Congratulations to Rutgers Organic Chemistry TA Dan Coiro for winning the first ever America’s Top TA Competition by CengageBrain!
The competition allowed college students to recognize the TAs who helped them the most with coursework, especially during finals week. Over the last month, students from across the country submitted nominations and voted for America’s Top TA. Students had to write an essay consisting of 100 words or less, then CengageBrain Student Ambassadors narrowed down the student testimonials to a list of ten finalists before a winner was determined by opening it up for public voting through the CengageBrain Facebook page.
Chelsea Viscosi, who took Coiro’s Organic Chemistry class, submitted the winning nomination:
Dan is an enthusiastic teaching assistant who goes above and beyond to help students. Despite a heavy schoolwork load, he cuts into his free time to come up with new teaching methods and hold extra review sessions. He allows students to email him at all hours; his answers are always thorough and instantaneous. In addition to providing help for Organic Chemistry, Dan would offer assistance in any other subject he could. In spite of illness, he continued to teach and provide extra assistance to those in need. For many students, passing Organic Chemistry would not have been possible without Dan.
In addition to receiving the title of America’s Top TA, we will create the Dan Coiro Scholarship by CengageBrain in which three students will each be awarded $2,500. As America’s Top TA, Coiro will be part of the integral team that will determine the scholarship criteria and recipients. We at CengageBrain felt that the best way to honor an educator is to give back to education with their input and name attached.
Coiro is currently a researcher in an organic chemistry laboratory at Rutgers University under the direction of Professor Daniel Seidel, which is focused in organic synthesis and methodology. As for his plans down the road, he has thought of potentially becoming a high school teacher. “In the future, I would love to see high school students find joy in science,” said Coiro. “I want high school students to attain the understanding that I saw from Rutgers students.”
That’s not to say getting that understanding was an easy road for college students. “Organic Chemistry has a very bad reputation as far as its level of difficulty and amount of material,” said Coiro, but he did his best to guide each student to understand the concepts and thoroughly enjoyed watching his students deepen their level of understanding in chemistry.
Having the volume of students visiting him during office hours grow was what was most rewarding to him as a TA. “Whether their exam results were good or bad, they still persevered through the two semester course,” said Coiro, and seeing students dedicate themselves uplifted him.
The greatest piece of advice Coiro can give to other TAs is to be as creative as possible. “Try to read what your students are telling you based off their verbal responses and body language. Even if one student doesn’t understand something, take a minute to think about another way to teach it and try to convey the message as concisely as possible. If this still doesn’t work, think of another way.” And if all else fails? Have some fun, he says! “Don’t be afraid of making fun of yourself or random things in front of your students if the end goal is to get students to remember what you said come time for their exams.”
It is that approachable manner of his that students responded to with Coiro, and he truly felt honored when he learned he was named America’s Top TA. “After I read what the students wrote on the comments for this competition, I learned a lot about myself and it has helped me to know that I was meant to teach. I feel great to know that I made a difference in students’ lives in a positive way.”
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