At the end of every semester, the Mechanical Engineering department asks both the undergraduate and graduate students to give us ratings of their teaching assistant’s. The two TAs selected for Winter Semester 2021 outstanding TA award were Sam McKinnon (the undergraduate TA) and John Morrell (the graduate TA).
Both McKinnon and Morrell showed remarkable character and ability as they both received an overall score of 10 from the students they taught and advised. A 10 is the highest score a teaching assistant can receive. To be selected, you not only have to have the highest overall score, but you have to receive more than five responses and positive comments.
McKinnon was a TA for Dr. Mattson in ME 272. “The best part of being a TA was getting to know the students. 272 is a design class, and it was super fun to see what the students made and help them work through any challenges they had along the way” McKinnon said.
Some of the students that McKinnon TA’d gave comments about his performance. Some of the comments were the following, “Awesome TA!” and “He was always nice and very positive, even when my project was a disaster haha. I have always felt better about myself after interacting with him.”
Morrell was a TA for Dr. Killpack’s ME 431, Into to Control theory class. He explained, “I loved the chance to learn the subject more. This class is also very project based, and I really love seeing students succeed on long term projects that seemed daunting to them at first.”
Just like McKinnon, Morrell also received many positive comments on his job as a TA. Some students said the following about Morrell, “great at being patient and taking time to explain things,” “I really liked John as a TA and I loved coming to his office hours,” and “John was overall very knowledgeable and very often helped me to learn the skills for debugging and problem solving that I needed...incredibly kind and patient.”
These two TA’s did an exemplary job helping students learn and enjoy the classes that they were in. They both gave some advice on what they believe a TA should do.
The advice that Morrell gave was that TA’s should, “choose to deeply understand their subject and make their goal the understanding of the students.”
McKinnon gave the following council; “Students need someone who believes in them just as much (or more) than they need someone who’s always available to lend them technical support. Engineering classes are hard, but not impossible. Surround yourself with good people, ask questions to get the help you need, and you’ll succeed -- Even in your toughest classes.”
Having TA’s that are devoted to helping students succeed is what should be the goal of any TA. McKinnon and Morrell did an excellent job in being that support system for the students they worked with. They are both examples of what it looks like to be an outstanding TA.