New Tutorial Center coordinator to bring changes to tutoring programs


Emily Zhu

Jacob Valadez hopes to bring changes to the Tutorial Center this year.

Tutorial Center Coordinator Jacob Valadez, who replaced recently retired Quyen Nguyen, aims to bring a host of changes to the tutoring programs despite operating in a remote setting. 

“I’m actually a Los Altos High School alumni,” Valadez said. “Mrs. Nguyen was there when I was a student, and the Tutorial Center hasn’t really changed since that time. I think that was good for students because it kept consistency, but I think there was a lot of stuff that, especially when we went into shelter-in-place, just didn’t really work right.”

Valadez, who ran a similar tutoring program at a small private school, said he hopes to apply his knowledge at LAHS and create a system that works well in a virtual setting. Especially in the context of tutoring, distance learning has put a strain on students’ abilities to make connections with one another, but Valadez remains hopeful that the Tutorial Center can foster positive relationships and effectively operate remotely. 

One way Valadez plans on improving the Tutorial Center is by increasing training for peer tutors; he plans to create programs in conjunction with department coordinators to inform tutors about specific skills and content necessary to best help students with that subject.

He is also creating growth training sessions — slide decks and videos that students interact with and write reflections on afterward — for tutors on issues like racial identity, privilege, gender and sexual orientation. 

“These will be rolled out through the semester for our peer tutors to take so they have a better understanding of how to be sensitive and open and able to help as many students as possible,” Valadez said. 

Writing Center Coordinator and English teacher Caitlin Hannon has also worked closely with her group of writing center tutors — tutors who provide writing-specific services — on how to create a comfortable environment where students can get help.

“Peer tutors feel this pressure that they have to know everything, and that thinking is really problematic for a tutoring program,” Hannon said. “It sets really unrealistic expectations for peer tutors. It also creates this culture around peer tutoring where the people who know everything are peer tutors and the people who need help just go there.”

“We’re here to help people, and we’re still students ourselves so we’re no better than anyone else,” writing center tutor and senior Ruxandra Tico said. “It’s not good to try and act like you are. It’s just not helpful.”

Both Hannon and Valadez are working to combat this culture.

“I really encourage our tutors to be kind and friendly to communicate things, not necessarily simply, but how they would normally,” Valadez said. “They don’t have to put on this affect of being a tutor now, just explain it how you would when explaining it to a friend.” 

“We’re trying to encourage the student and help them grow as a writer; we’re not trying to tell them what they did wrong,” Ruxandra said. “We want to make sure everyone feels welcome.” 

If you’re interested in tutoring in the Tutorial Center or Writing Center, contact [email protected] or [email protected] for more information.