By Melanee Terry
The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for college students seeking academic support and, at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Catherine “Anne” Chase has helped with some of those learning needs. Anne has been assisting students at the university with tutoring and educational support services throughout the pandemic. Due to her excellence and hard work, Anne has been a standout Owl Hero on UMPI’s campus.
Anne started working for the University Maine System in 1988 when she was hired at the University of Maine. She returned to Aroostook County in 1999 and started teaching as an adjunct for UMPI.
As the Tutoring Coordinator and Science Specialist, Anne is responsible for many tasks. She registers students with the Student Support Services office and also helps them schedule their tutoring appointments through a website. Anne sets up their tutoring sessions with peer-tutors and monitors their tutoring appointments throughout the entire process. She also tutors students in a few introductory science courses including biology, chemistry, and environmental science. Anne regularly instructs chemistry labs and teaches an animal science course every other year.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, students no longer come to the Center for Innovative Learning for tutoring assistance. At the moment, they can no longer come to the CIL to register, make appointments, or attend tutoring sessions, unless necessary. Everything through Tutoring is now completely online or done by email.
“The biggest change is the ‘on-line-ness’ of everything,” Anne said. “I no longer have day-to-day connections with our ‘toots.’ I don’t even want to talk about how teaching has changed.”
The Writing Center has also made the online change. Writing Center tutors are currently holding face-to-face electronic tutoring sessions with students. They also have an e-tutoring option where tutors send annotated drafts by email for students who prefer that method. With all of these changes to the Writing Center and Tutoring, Anne’s job has changed significantly over the past year.
“Mainly, I am going blind staring at a monitor all day every day while motionless in a chair. I ramp up the decibels on my car radio on my ride home to blow out the stress,” Anne said.
Despite the changes to online tutoring, Anne has still been able to connect with students remotely. With many courses currently being taught online, she understands the learning curve students may be facing. Anne is always willing to help students better their education, especially with the challenges they are facing during the pandemic.
“My job IS students! I teach them; I tutor them; I supervise them; I try to make their issues smaller if I can’t make them go away entirely. Meeting their needs is what I do,” Anne said.
Anne misses the connections she would normally have with students if the tutoring sessions weren’t online. It has been challenging to adjust for Anne, who struggles to read facial expressions and body language during Zoom sessions. Although online tutoring has its benefits, in-person and face-to-face connections are not currently available.
“The best thing about tutoring is the one-on-one contact and personal relationships that form while regular tutoring sessions take place,” Anne said. “I can tell from eye contact and/or body language just when I ‘lose’ someone and can immediately loop back to explain again or explain differently.”
As a huge champion for students and their education, Anne has played a big role this past year. Although the pandemic has brought along some difficult educational obstacles, Anne has continued to support and advocate for students. Along with many other outstanding employees at UMPI, Anne is also an Owl Hero due to her acts of resilience this past year.
“I think I have something of a fatalistic attitude about all this–whatever is going to happen is going to happen,” Anne said. “My solution is to ‘suck it up and deal with it.’ What else are we going to do?”