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Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) enhance the classroom experience by providing small-group, hands-on learning opportunities for students. During award ceremonies and presentations this spring, the Graduate Division’s GSI Teaching and Resource Center publicly honored GSIs and faculty mentors of GSIs with the Outstanding GSI Award, the Teaching Effectiveness Award (TEA), the Teagle Foundation Award for Excellence in Enhancing Student Learning, and the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs.

On May 5, GSIs were recognized for their exceptional teaching of undergraduates at the annual Outstanding GSI Award Ceremony at the International House. Graduate Dean Fiona Doyle presented more than 200 GSIs with a certificate. GSIs were nominated for this award by their departments, based on input from faculty and students. Along with the honor, each Outstanding GSI received a $250 stipend.

Linda von Hoene, director of the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, shared quotes from undergraduate students about their outstanding GSIs during the ceremony.

“She has done the impossible for me. She has taken my least favorite subject and one of the most daunting authors to read and made a class that will rank as one of my favorites at Cal,” one undergraduate student said about her GSI.

The 24th annual Teaching Effectiveness Award (TEA) ceremony recognized 14 students for their excellent teaching ideas. Current and former Outstanding GSI Awardees from the previous year were invited to submit a one-page essay describing a problem they encountered in teaching and learning, a solution they devised to address the problem, and the means by which they assessed the effectiveness of the solution. Essays submitted for the award are reviewed by Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs, and each recipient receives a $500 stipend and a framed certificate. The TEA essays are published on the GSI Teaching & Resource Center website and serve as an invaluable resource for other instructors at Berkeley and beyond.

Faculty who mentor GSIs, enabling GSIs to become excellent teachers, are also acknowledged each spring through the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs. This award is based on nominations that come directly from GSIs who have benefited from the mentorship in teaching provided by faculty. This April, four faculty members — Sabrina Agarwal of Anthropology, David Henkin of History, Martha Olney of Economics, and Anant Sahai of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science — received a surprise visit in their classrooms or offices from the student “prize patrol,” which presented them with the awards. Faculty recipients are invited to write a statement of mentoring philosophy for publication on the GSI Teaching & Resource website.

In addition to these long-standing award programs, the Teagle Foundation Award for Excellence in Enhancing Student Learning was presented to three GSIs in its inaugural year: Jesse Corde Selbin, English; Elise Piazza, Vision Science; and Julie Wesp, Anthropology. For this award, TEA recipients from spring 2014 were invited to write a 750-word essay connecting their TEA teaching idea to the research on how students learn. The award-winning Teagle essays, selected by the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSIs, are published on the GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s website, and each Teagle awardee receives $1,000.

At this year’s TEA award ceremony, Jesse Cordes Selbin reflected on the value of connecting her TEA teaching activity to the research on learning through the process of writing the Teagle Award essay:

“As part of my research for this essay, I learned from fields as diverse as biology and neurology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, and education, each of which supplied different metaphors for thinking about the student-teacher relationship or about the structure of the university classroom, and each of which again provided different strategies for reshaping or reconceiving the classroom along these lines…. I personally found the process to be highly rewarding and plan to carry my findings with me into the future classes I develop.”

GSI Center Director von Hoene notes that the teaching award ceremonies provide much deserved visibility to the GSIs for their impact on student learning. “These awards are intended to acknowledge and make publicly visible the outstanding contribution graduate students make to the teaching mission of the University,” von Hoene says.

To learn more about the awards, visit the GSI Teaching & Resource Center website.