I am way late in getting this out and want to thank Laurie Bauman and Hugo Alamillo for the reminders that the annual chorus of the Pacific Tree Frogs has begun!
North Seattle College has a very large populations of Pacific Tree Frogs in our campus wetlands (especially on the north end) and this time of year the males call to the females from the ponds. When the females arrive, they lay eggs just under the water level, attaching them to underwater stems. Tadpole metamorphosis occurs through the spring and the young froglets leave the ponds to their new lives just around the time our students are graduating.
If you have never heard them, it is worth a listen. Head to the north parking lot (near the John Lewis Memorial pedestrian bridge) to hear the chorus. The best time is right around dusk. When they really get going it is louder than the cars on I-5!
The wetlands have always been one of the environmental jewels of north Seattle.
Go Tree Frogs!
(Peter Lortz is Vice-President and Accreditation Liaison Officer at North Seattle College)
Behold, the latest artwork on the whiteboard in the Student Learning Center lobby. It shows an ogre, some technology, and a variety of animal shapes. Recognize anything? Stop by and discuss it with the creator, SLC greeter Sam Dennison. He’s a first-year North Seattle College student with no declared major yet. Art, perhaps?
And when my partner says they’re out of blue food coloring
While we’re at the store
I can trust that they’d know, and I don’t need to worry anymore
Blue was my favorite color too
I want it back
We both know no blame
belongs on the white frosting’s lack
Juliane Albright is a first-year student at North Seattle College, seeking an associate of arts degree and planning to become a social worker. She also works as a greeter at the Student Learning Center.
When tutoring students, Elizabeth Bryant can help them deal with difficult situations and make things better. For her, the work opened up a positive new part of her life.
Bryant, born in Seattle, had worked for years to find meaning in her life before she began tutoring work in 2012. She now tutors English at two schools, including the Page One Writing & Language Center North Seattle College,and has found what she wanted at this stage.
She went to Seattle schools, attending Fairview Elementary, then Laurelhurst Elementary after moving to that upscale neighborhood and living across the street from Bill Gates. She went to Eckstein Junior High School and Roosevelt High School.
But a younger brother with Down’s Syndrome and leukemia died when she was 6. It was a profound change for her life.
“There was no grief counseling in the early ‘60’s, especially not for siblings, something I now stress the importance of to nursing students writing on Care of the Dying Child,” she says. “Because of my brother’s death… I was very aware of my own mortality early on and concerned about the meaning of life and what it meant to love another person. My older sister and brother were also profoundly affected. I was solitary and read deeply and early. I coped with my feelings by drawing, painting, and writing poetry. I continued to struggle with flashbacks, panic attacks and depression.”
As she grew she was affected by images coming back from the Vietnam War. She and her friends were “deeply distrustful of the government,” she says.
“In junior high, I joined the march down the Seattle freeway following the Kent State massacre of May 4, 1970. At 15, I was hanging out with a group of people who were 18 to 35 years old. There were many anti-war protests. With the rise of the Black Panthers and the advent of voluntary busing in Seattle, racial tensions were sky high in the schools.”
In high school she rebelled against “elitism” in her honors classes and was kicked out of them. “My mother intervened, got me connected to better teachers, and sent me to Europe during the summer (twice) to get me away from my boyfriend,” she says. He came from a lower-income, mixed-race household and had been kicked completely out of school and out of his house, she says, but her own family helped rescue her. “I became acutely aware of my privilege and the difference in how my boyfriend and his friends were treated by institutions and society.”
Her rebellion cost her her places in advanced high school classes, but she continued getting top grades and was receiving honors for her work by the time she graduated.
“As a sophomore, I had a 2.0 GPA, but I was saved by a spectacular English teacher, who read my poetry after class, and an art teacher who gave me materials and set me free. As a senior, I was a National Merit Finalist and one of two people in the state to win the (National Council of Teachers of English) essay contest.” She published poetry; one work received honorable mention in a regional writing contest. After given the chance to attend a number of colleges, she chose New College in Sarasota, Fla., described in a college-guide handbook as “a school for smart hippies who didn’t want to go to an ivy league school.” She earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature there.
After college she returned to Seattle. She worked as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home and then at a fish-and-chips restaurant, “just place-holders while figuring out a direction for life.”
She was developing artistic skills and dreaming of putting therm to use. She took drawings to local printers, trying to get them published, and ended up studying painting and illustration at the New School of Visual Concepts. She says she “discovered ecstatic bliss alone in a darkening studio painting all the colors emerging in an arrangement of cardboard boxes as the odor of burnt fruit pies and chocolate cupcakes drifted in through the open windows from the Hostess Bakery across the street.”
She met her future husband in a design class, and they began working together, first on an exhibit for the Pike Place Market and later in a business that began producing humorous postcards and then added sweatshirts, calendars and tee-shirts. They worked well together and had a similar interest in committing completely to projects. But their efforts involved long hours of work, such as hand-coloring calendars, and it didn’t bring real satisfaction for Bryant. To pursue her dream she returned to college to earn a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in painting from the University of Washington.
A about the same time a mortgage “balloon” payment was due on their house but with a bit more family backing, more hard work, and because they lived on an extremely tight budget,“we paid for both the house and my UW degree with those 50-cent postcards,” she says.
After getting her first degrees she began editing an arts journal and briefly became an arts writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She continued as an arts writer for the next 30 years, and still writes on the subject occasionally. She returned to college to earn a third bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, both in art history. She taught courses in the history of western art part-time at the University of Puget Sound, then at Seattle University, and later at Bellevue College. She found classroom teaching “stimulating, but highly stressful.”
“I found one-on-on interactions much more satisfying,” she says. “I had trouble with the performance aspect of whole-class teaching, of putting on the mantle of authority and asking for the projection of the students (to grant power to me as the teacher). One-on-one, I could be a genuine human being, connecting on a more equal basis.”
By that time in her life, Bryant needed more flexible time to deal with family matters. Tutoring provided it. “When I was offered a chance to tutor at Shoreline Community College, then at NSC, it was a godsend.” She began tutoring at North in 2014.
“In tutoring, the stress went down,” she says. “Although the pay was meager, if compared with the non-billable time involved in class prep and grading when teaching, it could be considered a raise. In tutoring, I could make the one-on-one connection I found meaningful, and the power balance was more equitable. I did not need to rank the student through grading; I did not need to pretend to be something more than I was. I could help people in ways that made a difference in their lives.”
As all tutors do, she works with people who did not have English as a first language, or who have not been served well by a previous education system. Many “were coming back to school after life experience that didn’t fit the mold of a typical college student, or after experiencing unimaginable obstacles to their life or education,” she says. In helping people with these experiences, she says, “I was helping to correct the social inequities I had seen as a child and teenager. In helping people develop and articulate their ideas, I was doing something meaningful, and I loved it.”
“Tutoring English and ESL in a community college may not come with status or with much in the way of monetary compensation,” she says, “but it is among the most satisfying things I have done in my life.”
Poul Nichols likes building things, and his life has made him adaptable and accepting of other cultures: perfect for tutoring.
“I like helping others with the challenges that I have overcome,” says Nichols, a tutor in the North Seattle College Professional and Technical Learning Center. “I also feel that I have a lot to offer because I have tripped, stumbled, cried…through this process of learning. I know what they are going through and know I can help them overcome it, because I have.”
Nichols’ background extends from electronics training in the U.S. Navy through experience in the information technology industry, and includes some time as a project manager AT & T. He built computers and managed Windows, UNIX and Linux servers.
After his military service he continued his education at North Seattle College, where he’s earned associate’s degrees in networking administration and telecommunications electronics, plus a bachelor’s degree in application development that he completed just last September.
Computer science for him is an extension of his creative impulses.
“I enjoy making and building all kinds of things,” he says. The results, he says, include computers and electronic devices but “can be woodworking, building small furniture, fences, tables, picture frames, sewing, paper projects, whatever grabs my attention and I think is really cool, I want to grab onto it.”
He describes himself as “Always curious. I like learning how things work.”
He became interested in web development the moment he first saw it.
“I just decided to pursue it later in my career.,” he says. “Basically, I just l like build things and software programming is another medium that I use to build cool stuff. The job market for programmers is growing, which is a very big bonus. I remember creating my first very simple mobile app. It just was a very simple splash screen on my phone. I showed it to everyone.”
His most fun project was an American football app that he developed with some friends. It was challenging and hasn’t been put into commercial use, “but I was pretty proud of it,” he says.
His naval service took him to a variety of places. “I’ve traveled and lived in many parts of the United States. I even lived out of country for a few years (Central America, Panama Canal Zone),” he says, and he visited Hong Kong, Singapore, and places in Malaysia and Australia.
“Those experiences didn’t really shape my chosen field, but they did shape how I see others,” he says. They taught him “that we are all the same…, same dreams, same goals, same beliefs…No matter the age, sex, skin color, religion. It has shaped me in looking at people as myself. Their culture is a side bonus.”
He has been tutoring computer science at the center for more than two years, starting in the summer of 2019. He tutors for classes in IT 102, 115, 125and 161 – introductory courses in programming, software development, structured query language and website development.
He says he took the tutoring job because “I wanted to share my experience and knowledge with others so that they can have a more enjoyable experience in their studies. In return, I wanted the same from the students I tutored, which I got.”
“A benefit for me (is) it also helps me learn to be a better student, programmer, and person,” he says. Other benefits for him working with students are developing friendships, learning more in depth, understanding other points of view and “seeing them succeed.”
There are challenges, he says, including trying to keep up with ongoing changes in the technology and “always having the right answer for the student, wanting to provide 100 percent satisfaction.”
Another challenge: “Devoting enough time. Programming is like learning another language.,” he says. “It requires time and practice. That’s it. Unlike learning a foreign language, you are practicing your language skills with a machine, and I can understand that it can be hard to do this for hours without talking to someone. It can be hard to devote a lot of time to it.”
Helping students with this, “I just tell them they have to decide this is what they want to do, and do it,” he says. “We can decide how far we want to go with programming and make that our goal. If I want to go to that level I just keep practicing until I get there.”
One mistake learners make is making IT “more complicated than it needs to be,” he says. In earlier times, he says he caught himself “thinking that technology is so complicated, I thought that my solution must be in a complicated format.” But there are solutions. “In reality, we are using our everyday simple logic and telling a computer how to do it. So (the solution is), keep it simple.”
Caught in a layoff during a recent corporate reorganization, Nichols is preparing for the day he’ll return to the IT industry fulltime. Meanwhile, he’s an available source of help and advice.
“Here’s another secret,” he says: “Feel free to use the Student Learning Center as a place to study, because when you get stuck and have a question you’re right there where all the tutors are at,” he says. “It’s also a great place to have group studies.”
“Just visit the Student Learning Center.,,” he tells students. “Introduce yourself. Talk about the classes that you’re taking. Ask how this all works. I know it could be a little bit scary, because you don’t know anybody there and you don’t want to seem foolish. But we love to talk.”
SEATTLE, WA, February 1, 2022. By PHYLLIS MACCAMERON
I started tutoring at North Seattle College in the fall of 2011, when the Student Learning Center didn’t exist as a unit and when the English tutoring center was called The Loft (because it was upstairs in the library). But for me the work is another chapter in a life of teaching, and I don’t intend to stop it anytime soon.
My career was as a college English teacher, but during it I did quite a lot of tutoring. As a graduate teaching assistant, I ran some of my composition classes as writing sessions with individual tutorials. After that, before I got my faculty job, I ran a small tutoring lab at Erie Community College, in Buffalo, New York. I was also for some years a part-time faculty member at Empire State College, a non-traditional school where courses were run as individual tutorials.
My full-time faculty job was in the English department at the North Campus of Erie Community College. By the time I moved to Seattle in 2011, I had taught there for over twenty years. I was retired, and a part-time gig as a tutor seemed like an obvious step.
I guess I’d describe myself as a “made” teacher as opposed to a “born” teacher— as someone who may have been born to teach (and intended to pretty early on), but who spent a career trying to figure out how to do it as best I could. I can’t imagine having done anything else for my life’s work, but part of the charm of the work for me (and the frustration it entailed) was the difficulty of doing it well. By the time I retired, I kind of knew how to be the best teacher I could be, but to this day I think of ideas that would have been good for my courses.
I was born in Western Massachusetts, in a country town—in an area where it took six or seven towns to make up a high school class of, in my case, 69 students. I was the only child of parents who had made the tremendous leap of moving from a town near Boston to the western part of the state—a whole 100 miles away. My childhood was spent in two adjacent country towns where cows probably outnumbered people by quite a lot and, from the age of ten, I Iived in the middle of an apple orchard.
When it was time to go to college, I stayed fairly nearby, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English from Mount Holyoke College. After college, I started moving around and lived in California, Connecticut, and Colorado before settling near Buffalo.
I earned my master’s degree from the University of Connecticut and my Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
My move to Seattle happened because of my daughters, one of whom was already on the West Coast and one of whom was about to move here. My whole family, including four grandchildren, is now in North Seattle. That means that I spend a good bit of time with them.
In my leisure time I particularly enjoy going for walks, reading, and knitting. I’m an experienced knitter, and a good bit of my social life revolves around knitting and spinning. I have also spent a significant amount of time learning French, and in 2018 I spent a month in France at a French language institute. Other than that, my travels in recent years have been domestic. Periodically I go to visit friends and relatives in the Northeast. However, I’m basically quite a homebody.
I feel very lucky to have been able to tutor at North Seattle all these years. It started almost by chance: I drove past the college, noted that it was fairly close to my home, and decided to find out if there was a tutoring center. There was, and here I am, ten years later.
Tutoring never gets boring. There is always something unique about each session. To me, it’s quite a lot different from teaching a class, where the responsibility of explaining things is to everyone, not really to any one particular person. With tutoring I can see from facial expressions whether I have explained something adequately or not. I can find ways to make sure the student really does understand. And I’m interested in the conversations that happen in tutoring—conversations that just can’t happen the same way in the classroom. I like to help students be clearer to themselves about what they are thinking. Also, I enjoy explaining grammar to ESL students. It’s a nice challenge to find just the language that will help a student understand what he or she needs to understand either to write correct sentences or to do exercises on a specific topic.
I couldn’t begin to specify any one kind of situation that I like best in tutoring, but some of the most memorable have involved cross-cultural conversations, where I have learned about the way people from other cultures see the world, or about the things they are used to in daily life or the journeys their lives have required. I also love it when a student comes in with complex ideas but a confused sense of what to do in a piece of writing—and leaves with a clearer sense of purpose.
If I were to give advice to students about using tutoring services, I’d tell them—regardless of level—to make use of the resources here. Tutoring conversations can occur on any level. Students who know very little English can still get something out of a tutoring session. And high-achieving students who feel very confident can come in to bounce ideas off someone or to get reactions to their compositions. Page One is for everybody.
Sebastian Pallais-Aks, a North Seattle College math and science tutor, has done a lot at age 18.
He’s a math whiz and jazz pianist who has been active in politics and the marriage-equality movement. He has his eyes on law school or a career in computer science. And he’s still in high school.
Since April, he’s tutored North Seattle College (NSC) in math and computer science, both long-time passions, and helps students not only learn formulas but figure out new solutions.
“I really like the pressure that it puts on me to ask questions that prompt learning,” he says of tutoring. “With math and Computer Science, there’s really a new frame of mind that you have to enter to be an effective thinker. That is what interests me.”
Pallais-Aks was born and raised in Seattle, lives in the Wallingford neighborhood
“with my two moms and my sister” and is in his senior year at Lincoln High School. He’s been a student leader, as general student body treasurer and as senior class treasurer.
He served on a student team advising the school staff about curriculum and student life before the school re-opened after being closed for 38 years.
In addition to his treasurer duties, he is a member of the Seattle Public Schools Superintendent’s Student Advisory Board, which advises Seattle Schools, and of the Association of Washington Student Leaders’ Student Voice Advisory Council, which advises the state.
His other notable political activity is his involvement in the marriage-equality movement that reflected his status as the child of a same-sex couple. He’s attended rallies and both of his parents’ wedding ceremonies.
“As the son of two moms, I often serve as a spokesperson for the community,” he says. “Most of the time, I’m one of the first, if not the first child of two moms that people meet, so I play a role in educating people about same-sex households.”
He says he feels “lucky to live in a place where I’ve experienced minimal homophobia most of my life.
His tutoring work follows a lifelong passion.
“I’ve always loved math – I’m a co-founder of the math club at my high school, and my work as treasurer in the student leadership uses a lot of math for the purpose of maintaining fiduciary accountability at school,” he says.
He’s charted much of his own course in studying the subject. “In 9th grade, I wasn’t feeling enriched by the content of my math class, so I started self-studying farther up the math sequence at my school.” he says .
He began studying Calculus II the following year, one of just two students in a class. He started studying further at NSC after he completed all the other math classes offered at his high school.
“I discovered a bunch of really cool facets of math, my favorites being probability and basic linear algebra that first year, and I just kept going,” he says. “I love math because it is a set of tools that can be harnessed to do all sorts of things.”
At North, he tried computer science classes. “The new way of thinking has really clicked with me, and I was able to bring myself to the next level,” he says. Soon, “I realized that this was something I would enjoy pursuing as a career.”
Since studying at North, “my love for math has grown exponentially, and I’ve really been able to engage with a lot of different interesting topics,” he says. A friend, now a fellow tutor, encouraged him to apply for tutoring work, and he started during spring quarter.
“I applied fully excited by what I might learn, and I was thrilled when I got accepted,” he says.
At 18, Pallais-Aks looks every bit as young as he is, and he’s younger than many other tutors. “I’ve had several clients ask about it, some even commenting that I am half their age,” he says. “I’ve never had a client derive anything openly negative from that, though I do tend to get a lot of ‘wow, you’re really smart!’”
Most of Pallais-Aks’ students come with computer-science problems and often those “come down to a lack of understanding that originated in the design process,” he says. “When a student comes in to ask about a problem they’re having with their code, the first thing I do is ask them to explain what it is (they’re) supposed to do. This starts as a big-picture exercise, for the whole method or class in question, and then zooms down into line-by-line analysis.”
“With math, the questions generally have to do with the application of specific formulas and strategies to solve math problems,” he says. For that, “I like to write down the formula or strategy in question, and then ask the student to solve the problem, filling in any specific gaps that they have along the way.”
Besides his tutoring and high school activities, Pallais-Aks has a recording-studio internship with the Jack Straw Foundation, learning recording techniques and software programs. In the first grade he began playing piano — “a really therapeutic activity.” Today he plays in his school band and has formed several groups, including one called Sharp 6, which can be seen on Spotify.
And he dabbles in photography. “I love to play music, travel, and take pictures” and spend time with family and friends, he says.
He plans to enter college regularly next year, with a double major in physics and computer science. He’s not yet thinking in detail about his career.
“I am currently in the thick of college applications, so the next 4.5 years will be spent finishing up my senior year of high school and then fully enjoying college,” he says. “Beyond that, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing; the two potential post-graduation pathways I have identified for myself are going to law school or pursuing a PhD in Computer Science, but we’ll see what pans out.”
His advice for students? Come to tutoring sessions with a goal. Without one, tutoring time may not be used efficiently. “If students come in with a clear idea (like) ‘I need help understanding this concept’ or ‘I need help figuring out what’s going wrong with these three lines of code,’ that means we can use our time much more effectively, and students are able to leave more satisfied than if they came in with little to no plan,” he says.
Diana Kang is someone who can advise and lead students by example. Her own life has been a determined, steady move from childhood to career, and it’s involved self-discovery, a change in countries, and learning a new language.
“I believe I am good at tutoring because I used to struggle myself — with English, with the culture difference, with feeling different altogether — so I know how to approach things and make the student feel comfortable,” says Kang, a tutor at the North Seattle College (NSC) Professional and Technical Learning Center.
Kang began tutoring computer science at the center last spring but she’s had a long-standing love for the subject.
“Ever since I was 6 years old I have been passionate about computers,” she says. “My mom got me a second-hand PC and I was immediately in love and fascinated about what I can do with it — from using Paint to draw silly shapes, to playing Solitaire and beating the computer’s AI. Later on, I found out that everything we interact with on a computer is because of programming languages, so I knew I wanted to learn some of them.”
She was born in Bucharest, Romania, and lived there until she was 18 and graduated from high school. She still has family in her first country and still has warm feelings about it, as the place where she spent her childhood.
But, like many other Romanians, she was disenchanted with the low wages, poor health system and corruption there and decided to leave and find a better future elsewhere.
She lived for a while in Korea, but eventually settled in the U.S. There were stressful, even scary moments.
She arrived in Seattle late on a foggy night in 2013, and had to immediately start looking for permanent housing the next day. It was difficult to do. She ended up in an extended-stay hotel in the Northgate area for about three months. “The hotel was nice. The surroundings were not,” she says.
Once, while she was munching a fast-foot meal and waiting with her dog for a bus back to her hotel, a shaggy-looking man “approached me and started asking me all sorts of questions…I didn’t know much English back then so I just handed him my fries in hopes he would leave me alone.”
He didn’t, following her onto a bus and sitting down behind her. He followed her off the bus, as well, and Kang spotted a knife in his hand. She began running with the dog and entered the hotel but it was late and there was no receptionist or security staff on hand. To avoid showing the strange man her room, she knocked on the first door and was met by a friendly, drunk couple who also had a dog. The animals began playing together, she met new people and the strange man left the hotel.
“The next day I found a new place to move to,” she says.
She had learned some English in school in Romania but also from online video games. She picked up advanced words listening to music and watching Hollywood movies. She took an English class at North Seattle College “and that fixed my grammar,” she says. She found work as a receptionist and in sales and as a computer technician, installing, maintaining and troubleshooting software applications and hardware.
She began taking computer-science classes at NSC, and enjoyed them. She obtained certificates in Web Applications Technology and Windows Network Administration, as well as an Associates of Applied Science degree in Programming/IT Network Support. She was recommended for a tutoring job by an instructor, Robert Bunge.
“I took the job because I am confident in the subject I am tutoring, but also because I wanted to experiment and see what it is like,” she says.
The work “is very meaningful to me because I get to help others,” she says. “I am a very patient person and I recognize the struggles of not understanding. “
She says the best part of tutoring is when (students) reach that answer all by themselves “and you can tell that they understand the topic; they get very happy and confident. The most challenging situation is when the student comes with zero lines of code or pseudocode. The problem with this is that I cannot do the homework for them, and they still have to put in the work. I would rather have them write pseudocode and we can work on the actual lines of code, than to see nothing and not know where to start. So far, that hasn’t happened very often. Most of the students I had started slowly but once they got the hang of it they just come to tutoring for 10 minutes just to ask a clarifying question.”
Kang’s ability to lead has been recognized by the college. This fall, in addition to continued tutoring, she’ll be one of several “peer leaders” selected by the college’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. That means she’ll be providing leadership and guidance to new students, helping them with computer-related questions but also giving them information about college programs, such as financial aid.
“I am really excited to be working with other peer leaders and helping with the growth and development of first-year students,” she says.
When not tutoring or studying, Kang spends time cooking, sailing with friends or enjoying being with her dog, a Beagle named Smudge. “I’m always up for learning new languages, drawing and watching documentaries,” she says.
Kang’s eventual goal is to obtain a bachelor’s degree. In addition to her other work, she’s begun studying in the Application Development Bachelor’s of Applied Science program. She expects to graduate by mid-2023 and is aiming for a fulltime job developing “apps.”
Her advice for students about tutoring? “Don’t be hesitant to drop in! I know it seems intimidating. I, myself, used to refuse help in the past because I thought it makes me look bad — NO..” she says. “This could not be further from the truth!”
“Everyone I met loves to help students, and more often than not we can’t wait to get someone who is asking us questions,” she says. “I never met a student who was unhappy after the tutoring sessions. Students leave stress-free because they understand the material better and feel like they can tackle the problem on their own.”