Learning Services: A Discussion With Rebecca Gustin


The Learning Lab opened in 2022.

I’m sitting in the learning lab as I do most tutorials and lunches. It’s decorated with posters of student artwork, posters created by the Learning Profile Affinity Space are pinned to the walls, and there is plenty of natural light from the windows facing Cottage. On the Fifth Avenue end of the BBLC the very last room on the right, is the Learning Services Department. Rebecca Gustin, Director of Learning Services, says she has plans for an expansion of its usages.

For now it sits as one of few dedicated, usually quiet, study spaces on campus. 

“Learning Profile” is a term you might have heard thrown around at MA, maybe you have one yourself, maybe your friends mention theirs. For what it is worth the concept is relatively modern, only first officially recognized in the 90s. 

“I was aware to some extent when I was in High School, but I had no direct experience with [learning differences].” Rebecca says of her first introduction to its concept. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), made it illegal to discriminate against people based on disabilities, learning, mental, or physical. This was what introduced schools to learning disabilities or differences. There are many to name: ADHD, OCD, Dyslexia, ASD, and countless others are what make something qualify for a learning profile. This is what allows for accommodations, such as extended time or specific requirements per student.

“A learning evaluation it helps you realize [you’re] not alone… It’s just so liberating.”

Rebecca Gustin’s office is warmly decorated. She says she has never needed to use the lights due to windows in the corners of her office facing Cottage and Fifth. 

“There was no Learning Services Department at University High School as a student,” she says regarding her knowledge of Learning Differences when young. “And I have some recollection that there were some students that did have learning differences. But it was much more secretive and I remember thinking dyslexia was this really really rare thing.” 

“I didn’t have any personal experience with it until I started teaching at Marin Academy.” One student in particular stood out to her. “He was the beginning of changing my whole professional trajectory. He was diagnosed with ADHD, and he was incredibly incredibly creative, intelligent, funny, you know just this wonderful wonderful kid, who was struggling in school.”

Rebecca was then thanked by the student’s mother for allowing him to have his coping mechanism and aid him in an educating way that fit his learning style. 

MA’s Learning Services Department is relatively new, it has existed since 1999 though it initially was much smaller and operated part time. Rebecca took on the job in 2010, from Susan Adams, the founder whom she worked with as a teacher.

“I love working with adults to ensure they have all the information and skill sets and knowledge in order to support students. The best we can.” 

“I feel my job is about empowering other people, so that they can support students.” That, she says, is her goal. “That is how I have grown, I want to empower other people.”