ACC Math Support Center

Jessica Kallina, ACC Student

Jessica Kallina, ACC Student

My name is Jessica Kallina, and I have been a student at ACC for approximately three years now. I felt inclined to write and share the experience I had over the summer (2016) with College Algebra, and the outstanding tutors at the ACC Math Support Center.

I think it’s important to preface this message by sharing with you that I have struggled with math my entire life. I have avoided College Algebra for 12 years now as I failed the prerequisite for this class the first time I took it, and had to re-take it again (and remember, this was 12 years ago).

I am very determined to get into the BSN program at a local nursing school…however, much to my dismay, College Algebra is required (no exceptions). I am a single mom with three children, and want desperately to be able to financially take care of myself and my kids, as well as to be completely independent, while fulfilling my passion of taking care of, and nurturing, others. For some odd reason, I got the bright idea to take the more accelerated summer version of this incredibly difficult class, as I wanted to get this “nonsense” done and over with as fast as possible. I initially signed up for the online class, knowing students are given more time than usual to complete the tests, and that I would be able to use my book and homework as guides. I believed this was my best chance at passing this dreaded class, if it was even possible for me to pass it at all.

Within the first week, after going into the math support center to complete the first homework assignment, I decided it would be best to switch to the live class as I decided the live instruction would be of benefit. After my second week (and switch) into the live class…I panicked. You see, I realized I was not going to have as much time to take the tests, or be able to use my book and homework as guides, and quickly went to student services to try to switch back to my online class. Much to my dismay, I was denied the switch and was told it was too late. I was devastated and resentful because after all, I am a paying customer…not a just a student! How could this staff deny me the ability to switch…and how dare they!

What I didn’t realize at the time was that this was the best thing that could have happened to me. Now that I was stuck, I realized I was going to have to spend as much time as I possibly could in the math support center if I had any chance of getting through this and earning the “C” that I needed to be admitted into the BSN nursing program. I also realized I was going to have to give myself a serious attitude adjustment about school – and College Algebra specifically – if this was going to work.

I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be in the math support center every day it was open, even if I didn’t have class that day…and I was. I missed about two days during the entire summer semester. This is where the outstanding staff – or as I call them, my “algebra angels” – showed me that there truly are amazing individuals and people at ACC who were willing to help me.

The first tutor who helped me was a young man named Tyler Anderson. I was immediately impressed that such a young man would spend his summer at the College helping other students to succeed, as there are plenty of other summer jobs he could have chosen. He patiently guided and helped me through my homework and explained the concepts I had forgotten in Intermediate Algebra in such a way that sparked my memory. This started off my entire summer mathematic experience on a positive note.

Lynn Weaver has this incredible ability to explain the algebraic concepts that were like another language to me in a way that made sense. She somehow sensed when I “got things” and could move on, and when I didn’t, she would find a way to explain it to me until I understood. Sometimes this entailed taking a piece of paper and folding it into shapes so I could actually envision what she was explaining, and it was incredible how many times her visuals and drawings would make it click for me! Lynn also knew when my patience was wearing thin, and would quickly get to the point and move on so I could keep pushing through and persevering. I’m not going to lie, I was always bummed when she was finished with her hours and departed…I hated to see that gal go!

In week two of my class, I came into the math lab feeling incredibly overwhelmed, hopeless, and had been crying after sitting in the live class for approximately three hours feeling lost and like I was completely in over my head. I sat down in what became my usual spot, and this tall man named John Stein quietly came over and sat down next to me. He asked me what I was working on and I told him I was taking College Algebra as I tried my hardest to hold back my tears. He patiently started going over my homework with me, and after some time of sitting with him, my anxiety started to lift. You see, he told me after working with me for just a couple of hours, that he actually thought I was really good at math, understanding the concepts, and that he thought I should go on to higher level math classes despite what I thought and what I said about my mathematic abilities. In front of everyone, John turned and asked the other tutors, “Don’t you think she is good at math? She understands it better than a lot of other students, doesn’t she?!?” The other tutors smiled, encouraged me, and agreed. John made me smile, was understanding, and gave me hope even when my eyes were still red and swollen from crying. John had this uncanny ability to make me laugh, and make fun of this subject which immediately elevated my mood and made it possible for me to actually comprehend and understand again. I often found myself stopping my homework and listening to John even if he was working with other students as his dry, yet hilarious, sense of humor always made me cackle to myself and put a smile on my face.

Danny Uyechi was the other tutor who immediately came over and sat down to help me on the day I described above when John had to leave. I immediately felt comfortable with him as he is incredibly kind and was so patient with me, just as John had been. It turns out that Danny was also a teacher at my son’s middle school and now high school, and it tickled me pink that he knew and remembered my son Carson, and had good things to say about him. Danny displayed great patience and understanding with me, sometimes having to explain concepts to me multiple times. How he didn’t get cranky is still a mystery with me today. I can clearly see why my son says he is “such a cool teacher”.

Cindy Seymour would always pay attention and watch to see if I looked lost and needed help. She always jumped at the opportunity to help me when I raised my hand. Heck, I didn’t even have to raise my hand for help with Cindy as she was so intuitive and aware of the apparent look of desperation on my face whenever I got lost with my homework. She explained parabolas to me in a way that, as odd as this sounds coming from a (former) math hater, actually made it fun! Whenever I started feeling down, or like I couldn’t get through it, Cindy would say to me, “You are going to make a great nurse!  I love how you take so many notes, it shows you listen and pay attention and that’s what great nurses do!”.

I have never seen anyone so passionate and excited about math as Scott Davis. Not only was Scott more than happy to help and answer questions, but he would tell stories about math; the history of it, the how-and-why it is applicable in the real world and why it is important. I have to admit, I’ve always been a little cynical about algebra but he shared with me concepts that opened my eyes and made me realize there is a purpose for it. He is an incredibly humble and genuinely good man and he helped me adapt a more positive outlook on the entire math realm.

Chad Tritz is a math whiz. I immediately felt comfortable with him and appreciated his patience and love for the subject. I didn’t have as much time with Chad, but the time I did have I appreciate greatly! What always cracked me up is that when he was not needed by students for help, he would be on MML practicing math just for the heck of it. I thought that was really weird as I didn’t understand how anyone would actually choose to spend their free time working on different levels of math. But hey…I now realize we need those people in the world!

I can’t end this without an honorable mention of my teacher, Lindsay Wiard. She never wasted time, and always made a point to ask the class if we had any questions (multiple times) during the lectures. I appreciated this as I felt so inferior in the class compared to other students and did have a lot questions. She made me feel more comfortable when I was able to conjure up the courage to ask what I thought were silly questions, and always made a comment about how she was glad I asked. This eased my feelings of inferiority about the subject and gave me encouragement that I could do it.

What every single one of these incredible people I’ve mentioned has in common is their patience, dedication, passion for the subject, desire to see the students succeed, and ability to teach and share in different formats depending on the needs of the student. All of them displayed a notable amount of patience and understanding, as so often concepts would have to be explained to me over, and over, and over before it finally made sense. I am forever grateful for each and every one of these incredible faculty members. I didn’t have the privilege of working with all of the staff in the math lab but I have no doubt that each and every one of them is very much valuable in their own, special way.

In case you are curious, I didn’t get the “C” that I needed to be admitted into the BSN nursing program. You see, I got a “B” and was informed just last week that I was accepted (for the Spring 2017 semester) and will not have to be put on the waiting list!

Thank you for your amazing staff. Thank you for providing this amazing tutoring lab to the students of ACC. Thank you for providing this resource free of charge, included with the cost of tuition. I couldn’t have achieved (or afforded) what I thought was an impossible feat without the help of all of my “algebra angels”. I am forever grateful and humble.

by Jessica Kallina

The Political Frontier of Free Community College

Transcript:

The members of Sigma Phi interviewed students and administration on the political frontier of free community college.

Why did you choose to pursue a community college education?

“So I decided to go to community college so that I could save some money and then transfer to get my four-year degree. It’s a lot cheaper.”

“Uh, save a little money because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do after high school.”

“It’s a smaller class and you can really interact with teachers and professors.”

“I want to get a strong footing in order to pursue a four-year degree.”

How would the free community college initiative benefit you?

“It would make me want to go to community college more instead of taking out loans and paying more money for the rest of my life.”

“I would be able to cut my student loans.”

“It might take stress off of me in the future if I decide to have children and want to pay for their education.”

Joan Anderssen, Professor of Economics [at Arapahoe Community College]: “Last year, seventy-one percent of US college graduates had student loans to pay off with a whopping $33,000 in debt per student. Americans now have more collective student loan debt, 1.3 trillion, than any other kind of debt. Right, it’s more than credit card and auto loan debt. These high levels of student debt are also serving to perpetuate an even worse economic inequality here in the US, undercutting the opportunity and social mobility that higher education has for a long time promised.”

Do you think post-secondary education is a public or private good?

“Public, for sure.”

“I honestly think it’s both, actually. The reason why I think it’s public is because it is open for anyone of any age to really join. But I do see it as a private because it’s a choice.”

Dr. Diane Hegeman, Vice President for Instruction [at Arapahoe Community College]: “I believe that has a many-perspective response. But, bottom line, I do believe that everyone has the right to access post-secondary education, but I also believe the public has an accountability aspect to this complicated question.”

What are some obstacles you see in the free community college initiative?

“The first and foremost is how is it getting paid for, where is it coming from.”

“I think some people might try to take advantage of it.”

“I think the biggest obstacle would be market saturation.”

“I’m afraid some students will not try as hard.”

“Too many people filling the system and straining the resources of the community colleges.”

Dr. Lisa Mayte Edwards, Vice President of Student Affairs [at Arapahoe Community College]: “I do see capacity issues, making sure that the classes are available for student to take in a meaningful way and in sequence.”

Dr. Diana M. Doyle, President, Arapahoe Community College: “Well, certainly funding is going to be an issue. Someone has to pay for it. And that is going to be a complex resolution. Does that start at the federal level? How does it flow through at the state level? What is the obligation of the colleges themselves, both public and private? And then the students. I think accountability on the part of the students is important as well.”

What kinds of services do you need to succeed in community college?

“I really have benefited from the math lab and the Student Success Center.”

“A good library and good advising services.”

“I think that access to tutors…it’s crucial.”

“I think there needs to be good sources of technology that students can use.”

Rachel Weir, Assistant Director, Disability Services [at Arapahoe Community College]: “And I think to prepare, here at a community college in particular, we would definitely need to assess how we are managing our time. Where are we really invested in, and can we make a shift?”

Dr. Diana M. Doyle, President, Arapahoe Community College: “First is we are going to have to be more creative in how we advise students. We’re going to have to restructure our advising processes. Secondly, colleges need to rethink how we deliver education. The days of the traditional sixteen-week course are probably going to have to change quite a bit. These are all adjustments that colleges will have to make in order to accommodate an increased student population.”

Joan Anderssen, Professor of Economics [at Arapahoe Community College]:”Thomas Jefferson said, ‘An education is an all-important part to participatory democracy. This would help advance our democratic goals for our society.'”

Produced by the Members of the Sigma Phi Chapter and Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society [at Arapahoe Community College]