Strong credential option pleases writing coaches, peer tutors

March 10, 2023
Faculty/staff report

logoStudents who become peer tutors and writing coaches at Saint Michael’s now have the opportunity to earn certificates from an organization that monitors training of student teachers.


Dina Alsaffar ’20

“To receive this certification from an internationally recognized organization means that our programs and the students within them truly stand out in their ability to meet the rigorous standards of selection, training, direct service, and evaluation as posed by the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA),” says Dina Alsaffar ’20, academic support services specialist, who majored in sociology as an undergraduate and then went on for a master’s at McGill University in Montreal.

Currently Saint Michael’s College has 24 student writing coaches and 50 peer tutors who offer support to undergraduate and graduate students through one-on-one collaboration that helps students around writing, course content and study skills. Their training helps them recognize student needs and choose the appropriate learning techniques to best support the student.

“Our student coaches and tutors have already done the hard work that qualifies them to achieve these standards of excellence. Now they have an internationally recognized certificate to spotlight their effort and dedication,” says Allison Cleary, director of the Writing Center and advanced lecturer in Digital Media and Communications.


Allison Cleary

What does this mean for the students?  A certificate from an internationally recognized peer-reviewed process within a well-regarded organization is a gold star on any student’s resume for future job searches, graduate school applications and interview discussions, Cleary says.

“The CRLA certification is something I am very excited about receiving,” says Summer Chaponis, senior mathematics tutor currently enrolled in Alsaffar’s practicum. “[It] provides the opportunity to learn more about how to effectively help students of all learning styles…not to mention that I will be able to verify my tutoring capability in a way that allows others to understand my qualifications and experience.”

Like Chaponis, many senior tutors and coaches are planning on attending graduate school after their time at St. Mike’s. “This certification is extremely beneficial to me as a graduating senior,” Chaponis states. “Tutoring is something I am really passionate about, and having the opportunity to tutor students after I graduate is something I look forward to.”

“This recognition is really validating for students who have invested time in helping their peers,” says Jane Bradley ’23, who has been a coach in the Center for three years. “Working at the writing center has allowed me to see the process of writing from other perspectives which has been a great learning and growing experience.”


Will at work in the Writing Center.

Adds Will Coburn ’24, a writing coach who does outreach to faculty and works one-on-one with students in the Center: “As writing center coaches at St. Mike’s we go through an extensive training course then have the experience of working with a variety of writers. This certification is great validation of that hard work and expertise.”

All students nominated for tutoring or coaching positions receive training. For the writing coaches, that includes a four-credit semester-long course taught by Cleary. For the tutors, who are chosen by faculty to support students in particular courses, this includes foundational trainings offered in the fall and a two-credit practicum taught by Alsaffar in the spring. Coaches who take Cleary’s course and tutors who participate in both fall trainings and Alsaffar’s spring practicum will now earn Level 2 Advanced Certification.

“Our students’ hard work and dedication toward the success of their peers and toward their own professional and academic development is clear,” Alsaffar says.

CRLA has 1,300 members and over 2,000 certified training programs worldwide. Saint Michael’s earned certification in years past for its peer tutor program under Heidi St. Peter but the certification lapsed during staff changes and the pandemic years.


This group photo shows student writing coaches and peer tutors on the steps of Durick Library.

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