Ms. Ashley Neale, a graduate student and teaching assistant in the Department of History at Trent University, has been named the 2013-2014 recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Assistance Award. The award recognizes the contributions of academic assistants, and those who assist in workshop, tutorial, seminar, laboratory, and field settings.
In receiving this award, Ms. Neale is recognized as a skilled and passionate teaching assistant who goes above and beyond to ensure that her students feel comfortable, knowledgeable, and engaged during class.
“Ms. Neale is to be commended for the care and enthusiasm with which she approaches her role as a teaching assistant, and for the value she places on the importance of her students’ education,” said Dr. Steven E. Franklin, president and vice-chancellor of Trent. “Her thoughtful approach to teaching and building relationships with her students demonstrates the multitude of ways in which she exemplifies the spirit of this award.”
Currently Ms. Neale is a teaching assistant for an undergraduate history course, “Going Global: How everyday things and ideas shaped world history,” while working toward completion of her Masters degree. Despite a busy schedule, Ms. Neale makes herself available outside of regular class time to help students navigate academic support services and improve their research skills.
“In the digital age, many students prefer to email their professors instead of coming to office hours. I wanted to make myself available in whatever form that took, recognizing their busy lives and schedules,” Ms. Neale said. “I like to be on a first-name basis--I tell students they can come and talk to me and my door is open, and that I'm always available via e-mail. I've taken that into my own teaching from those professors who inspired me.”
Ms. Neale’s inspiration began when she arrived at Trent University for her own undergraduate degree at the age of 17. “I liked the small school feel -- I came on a tour and just fell in love with it,” she said. “I always wanted to be a teacher, and I knew Trent had a good Concurrent Education program and a positive atmosphere.”
Long before she completed her B.A. in History at Trent and her education degree at Queen’s University, Ms. Neale had set her sights on becoming a university professor, realizing that the combination of research and teaching was integral to the life and career she desired. There was no question about where she wanted to pursue her Masters degree. “I wanted to come back to Trent desperately. I trusted my professors, and I knew they could get me where I needed to go.”
Ms. Neale’s graduate research is centered on the domestic and international impact of former United States President Richard Nixon, focusing on President Nixon’s domestic creation of American foreign policy and its impact. But she believes she is learning as much from her teaching assistantship as she is learning from her own studies.
“Students can challenge their instructors – they force me to rethink my own viewpoint. I hope they’ve learned a lot from me, but I’ve learned a lot more from them,” Ms. Neale said.
She is grateful to her students for engaging in open-minded, critical debate about the material in her course. “The main reason that I went into teaching was that I hoped to be able to make the type of difference in students' lives that so many special professors have made in my own academic journey at Trent.”
Ms. Neale will receive her award at a Celebration of Teaching Excellence on Monday, March 31 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. in Champlain College’s Great Hall. Honourees from previous years will also join us as we celebrate those who exemplify Trent's commitment to teaching. Community members are welcome to attend.
Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.