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Columbia College's

Academic Wellness Educators    

Keeping Us Connected

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Keeping Us Connected                 

Volume 3, Issue 7, March '10


AWEStar of the Month


John has been with the YCCD district for 28 years total, MJC since 1982 and Columbia College since 2000.   He has taught the entire Mathematics curriculum; his favorite classes are Math for Liberal Arts students, Math for Elementary School teachers, and Trigonometry.


John Leamy, Math Instructor

John Leamy, Math Instructor


John has been involved with the First Semester Experience teaching Pre-Algebra for the first 3 semesters, taking a break this semester and will start again in fall of 2010. One of the great things about having the same group of students for longer periods of time is building community among the students, says John. He remembers experiencing camaraderie when he taught evening classes, generally due to having extended blocks of time together and being able to take breaks together. Nurturing a community among math students makes it more comfortable for them to ask questions. Even now he witnesses students building study groups and getting to know all the instructors within the Math community.


For the past 8 years he has been an officer for the California Mathematics Council which involves attending conferences and state wide meetings. He says it helps to know the issues in Math education in K-12 since it will have an impact at the colleges and university level. John helps with vertical articulation, California state math standards and the textbook adoption process working with leading Math educators who are influential in the decision-making process and adoption of Math Programs.


John is also involved as a core member of the AWE Committee and Curriculum Committee. You can find him frequently in the Math Lab spending time with the students.  One of his unique teaching techniques is allowing students to facilitate, and steer the new topic rather than him. For example he will use a student’s questions as a spring board into new material or a lively discussion. He finds that is where you can detect where the attitudes on Math come from. To help students master concepts, he helps draw them from the concrete to the abstract.  For example, in algebra he will often restate a question as an arithmetic question and show how the algebra procedures grew out of the arithmetic they already know. John says that students often don’t realize there is any connection with arithmetic in algebra. He remembers hearing students comment that they were told there is a difference between arithmetic and algebra and they believe it. His favorite part of teaching is making connections between divergent ideas and showing how they connect. That’s the part of the big picture of mathematics to see connections and understand how to apply them, not just procedural operations.


A quote that motivates John is an overheard statement by a student that “There is no reason for this; it’s just math”. He attempts to show students that that isn’t the case at all.   Math is not just about procedures; more importantly, it is about other things: problem solving and interesting questioning. The questioning is where the connections and problem solving take shape. Part of the reason people dislike math is because their perception is “this is what you do, do it because I said so”.  To John, instilling the interest in and the ability to question is the biggest thing.


One of his reasons for being involved in the AWE (Academic Wellness Educators) is that he would like to see a fear of math or lack of math skills not become a factor in students choosing what they want to do in school or life. John’s definition of math is that it is a way of looking at the world and organizing all the stimuli into a cohesive whole, and a search for and study of patterns. In John’s opinion math develops a “world view” that can be applied to other areas. Since Math is “method of thought”, fields such as Business, Engineering, Science, and Law schools recruit math majors.


Tutor's Corner





If our activities define who we are, I am principally a student at Columbia College.  I have been such for enough years now to learn what being a student means for me, and within that truly transformative liberation there have been many resilience promoting opportunities that have helped me along the way; not least among these is my time spent working in the in the AAC as a peer tutor. From young home-schooled fledgling to impending transfer student, I have walked our fair campus with an ever growing understanding of the potential power held in such an educational environment. Unexpectedly, the profundity of this realization strikes me most when working with my fellow students—for somehow when I can be a part of their “aaaahh-haa!” moments, a degree of meaning is given to mine.

Nicol Gaffney, AAC Tutor & Library Assistant

Nicol Gaffney, AAC Tutor & Library Assistant


In looking toward what I strive to foster in my role as a peer tutor, it all comes back to my love for the civil interaction between two engaged minds. Often, individuals who utilize tutoring the first few times are trepidatious about how they and their work can integrate within that space. I have no illusions regarding the lack of my abilities to take away those unfounded fears for them, but I can create an environment where they have every reason tackle those fears themselves. I don’t tutor to impart my discoveries on a subject; I tutor with the intent of creating a space where fellow students can feel the power of discovery through their own devices. I’m hard pressed to think of a more joyous occasion than when a student makes a meaningful connection in their own work, leading to improvement within that assignment and in each subsequent educational endeavor.  Be it syntax in an English paper, study skills, or how to approach a graphic presentation, the same truth remains: really learning feels good. Using my own experience as a guidepost, I can say learning feels best when the source is from within.


My encouragement to the faculty and administration of Columba College is founded on respecting, fostering, and defending this precious process of self-inflicted discovery, even when we students would rather you not. It’s more difficult. It requires more of us as students and educators. We students know this, and within that knowledge we know that when we succeed it means something truly significant, not just because a piece of paper or a professor tells us so, but because we feel it for ourselves. As I see it, the process of learning how to learn and unlearn is to recognize one’s own education as a central part of being rather than something to attain. That is the potential power of an educational environment, and it extends so far beyond the college campus. Our future contributions flow from the mantle of our current challenges. Please encourage and require us to recognize this power through our own meaningful efforts.




AWE Terms



FIG - Focused Inquiry Groups, begins with people that want to make things better, and then work toward solutions that are discussed applied and evaluated.




Side Car - Academic support program that integrates reading and math elements into a targeted vocational program.




House Call - Academic support process that will provide "just in time" support in math for targeted vocational programs.




On Ramp - A preparatory program for new and returning students—full of fundamental skills, strategies and resources to improve chances for success offered in a concentrated format prior to the start of the Fall Semester.




1st Semester Experience - A program designed to boost success in pursuing college goals, whether for transfer education, a certificate or degree.




X-Reg - a day where students can apply, go through orientation, advisement, pay their fees, buy books, get an Id card and take tours to various components of the college.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact Adrienne Seegers, Anne Cavagnaro, Alicia Kolstad, John Leamy, Lynn Martin, Karin Rodts, Craig Johnston or Melissa Colón. Check out the AWE Web site.