Celebrating the Teaching and Learning Initiative

Posted June 2nd, 2009 at 2:30 pm.

TLI Corodinator Allison Cook-Sather

TLI Coordinator Alison Cook-Sather

Students, faculty, and staff from across the College filled Dalton Hall’s largest classroom to capacity at the end of the spring semester in celebration of their experiences in the Teaching and Learning Initiative.

The event marked the first time participants from all the various TLI programs—Students as Learners and Teachers; Empowering Learners; the Student-Mentored Staff Computing Classes; Reading, Writing, and Communication; Continuing Staff Education; and the Technology Education Squad—have come together for a year-end celebration. It was also the first celebration conceptualized and facilitated by student participants in the program rather than by faculty coordinators.

The celebration started with presentations from a number of partnerships highlighting the variety of  TLI staff-student partnerships.

For their Computing 2 partnership, Ashley Mallon ’10 and Public Safety Officer Cat Tavares met at midnight before Tavares started her overnight shift.

“We decided it would be a lot easier than me getting up early,” said Mallon, who helped Tavares learn how to use Microsoft Powerpoint.

Public Safety Officer Phil Mairs and Sandra Gandarez ’10 overcame competing sports-team allegiances—Mairs is a diehard Phillies fan while Gandarez, a native of Northern New Jersey, roots for the Mets—to put together a Powerpoint presentation of a “day in the life” of a Bryn Mawr public safety officer.

During the Empowering Learners Partnership presentation, Paul Dolhancryk, Tom Millward, and Mark Watson of Facilities Services talked about how they taught a group of students the basics of home repair and campus physical-plant oversight.

The group framed out two walls and added wiring and pipes for plumbing before finishing it off with drywall.

“I now know what all the little valves in my house are for, so if the toilet is overflowing or something I can take care of it. I know what a ground wire is—it’s the green one, make sure you remember that,” said Julia Vance ’11.

“They did very well. They’ve all still got their fingers,” joked Millward.

The students, in turn, taught the staff about baking.

“I’m not sure I want my wife to know I can bake,” said Dolhancryk.

No matter what the project, what echoed over and over again was praise for the program and the friendships it formed.

“I’ve been doing this for three years and have had a good time doing it, learned a lot, and made a lot of friends,” said Dolhancryk.

“The friendships you make are awesome,” said Pen-y-Groes House Manager Lisa Peterman, who led the room in singing “Happy Birthday” to her partner, Maggie Powers ’10. Peterman has taught Powers to cook in exchange for instruction in Excel and PowerPoint.

After the presentations, everyone stuck around to talk, enjoy a bite to eat, and congratulate one another on the semester’s work. Faculty members who hadn’t seen their student consultants since the previous semester took advantage of the time to catch up on what has been happening in their classrooms, and conversations among groups who usually work in separate spaces filled the room.

The refreshments included dishes from education-certification student Laura Hummer ’10 and Raymond Clark of Dining Services, who teamed up in the Empowering Learners program to create a cooking class. Hummer learned about advanced cooking techniques from Clark, whom she helped explore principles of instruction and plan for his own continuing education. Clark is hoping what he gleaned during the partnership will help him reach his goal of opening a restaurant that will also provide cooking classes.

“Community service is a familiar part of college,” said Alice Lesnick, director of the education program and faculty coordinator of the staff-student partnerships. “This program is about community building. When people can share what they know with each other, the community gets stronger.”

Staff-Student Partnership Coordinator Alic Lesnick

Staff-Student Partnership Coordinator Alice Lesnick

The TLI began in 2006 with the coordination of a number of goals centered on education. With funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Associate Professor of Education Alison Cook-Sather started a project in which students serve as consultants to faculty on issues of pedagogy. At the same time, Bryn Mawr Chief Administrative Officer Jerry Berenson and Chief Information Officer Elliott Shore were interested in starting a program that would help the College’s nonprofessional staff learn basic computer literacy, since the College was moving so much of its operations and communications online. They enlisted Cook-Sather to help create a model for students to become involved in this work to bridge the digital divide on campus.

Cook-Sather, Berenson, and Shore got together with Lesnick, whose course, “Empowering Learners,” focuses on theory and practice of tutoring and mentoring. Lesnick agreed to re-envision the course as a think tank for staff-student educational partnerships, including Empowering Learners, a reciprocal learning exchange in which each partnership chooses its focal topics.

To date, 74 faculty members from across all three divisions of the College and several members of the Haverford faculty have participated in one or more TLI forums, including 82 partnerships in which faculty have worked with a total of 38 students in the role of pedagogical consultant. There have been 123 partnerships between staff and students: 48 Empowering Learners Partnerships; 72 Computing 1, 2, and 3 Partnerships, and four Reading, Writing, and Communication partnerships.

Diane Hoplamazian, a 32-year employee of the College who works in the Erdman dining hall, has been with the program since its start. She’s taken several computer-skill classes and is currently working with Lesnick to improve her literacy.

“Now a lot of the other employees come to me with questions. They sent us our summer schedules and someone couldn’t open it, so she came to me and said ‘Diane, how do you open this,’” Hoplamazian recalled with pride.

“Ultimately, that’s what all these programs are about,” said Lesnick. “We want to build a community in which everyone is a teacher and everyone a learner.”

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