Peer tutors serve on front lines at AC's Academic Success Centers

by Joe Wyatt
Published September 25, 2020

Not that long ago, Alvaro Gardea ventured into the Math Outreach Center at Amarillo College for the first time – not looking to help students unravel the complexities of mathematics, a function he regularly performs there today, but in search of support to conquer his own fear of the subject.


“When I first enrolled at Amarillo College, I shied away from math courses,” said Gardea, now an engineering major who is in his second year as a math tutor at AC. “It was only after I came in for tutoring help, and I came in a lot, that things changed for me, that I came to love math.


“I understand that a lot of people see it as a scary subject, just like I did, but once you get the proper help, the fear fades pretty fast. I mean look at me; now I tutor others.”


Gardea is one of a several peer tutors who have been specially trained to help students succeed in a variety of subjects at tutoring centers across the AC landscape – all of which are free and open to every student at the College.


Under the umbrella of the Academic Success Centers, AC offers free tutoring on all its campuses as well as virtually, a format that has served students especially well since the advent of COVID-19 . Help is available for pretty much any subject, and even technical support covering issues related to navigating email, Blackboard, Dropbox and more is freely offered at the Natalie Buckthal Center, in the Ware Student Center, Room 113.


“We have so many incredible peer tutors who truly understand the strain students are under because they’ve taken and excelled in exactly the same courses, often thanks to tutoring assistance they themselves received at our centers,” Jeannie George, director of student learning support at AC.


“They’re very dedicated,” she said. “Most of them look at tutoring as a way of giving something back to a program that truly helped them.”


Data shows that students who take advantage of free tutoring at AC are better for the experience. Total visits to the Academic Success Centers numbered 36,003 in 2019-2020, and 79.9 percent of students who received tutoring during that span were successful in their course work.


“One of the values of having peer tutors is they are so approachable,” Josh O’Brien, supervisor of the Writers’ Corner, said. “It’s students helping students, and the people who come to us for help feel like they’re on a level playing field.


“It’s a lot easier to be vulnerable with other students. Of course, another great aspect of the assistance we offer is that it’s one-on-one.”


John Pascoe is a writing tutor who credits the Writers’ Corner with helping him find his true academic calling.

“Coming to the Writer’s Corner as a freshman in 2013 convinced me that I was better at writing essays than computer programs,” says Pascoe, who then switched majors from computer science to English and now has a degree in the latter from the University of North Texas.


“I came back to AC as a tutor because I not only love writing, I love helping people with their writing – and when I occasionally suggest to somebody that they should do a rewrite, well, I was once that student. But when I can help somebody turn a good paper into an amazing paper, that’s a very good work day for me.”


Most Academic Success Centers accept both walk-ins and in-person and virtual appointments. Hours of operation vary. For scheduling and more information, visit


For his part, Troy Edwards, a tutor at the Math Outreach Center, is convinced that students who schedule a visit or drop in for math help will be glad they did.


“Everybody is different, of course, and math comes more naturally to some than to others,” he said “but if I’ve learned anything in my time tutoring it’s that everyone can succeed in math if they face it head-on and get a little help.


“We have people come in here all the time who feel like they’ll never get it, but they not only get it, some of them sign up for tutor training and join our team.”