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Tips for Success from TMCC's TLC

student scheduling a tutoring appointment on tmcc website
Rebecca A. Eckland

Gaby Cortes Canchola, who is currently a TMCC Graphic Communications major, has been working at the TMCC Tutoring and Learning Center ever since she was a student at TMCC High School. These days, she tutors students in English, Spanish, art and graphic communications classes. “A lot of students think we just tutor core classes like English and math,” she said. “But I love tutoring GRC [graphic communications] and art classes since they are a huge part of my life, and I’ve developed a big passion for them.” 

Canchola admits she doesn’t tutor those classes often, but gets a similar sense of accomplishment from tutoring students who are taking Spanish classes. “I’m a native Spanish speaker, and I love showing students the connections I’ve made while learning [and taking Spanish classes] while offering them insights into how native speakers talk.” Canchola encourages students to reach out to the TLC if they don’t see the subject they need help with listed on the scheduling page. “You may be surprised... I mean, I tutor art sometimes!” she said. 

She also noted that the TLC offers more than just one-on-one tutoring; students and instructors can request embedded tutoring—tutoring that happens during a scheduled class session—or Supplemental Instruction, tutoring sessions which follow a class, providing extra time for a student to learn and ask questions about the subject. 

A love of learning and sharing that experience with others is what keeps Canchola coming back to her work as a TLC tutor year after year. “I always love seeing that ‘ah-ha’ moment in students. They come in with concerned or panicked expressions, and it’s always satisfying to see them get excited after understanding something,” she said. “Not everyone one learns or thinks the same way...as tutors, we’re here to help students understand the content, and to show them how they can help themselves,” she said.  

Fulfilling a Lifelong Passion for Art

Canchola can’t remember a time when she wasn’t creating art. “Ever since I was small, I've been drawing, painting, or just creating things,” she said. “I'm a very visual and kinetic learner, so art was a very attractive thing for me, even if it was just a hobby.” Despite her love of art, Canchola envisioned herself pursuing a career as a veterinarian until her first year in high school. That changed after she started watching animation tutorials. 

Illustration of a person holding a dog.

Canchola created this self-portrait which showcases her love of weight and crosshatching in 2D digital art... and, of course, her dog!

“The more I dove into [animation], the more I fell in love with it and wanted to try it,” she said. Her senior year in high school, Canchola learned about TMCC’s 3+1 Graphic Arts and Media Technology program. She’s currently in her third year of the program. In addition to her love of the subject, skills and profession, she credits the passion of the Graphic Communications faculty who continue to inspire her. 

“The professors in the Graphic Communications program all have the same strong passion that their students do, which is a major source of encouragement for not only me, but all students. When you surround yourself with people that have the same passion and interests as you, it's hard not to be encouraged,” she said. Canchola will be one of the first students to graduate from the program.

In addition to completing classes and coursework, Canchola has also had to overcome shyness and to develop soft skills she will need as a graphic communications professional. “As a Graphic Communications major, you need to be able to explain and develop your idea to a client or audience, and as a tutor, you need to adjust your way of speaking to best help tutees or to show them how they can develop ideas. Sometimes you also need to step back to see the bigger picture before you get lost in the details. I was able to develop this skill while tutoring and use it daily for graphic communications and motion graphics.  Tutoring helped me develop and improve my communications, which is very important [for my major and my career.]”

Working as a tutor, too, has not only fostered these integral communication skills, but also showed her the value of asking for help when you need it. “As I tutor students, I stay up to date on the courses I tutor and stay active in learning the material,” she said. “As a tutor and student, I learned to ask for help and feedback. I used to think I didn't need help or that I would just frustrate those when I asked. After becoming a tutor, I realized that it's much more satisfying and valuable asking for help when you need it.”

Ready to work with a tutor? Schedule an appointment and get the support you need to make this semester your best ever. 

Canchola’s Tips for Success

Beyond learning that help is available, tutoring can help you to discover what study habits and strategies will accommodate your learning style and schedule—insights that can support you as you pursue a college education in a remote learning environment. For Canchola, remaining connected to classmates has been key. “After we moved to online learning, [my classmates and I] created a Discord server to stay connected. We use it for idle talk, feedback, inspiration, school updates, class help, etc... Even though we are in different classes now, we still help each other.”

Creating a schedule for yourself can also support your academic success, said Canchola. “With remote learning, it’s easy to procrastinate. But if you schedule 20 or 30 minute intervals for schoolwork throughout the day [with small breaks in between], you can still get work down without risk of burning yourself out,” she said. “Just doing a little bit [of schoolwork] each day can be an improvement.”

More Tips for Success from the Learning Commons

In addition to seeking support from tutors like Canchola, there are other ways you can get help that don’t cost a lot of extra time and are free for TMCC students. These range from scheduling time with a librarian to find specific sources for your next big project to finding study spaces that can free you from the distractions you face at home. 

Our top five tips for success this Spring Semester include: 

  1. Find quality sources. When it comes to finding sources to support your essays, reports and other written projects, one rule is clear: quality matters over quantity. Fifty Wikipedia articles does not make an “A” paper, whereas a few carefully chosen, high-quality peer-reviewed articles may very well earn you a higher grade. You can find these kinds of resources in the Learning Commons databases. Never heard of them? Check out the Library Resource Page in Canvas where a series of videos can get you started.  
  2. Book a study room. If studying from home is impossible thanks to distractions that can include other family members, pets, children, etc. there are study areas available in the Learning Commons that you can reserve to find some much-needed peace and quiet. These rooms are available during Learning Commons hours, which are 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Thursday and 10 a.m.–3 p.m. on Friday. Just remember: masks and social distancing are required, even in these study rooms!
  3. Work with a librarian. If you understand the subject matter of your class and you’re already an excellent writer but you just can’t seem to find the research you need, our librarians are available to help you. Just think: working with a librarian could save you hours of endlessly searching for a source you don’t know how to find.  Save yourself some grief and schedule a one-on-one appointment to get the support you need.
  4. Take advantage of the computer lab. Sometimes a change of scenery can make all the difference when it comes to writer’s block. If you find yourself staring at a white screen at home, remember that the computer lab in Sierra 109 is open and available for your use. Granted, there are some requirements: you will have to wear a mask and maintain social-distancing protocols while in the lab. However, if getting out of the house is what it takes to get through that assignment, stopping by to work in Sierra 109 might be your ticket to success. 
  5. Use subject-specific databases to find targeted information and source material for your classes. There are literally hundreds of electronic resources available through TMCC’s Learning Commons, like this database developed by the National Institute of Health that contains information on diseases, drugs, tests, surgeries and more.  Reach out to one of our knowledgeable librarians to find the subject-specific database—and the source material—you need to be successful. 

For more information about TMCC’s Learning Commons, contact them at 775-674-7600.

For more information about the Tutoring and Learning Center, you can schedule an appointment with a tutor or contact them at 775-674-7517.