson and Lange gave a 90-minute presentation on the program called “Improving Student Success by Enhancing Faculty/Tutor Collaboration.” They discussed how the program worked and what teachers, tutors and students learned from it.   As things unfolded, several people attending the session expressed interest in developing similar programs at their own colleges.

“I can see where it would help,” said one, English instructor David Fox of Lake Washington Institute of Technology. Others at the session asked how they could overcome financial hurdles and internal resistance.  Tarker said student demand for the service has been a big factor in starting and keeping NSC’s program. There was some initial resistance from teachers concerned about allowing other staff into their classrooms, but the resistance stopped once teachers saw results. NSC this year added navigators to another English class and is considering adding the program to other, non-English courses.

“It takes time” Tarker said of the program’s development.







Opening a mind, and remaking a culture

            Editor’s Note: Education helps open up a mind, but it helps to have an open mind when you begin an education. Great things can happen, as we can learn from Rukiya Ali (in photo, above), a first-year pre-nursing student at NSC. She wrote in an English 101 essay about how her open mind brought about her own cultural awakening in her native Ghana. Her essay was submitted earlier this quarter for a class taught by Colin Mcarthur, and she allowed us to share it.



“Being Open-Minded” means being honest enough to admit that one is not all knowing, which means believing whatever way you find, you always have more to it than you realize. It is sometimes difficult when I am faced with different ideas that challenge my own beliefs and values. I struggle with this from time to time. But I learned when I was young that I need to be open-minded sometimes because I know good things will come out of it. Being open-minded opens the world to me in new ways.

I was born in Ghana (West Africa) where female education is not so important in some parts of the country. This means I was born into a culture where educating girls is inconsequential. In my culture, girls find it difficult “to break through a glass ceiling”. The attention is focused on males because they believe men are the head of the family who will work hard to cater to their family while the women stay home and take care of the house. I grew up with two older brothers and three younger ones. Despite being the middle child, growing up, “my life was one big roller-coaster”. I was treated differently than my brothers. My dad did not want to send me to school because I was a girl and my tradition did not value a girl’s education. When I was six years old, I was still home helping my mom with house chores while my older brothers were in school. It took two years for my mother to decide whether to send me to school or not. I started first grade when I was eight years old and was in the same class with my younger brother, who was six years old at that time. I was two years older than most of my class mates. I felt unhappy being older than my mates. My peers thought I repeated a class and they sometimes bullied me but I did not give up, because I wanted to be a “shining star” in my family. My younger brother and I had a lot of arguments when we were in the same class. Despite all the arguments, we could count on each other from time to time which sometimes made it fun.

Growing up, my brothers wanted me to do everything for them- – cooking, fetching water, doing laundry and cleaning the house while they were watching TV or playing soccer. Being the only girl among my siblings became a difficult lifestyle. Between my stages in life, the experience I had was overwhelming but I was able to “climb up the success ladder”.

One Saturday morning, I sent my brother to the tub to fetch me some water and it was half a mile from home. On his way, he met my uncle and my uncle brought him home. My uncle “howled like a coyote”, He stated, “So long as I am alive, I will never allow this crime to happen in my family” because my uncles do not like to see my brothers doing house chores. I cried about my uncle’s behavior towards me and I became so upset. But I stood firm and continued teaching my brother how to clean the house. He argued and yelled when I ask him to do things sometimes, but I made him do it anyway. I do have some strong views about specific things and I find it hard to sway from those opinions no matter how others may try to persuade me. I presume having a strong belief can be a wonderful thing and we should all stay true to what we believe but having strong beliefs does not have to mean being closed minded.

At age twelve I became an open-minded person and I decided to change the situation because I was “busy as a bee”, handling several chores at once. I wanted to focus on my education to make my family proud of me but the task I went through at home was too much for me to combine school with. I woke up very early in the morning to do my house duties before school. When I returned from school, I helped my mom to cook for the family. I had an open-mind and decided to teach of my younger brother how to do some of the work so that my task would be reduced, and he would learn things for the future when he is away from home. Though daddy was not happy about the situation, mummy supported me because she knew it would be a great deal in future.

During high school, my siblings became fully aware of how important education was for girls. I had a conversation with my oldest brother one day and I said to him, “Educating a girl child is like educating the whole nation.” If you send your girl child to school and she becomes a great person, she would make sure all her children have quality education. My older brother said he will make sure my niece gets an education. I also added that, despite individual cultural and religious differences, everyone need to be treated with dignity and respect. My mom departed from our culture and she sent me to school; she was being open – minded and I thank her a lot for making me a better person. Now my younger brother and I get along so well. He remembers the things I taught him, and we laugh about the time I was training him. He appreciates the good work I did. I know he will be a great husband when he gets married.

Having an open-mind has exposed me to several experiences in life as I engage myself with friends and other colleagues. Through this, I have learnt to let go of negativity; this makes me free myself from having incomplete control of my thoughts. I also allow myself to experience new ideas and I challenge the beliefs I currently have. It is very liberating to look at the world through an open mind.

Although people view me differently, I strengthen myself with the fact that I am an open-minded person. This provides a platform on which I can learn and build ideas. I can absorb new things and use them to build other ideas.

Being open-minded has taught me to be honest with myself and appreciate every little thing in life because it means whatever I find might always have more than I realize. This understanding creates an underlying sense of honesty that is fundamental to my character.

To me, this quality has been very positive and easy, since it comes with effortless as breathing. Though it can be quite challenging, I see it as something that I work on to be able to maintain. There are great benefits to being an open-minded person. It has guided and shaped my life wherever I find myself. This has also been a worthy behavioral trait which I find very comfortable to live with. I do not regret discovering this about myself.