“To look at the work of your peers, and learn how to explain with kindness and precision, the nature of their mistakes is, in fact, how you learn to diagnose your own work.” ― Steve Almond
As a passionate supporter of education, serving as a learning assistant for Florida State University has been an immensely gratifying experience. This role has afforded me the opportunity to not only acquire valuable teaching skills but also to deepen my understanding of the subject matter, cultivate my leadership abilities, and foster a sense of community within the classroom.
Undoubtedly, the most fulfilling aspect of being a learning assistant is the ability to positively influence the academic growth and intellectual development of my peers. By aiding them in comprehending and applying intricate course material, I have facilitated greater confidence, improved performance, and a profound appreciation for the subject matter. This experience has granted me tremendous personal satisfaction, knowing that my efforts have contributed to their academic progression. In essence, serving as a learning assistant has allowed me to pursue my passion for education, make a meaningful contribution to the academic community, and attain personal fulfillment.
Tristan on Creating Inclusive Spaces
[LA Seminar Discussion]
Everyone needs to be seen and understood. When teachers make their students feel seen, their students do better, they enjoy the class more, and they are motivated to do well. Feeling seen also allows the students to feel like they can talk to their professors, whether it's about a concept they don't understand or when they need help outside of the classroom. Teachers make their students feel comfortable expressing their feelings, their struggles, and their opinions on topics being discussed. I've definitely felt what some of the students in the LGBTQ video discussed, going into a classroom or really anywhere outside of my house and appearing "too" gay, is uncomfortable and sometimes downright scary. I think that as teachers, this should be recognized, and discussions in class shouldn't purposefully be avoided because they're "uncomfortable." After all, you never know what might change someone's opinion and who you might be encouraging to open up and be themselves.
Letter from LA Paige Rhein
Hello Dr. Rahming
I hope all is well. I know this is a busy time, but I wanted to quickly send an email about the LA program and my experience these past few years. It is becoming surreal that next semester will be my last semester as an LA. Beginning fall 2019, I have had the pleasure of working each semester and the skills and confidence I have gained from it I will use in all future endeavors. My ability to speak and present in front of large crowds, the way I carry myself, and the confidence I bring are all noticeable skills curated throughout this program. With working multiple jobs through “zoom university” and the pandemic, my role of an LA became increasingly important and I was excited to step up to the challenge. I was challenged to find alternative approaches to explaining material and working practice problems through a computer screen. Remote learning has been hard on many, and hopefully now the students who came to FSU during the pandemic are seeing the benefits of LAs in a live classroom setting.
Another rewarding experience I have had through the program are seeing my former students enroll in the upper division courses I teach. Notably, in fall 2019 and spring 2020 I LA’d for CHM1045, and then this past spring, summer, and current fall (2021) I have LA’d for BCH4053. In each biochemistry course I have taught there have been students from general chemistry who have made it through and are now in their final stem centered course. Many have come back to me thanking me for their experience in general chemistry. My role goes past “holding office hours” to these students. My role as a mentor is the most rewarding as many have reported the study, note-taking, and time management skills gained throughout the years were piloted in their first few classes as freshman with learning assistants.
On another note, post graduation I have decided to attend pharmacy school. I have received acceptances from the [top five university], and [another top rated university]. I am interviewing with the [#5 university] on Friday and [#1 university] later this month, which are ranked 5th and 1st in the nation respectively. In both of my interviews I have already taken part of, they have specifically asked for clarification about the LA program and my role. After describing the job and what I have learned from it they both have been extremely receptive to the program and its aims. I was sent to a breakout room with the dean of [top five university] who then again asked me follow up questions and expressed interest in working to implement something similar for the undergraduate students at their university.
As I prepare for graduation, I have reflected on what this program has done for me and how it has shaped me as an individual. With one semester left, I am exceedingly confident that the person I will be walking away from this program will be more than ready to succeed in the “real world”.
All the best,
Gabriela De Jesus
I knew I wanted to get more involved on campus and began looking at available opportunities. I looked back at classes I had taken and remembered where I was successful, mostly due to the aid of my peers, and one peer, in particular, has stuck with me. Paige Rhein, another former learning assistant, was my L.A. for general chemistry 1 (CHM 1045). I will always remember the impact she made in my life as a student. I admired her will to encourage us to do our best, believing in us when we didn’t necessarily believe in our abilities to succeed in the course, and always being open to answering questions and holding amazing reviews of content before our exams. She, a fellow student, represented someone I knew I could reach out to without feeling shame or uncomfortable and someone who looked like me being a successful woman in STEM. I primarily relate my success in the course to her help as my L.A.. I am grateful for her motivation to keep going and believe in my abilities during my undergrad.
From this, I knew that I wanted to be that person for someone else when they joined the university. I wanted to provide them with that same mentorship and motivation to never give up and support them to do their best. Being an L.A. has provided me with that opportunity and much more. I have been able to reconnect with past material while learning a bit more because this time around, I’d assist in teaching it. I’ve also been able to reconnect with previous professors I’ve admired and receive their mentorship while building lasting relationships. It has also allowed me to challenge myself in various ways; first, with the material by having to re-understand concepts in the different ways that others understand them, but also logistically by giving me the responsibility to improve on managing my time and communication skills. Most importantly, I’ve been able to help improve diversity in the classroom by being a friendly, diverse Hispanic face to students who look like me and have come from similar backgrounds as me. Similarly to how Paige was that diversity for me, I’ve been able to find those few students who seemed shy or uncomfortable and help them feel welcomed while providing them an avenue to reach out and ask questions, even if they didn’t want to at first.
I also have been able to represent someone who has come from a different background, who challenges gender norms in the way I dress, who understands the Hispanic culture, who emphasizes the importance of helping those around me, and a successful woman in STEM who has made it through the classes they are about to take. This opportunity to inspire other students to believe in themselves and know they can succeed in STEM has been an amazingly rewarding and enriching experience in my undergraduate years. I am incredibly thankful for participating in the learning assistant program. It has helped open my eyes to the many ways I can positively impact campus. I hope it can continue to foster these student-led communities so my peers can do the same.
I am beginning to love our school more and more because of programs like these that focus on student success and well-being. Thank you, Dr. Rahming, for supporting me along the way and for giving me the opportunity and skills to help improve and enrich our campus learning environment.
It is my honor to provide insight into my experience as an LA. I was initially hired as an LA for the Fall 2022 semester. I would get the ability to work with Dr. Diane Maltby, a MAC 1140 Precalculus professor. Her career has spanned over three decades and working with her has been a priceless experience. I came in with previous experience tutoring other students in math and science. However, thanks to Dr. Rahming’s seminar class, I learned that it is more than just helping students. It is also helping the professor and supporting my fellow Learning Assistant. One of the key concepts from the seminar class that resonated with me is using “Talk Moves” with students. Math is such a concrete subject, but it does not have to be. Students are prone to asking for the answer, regardless of the steps to get there to ensure mastery. Using “Talk Moves”- asking guiding and insightful open-ended questions and redirecting, when need be, allows the student to have the chance to master the topic and eases the mind of the professor. “Talk Moves” also encourages the student to think outside of the concrete box, and the LA as well. In the process of being an LA, the environment is similar to a think tank. We all are required to think beyond our horizons, which I think is an important skill to master not only in academics but in life.
Being in the LA program has also provided me with numerous opportunities. For example, I am now on FSU’S Teaching and Faculty Awards Committee. This allows me to work with the best-of-the-best faculty and show my appreciation to the entire FSU staff. I also got the opportunity to be on the judging panel for the Capitol Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Seeing how innovative the younger generation was an unforgettable experience that I am truly grateful for.
Now I am LA for Dr. Maltby’s MAC 1105 College Algebra and MAC 1140 Precalculus class. Being an LA for two classes only enhances my experience of being an LA and allows me the chance for students to get to appreciate Math.
The LA program has provided such a rich experience that I am eternally grateful for.
It was my first class at Florida State when I discovered the Learning Assistant (LA) Program. I was immediately impressed by the students who introduced themselves as our LAs, and felt a sense of comfort before heading into a notoriously difficult class knowing that they would be by my side throughout the term. How incredible is it that these upstanding students would want to come back as LAs with the sole purpose of helping us succeed? That inspired me from the beginning.
The LAs guided me through the class, and I knew that I could always count on them whenever I stumbled along the way, which was quite often. I ended up performing very well in General Chemistry I and II, and honestly am not sure where my scores would have ended up if it wasn’t for the LAs. During the year, I developed a close relationship with one of my LAs in particular, Tom McClymont. Tom became a role model, a mentor, and most importantly, became a friend to me. If it wasn’t for him and the impact he has had on me, my time at Florida State would certainly look plenty different than it does now. At the conclusion of the course, he encouraged me to apply to the LA program. While I was skeptical at first, it has easily been the greatest part of my time here.
I originally desired to be an LA to pay it forward. Given the effort that previous LAs had devoted to me, I felt that I owed it to future students to be a positive influence and help guide them as best I could through the course as well. I never imagined that being an LA would have an even greater impact on myself than it possibly did the students. I quickly realized the level of trust the students place in us. Ultimately, we are their peers, and because of that the students tend to be more comfortable coming to us with challenges they are facing. I learned to take this aspect of the job very seriously. It takes great responsibility to fulfill that trust and not let the students down. I learned how to be a role model, and was able to help guide the students not only through the class, but through their college experiences in general. It brings me great joy whenever I hear from current or former students how something I have done has helped them be more successful later on. Whether through developing new study habits, finding creative ways to explain difficult concepts, or simply being someone to talk to, I learned to consistently be prepared and always give the best I could to each and every student I came across. I learned to be more confident with my abilities, and even overcame all of my public speaking fears.
It truly is a privilege to be in this position. The best part of it all, I have developed lifelong relationships with faculty, co-workers, and even the students, many of which I still keep in touch with today. Being a Learning Assistant has turned me into a more confident, compassionate, and understanding person. I will take all that I have gained along with me wherever I go in my life, and for that, I will always be grateful for this experience. The LA Program made me feel at home when I first arrived at Florida State, and now, the LA Program is my home.
Although this is my second semester working as an LA, I did not fully understand its role in the classroom. My first encounter with an LA was in MAC 2311 in the spring semester of 2021. Although this is when all classes were still consistently on zoom, with the help of different Learning assistants, they encouraged me. Even though my learning was not done in person, but rather over a computer screen they assisted in understanding the material that did not come easy to me. This was not the last course where I would grow to appreciate all the learning assistants. BSC 2010 was a course where I was paired with the same LA all semester. This individual made such an impression on me, I got to learn new study habits which I still use in my other science courses today. She made herself available to me beyond her office hours and was there as a mentor. She truly inspired me to be a Learning assistant and to be available and facilitate learning with other students. My first semester as an LA was in the fall of 2022, I was excited but unsure of what to expect with the role. I am now a learning assistant for CHM 1045. Through my experience as an LA, I have become more outspoken and confident.
One of the best experiences of being an LA is forming relationships with students, being able to hold office hours and consistently see students show up and want to improve warms my heart. It really brings me joy to see that what I am doing makes a difference in these students' lives. For some of these students, this is the first science course they will take at Florida State. CHM 1045, even though it is thought of as a hard class, has been so rewarding to encourage these students and see some of them decide that they want to go into healthcare. Overall, the LA program has been an incredible experience for me and played a big role in my time at Florida State. This is something I will continue through graduation and encourage others to become involved in as well.