Saleeha Mansour Shares Her Talent for Tutoring

by Micki Panttaja

Saleeha MansourSaleeha Mansour has always had a passion for words - written, read or voiced in one of the three languages she speaks fluently. So when the international student double majoring in English and Spanish got the opportunity to work as a tutor in the University of Idaho Writing Center, she jumped at the chance.

“Students are so appreciative, and I like that you are actually helping someone and they are taking something away with them,” she explains. “It’s more about finding out how students learn and figuring out what they are having trouble with as opposed to focusing on just an individual paper.”

Mary Ann Judge, the director of the center, explains that the Writing Center is a resource available to both undergraduate and graduate students. It provides one-on-one assistance where tutors help students with everything from improving grammar and punctuation to further developing their ideas. Judge says Saleeha embodies the very qualities needed to be an effective tutor.

“She seems to have an innate understanding of the process of helping other writers discover and develop what they have to say. When she’s helping students, her ego never seems to come into play. The process is not about what she knows or what she thinks or what she would write. It’s about the student she is helping at that moment.”

Being the eldest daughter of nine children it is not unexpected that she is comfortable mentoring others. However, it wasn’t until she was a teenager when her mother enlisted Saleeha’s help with a new business venture that this talent was truly uncovered.

As the daughter of an American mother and Palestinian father, Saleeha spent nearly all of her life living in the Saudi Arabia and grew up speaking both English and Arabic. So when her mother – who did not speak Arabic, started teaching English out of their home, she asked Saleeha to act as informal translator. Over time, the business grew and Saleeha started having her own students.

She did this for several years and developed a real love for teaching English, but when it was time to go to college she dismissed it as a course of study.

“I was a microbiology major, originally,” explains Mansour. “But even so, English was always a passion . . . also writing poetry, and reading. . . I’d read anything. But I didn’t think it was a real career option.”

That all changed when she took English 101 as a freshman and discovered that helping with other people's writing could be a career. Choosing to change her major and focus her studies on business writing and literature, she has seized upon every opportunity available to her. She has acted as a teaching assistant and as student mentor for a course on world religions. Her current work at the Writing Center has added to the already satisfying mix, and her advice for students thinking about using the services of the center is not to hesitate.

“Come in as soon as you can after getting an assignment. . . if you don’t come in early enough there is not enough time.”

After graduating this month, Saleeha plans on pursuing work in the editing and translating fields and one day hopes to attend law school.