Teacher assistants gain experience by helping teachers grade work and lead classes

Easterly Yeaman

  Senior Bryce Hill carefully reads through a rough draft of a less experienced film student’s script adding comments and suggestions as she goes along. Although Hill isn’t the teacher, she advises the younger film students to improve their writing and directing. 

Whether for a credit or not, students have taken the opportunity to be teaching assistants. Teachers get grading, teaching and tutoring help from their most trusted students.

 Students can assist in many disciplines. Senior Neel Mallipeddi was a teaching assistant last semester for upper school math teacher Vanalet Rusuriye.

“I was a teaching assistant for Precalculus under Mr. Rusuriye, and basically I just helped with things like trigonometry and helped with the homework problems,” Mallipeddi said. “I did it last semester, and I went during my study halls.”

For some classes, Mallipeddi would give a lecture on a topic or certain concepts the class would focus on that day, while in others, he would offer help with certain problems or answer questions.

“I’d help with homework questions,” Mallipeddi said. “I also helped with both the test reviews and the exam reviews. Whenever someone had a question about a certain problem in the test or exam review, I would just go over and help them.”

Rusuriye appreciated Mallipeddi’s help in group and individual work and trusted him to lead the class.

“He made it easier for each student to get more individualized attention which meant more student engagement and better practice of the concepts learned,” Rusuriye said. “After a while in my classroom, I allowed Neel to teach and lead out some of the classroom activities. Students enjoyed having Neel explain some concepts from a student perspective.”

I have absolutely loved it because I feel like I am learning more by helping everyone else

Bryce Hill

This year was the first time Rusuriye had a teaching assistant at ESD. Upper school math teacher Chris Northrup recommended Mallipeddi for the position, and Rusuriye knew he would do well in the role.

“Neel was more than qualified to be a teacher assistant for the calculus class,” Rusuriye said. “The qualification would be to have taken and done well in the course of the assistantship. I look for students who love the subject and love sharing what they know with other students. My students loved interacting with Neel, and he was very helpful to them.”

Virginia Nussbaumer ‘22 also took on the role of teaching assistant her senior year. Like Mallipeddi, she answered students’ questions for math classes, but she spent most of her time as a teaching assistant for French.

“I was a TA for French 3 honors and miscellaneous math classes; I mostly hosted office hours,” Nussbaumer said. “For French, I spent most days in the class. I had certain days I presented, certain days when I would practice conversation with the students, and then sometimes I just sat in the class to understand first-hand what the students discussed with Mme. Kharrat, so I was following the curriculum correctly.”

Nussbaumer was able to receive an honors credit for her role as a teaching assistant.

“It was treated as an honors credit for me,” Nussbaumer said. “I think this was the right ‘level’ to select as the reason I was a TA was because I had already finished all other possible courses in the subject.”

However, Mallipeddi was a teaching assistant mainly for fun and as a part of his multivariable calculus class. Either way, both students receive a credit whether helping out was part of the course or not.

“My multi-variable calculus class is not just called that,” Mallipeddi said. “The entire first name is Multivariate Calculus and Math Mentor, which means, as part of the class, even though I don’t get any extra credit for it, all of my grades come purely from just the tests, quizzes and homework assignments that I do in the class.”

Recently, more assistant positions have opened up in fine arts and humanities classes. Hill also took on the role of teaching assistant for a beginning film class.

“I help the beginning film students learn how to organize their ideas, give tips and guidance and help them learn how to edit their films,” Hill said. “I have absolutely loved it because I feel like I am learning more by helping everyone else.”

Hill asked upper school film teacher Lynda Gonzalez about being a teaching assistant for film. The role doesn’t count for a credit.

“When I was in the process of dropping a class, there weren’t any available classes that I was interested in, so my college guidance counselor suggested that I reach out to my film teacher about being a teaching assistant,” Hill said. “Since I have taken film for 4 years, my teacher agreed to let me assist in the class.”

Gonzalez began teaching at ESD in January, and Hill has been providing guidance for and editing her students’ scripts.

“Bryce is my teaching assistant for my beginning film class, and she helps me tremendously by working one-on-one with the beginning film students to create their first short films,” Gonzalez said. “She reads through scripts and gives thorough feedback to students on how to develop plot and character.”

Students prepared for the Film Festival that took place on March 23. Hill was the executive producer for the festival.

“She’s been so instrumental in helping each beginning film student edit a strong film to showcase at that event,” Gonzalez said. “She’s also the executive producer of the film festival, so she’ll work on production tasks during the class period that I have her as a teaching assistant.”

Gonzalez looks for seniors who have good leadership skills and are good at giving constructive feedback and advice to novice filmmakers.

“I’m looking for senior students who are personable and display strong leadership skills — I have my teaching assistant do a lot of one-on-one feedback sessions with students in order to develop their skills as they continue through the film or photo programs,” Gonzalez said. “They’ll also have to be confident in giving plenty of guidance and feedback in a group setting when we do class screenings of each other’s work. It’s been such a blessing to have her in our class to guide the next group of rising filmmakers.”

Rusuriye believes the teaching assistant program can be very beneficial for both teachers, their students and the teaching assistants themselves.

“Students buy-in from when the assistant knows what he/she is doing,” Rusuriye said. “The assistantship program gives the student a good opportunity to get a firsthand experience of what it is like to work with students in a classroom setting.

Hill has really enjoyed being a teaching assistant and says it has been a rewarding experience. “It feels really great to have people appreciate my help especially with something that I’m so passionate about like film,” Hill said. “Its also so interesting to see people in a creative atmosphere. I love hearing all of their ideas and helping them develop them into something they are proud of. Its definitely one of the most rewarding experiences I have done at ESD.”

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