Being awarded a Citation for Excellence in Teaching Chemistry was an unexpected surprise for Matthew Beio. He was used to having to apply for awards, so it was nice to get recognized without doing so.

“It’s nice to be recognized in a way that I wasn’t expecting,” Beio said.

Beio has a wealth of teaching experience, as he has been a lab and recitation teaching assistant for both Organic Chemistry I and II. At times, he’s also filled in as a substitute in lectures while professors were away. There have been a lot of moments that helped shape Beio’s affinity for teaching, but none have been greater than when he sees his students improve.

The real reward for Beio is when he helps a student who’s been struggling turn it around and succeed in the class.

“A lot of times it’s a mental block. It’s not that they can’t do it, it’s that they are perceiving whatever it is in the wrong way,” Beio said.

Beio likened to chemistry to a foreign language. In order to speak the language, one must understand the vocabulary. Either they know the words or they don’t.  He said chemistry is similar, and many students who struggle aren’t understanding they “vocab.” Many students who struggle think they are have a correct understanding of a concept, when they actually don’t. Once Beio helps the student correct their misunderstanding, things start to click and they often start to see improvement once they’ve moved past the roadblock.

In order for students to be comfortable working with him, Beio believes he needs to be flexible. To him, there is a natural give and take when it comes to teaching, and it’s important for teaching assistants to find the right balance. Beio recognizes that life happens outside of the classroom, so he is open to listening to his students when life impacts work inside the classroom.

“At some point in life you’re going to have to make deadlines, and sometimes they can be extended. There is some give and take there,” Beio said. “Don’t forget they’re not just kids.”

Beio’s openness to working with the student is just one of many reasons he was considered for the award.

“Matt brings a lot to the table as a TA,” Coordinator of General Chemistry Professor Jason Kautz said. “He presents the material in a creative way and is always open to listening to his students. He is very approachable in the classroom.”

With plans of defending his dissertation in October, Beio has started looking toward the future. He has accepted a teaching position with Doane University in Crete, Neb., and he hopes to apply what he’s learned as a teaching assistant to his new position.

“It’s been the only time in my life where I had to go and talk to 50 people, three times a week for an hour,” Beio said. “I don’t know about you, but that’s not something commonly get to do.”