Graduate TAs honoured with awards


By Aysha Pabani
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
If your students can say "after groggily rolling into your class every Friday morning, they leave feeling empowered," you deserve an award.

This testimonial came from a student of one this year’s 20 award winners recognized at the Graduate Student Teaching Assistant awards held at the Great Hall on May 13.

More than 800 TA’s were nominated for the awards this year, but only the top two per cent were honoured with an award, presented by Western President Paul Davenport.

“I actually think this was one of the best GSTA awards we’ve had,” said Margie Davenport, vice-president academic of the Society of Graduate Students. “We were able to showcase our very best teaching assistants.”

Winners were chosen based on the number of nominations they received and the quality of their students’ remarks to determine which TAs had the biggest impact on their students.

Rachel Lechcier-Kimel, a TA for animal cognition and developmental psychology, managed to make that impact despite being the only TA for a class of 300 and a class of 120. According to a student testimonial, she’s an energetic and dynamic TA who’s supportive and available.

“The extra time she puts in places Rachel at the top of my Totally Awesome list,” the testimonial read.

Lechcier-Kimel says she’s grateful to some of her own TAs she never liked for teaching her how not to be with her students.

“It shouldn’t take two weeks to respond to a simple email and if your office hours are from 11 to 12, don’t lock your door at 11:59,” she says. “It’s the little things that count.

“The hardest part is getting them to want to learn,” she adds. “But the most fulfilling part is seeing a student who was doing poorly come back after improving and just how happy they are.”

Matthew Shanahan, a statistics TA says watching his students’ confidence increase is what drives him as well.

“A lot of people are willing to work but they have math anxiety,” he says. “That’s the biggest thing to overcome -- once they believe they can do it, they start to impress themselves.

The GSTA awards were started in 1989 to recognize the top 20 TAs for their excellence in teaching on top of their graduate-level work. The awards are sponsored by SOGS, the Graduate Teaching Assistants' Union and the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

This year's winners include:

Jailal Ablack – Microbiology
Shahria Alam – Engineering
Mike Burrell – Computer Science
Patrick Copeland – History
Simon de Vet – Physics
Graham Fraser – Medical Biophysics
Caroline Lamb – English
Rachel Lechcier-Kimel – Psychology
Michael Margaritis - Biology
Jason Marsh – Philosophy
James McClure – English
Jesus Moreira – Engineering
Zoe Morris – Anthropology
Beth Nanni – Geography
Craig Nelson – Media Information and Technoculture (MIT)
Yaoci Pardo – Comparative Literature
Enrique Salaices – Engineering
Matthew Shanahan – Psychology
Randeep Singh – Biochemistry
Stephane Vlachos – Health Science


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