Learning English words, for good

SEATTLE, WA   July 2, 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 Thursday this summer quarter from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.



Summer tutoring is underway!

Bring your assignments, your drafts, your problems and your questions!

North Seattle College tutoring centers are in the Health Sciences and Student Resources Building. Here are room numbers and this summer’s hours of operation for each one:

Accounting & Business Learning Center, Room 1636-A (general accounting and business). Hours will be from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Biology & Chemistry Lab, Room 2642-A, second floor, upstairs (biology, biochemistry, microbiology, basic and organic chemistry, anatomy and physiology), now open. Hours will be from 12:50 to 5:20 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday.

Math & Science Learning Center, Room 1639 (math, computer science, physics, chemistry). Hours will from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Page One Writing & Language Center, Room 1634, (reading, grammar, pronunciation, essays, personal statements, resumes and other writing). Hours will be from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.



Alone, and working a first job


SEATTLE, WA, June 5, 2018

Editor’s note:

People overcome many obstacles in life, and learn from it.  JeanPaul Nziyumanganya (in photo) was once homeless and living on the streets as a very young boy in his native Rwanda. He later emigrated to the U.S., where he is now a first-year English and physical fitness student at NSC. He wrote in a Reading/Writing 6 English essay about his excitement at getting one of his first jobs when he was homeless, and what it taught him about work and life. The essay was submitted earlier this quarter for the class, taught by Linda Bevis, and he allowed us to share it.

“They didn’t pay!”

In 2005, when I was 8 or 9 years old, I obtained a job to be housekeeper (washing clothes, cooking, washing dishes). I was so happy at that moment, and I looked forward to this because I felt like it was going to change my life. I will never leave my child alone because I had a bad experience of being deserted.

I was wondering if maybe I would be the homeowners’ son; they will take me in like their son because I was a young at that time. So, they gave me a job. They told me that they would pay me 2000 Rwandan Francs each month, which is like $3 in the U.S. Because I was so young, I had no choice and I was very excited. I couldn’t believe this.

Ooh! Finally, I had food and a place to sleep and then they would pay me at the end of every month. I thought that this offer was beneficial for me because I would be able to buy my own clothes. I started working, and they gave me all their clothes to wash. I didn’t use a machine because in Rwanda, we don’t use washing machines; we use our hands. Think about how I would wash clothes for four people and remember that I was 8 years old. The first day was terrible. They gave me a massive amount of clothes. The pile went up to my waist, and it took me 7 hours to finish washing everything. But I did because I had no choice.

After that, they told me to go to fetch water to use in the home. When I came back from fetching water, they told me to go to look after the cows. I did all of that for the first month. But they didn’t pay me for what I did for them. I went to ask them why they didn’t pay me. They told me that I have been eating their food and sleeping on their bed, and that that was my paycheck.

At that time, I was speechless, because I was thinking that maybe they are kidding with me or they want to see how I will react, but they were serious. Can you believe that? At that moment I didn’t say anything and I went to my room. Then I started crying because I had sorrow in my heart, and I will never forget that time in my life. So thought I was upset I continued working for one month more. Then I left. Because of this, I will never leave my child alone because I had this terrible experience.




Learn English simply: “Talk Time”

SEATTLE, WA,  June 25, 2018

“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 Wednesdays from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. this quarter, with tutor Tracey Stinson.)



“Let’s Read” and enjoy English

SEATTLE, WA, May 21, 2018                            By TRACEY L. STINSON

“Reading has to be solid before you can write.” For English students coming to get help at the Student Learning Center, these words soon become true.

Loreen Lee, leader of the Page One workshop, “Let’s Read!,” also knows that it’s true and wants to help students conquer their fear of reading. She uses a study skills method called “talking to the text” which includes taking notes while reading and seeing word relationships in the reading — for example, “itch” is inside of the word “twitch” and the words are related as cause and effect.

In the weekly workshop, she provides a piece of reading and reads it out loud to the group. Then she reads it again and the group repeats the reading after her. Finally, each member of the group reads part of the reading out loud with her assistance if needed.

Doing this with the “Let’s Read!” group helps students with pronunciation, linking common words together and with their own writing in English classes and daily life. Lee says students also learn to understand meaning from context and are then able to develop and express their ideas in their future writings.

Reading aloud also gives students more practice with other speakers who have different accents. “They all have in common that they are learning and struggling with English,” she said.

Giving students tools to help, she also recommends ESL versions of American writings (available in the NSC library) and the online tool learnersdictionary.com.

Her message to students is to keep trying to learn English without fear of failure. “It’s hard to take the steps to learn sentence structure and vocabulary while reading, but we all learn from our mistakes. In this group, I hope they learn to love reading English.”

“Let’s Read!” meets every Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. this quarter in SLC room 1634B.

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

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.