News & Updates
Our Calm, Cool Coordinator Who Knows Calculus, Crunching Numbers, Computers and Beyond.
By: Beth Holden
Walk into the Math/Physics Tutorial and you’ll hear things like, “We’re verifying identities. It’s an exercise of proving that the left side is equivalent to the right side.” You may observe a tutor cutting a piece of paper and folding its corners to resemble a box explaining to a student, “It’s an optimization problem. What are the dimensions of the box in the largest volume?” It’s like walking onto the set of Big Bang Theory and listening to Sheldon and Leonard discuss string theory.
If you visit the Computer Science Tutorial, you’ll see something on the whiteboard that to the uniformed eye might look like hiero-glyphics, but Bishara Al-Akeel, Coordinator of the Computer Science Tutorial and the Computer Physics Tutorial, recognizes it’s computer code. Holding a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering Bishara knows both worlds, and knows how to hire tutors who will best serve our students. Bishara is not unlike a lot of our students. He came to the U.S. from Jordan in 1996, and worked at McDonald’s, Nathan’s, and Muller Data Corporation in Manhattan. “For the first year, I had to quit studying. I needed to work to save money to put myself through college.” During his last semester, one of his class-mates at Manhattan College told him about a tutoring position at the Academic Support Center. He started working as a tutor, and for the last fifteen years has been an adjunct in the Math Department. “When I started teaching, I saw myself more in the academic field and, luckily, in the spring of 2005, the Coordinator position opened, and I applied. That was a turning point in my life.” And it was a turning point for WCC. In Jordanian, Bishara means “good news,” and it certainly was when Bishara was hired as an ASC Coordinator.
Bishara is Zen-like: kind, humble, smart and patient.
“How are you like this?”
“It’s just who I am,” he says, and smiles a Mona Lisa smile.
Bishara can be found on the floor of one of the ASC tutorials patiently helping students troubleshoot a printer that isn’t working or at the front desk helping students sign in.
When Bishara’s not tending to the tutorials he coordinates, he’s in his office quietly crunching numbers for assessment, entering payroll, pouring over a myriad of numbers, serving on committees or working on twelve different schedules ensuring that the Math/Physics Tutorial has coverage for students.
In fact, scheduling for the Math/Physics Tutorial is a complicated process, not unlike a Math/Physics formula. “Not all tutors can tutor all 15 subjects in Math/Physics. I have to hire different tutors for different subjects, and make sure that all subjects are covered for at least a couple of hours during each day.” Hanging in the back of the tutorial are twelve schedules for all fifteen courses supported to help students find the right tutor at the right time.
The challenge is finding enough coverage for the hours the Math/Physics Tutorial is open to help all students in these courses. “It’s not easy. It’s hard to find tutors who can tutor all of these subjects. I would love to see more tutors who can tutor the subjects during our hours of operation. If any faculty know students who they can recommend, let us know.”
For the past three years, Bishara has been in charge of providing tutoring for students enrolled in the WCC/Mercy Stem Scholars Program. Through this grant, the ASC is able to provide tutoring for general, abnormal and social psychology. This was a great opportunity for the ASC to offer services to students beyond the subjects we normally provide.
Bishara handles all of this with great ease. It’s nice to have a leader who shines so brightly in his own quiet way. It’s refreshing, and we’re all honored to work with him.
The Future is Bright for our ASC Tutors!
Donovan Vincent Jr— Math/Physics
Docendo discimus: by teaching we learn. This has to be the most accurate proverb to describe my experience at the Academic Support Center. As a tutor, I augment my knowledge of math and physics to a deeper under-standing of what the subjects really mean. It wasn’t too long ago that I too struggled to unlock the secrets of math and physics, but once done it was extremely rewarding. Because of the ASC, I now experience breaking down complex subjects and making them understandable for every student, regardless of academic back-ground. This is a unique experience that is irreplaceable, and I enjoy every moment of it.
After WCC, I plan on going to a four-year-institution to complete a dual bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and Physics. After getting these degrees, I would like to begin my career in a Chem E field, for hands-on experience. My long-term goal is to be a math and/or physics professor at a university, while also participating in active research. Thank you so much for choosing me as a tutor.
Arnie Eliezer— Math
Six summers ago, at the age of 65, I registered for two math classes at WCC that changed the course of my life and my retirement. After hearing students talking about the “tutoring center,” I visited it and was given a guided tour. My initial impression that it seemed like a fun place to be has been repeatedly con-firmed over my 6-year tutoring career.
Technically, tutoring is a job, but it’s the most rewarding one I’ve ever had. I work with talented people who are always willing to help each other with difficult math problems, as well as finding the best approach for reaching each student. They are what makes tutoring so rewarding. At the beginning of every semester, I try to imagine which students I’ll meet for the first time and what type of working relationships we’ll have. Tutors have an impact on the lives of our students. Few things in life are as rewarding as having a student thank you for helping them master the baffling nature of mathematics!
I have two goals for the immediate future: getting more students to take advantage of the ASC, and exploring ways to apply my software development skills to the educational process. The latter goal could provide students with customized learning tools, while providing computer science students with real-world programming skills. In summary, I look forward to more years of tutoring and helping our students to claim their share of “The Great American Pie.”
I recently graduated with a Master of Arts degree in History from St. John’s University. I work as a tutor in the Reading/ESL tutorial, and I am looking to go to law school in the future. In the meantime, I would like to become a teacher or work in the legal field. The Academic Support Center provided me with the motivation to reach my dreams. I truly enjoy helping students become successful with all of their endeavors, and this has inspired me to find careers that will enable me to fulfill this task. Further-more, the ASC increased my passion to learn. The Coordinators and Tutors create a learning environment that influences all who come into the ASC. The ASC is a fantastic place to work, because I can talk with students and learn new information every day.
When I was completing my associate’s degree at WCC, the Science Tutorial became a second home. The tutors helped me understand challenging topics in Biology and Inorganic Chemistry. They also helped me realize that the best way to fully learn a topic is to explain what you have comprehended to others. Eventually, I transitioned from going there for help to working as a Peer Tutor. After receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, I returned to the Science Tutorial to work while applying to nursing schools.
In January 2020, I’ll begin the Accelerated Nursing Program at Pace University. After completing the program I plan to continue my education, working toward my goal to become a Nurse Practitioner, specializing in oncology. I’m excited to begin my career in nursing, but I will miss working at the Science Tutorial. Working as a tutor has kept topics like Biology, Nutrition, and A&P fresh in my mind, which I know will better prepare me for nursing school. Helping other students understand and succeed in difficult topics has been the most rewarding experience. Being a nurse will also have its rewards, but I will never forget the wonderful experiences I’ve had being a tutor.