Being a non-traditional student on a university campus, Luz Mueller is no stranger to being in unique situations.
However, being one of only a few Spanish writing tutors in the country? That’s a different case.
Mueller is a senior foreign languages major with a concentration in Spanish and a minor in Latin American Studies from Centreville, Virginia who has been working as a Spanish writing tutor for The Writing Center since September of 2017. After being approached about the position by Lisa Rabin, an Associate Professor of Spanish at George Mason University, Luz decided to take the position knowing that, as a native Spanish speaker, she’d be able to help others by having an advantage in speaking, writing, and reading. Not only that, but she felt like she’d be able to improve her own writing skills while assisting her fellow students.
When asked about how she felt knowing that she was one of only a few Spanish writing tutors in the country, there were two primary words that came to her mind: overwhelmed and honored.
“It’s a little overwhelming because it puts a lot of responsibility on me, as well as some added pressure,” said Mueller. “But, I also feel very honored.” Mueller also commended her program and Mason as an institution, saying, “It’s another one of the things Mason is doing to take the steps to not only be inclusive but promote what they’re actually teaching. Yes, they’re teaching classes on a foreign language, but they’re also actively supporting students that are interested in that area and following that career path. I know I’m not alone in this, and I definitely feel the support of the faculty and administration.”
After some time away from school, Mueller felt welcomed as soon as she stepped foot on campus at Mason. “It’s very inclusive,” she said. “Even as a non-traditional student, I feel like I can relate to other students and interact with them despite being in a different season in my life.” In terms of her degree program, Mueller appreciates that the Spanish classes she’s taken clearly make an effort to stay current and relate to what’s happening in different Spanish speaking countries. She also feels that each class does a great job incorporating Latin American culture.
As a tutor, Luz understands the different challenges that come with the position. “I think working with students who are at different levels in their learning of Spanish has been my biggest challenge as a tutor. I’ve discovered that there are three different kinds of Spanish writers. Native speakers are the ones who have the least experience writing at an academic level. They usually come to the US with basic knowledge, but most are first generation immigrants, so chances are they didn’t attend universities in their home countries. Some are heritage speakers, second generation immigrants that speak Spanish at home but, again, haven’t used it at an academic level. I also have Spanish as a second language writers. They’re the ones that have the most experience at the academic level but lack understanding at a technical level. They lack fluency. The challenge is to customize the tutoring experience for each kind of student.”
While the students she works with may have various levels of understanding, Luz always has one primary goal for any student she’s helping. “I want for them to walk out with skills that will help them in the long run. Not just for that paper, assignment, or class, but I want them leaving with something they can apply in all writing they’ll do in the future.”
Luz recognizes that she’ll be able to use the skills she’s acquired as a tutor in her future profession. “I want to use my area of study for translation and interpretation, probably in the public sector, so I absolutely see myself using the skills I’ve acquired in this position in the coming years.”
Realizing how impactful this position has been for students in her degree program, Mueller wants to continue to see different students pass the torch as Spanish writing tutors in the future. “I want to say for potential and future tutors, you don’t need to be a perfect writer. I don’t think anyone has acquired perfect writing skills because that’s something you can always keep working on. All you have to do is have the passion for writing, for learning with somebody and guiding them through the writing process.”
March 05, 2018