Keith Ward: Helping Our Students Succeed

keith ward

Keith Ward recalls the transition from teaching high school English to tutoring at SUNY Corning Community College as being fairly easy. 

In 2010, he joined staff in what was then the College's Writing Center, fulfilling his desire to work at the collegiate level. 

“I loved the community college setting because of the diversity of the students. People come to this college from all backgrounds and for all different reasons, but still, everyone has a reason,” he says. “They might be here to discover who they are, to explore what they might want to do, to finally pursue what they’ve known for years they want to do, maybe even to prove somebody wrong. Some have really tough but inspiring stories, and [SUNY CCC] gives everybody a chance to move forward.”

Since joining the team, Keith has worked training peer tutors, teaching developmental writing, and teaching English as a Second Language. In addition, he was there to see the transition from the Writing Center to the much larger, better-equipped and fully renovated Learning Commons, now situated in the Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Library on the Spencer Hill campus and at the Elmira Center.

“I didn’t feel like we lost anything,” he recalls of the move. “Instead, we just gained a bigger ‘family’--a team of amazing math, science, and accounting tutors and library staff. We all fed off each other’s ideas and boosted what we could offer students.”

And that’s something Keith says he works to do every day, having been recently promoted to the Director of the Learning Commons. 

“Education is not about filling up minds with facts like they are hollow vessels,” he says, when asked about his teaching philosophy. “Teaching is about helping a person find out what works best for the way they learn, and to let them know it’s alright to use the resources around them and to never stop asking questions. Good teaching is also about helping a person see the world even more clearly (warts and all!) and to turn their mind on to lifelong learning, not just for future jobs, but to embrace life itself. Effective teachers and tutors work to help people grow into themselves, to nurture their diverse interests and talents.”

For those unfamiliar with the Learning Commons, Keith describes it as not only a physical space for students to work and get help with their schoolwork, but also houses a team of caring people and resources. “Students can just come in or connect with us through email or video chat, share what they’re working on, and we can help them wherever they are with their work, respectfully and nonjudgmentally.”

The Learning Commons assists in anything from checking over homework assignments to providing students with studying and test-taking strategies. Essentially, the goal is to help a student get through their work more efficiently and effectively.

But having taught and tutored so many students over the years, what does he say is the best part?

“You can’t beat those moments when the light just turns on for the student,” Keith says. “Perhaps what they have been facing in their academics has just seemed insurmountable, whether the content itself has been as clear as mud or their own negative voice has been thwarting their efforts. When [they say] ‘Oh, is that how it’s done? I hadn’t thought about it like that before, but now it makes sense! I can do this!’ It doesn’t get any better than that.”

“Bottom line: the Learning Commons is not just for people who are “struggling”--we are here for everyone serious about succeeding in college and beyond.”

When he’s not on campus, Keith is usually busy spending time with his wife and three kids. Some of his favorite hobbies, he says, are ones they can all do together including hiking, fishing, making music and dancing in the living room! 

Some things he’s looking forward to post-pandemic? 

“[Getting] out to concerts again with my family, especially Phish shows and the Grassroots Music Festival! Also, my wife and I would love to take some Latin dance lessons together!”

For those looking for some extra exam help or, as we look ahead to future semesters, students are welcome to drop into the Learning Commons when on campus. However, due to the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, Keith and his staff are also available via email (learningcommons@corning-cc.edu) or by appointment (students can book a timeslot through MyCCC or on the main dashboard of Blackboard). In addition, the Learning Commons is always looking to hire students!

For updates and information on ongoing services in the Learning Commons, visit here