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Graduate Teaching
Hone your math skills through teaching

Graduate Teaching

The Mathematics Department was one of the first departments at Penn State to develop a comprehensive training program for Graduate Teaching Assistants.

Every new GTA must participate in the Incoming GTA Training Program. International GTAs will be assessed for English proficiency and offered additional instruction in English if needed.

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During the first year of teaching, each graduate assistant is observed several times by a first year mentor. After the first year, the GTA Committee assigns a faculty mentor to each student. Another responsibility of this committee is to select recipients for several Teaching Awards given each year.

All GTAs are encouraged to complete the requirements for the Teaching Associate certificate, which recognizes successful, professional teaching. The Teaching with Technology Certificate is awarded by the Penn State Graduate School; this certificate recognizes demonstrated ability to implement technological methods in collegiate teaching.

The Teaching Seminar features speakers with a history of interest in undergraduate mathematics education. Each speaker gives an individual perspective on effective undergraduate teaching.

Previous speakers have included Deborah Ball, Hyman Bass, Steven Krantz, Olympia Nicodemi, and Stan Wagon. This seminar is currently being organized by James Hager.

First-semester GTAs must attend the teaching seminar as part of the GTA Training Program. Attendance is also required for GTAs who are working towards their Teaching Associate certification.

BACKGROUND TO THE TEACHING ASSOCIATE PROGRAM

Over the last few years the PSU Mathematics Department has put in place a multi-layered program of induction, training, and assessment for new graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). Elements of this program include a semester-long induction and GTA training course, which all new GTAs are required to complete during their first fall semester; a committee of faculty who take individual responsibility for overseeing the teaching of each GTA; a more intensive peer-to-peer mentoring program for the first course taught by each new GTA; new teaching awards; and a Departmental Teaching Seminar attended both by GTAs and by faculty members. We believe that this program is effective in preparing our new graduate students for teaching and in improving the educational experience of undergraduates and graduates alike.

The Department will now implement a procedure for distinguishing those GTAs who have completed the training program and have shown a record of successful classroom teaching. Such GTAs will be promoted to a new status, which we will refer to as that of ‘teaching associate’. There are three reasons for developing such a procedure:

1. It is appropriate to grant official recognition to the effort that GTAs have made through their participation in the training program. Such recognition raises the status and visibility of teaching, and will be an important qualification in GTAs future job search.

2. The availability of a pool of experienced and certified GTAs will be a benefit to the department when decisions concerning course assignments have to be made.

3. Such a certification process is an aspect of our public responsibility as a department, and will demonstrate that we are pro-actively seeking to maintain and improve our teaching standards.

The department hopes that most GTAs will choose to seek, and eventually will attain, Teaching Associate status.

QUALIFYING FOR TEACHING ASSOCIATE STATUS

Teaching Associate status will be granted on the recommendation of the GTA Oversight Committee. Both PhD and MA students are eligible.

A graduate student who wishes to work towards Teaching Associate status should prepare a portfolio that will document the fulfillment of the following requirements.

• The GTA has attended the GTA Training Program.

• The GTA has taught for at least two semesters at Penn State, including one class under the direction of a mentor, and the mentor has reported that his or her performance is above average.

• The GTA has produced above average course support materials, including a written syllabus that meets ECoS requirements, and a course web page.

• Student evaluations from the GTA’s classes are above average.

• The GTA has attended at least two meetings of the Departmental Teaching Seminar.

• By a written essay on teaching methodology or philosophy, and/or an oral interview, the GTA has demonstrated to the Committee that he or she is a competent and reflective educator.

The preparation of the portfolio will take several semesters. Once it is completed it should be submitted to the staff assistant overseeing the graduate program who will pass the portfolio on to the GTA Oversight Committee for their approval. The staff assistant overseeing the graduate program as well as the student’s assigned GTA-Committee person will be available to advise on the portfolio requirements.

BENEFITS OF TEACHING ASSOCIATE STATUS

Graduate Teaching Associates will receive the following benefits.

1. A certificate signed by the Department Chair.

2. A salary increase of $500 per year.

3. Priority access to summer teaching appointments. For a variety of reasons, summer semester teaching in Mathematics is a more demanding activity than teaching in the other semesters. GTAs with summer semester classes have to exercise more responsibility with less oversight. Therefore, we will normally aim to schedule qualified Teaching Associates for these positions.

A GTA who is awarded Teaching Associate status should be sure to draw attention to this in his or her resume. The award is likely to be an effective recommendation for future academic teaching positions.

Recipients are:

  • 2015 Shahrzad Sara Jamshidi
  • 2014 Ehssan Khanmohammadi
  • 2013 Sankha Basu
  • 2012 Serge Ballif
  • 2011 Vivek Srikrishnan
  • 2010 Vaughn Climenhaga, Jonas Kibelbek
  • 2007 Chris George
  • 2006 Anna Mummert
  • 2004 Ilie Ugarcovici
  • 2003 Jeff Raven
  • 2002 Kim Roth
  • 2001 Linda Smolka
  • 2000 Nestor Handzy
  • 1997 Jim Anthony, Eric Johnson
  • 1996 Ethel Wheland