Teaching Academy 2021

Welcome to the Teaching Academy!

Students in UMass classrooms

You are invited to the 2021 Teaching Academy! These teaching workshops featured topics like inclusive classrooms, active learning, preparing for class, ungrading, getting your students to discuss and write, and more! All graduate students and postdocs, regardless of your teaching experience or fall teaching assignment, are invited to attend any and all workshops! This year's Teaching Academy featured a day of virtual workshops on Friday, August 27, and many in-person and virtual workshops in the first few weeks of the fall semester. 

You can read about all the workshops that we presented on Friday, August 27, on our Event page, including workshop descriptions and presenter bios

Wish you could have attended more of our programming? We will host a number of workshops (virtual and in-person) in late August and September with experienced graduate students presenters and offices across campus that support teaching and learning. 

Schedule for August 27

Read more about these workshops and the presenters on our Teaching Academy Live Event Page!

The day will begin with a plenary session that focuses on the kind of teaching that UMass values: inclusive, active classes that support all learners as they grapple with the intellectual challenges of our disciplines. Come for tips on teaching and navigating the TA role!

The mid-morning will feature multiple interactive workshops presented by peer graduate students that will focus on inclusivity, active learning, and supporting student success, as well as best practices for balancing teaching with all the other work that is part of graduate school. These sessions are designed for TAs and instructors with all levels of experience. All these events will repeat after August 27 (see below for More Workshops) so you can plan to attend as many as you want! Choose among these workshops:

  • Beyond Disability Services: Creative Accessibility in the Classroom

  • Getting Your Students to Work in Groups 

  • Helping Students Take Ownership of Their Learning 

  • Inclusive Teaching at UMass: A Special Session for International TAs and Instructors 

The mid-morning will feature multiple interactive workshops presented by peer graduate students that will focus on inclusivity, active learning, and supporting student success, as well as best practices for balancing teaching with all the other work that is part of graduate school. These sessions are designed for TAs and instructors with all levels of experience. All these events will repeat after August 27 (see below for More Workshops) so you can plan to attend as many as you want! Choose among these workshops:

  • Difficult & Potentially Controversial Class Discussions 

  • Less Time Preparing, More Time Teaching

  • Making the Most of Your Lab TA Experience 

  • Writing-Intensive Assignments: Designing and Providing Feedback 

Grading can sometimes feel like we are policing our students: checking for compliance and punishing them for failure. What would it look like to have a grading policy that actually encouraged learning and growth? We will consider how we might re-envision the role of grading in our classrooms, introducing theories from abolitionist thinking and disability justice.

More Teaching Workshops!

Many additional workshops (live in-person or on Zoom) are happening in August and September. Please note, these events will be live and will not be recorded. When you click on the titles here, you can then read the event description and access the registration link.

Whether conscious of it or not, instructors and students bring who they are to the learning environment, including their stereotypes and implicit biases. Such biases can emerge in the form of (micro)aggressions during class discussions, in student-student interactions during group or lab work, or in interactions between students and instructors. If left unaddressed, biases and microaggressions negatively impact the learning climate and can hurt students’ engagement and their academic success. Facilitated by Dr. Kirsten Helmer from the Center for Teaching and Learning, today's session will offer an introduction to the concepts of implicit bias and microaggressions. You will learn how to identify some microaggressions and explore a few strategies that can help you to respond more effectively. Pre-registration required.

Writing is a powerful tool to deepen student learning. It also requires critical thinking, mastery of content, and language skills. Moreover, writing is a process rather than a product. Because of this complexity, designing writing-intensive assignments and providing feedback can be daunting tasks. How much feedback should you give? Should you point out the grammar “mistakes” in a lab report? How can you use feedback as a method to increase class participation and community-building? UMass grad student Thakshala Tissera will answer these questions (and more!) by considering three topics: designing writing-intensive assignments, facilitating peer-review, and giving feedback. Pre-registration required.

Thakshala Tissera (she/her)


​​Thakshala Tissera is a PhD student in the Department of English. Her research interests focus on animal studies and the environmental humanities through postcolonial frameworks with a primary focus on narratives on Asian elephants. She has taught literature, composition studies, and English for specific purposes at the Universities of Colombo and Kelaniya, as well as UMass Amherst. She has also worked in professional development and instructor mentoring in the UMass Writing Program, and taught middle school and high school English in Sri Lanka, and worked as a debating coach for high school students. She received her BA in English from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka; and her MA in English from UMass Amherst. In the Valley, she loves early morning runs and bike rides.  

Standing in front of a large auditorium, meeting your students for the first time, or reading through student feedback of your course are moments that have a tendency to create stress or anxiety. When we support ourselves as teachers, we can offer better learning experiences for our students. In this session, we will discuss course design choices that support our wellbeing; help us build self-knowledge as instructors; reinforce our mindful preparation for live and synchronous instruction; and encourage reflective teaching and learning. Co-sponsored by the Center for Teaching & Learning. Pre-registration required.

Students come to our classes with a range of backgrounds, life experiences, ideologies, motivations, and aspirations. While this diverse student make-up has the potential for rich class discussions, it can also make both students and instructors nervous to approach difficult and potentially controversial topics. In this workshop, UMass grad student Porntip Israsena Twishime will discuss strategies for preparing and introducing these topics, setting boundaries for discussions, getting students to actively participate, and stepping in when things get awkward or heated. Pre-registration required.

Porntip Israsena Twishime (she/they)


​​Porntip Israsena Twishime is a PhD candidate in Communication, where she researches narratives about Asian Americans and Asian American storytelling as a mode of relation and knowledge production. Her dissertation introduces the novel as a performance methodology and is being composed as a novel. She has TAed courses at all levels in the departments of Communication and Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at UMass, and taught courses in Introduction to Rhetoric and Performance Studies, First Year Seminar for Communication Majors, and Public Speaking. She has BAs in both Spanish and International Studies from University of Arkansas Little Rock, and an MA in Communication and Graduate Certificate in Feminist Studies from UMass. One of her favorite hobbies is to visit new places, and so far she’s traveled to 10 countries and more than 20 U.S. states.

Dread group activities? Hate group projects? As an instructor or as a student, group work often inspires trepidation: unequal workload, quarrels, disappointing results, lack of communication, more work for the instructor. However, group work is essential in most careers. Join UMass grad student Elena Igartuburu to learn to create a class environment to make group work thrive! We will challenge biases using data, share tips and best practices, and survey sample activities and projects. Pre-registration required.

Elena Igartuburu (she/her)


​​Elena Igartuburu is a PhD student in Comparative Literature. Her research interests include dance, ritual, and performance in Afro diasporic cultures (US/Caribbean). She has been teaching since high school, and has taught a variety of literature, film, and culture courses as well as Spanish and ESL. What she likes the most is helping students improve their writing skills and develop critical arguments. She holds a BA in English Studies, an MA in Gender Studies, and a PhD in Gender Studies. She likes doing her research and writing from home rather than on campus but would love going back to teaching in person. You can find her walking a big-eared white and tan dog around Amherst or (maybe too often) training and climbing at the rock climbing gym in Hadley.

Don’t have hours to spend preparing to teach, but want to do a great job? In this workshop, we will discuss how to create lesson plans that will help you get through class and discussion sessions with confidence! In this workshop, UMass grad student Alyx Burns will cover a reusable and customizable class structure, practice writing one-sentence lesson plans, and dispel the myth that spending more time planning means that your students will spend more time learning. Pre-registration required.

Alyx Burns (he/him)


Alyx Burns is a PhD student in Computer Science. He currently studies communicative data visualization techniques and research methodologies - in other words, what makes data visualizations like charts and graphs "good" for communicating information and ways that scientists can measure that well. He has taught courses in big data at Mount Holyoke, courses in coding, data visualization, and robotics in the pre-college program at UMass, and will be teaching First Year Seminars about math puzzles and the use and limits of data this Fall. He has a BA from Mount Holyoke College and an MS in Computer Science from UMass. He lives with his partner and their 2 cats and enjoys hiking, baking, and playing board games.

We may complain about students who claim they really know the material well but then don’t do well on an exam, but how good are we at actually estimating our own level of mastery and understanding? Cultivating metacognition (or an awareness of our own thinking) can help us to be better teachers and our students to be better learners. In this workshop, we’ll discuss how you can use metacognition to put yourself back in the mind of a novice learning something for the first time, and strategies you can use to help promote metacognition in students. Co-sponsored by CIRTL@UMass. Pre-registration required.

A major tenet of an inclusive classroom is acknowledging that your students are whole people with rich experiences and knowledge and then actually bringing their diverse experiences and knowledge into the classroom. The connections that students make between your class and important aspects of their lives actually help them learn course content better. In this workshop with UMass grad student Hazel Gedikli, you will learn more about how to incorporate students’ personal contexts into teaching and you will have time to begin redesigning a class activity or assignment in order to better integrate students' personal contexts. Pre-registration required.

Hazel Gedikli (she/her)


​​Hazel Gedikli is a literary and cultural studies scholar who loves engaging in pedagogic conversations across disciplines. Currently, she is completing her doctoral dissertation in the American studies concentration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s English Department. Her research explores the concepts of history, settler colonialism, transnationalism, cultural and land dispossession, violence at the intersection of gender, race, sexuality, family, and community in contemporary ethnic American women’s literature and women of color activism. A Fulbright alumnus, Gedikli also holds a graduate certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies from UMass Amherst Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. Hazel lives in Honolulu and teaches composition courses in the Department of English and Applied Linguistics at Hawai’i Pacific University.

When so much of teaching and learning seems to revolve around memorization, it is not uncommon for students to slip into a habit of simply going through the motions rather than taking an active and self-reflexive approach to their studies. In this workshop, UMass grad student Aaron Yates will explore several teaching strategies to help students assume ownership of their education. We will look at ways to help students connect course content to their lived experience, techniques for fostering genuinely participatory class discussions, and the kind of transparency around course design that helps students begin to assess their own progress towards various learning objectives. Pre-registration required.

Aaron Yates (he/him)


​​Aaron Yates is a PhD student in Sociology. His research considers the connections between social scientific theories of progress and movements for social change that disrupt or reproduce entrenched systems of racial, colonial, and gendered domination. He draws inspiration from W. E. B. Du Bois’s conviction that knowledge is necessary for emancipation, and seeks to explore the conditions under which scientific knowledge production is a means of liberation rather than oppression. He has TAed a number of courses in Sociology and has taught Sociology courses in race and policing, criminology, sociology of religion, and a Pathways First Year Seminar for SBS students. He has a BA in Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies from New York University. He’s a sleep-deprived father of two, trying to do social science like it's art.

How can you set up your class so that all students can succeed? In this workshop with UMass grad student Kate Otter, we will explore addressing access needs in the classroom from a disability justice perspective. The goal is that you will leave this workshop able to explain why accessibility is important, propose creative solutions to common access needs of learners, create a plan to advocate for learners’ needs to course instructors, and envision comfort in educational spaces.Pre-registration required.

Kate Otter (she/her)


​​Kate Otter is a PhD student in Neuroscience and Behavior, and is also working on a Social Justice Education Graduate Certificate. She studies risky decision-making using a specialist predator of dangerous prey. She is interested in how the brain processes information that is simultaneously required for survival (food) and potentially deadly (danger). She has TAed a number of lab courses in biology and anatomy, and has taught a First Year Seminar on survival strategies in animals, and a workshop for undergraduates on ableism and disability justice. She has a BS in Zoology with a minor in Mathematical Biology, from Colorado State University, Fort Collins. She has 3 dogs, 3 cats, 4 ferrets, frogs, turtles, and newts! She loves going "herping" - looking for reptiles and amphibians - and hiking.

It can be challenging to adjust to teaching and learning in the U. S. cultural context, where students’ behaviors, attitudes, and expectations may differ from those to which you are accustomed. In this workshop, UMass grad student Ali Söken will share his own experience at UMass teaching undergrad and grad students as an international student in the field of education. This workshop will help you realize the role of your identity in teaching, learn the limitations of your power, and give you some useful tips to improve your teaching practice! Pre-registration required.

Ali Söken (he/him)


​​Ali Söken is a PhD Student in Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies. His research interest is examining teachers’ learning of critical media literacy, and how their identities mediate this process. He has worked as an instructional designer in an e-learning company, and a project manager for a non-governmental organization. At UMass Amherst, he has taught diverse courses such as Theories of Learning, Introduction to Special Education and Education and Film. He has a BS degree in Computer Education and Educational Technology, and an MA in Primary Education, both from Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey. He likes to have walks with his 2-year-old daughter and seeing her explore the world in both Turkish and English.

This session aims to help lab TAs get the most out of their experience. We want to help you use your teaching experience as an opportunity for you to develop your personal and/or professional goals. Whether you want to learn about exercising your pedagogical influence or simply how to make a good first impression with your students, this session with UMass grad student Xuyen Mai is for you! Pre-registration required.

Xuyen Mai (she/her)


​​Xuyen Mai is a PhD candidate in Environment and Water Resources Engineering. She researches drinking water treatment processes with a focus on using bacteria to remove manganese containment from water sources. She has taught and TAed laboratory sessions of several courses at UMass. Her favorite class to teach was the Freshman Engineering Seminar, and her favorite class to TA was Introduction to Environmental Engineering. She holds a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from UMass Amherst. She loves riding her bike on the Norwottuck trail, spending time with her dog Luna and getting ice cream at Flayvors.

This section will be updated frequently! Check back often or be sure to read the email every Tuesday from the Graduate School that lists all our upcoming workshops!

How to Register for the Teaching Academy!

Registration has closed for the August 27 workshops. 

Please also note that privacy concerns and logistical limitations prevent us from recording the Teaching Academy sessions.

Follow these instructions if you are having trouble with the registration form: 

  1. Log out of all google accounts (or use an incognito tab; open one with the keyboard shortcut combination Ctrl-Shift-N (Windows) or Command-Shift-N (macOS).). 
  2. Then click on the registration link above.
  3. When asked for the google account, enter your UMass email - complete with the @umass.edu (example: name@umass.edu). If you are a new student, this information about your UMass Google email account has been sent to you by IT.  
  4. This will open the UMass log-in. Enter your UMass email and password when prompted.  
  5. If you receive the error message that “You Need Permission,” this means that you are logged in with a non-UMass google account. Go back to step 2 and try again! 

Additional Teaching Academy Resources 

About the Teaching Academy

The Teaching Academy is an annual event each August. Our goals are to support pedagogies that are inclusive, centered on student learning, and research-based; promote teaching as an essential function of a public research university and an important part of a graduate education; and promote collegiality through mentoring and sharing expertise among faculty, staff, postdocs, and graduate students across the university. 

The Graduate School hosted the first Teaching Academy virtually in August 2020. Six presenters and eleven panelists shared their insights into teaching across nine workshops for over 300 unique participants from all nine schools and colleges here at UMass. 


Please direct any Teaching Academy questions to Johanna Yunker, PhD. 

South College