Sydney Ward and Andrew Bedke were recently awarded the Mechanical Engineering department Outstanding TA Award for their efforts to create a positive and effective learning environment for students last fall semester.
“My favorite part was meeting the students and seeing them progress as the semester went on...it was really fun to see people start to connect the dots,” Ward said. “I just helped with homework, but I could see as people started figuring things out or thinking about things in a different way...seeing that happen in the students was so cool.”
Ward will graduate in December with her Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering. She was the TA for ME EN 335, a neuromechanics class in the fall. Ward had been a TA twice before while pursuing her undergraduate degree.
Students gave Ward a 9.85/10 rating, and according to the professor of the class Dr. Charles, she “goes above and beyond.”
Bedke served as the ME 321 Thermodynamics TA last semester, his third semester as a TA, and received a 10/10 rating from students. He will graduate in April with his Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.
“Andrew Bedke has been an extraordinary TA. There was more than one student comment in my ME 321 class last semester stating that Andrew was the best TA in the department,” said ME 321 instructor Dr. Brent Webb.
Not only are these TA’s given an award, they also have the opportunity to train the entire TA group the next semester.
Both feel that in order to be a good TA it's crucial to get to know the students so you can go at their pace and know their needs.
“It’s important to recognize how fast you can go with each student but in order to do that you have to get to know them a little bit,” Bedke said.
Unique challenges came with being a TA during the pandemic, according to Ward. Being remote for office hours had its pros and cons.
“Anybody could just hop on anytime it was convenient for them,” Ward said. “But the lack of interaction or being able to draw on a whiteboard...technicalities like that made it hard.”
Regardless of whether a student feels they need help from a TA or not, both Bedke and Ward feel it’s a good idea to visit and get to know the TA’s. It’s easier than ever with Zoom office hours, and they could potentially be a great help down the road.
“I had an awesome class and I’ve had awesome TA’s here so I’m pretty sure everyone is equally as qualified for that award,” Ward said. “I feel like I learned how to be a TA from the other really good TA’s I've had here at BYU.”