The Graduate Student Teaching Award honors graduate student excellence in instruction.
PhD candidate Mark Bly is an exceptionally popular instructor, with some of the highest student evaluation scores in the Department of Mathematics. He is known for well-planned and enthusiastically delivered classes that give students every chance to succeed. He also maintains extensive web pages for each of his courses, allowing students access to useful and relevant materials. Students describe him as “a master teacher” who has “a passion for math and teaching.” The faculty members visiting his course were likewise impressed by his professionalism and firm grasp of the subject matter. In 2016, Bly received his department’s Dorothea and Edgar D. Eaves GTA Senior Level Teaching Award. The ultimate compliments come from his students: “I hate math, but I love this class,” one said. “This is the first math class I enjoyed and actually understood what I was doing,” said another. One simply stated, “This dude is amazing at explaining this course’s content.”
Unlike many PhD candidates who focus solely on research, Cassie Dresser has wanted to teach since arriving in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2013. In fact, she’s been teaching throughout her academic career. As an undergraduate at Hartwick College in New York, she was a tutor. As a master’s student at Central Michigan University, she was a teaching assistant. Before starting her PhD, she worked as an environmental educator at a state park in Michigan. Here, she’s been a lecture assistant, a teaching assistant, and now head TA. She excelled when given the rare opportunity to be the sole instructor of a 200-level course, and she is one of the first graduate students to complete UT’s Certificate in College Teaching program. Dresser has not only sought to improve her own teaching but also enhanced the teaching of other TAs in her department by researching and sharing best practices and by developing research-based scientific literacy coursework.
Brittany Stephenson, a PhD candidate in the Department of Mathematics, shares her enthusiasm for math with her students and connects with them because of her approachable demeanor. She is willing to try new methods such as using the free learning platform Kahoot to review previous topics. Her students admire her ability to challenge them to think and try out problems for themselves before receiving instruction. Stephenson collaborated with her mentor to improve the Calculus I curriculum and received a Teaching for Impact Grant from the Teaching and Learning Center to further this work. “She has crafted thoughtful lessons for over a dozen classes,” a faculty member said. “These lessons are being used by multiple instructors, and so Stephenson’s work is impacting our Calculus I instruction here at UT more broadly than just in her own classroom.”