Graduate Teaching Assistants Recognized for Excellence

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Graduate teaching assistants are critical members of a university’s instructional team. Each year, the UNCW Graduate School recognizes select TAs who exhibit exceptional competence in the teaching and mentoring of undergraduates. Britton Edwards ’22 (English), Kayla Hoopes ’22 (environmental sciences) and Jacie Shuman ’20, (biology and marine biology) are this year’s recipients of the Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards.

The awardees are nominated by faculty, students, graduate coordinators and department chairs, among others. Awardees are selected by an ad hoc committee of graduate faculty.

“The nomination letters for our awardees are full of words such as extraordinary, commitment, wonderful, excellent, invaluable and remarkable,” said Christopher M. Finelli, dean of the UNCW Graduate School. “These are young professionals who have made decisive steps to use their time at UNCW to learn the craft of teaching and to convey their passion for their subject to their own students.”

The nomination letter for Edwards, which included input from both the Department of English and the Department of Computer Science, noted Edwards’ ability to adapt both a content and pedagogical approach outside of her own discipline at an early stage of her career speaks volumes about her excellence as an instructor.

The Department of Environmental Sciences emphasized Hoopes' ability to connect with students who may be struggling academically or personally. “This attention to the affective needs of our students is a critical component of ‘meeting students where they are’ and helping to build an inclusive and equitable classroom,” the nomination letter read.

Shuman’s nomination letter from the Department of Biology and Marine Biology spoke admirably of not only her excellence in the classroom, but commitment to introductory biology laboratories and the helpfulness of developing online labs and teaching resources in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

Finelli further notes that TAs provide much-needed instructional capacity in both lecture and lab courses, oftentimes freeing faculty members to teach more advanced courses while developing new expertise in their discipline and actively engaging in learning how to be effective instructors in their own right.

-- Caroline Cropp