May 15, 2023

Abigail Arnold | Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

In 2023, GSAS once again honored outstanding graduate student instructors and teaching assistants across programs with the Graduate Student Teaching Awards. These awards celebrate one to two students per program who have made great contributions in teaching roles. GSAS honored these students informally at the End of the Year Celebration on May 2.

The award recipients spoke enthusiastically about their teaching experiences. Alexandra Burkot, who received the award for Musicology, said, “One of my favorite teaching moments was, after a few weeks of sitting with a student reviewing chord identifications, they completed an assignment all on their own, without any hints or nudges from me. When I asked them how they felt, they said, ‘I feel amazing.’ Getting to watch this student grow in ability and confidence was both a privilege and a delight, and it reminded me of just how important patience and diligence is--but always tempered with encouragement and kindness.” Saffron Mintz Schuffman, the co-recipient of the award for Anthropology, added, “To me, TAing has been a great opportunity to not only connect with students that I otherwise might not have, but also to encourage their interests and support their needs. I love being able to show students that it's okay to ask questions and see their excitement bloom.”

Award recipients also spoke of their own philosophies as instructors. Chris Tighe, the co-recipient of the award for Computer Science, said, “Teaching is like helping someone get out of a maze–you can stand at the exit and scream ‘The exit's over here!’, or you can find them in the maze and show them the path out. It's the difference between just telling a student what you know about the problem, and figuring out what the student knows in order to meet them where they are and show them the next steps." And Rafael Abrahams, who received the award for History, said, “Teaching is a pillar of progressive politics: if we want to improve the quality of life in our society, we need to train young people with the necessary skills to grow into empathetic and knowledgeable adults. When it comes to teaching undergraduates, I hope to impart lessons about historic oppression that needs to be corrected, as well as previous activism toward justice that might serve as precedent for contemporary efforts. Teaching is not one-directional: by exposing students to narratives and theories of the past, I've learned to understand history through my students' unique perspectives, and broadened my own thinking in ways that solitary study could never accomplish.”

We extend our warmest congratulations to all the recipients of the 2023 GSAS Teaching Awards and applaud their important work teaching Brandeis’s undergraduates.