Excellence in Teaching Symposium

  • About Us
    • Mission Statement
    • Leadership Team
  • Orientation
  • Workshops
  • Schedules
  • Teaching Resources

Mission Statement

The Excellence in Teaching Symposium exposes new Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) in the Department of Mathematical Sciences to innovative teaching methods, strategies, and tools as we collectively break new ground on building a safe community for instructors to share ideas, ask questions, and explore what it means to be an effective teacher.


Leadership Team

Jennifer Green

Jennifer Green

Jenny Green graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a PhD in Statistics and is currently an assistant professor of Statistics.  She teaches several statistics courses, including undergraduate and graduate-level mathematical statistics.  Her research focuses on the development of statistical methodology to characterize the impact of professional development and educational programs on teacher effectiveness and student learning, and she collaborates with others in the mathematical and educational sciences to create innovative approaches for developing teachers of statistics in grades K-16 and beyond.  She enjoys tubing and hiking in the summer, eating tasty food, traveling to new places, and all things fun - including art, music, theater (especially MT Shakespeare in the Parks) and dancing.

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Elizabeth Arnold

Liz Arnold graduated from Montana State University with a PhD in Mathematics Education and is currently a post-doctoral researcher.  She has taught numerous mathematics and statistics courses and is currently teaching pre-service elementary and secondary mathematics teachers.  Her research interests primarily focus on the use of technology in the classroom and the preparation and development of the mathematics and statistics teachers.  In her spare time, she enjoys hiking with her pugs and baking. 

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Eli Meyer

Eli Meyer is a second year master's student in Statistics.  He is currently teaching Intermediate Statistical Concepts and has previously taught Introduction to Statistical Concepts.  He is interested in the development and preparation of graduate teaching assistants and the use of active learning in TEAL classrooms.  He is an avid tennis and disc golf player whose favorite number is three.


We facilitate various workshops for new GTAs before Fall classes begin in order to welcome them to the department, discuss their roles as GTAs, and prepare them for the rigor and responsibilities of teaching a mathematics or statistics course at the undergraduate level.  Descriptions of the workshops are provided below.

  • Building Community
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • The First Day of Class
  • Computer Readiness
  • Engaging Students in the Classroom
  • Teaching Demonstrations and Feedback
  • GTA Panel


Building Community

Increasing a student's sense of belonging to the classroom can spark their intellectual curiosity and allow for active participation.  During this workshop, we discuss our goals as educators and how we can achieve these goals within our classrooms.  We share and discuss various strategies one can use to build a community in the classroom.

Scavenger Hunt

This fun and interactive scavenger hunt encourages new GTAs to interact with various members of the department while exploring the campus.  New GTAs will form small groups and visit their classrooms and other areas of campus in addition to meeting key people in the department.

The First Day of Class

The first day of class sets the tone for the rest of the semester.  During this workshop, we discuss ways to get your class off to a good start and how to set your course expectations and standards.  New GTAs watch videos demonstrating two different ways to start the first day.  We then discuss what they want their classrooms to look like throughout the semester and share strategies to facilitate those types of classroom environments.

Computer Readiness

Learn how to access your university student and faculty email accounts, and login to school computers and your Brightspace (D2L) account.  Access the secure network and set up the printers so you can successfully print while on campus

Engaging Students in the Classroom

During this workshop, new GTAs learn and demonstrate instructional techniques and strategies to actively engage their students.  Working with faculty, we first watch a short mathematics lesson on factoring which uses traditional methods of instruction.  After the video, the new GTAs prepare and present a short demonstration that conveys the same material in a way that actively engages students.

Teaching Demonstrations and Feedback

To help prepare for their first week of teaching, new GTAs prepare and present a small portion of a lesson they will implement in their class during the first week.  New GTAs present their lesson in small groups, facilitated by an experienced instructor who provides feedback.  New GTAs discuss and reflect on their teaching demonstrations.

GTA Panel

Interact with 2nd year GTAs.  Experienced GTAs provide advice and new GTAs ask any lingering questions they have before classes begin.



To encourage professional growth and foster an intellectual teaching community, we facilitate workshops throughout the fall and spring semesters.  The purpose of these workshops is to provide GTAs with innovative instructional methods, technologies, and strategies to effectively engage their students and enhance their instruction.  During these workshops, GTAs primarily engage in discussions and reflect upon their own roles as instructors.  Members of the department are invited to discuss a variety of topics during these workshops.  Descriptions of the workshops are provided below.

  • What Happened?
  • Group Work
  • Launch, Explore, Closure
  • Active Learning/Engaging Students
  • Formative Assessment
  • Approachability
  • Formal and Informal Evaluations
  • Using Technology to Promote Understanding
  • Instructor Observations - Discussion
  • Responding to Student Contributions in Classroom
  • The Journey to Academia - Instructor Panel
  • TBD
  • End of Year Reflections

What Happened?  Wednesday, August 30, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

In this workshop, GTAs reflect on and share how the first day of class went.  Collectively, we will identify what worked well and discuss strategies for addressing any concerns that came up on the first day of class.

Group Work - Wednesday, September 6, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

In this workshop, we discuss different strategies GTAs can use to facilitate group work in their classrooms.  What is the role of teacher?  What is the role of the students?  We also discuss common challenges that occur when students work in groups and identify ways to address these challenges.

Launch, Explore, Closure - Wednesday, September 13, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

In this workshop, GTAs explore different ways to launch and close a lesson.  We discuss why these are important components of a lesson plan and practice creating and delivering a launch and closure for different topics.

Active Learning/Engaging Students - Wednesday, September 20, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

In this workshop, GTAs learn about and practice various active learning teaching strategies.

Formative Assessment - Wednesday, September 27, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

What does it mean to have a fixed vs. growth mindset, and how can we help all learners succeed?  In this workshop, GTAs explore different ways to informally assess student understanding.  We examine sample student work to holistically assess what knowledge students are and are not demonstrating and strategize how to use this information to adapt our instruction.

Approachability - Wednesday, October 4, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

After an exam, how can we approach students who may need our help?  In this workshop, GTAs discuss how to encourage students to attend their office hours and receive additional help.  GTAs will role play giving students constructive and non-judgmental feedback in different situations.

Formal and Informal Evaluations - Wednesday, October 18, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

What are students really thinking about the course?  In this workshop, GTAs brainstorm ideas for informal evaluations to get feedback from their students and review the formal course evaluation form that students complete at the end of the semester.

Using Technology to Promote Understanding - Wednesday, October 25, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

What happens when class does not go well?  In this seminar, GTAs discuss and view strategies for using technology to clarify and promote mathematical/statistical understanding outside the classroom.

Instructor Observations - Discussion - Wednesday, November 1, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

In this workshop, GTAs turn in their written observation reflections and discuss their observations, sharing the teaching strategies the observed instructors used and how students responded to these strategies.  We will also identify and discuss ideas for the symposium on 11/29.

Responding to Student Contributions in the Classroom - Wednesday, November 8, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

When (and how) do we answer questions with questions to encourage student learning?  In this workshop, GTAs will learn and practice strategies for asking questions and responding to student responses.

The Journey to Academia - Instructor Panel - Wednesday, November 15, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

How did instructors in the Mathematical Sciences Department get to where they are today? In this workshop, a panel of mathematics and statistics instructors share their different paths to becoming teachers and provide advice for others interested in teaching.

TBD – Wednesday, November 29, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

End of Year Reflections – Wednesday, December 6, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

Revisit envelopes and reflection prompts from the first day of orientation.



Teaching Resources