Deborah Brackley: The hidden drive behind student success


Deborah Brackley poses for a photo outside of the library on Oct. 17, 2019.

By Madina Safdari

Deborah Brackley’s office sits in the corner of the tutoring center, behind the check-in desk, and can be missed if not looking close enough. More often than not however, Brackley can be found in meetings, overseeing the tutoring center and checking in with her hand selected Course Embedded Tutors.

The journey that led her to Moorpark College was not the average, but she knew right away that it would be a great fit.

“It was a weird thing finding this job, I’m just gonna say. It was one of those things like ‘Okay I have a business background, then I have education, but I’ve worked on reservations, but I’ve run tutoring’ … when this job came up I was like … ‘so that’s got my name on it, but how?’” Brackley said.

Brackley attended San Diego State University and upon the strict recommendation of her father, majored in business. However, Brackley realized her true passion was in education and got her masters degree and teaching credential from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Brackley quickly found her niche as an educator was in Native American studies. Though Brackley’s interest in Native American history was fostered from a young age, she recalled a Native American music class she took on a whim at SDSU that drove her passion for the culture.

“… It was the hardest class I ever took but I learned so much and I just loved it, and that kind of really sparked my interest,” Brackley said.

Her longest standing job was for just over 17 years as a teacher in Native American education for the Ventura County school district. After suggestions from multiple students, Brackley took a DNA test to see if she was a descendent of Native American lineage. However, she found that she was not.

“I created the curriculum and then I went out and taught kids about their culture and history … I had 200 something students every semester and I drove to about 20 schools with all my gear. I had all these Native American artifacts and we’d do art projects, that was a great job,” Brackley reminisced. “I studied a lot of Native American history just out of sheer curiosity and interest so it was interesting to be teaching Native American families about their own history.”

Brackley is now in her fifth year at Moorpark College and her time is often dedicated towards managing Course Embedded Tutors. CET’s are students whom attend a class, usually in the STEM discipline, and offer targeted tutoring services for the students taking the course for an entire semester.

Sydney Skorpen, both a CET and a Math Center tutor, works closely with Brackley and commends her on the management of the program.

“Her passion for the tutorial center, specifically the CET program she established, was evident immediately and is still evident every time we meet … You feel appreciated as a tutor, which helps to make the center a welcoming, approachable place, whether you are entering as a worker or a student in seek of tutoring help,” Skorpen said.

One of Brackley’s foundational principles is to instruct tutors to not only help with academics, but to teach life skills as well.

“We train all the tutors to infuse those successful strategies and tactics that have gotten them this far, and that is so important because you can help somebody do a math problem but if you teach somebody how to manage their time, that’s huge,” Brackley said.

Prior to Brackley, the Teaching and Learning Center was located in the old library where Fountain Hall stands today, and was 20 tutors strong. Since Brackley took over five years ago, the tutoring center now has over 70 tutors and due to her determination the Math Center is no longer confined to the walls where the Writing Center is located today.

Tracy Tennenhouse, co-director of the writing center and English professor, witnessed Brackley’s start at Moorpark College and is grateful for all of the work she puts in.

“I think she’s such an asset to this campus and I don’t think people realize how hard she works,” Tennenhouse emphasized. “She really works a lot of hours, and she tells me sometimes she wakes up in the night thinking about ideas to bring in the next day.”

Immense progress has been made to get the tutoring center to where it is today, however Brackley remains ambitious to continue expanding their services throughout the third floor.

Salman Muntazir, Math Center tutor, has seen first hand how Brackley’s concern with student success is reflected in her passion for tutoring.

“She is always talking to students who come for tutoring and asking for help to ask them what they are struggling with, which she later uses to improve the tutoring program. Her dedication to her work is admirable and inspirational,” Muntazir said.

Nonetheless, Brackley knows that the success of the tutoring center is rooted in the quality of the tutors and their commitment to helping other students.

“The sheer amount of support and the talent of these tutors is probably what shocks me the most,” Brackley said. “I couldn’t do what they do. I can manage them, I can hire them, but I could not do what they do all day.”