Dani Reyes has received the ACHS 2023 Distinguished Peer Tutor Award. When she learned of receiving this award, Dani said she felt “humbled, emotional and accomplished.” This award means a lot to Dani because she feels so much pride for being chosen to be a peer tutor and for the milestones she and her peers have achieved throughout this process. The peer tutor pilot program started in Summer 2022, and after three terms, the program officially launched in 2023 and now includes a virtual center.
The tutoring center was designed to support students by matching them with a peer, typically in an English Composition course. Students can self-refer to the peer program or be referred by a faculty member. Students that enroll in the program have various needs, and the tutors are always also students in an ACHS program, which is a unique aspect of this program at ACHS.
About Dani Reyes
Dani is a current Bachelor of Science in Integrative Health Sciences program student. She aims to become a registered Aromatherapist and open a wellness business in her hometown of Dillion, Montana, where she resides with her husband, two cats and numerous chickens.
Dani has been a helper her whole life. She was thrilled when Lisa Warman reached out to her to ask if she would be interested in being a peer tutor. Dani felt honored to mentor other students, especially since she knows what it is like to be an adult student with a job and other responsibilities. Dani recalls the challenges of being a new online student and navigating Canvas, online resources, and APA format. She loves giving back to her ACHS community and helping her peers overcome obstacles she once faced as a new student.
A Day in the Life of a Peer Tutor
Dani is one of four current peer tutors at ACHS; there have been six peer tutors since the pilot program's launch. The peer tutor center is accessible by Canvas and includes a structured framework; however, Dani always meets the students where they are at and mentors from an individualized approach. She works with each student to understand their goals, needs, and roadblocks. She meets with students sometimes up to twice weekly or as often as the student needs support.
Dani believes in creating a safe space for students to discuss their stressors and uncover their skill sets. Dani does not use a “one-size fits all” approach. Instead, she actively listens and allows the natural process of addressing barriers to happen. She states, "There are beliefs that students can bring with them into their English classes that were instilled early in life, which may limit their belief in their ability to write well." By getting coaching from Dani, students can tap into their potential and focus on developing their skills from a different perspective.
Dani considers herself a cheerleader for the students she tutors; celebrating the small and big victories. She leans on her own experience and provides students with helpful resources. Dani believes that leading with compassion, empathy, patience, and active listening contributes to her success as a tutor. Building community is essential to Dani; she encourages building community to enrich the online learning environment.
The Balancing Act of a Peer Tutor
In addition to the time Dani spends tutoring other students, she also works full-time, runs a small business, and is a student. Finding balance is always a delicate dance. Dani is empathic to other students' situations because she is also a busy person who has fallen behind occasionally and has had to stay up late, cramming for an exam or writing a paper. She says self-care and time management are key priorities to balance the juggling act. Dani often tells herself and the peers she is working with to be kind to themselves, focus on what is within control, set attainable goals, and stay organized. She says, "Leaning on your support system is important while you are a student". She gets excellent support from her husband, which helps her manage her day-to-day responsibilities.
Advice for Prospective Students Wanting to Become a Peer Tutor
Dani encourages others to apply to be peer tutors as it is a rewarding path. Her advice for students interested in being a peer tutor would be to be authentic! She says, "Let your vulnerability show so that you can create an authentic environment for you and the person you are tutoring”. Peer tutoring is a process, and the capacity to grow as a tutor will come with time. She says it is vital to know when to “close the door on your day and take care of yourself”. Dani reflects that being a tutor is about being adaptive, learning to go with the flow, pace yourself, know your limits, and create new plans if necessary. She hopes to see the peer tutor expand and grow because she can attest to how effective it has been, and she wants to see more students utilize this fantastic resource.