Learning from Former Teaching Fellows – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Learning from Former Teaching Fellows

Alums join a panel discussion via Zoom. The conversation was moderated by CTL Director Susan Pliner (front center).
Alums join a panel discussion via Zoom. The conversation was moderated by CTL Director Susan Pliner (front center).

Students who work as Teaching Fellows for the Center of Teaching and Learning recently had the opportunity to sit down with alums who held the position as students to learn how they leveraged their experience as peer-facilitators to launch their careers as doctors, teachers and researchers.

Participants included Dr. Travis Blum ’10, Katherine Campbell ’18, Kate Cottrell ’11, Griffin Marsh ’17, Dr. Brian Monaco ​’10, Visiting Professor of Economics Jake Powell ’14 and Drew Scammell ’18. Discussions were facilitated by Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Susan Pliner and Assistant Director Ingrid Keenan.

Powell, who began teaching at the Colleges in 2019, recounted how prepared he felt when he accepted his first teaching assistant position in graduate school at the University of Missouri. In particular, he says he gained confidence in assessing the comprehension level of his audience. “The ability to read your audience, and pivot accordingly, those skills – social relations in a professional setting – were developed through the Teaching Fellows program.”

Hess leads a brainstorming session.
Hess (right) leads a brainstorming session.

Monaco explained how his experience as a Teaching Fellow has proved critical in the Emergency Room at the University of Buffalo Hospital, where he is an attending doctor and director of residency programs. Every day, Monaco says he must explain to both residents and patients details about their cases. In his work, he relies on his experience as a Teaching Fellow to identify and accommodate their level of knowledge regarding medicine and medical care.

Cottrell, a secondary school Latin and religious studies teacher in New Jersey, gained perspective on how to move frustrated students away from their anger about a professor or assignment to being productive in their academic work.

After the panel, students worked with Writing and Teaching/Learning Specialist and Associate Director of the First Year Seminar Program Susan Hess to brainstorm statements to use in interviews, resumes and CVs to best describe the work Teaching Fellows regularly perform for students.

Teaching Fellows are peer-learning facilitators, typically juniors or seniors, who are nominated by faculty within specific departments and trained by the Center for Teaching and Learning Assistant Director to provide ongoing learning support for all students. Teaching Fellows use a collaborative inquiry model to help students understand course content by directing conversations, asking questions to challenge students and gauge students’ foundational knowledge, providing feedback and suggesting study strategies.