Alumna Lena Stypeck Starts a Writing Center at the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy in Baltimore

December 15, 2014

Lena Stypeck, who graduated from the University with a BA in English in 2014, has started a writing center at the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy in Baltimore.

Lena StypeckAccording to their website, the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy “opened with an emphasis on preparing students to enter the fields of science, mathematics, and various health care professions.” At the high school, Stypeck is a first year English teacher. This semester she is teaching AP Literature and Composition and HSA (High School Assessment) Mastery. Next semester, she will continue teaching AP Literature and Composition and 12th grade English. Stypeck has also applied to start an Advanced Composition course at the Academy next semester.

Stypeck saw the need for a writing center at the Academy after the majority of her 11th and 12th grade students failed the HSA testing. In order to pass the HSAs, Stypeck believes students need an additional space outside of class to develop their reading and writing skills. By creating a writing center, Stypeck is also able to build stronger relationships with her students.

During lunch period at the Academy, Stypeck went around to each table in the cafeteria, and asked students if they needed help with their English coursework. She also asked students if they were interested in becoming a writing tutor. Stypeck advertised the writing center as a place where students could work on resumes, college applications, and school papers. She also told students that working at the Academy's writing center serves as an opportunity to train for a paid position in a writing center in college. This incentive especially motivated students, who now participate in tutor training during lunch.

Stypeck believes writing centers let students invest in each other, instead of a professor-student hierarchy. 

“Too often students just agree with what their professors say, because the professor is in the position to have all of the ‘correct’ answers,” said Stypeck.

“Student-student tutoring allows for more of a critical conversation where students can think and talk through a piece of writing together. These student-student interactions, also gives power back to the students and allows them to feel empowered and in control of their own learning.”

At the Academy’s writing center, Stypeck wants the tutors to be inviting and welcoming. She hopes the writing center will be a place where tutors have open, two-way conversations with other students, rather than a place where tutors tell other students what to do.

Stypeck and the writing center’s tutors plan to visit the Department’s Writing Center in February. During the visit, Stypeck hopes her tutors will analyze the tutoring methods used and formulate an opinion on the methods. They will sit in on a model tutor training session led by Department tutors and professors. Stypeck hopes that her tutors will work at and run the Academy’s writing center and while visiting, she wants them to document the logistical needs of a writing center. Stypeck also hopes her tutors observe important business skills such as the professional language used in academia, the attire worn in an academic and professional environments, and the necessary steps to build relationships with clients.

Best of luck, Lena!