The Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) held a celebratory lunch on Wednesday, April 10th to congratulate ten graduate students nominated as Outstanding Graduate Student Teachers. The nominees were selected by undergraduate students who felt that their TAs/instructors had gone above and beyond their responsibilities. The nominations and lunch were part of the annual Graduate Appreciation Week.
Working as a teaching assistant is one of the most rewarding, and oftentimes challenging, aspects of graduate school. Being a TA offers the opportunity to learn pedagogical techniques, such as lesson planning and testing strategies, from professors. TAs are in a unique position in that they act as a bridge between students and professors. TAs are therefore able to learn from undergraduates which pedagogical techniques work well.
“I think TAing is an excellent opportunity to ‘grow’ as a person. It makes me more responsible, as I am the person students refer to if they have any problems. TAing makes me see the same issue from different perspectives and appreciate that a problem may be faced and solved in different ways,” said Stefano Poggio from the Department of Chemistry, who was nominated by students from his Chemistry 6 class.
Despite the challenges, these TAs clearly excelled in their role. “He is an excellent teacher, going far beyond any other TA or professor that I have had in terms of his availability outside of class, willingness to discuss and explain the material individually to students, and quality of lectures,” said one undergrad of their TA. “[She] is one of the kindest, more enthusiastic people I know,” said another. Enthusiasm, passion for science, and patience were commonly cited as qualities of the outstanding TAs.
Dr. Cindy Tobery from DCAL hosted the lunch, at which graduate students and undergraduates were able to share classroom experiences and teaching techniques. Because the graduate students came from very different academic backgrounds, they were able to share diverse opinions on teaching and life as a graduate student. Dr. Tobery noted, “I am always impressed that undergrads take the time to nominate a grad student for this award. Sometimes many students from a class work together to nominate their TA. I think this is a nice way to include undergraduates in Grad Student Appreciation Week.”
“Receiving this award was such unexpected news! I was so touched and honored! Mentoring students is always such a great experience for me, and it is very rewarding to know that the students think that I do a good job!” said Ramsa Chaves-Ulloa from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program.
The 2013 nominees for Outstanding Graduate Student Teachers from an undergraduate perspective were Julia Bradley-Cook, Ramsa Chaves-Ulloa and Zak Gezon from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program, Zeb Engberg and Zachary Evans from the Mathematics Department, Deqing Li from the Thayer School of Engineering, Stefano Poggio from the Department of Chemistry, Anna Prescott and Alex Schlegel from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Damian Sowinski from the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Congratulations and keep up the good work, TAs!
by Zak Gezon
photo courtesy of Alex Schlegel