Kathy Mahr Murano
Class of 1976
For the past 10 years I have been privileged to work in the most rewarding and humbling job of my career — as a writing tutor at St. Louis Community College in Kirkwood, Mo. Oddly, while writing was always my passion, I have become equally passionate about showing others how to write.
This job affords me the opportunity to teach writing skills to students from all walks of life, and I’ve learned as much from them as they have from me. Each day is different, and each day I hope I have made an impact. Single moms, war veterans, 70-year-old retirees, recovering drug addicts, ex-prisoners and nonnative speakers from across the globe join the traditional students in their quest to receive an education through our community college system. And, I’ve worked with them all.
On paper, the students often tell their story ... maybe it was fleeing a home country because of war or abuse endured as a child. Some of their stories make me weep; others make me laugh. No matter the history, I am inspired by their motivation, often submerged in a quiet determination to succeed in a skill so challenging it is scary and uncomfortable. Often the students are reluctant to reveal their writing to a stranger, someone who is going to “judge.”
Many have admitted they are afraid to express their thoughts on paper, so we brainstorm. Through questions and conversation, I gently tug and pull out those ideas, and soon the words begin to flow onto the page. A number of students tell me they have never received a positive comment about their writing, so my task becomes finding the golden nugget ... that one sentence that illustrates the potential for success.
Then, I have the honor of witnessing self-confidence emerge as these students learn and improve their writing skills. I don’t get paid much, and no medical benefits are provided with the job. The reward comes in using the gift God gave me to help others. The humility comes in the realization that the challenges I’ve faced in my life dim in comparison to those tackled by my students.