Niles tutor retires with 25-year service pin

Published 10:12 am Friday, May 13, 2016

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

Suzanne Mell retires in May after 27 years tutoring math for Southwestern Michigan College.

Dr. Stacy Horner, dean of the Niles Campus, advanced technology and School of Business, presented her with a 25-year service pin on April 25.

“I was looking to get out of the house after my (two daughters) were grown,” Mell recalled. “You could tutor if you took classes and got A’s. I was eligible to teach math, reading or English based on placement tests. I chose math.

“My husband, Don, tutored with me for about five years. I like tutoring because I have an elementary education degree and it’s a way to use my degree. Having a class of 25 or 30 students, you present material, but don’t necessarily have time to help each one.”

“Because I’ve been in this wheelchair since 2001” due to multiple sclerosis, Mell said tutoring “was a way for me to be involved with people instead of staying home. I quit driving in 1998, so I deeply appreciate my husband getting me back and forth to school. I used to do double duty in the morning and come back in the evening. He got tired of driving me home at night in snow, so I went to daytime.

“Many of us have worked together five or six years, so it’s been fun and fulfilling. I will miss the camaraderie, but being home with my husband will be a new phase in my life. I hope to have more time to exercise to get myself to where I don’t have to rely so much on Don,” who worked almost 40 years for Niles Department of Public Works.

“When students come here to get their associate degrees,” Mell said, “you encounter them for two years and become friendly. My husband and I go places and people I tutored remember me. I’m better with faces than names.”

Mell, who grew up on Bond Street, attended Ball State University for two years, but finished her bachelor’s degree at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB).

She did substitute teaching for Brandywine and in South Bend, Ind.

She assures those with math anxiety that “it’s a vocabulary, like learning a foreign language. It starts at a basic premise. Every time you do something, you add another concept. Basics you learn in grade school follow you all the way through. When I was in grade school it was a lot easier. My (five) grandchildren do pre-algebra.”

There wasn’t a Niles Campus when Mell joined SMC.

In 1989, SMC operated out of Bell Educational Center on Third Street.

Niles Campus opened in 1991 on U.S. 12 in Cass County’s Milton Township. A 1999 expansion doubled instructional space.

Two years later came the adjacent M-TEC facility for advanced technology programs such as welding, mechatronics and precision machining named for state Sen. Harry Gast.

A $3 million renovation unveiled with a grand reopening Aug. 10, 2013, ushered in a fresh look with a new Student Service Center, SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs) science labs and created a faculty/student commons.

A friend of tutor Joanna Sommer, Christy Standiford, made Mell an “explosion box” scrapbook cube layered with co-worker notes, Bible verses and pictures.

“We wanted to give you a little bit of everything because we love you,” Sommer said.

Southwestern Michigan College is a public, residential and commuter, community college, founded in 1964. The college averages in the top 10 percent nationally for student academic success based upon the National Community College Benchmark Project. Southwestern Michigan College strives to be the college of first choice, to provide the programs and services to meet the needs of students, and to serve our community. The college is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges.