In the fall of 2017 during her junior semester at Lander University, Rebecca Strickland was serving as a tutor in the Academic Success Center when she met another student in dire need.
The student wanted to pursue nursing as a major, but algebra was giving her too much frustration and she needed intense private teaching from someone with a knack for numbers to help pull her grade up to an "A" - Could Strickland help?
Rolling up her sleeves, Strickland spent weeks with the student - listening, explaining, graphing equations with colored markers, and getting creative in ways she had never done before to illustrate concepts - but nothing was working.
So one day, feeling her wit's end chipping away, Strickland simply got out her seat, stood up, and waved her arms around wildly into the shape of a parabola to explain what a parabola looked like and how it functioned.
"And even though it got a few laughs, that broke the ice," said Strickland, who is majoring in business administration with an emphasis in accounting. "This student was a more visual learner, and I've found that usually a fresh perspective or a new idea creates understanding."
The session was the hardest challenge Strickland has encountered in her three years of tutoring.
But because of her efforts and other tutors to help students overcome academic obstacles, Lander University's tutoring program was recently approved through the College Reading & Learning Association (CRLA) for International Tutor Training Program Certification (ITTPC).
The ITTPC distinction, coming after two years of efforts, applications and CRLA reviews, marks Lander as one of only 15 certified programs in South Carolina and among 1,400 worldwide.
"In January, our tutoring program will be 39 years old," said tutoring coordinator Caleb Polatty. "Our tutors are trained to give feedback which professors can read to learn if there are common concerns or 'information gaps' for an individual professor's course or student."
Currently, Lander employs more than 80 upperclassmen tutors across 30 different subject areas, including: mathematics, nursing, history, foreign languages, biology, chemistry and physical science.
Requirements to be a tutor include a minimum 3.0 GPA, having earned an "A" in the course the tutor plans to work within, and a faculty recommendation.
Requirements for tutors to achieve ITTPC certification include 10 hours of supervised training and 25 hours of completed tutoring.
The training not only allows tutors knowledge in best practices to help students overcome tough academic hurdles, but, as demonstrated by Strickland, to persist for as long as it takes to achieve a breakthrough.
"CRLA has one of the top respected certification practices across the nation and is recognized globally," Polatty said. "This approval will allow us to certify each individual tutor who participates in the professional training provided by the Academic Success Center."
So far, about 50 Lander students have been certified as tutors, and Polatty expects another 15 to be on board in early 2018.
"In addition to making them better tutors, the new certification will also make them more marketable as they begin their careers," Polatty said. "The training not only covers tips in study skills, but also contains preparations in effective communication, customer service, teamwork, and a three-phase evaluation system for the tutor."
Both Strickland and fellow algebra tutor Brittany Brigmon were among the first to be certified under the ITTPC standards.
"I think the new certification is great news for Lander," said Brigmon, a junior nursing major. "It proves why our institution truly puts our students first."
Strickland, who has also tutored Math for Business and Advanced Analytical Methods, added that while the ITTPC certification will help the Lander tutoring program stand out even more, her reward is in seeing the "light bulb go off" in students who come to her for help.
"I have had students so determined to do well in a course that they schedule appointments with me every week," she said. "And when they can walk out of their appointment with their head held high and a smile on their face, I know that I have done my job."