Excellence in Teaching Symposium

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.

Faculty Leader

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.


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

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?  Wednesday, August 29, 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.

Launch, Explore, Closure - Wednesday, September 5, 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.

Group Work - Wednesday, September 12, 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?  What types of questioning strategies promote group learning?  We also discuss common challenges that occur when students work in groups and identify ways to address these challenges.

Formative Assessment, Mindsets, and Learning - Wednesday, September 19, 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, compare how different mindsets may impact learning, and develop strategies to help encourage students (and ourselves!) to develop a growth mindset. 

Grading and Assessment - Wednesday, September 26, 3:10-4 pm in Wilson 1-134

What is the difference between grading and assessment?  How do we holistically assess and respond to what knowledge students are and are not yet demonstrating?  When grading, what type of feedback is helpful for promoting student learning?  In this workshop, GTAs will compare different assessment techniques and types of feedback, and discuss strategies for grading in an efficient and consistent manner.

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

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

Approachability - Wednesday, October 17, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

How can we be approachable to students, especially those 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, paying attention to the verbal and non-verbal communication and cues.

Formal and Informal Evaluations - Wednesday, October 24, 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.

Instructor Observations - Discussion - Wednesday, October 31, 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 11/14.

Responding to Student Contributions in the Classroom - Wednesday, November 7, 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.

TBD - Wednesday, November 14, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

The Journey to Academia - Instructor Panel - Wednesday, November 28, 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.

End of Year Reflections – Wednesday, December 5, 3:10-4pm in Wilson 1-134

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



Teaching Resources