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K-State News
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Psychology and English GTAs earn graduate student teaching excellence awards

Friday, Nov. 8, 2019



MANHATTAN — Two graduate students have been awarded the GSC Award for Graduate Student Teaching Excellence, sponsored by Kansas State University's Graduate Student Council.

The master's graduate teaching assistant award winner is Katie Cline, master's student in English, Jacksonville, Alabama. Her adviser is Phil Nel, university distinguished professor of English. The doctoral graduate teaching assistant award winner is Tucker Jones, doctoral candidate in psychology, Alamosa, Colorado. His adviser is Mark Barnett, professor of psychological sciences.

The GSC Award for Graduate Student Teaching Excellence recognizes graduate teaching assistants who have excelled in classroom teaching. The awards promote the important contributions graduate students make to the scholarship of the university. Cline and Jones will represent the university for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools, or MAGS, Excellence in Teaching Award, with a winner selected at both the master's and the doctoral levels. Since the teaching award was established in 2011, K-State has had six winners, the most from any university.

Both Cline and Jones receive a $500 scholarship and their names and departments are engraved on a perpetual plaque displayed in their departments until the next awards are given.

"Katie and Tucker are outstanding examples of the quality of teaching and mentoring that our graduate teaching assistants provide K-State undergraduates," said Carol Shanklin, dean of the Graduate School. "Our GTAs contribute to enhancing the undergraduate experience while gaining valuable experiences that will increase their competitiveness for future positions. I am honored that they will be representing our GTAs as K-State's nominees in the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools competition this spring."

"Teaching is important to me because it isn't just time spent in a classroom; we remember our school experiences, for better or for worse, and we carry those experiences with us for the rest of our lives," Cline said. "Some of the most influential people in my life have been teachers, and I strive to bring their sincerity, kindness, spirit and even their corny jokes to every classroom I enter."

Cline said that teaching English allows her to share her passions with her students while helping them develop important writing and critical thinking skills that they can then use to cultivate their own interests.

"For some of my students, I will be their last experience in a writing class, and I want them to leave with confidence that they can apply skills learned in my class to papers they may write in the future and that they each have the ability to be a good writer," she said.

Jones said teaching provides him with an opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the lives of others.

"I have had some amazing teachers throughout my life and I owe so much to these incredible individuals," he said. "Teaching provides me with an opportunity to pay homage to those who have contributed to my educational journey as well as pay it forward to the next generation of learners."

Jones said he enjoys sharing with his students all of the fascinating principles of psychology that initially drew him to the field.

"Seeing my students' enjoyment as they learn about my field is an incredibly rewarding experience and I am truly grateful for the students I have had the opportunity and the privilege to teach," he said.

Cline said her teaching philosophy can best be summed up by Helga Hufflepuff, one of the founders of Hogwarts in the "Harry Potter" book series: "I'll teach the lot and treat them all the same."

"As a graduate teaching assistant for ENGL 100, I have the joy — and challenge — of teaching students from a variety of cultural backgrounds — from first-generation college students to nontraditional students to international students and students from across the nation — all with a wide range of experience with English classes," Cline said. "Overall, I believe that the most effective teachers bring palpable energy to the classroom and are genuinely invested in their subject and their students' success, and I believe that knowing each student's name is the best way to show them that they matter."

Jones believes that when his students use their voices, everyone benefits.

"Not only are my students contributing to their own learning when they voice their thoughts and perspectives, they are also contributing to their peers' learning as well," Jones said. "The primary focus of my teaching philosophy is to establish an active dialogue within my classes. I nurture my students' voices by incorporating activities designed to provide them with an opportunity to join in the day's conversation."

Cline and Jones will compete for a $750 honorarium that will be presented at the 76th annual Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools meeting, April 1-3, 2020, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. One master's student and one doctoral student are selected for the award.

The Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools is a regional affiliate of the Council of Graduate Schools. The association's member colleges and universities are accredited institutions of higher education in the central U.S. that offer graduate programs leading to masters, specialist and doctorate degrees.


Carol Shanklin

News tip

Jacksonville, Alabama, and Alamosa, Colorado


GSC Award for Graduate Student Teaching Excellence


Download the following photo.

Katie Cline
Katie Cline, master's student in English, is the winner of the Kansas State University GSC Award for Graduate Student Teaching Excellence at the master's level.

Download the following photo.

Tucker Jones
Tucker Jones, doctoral candidate in psychology, is the winner of the Kansas State University GSC Award for Graduate Student Teaching Excellence at the doctoral level.