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  • Avery H.

The Making of a Writing Center

The writing center is more than a class: It’s more than a place to collaborate freely on writing or a place to find help when you get stuck, it’s more than a community of fellow students, it’s more than a place to sit back and read a book. The writing center? The writing center is all of those things. While the Lane Tech writing center is almost entirely student run, a place based on democracy and discussion, there is one person at the head of it all. One person who taught each and every tutor in the room how to, well, tutor. How to collaborate on writing, how we can accomplish our goals of making the writing center a place for everyone. That person, that teacher, is none other than Ms. Elizabeth Cramarosso, the director, teacher, and main force driving the writing center. 

Anyone who has had the pleasure to be taught by Ms. Cramarosso knows what she’s like: A force of nature, full of little bits of knowledge and advice and anecdotes that seem to make the room come alive. A force of nature, dedicated with her whole heart to the Lane Tech writing center. But how did she get here? How did the writing center get here? It all started in Ms. Cramarosso’s Sophomore art history class, in college: “I had a professor who read my blue book essay out loud to the class— if you don’t have blue books, they’re like this thing that colleges use for in-class essays. You write in these little books, and that’s it. So, she read it out loud and went ‘I’m recommending this student to the writing center.’ That was the first time I’d heard of the writing center.”

From there, it was a match made in heaven. “I looked into it, had an interview and was hired. I loved working in the writing center, it was such a happy time. I loved all the people I worked with— they were all cool literature people, and they wanted to be helpful. They were kind to people.”

Lane Tech was further down the road— deciding to be a teacher at 27, Ms. Cramarosso was relatively late to the game. Before she was even hired, however, she was up to bat for the Lane Tech writing center. “I had a friend who worked here before I was a teacher, before I even wanted to be a teacher. I would always be telling her that she should start a writing center, but she was just like ‘well, I don’t really want to do that.’ I said that she should, that it’s so important.”

It took Ms. Cramarosso being hired before her dream would become a reality. Even then, there were still some setbacks: “The first year, I didn’t get the enrollment numbers. About 17 people enrolled, so they didn’t run the class— you’re supposed to get 28 to 30.” Thankfully, all was not lost. The next year, the now principal Ms. Thompson intervened. “She was one of the assistant principals then, and she said ‘I don’t care what the enrollment is. I don’t care what the numbers are. We’re going to run the class. Since then? We’ve had enrollments, we’ve had two classes at once, we’ve turned people away. The class is sustainable now.”

The other challenges the writing center faced in its infancy came from the inside— or rather, from the established literature. “I assumed that there would be hostility, or a lack of trust from others. I think that’s Stephan North’s (a pioneer in writing center theory. A picture of him hangs in the classroom.) fault. North talks about how people just don’t understand writing centers, and I had this assumption that people wouldn’t be supportive, or would judge me. Most people are outwardly supportive, despite the construct that North created that I’m living under.”

Ms. Cramarosso then offered reassurance as to the future of the writing center. “I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon, but we all shuffle off this mortal coil at some point. I hope that this thing is stable enough that if I’m ever not here that it’s still going. That it doesn’t die on the vine because I’m not here sustaining it.” Further reassuring potential tutees, she then commented on what most people don’t know about the writing center: “I think people have fun. Most people who come in are skeptical, or scared, and I think that they leave having learned something or having enjoyed themselves. It’s not going to be painful, you’re going to enjoy it. Come here. Chill.”

To echo her, the writing center is a great place: whether you’re an experienced tutor reading this or someone who’s yet to visit for the first time, remember: come here. Chill. Have fun.

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