Going from being a student in a lab one semester to teaching one the next can be intimidating. It takes dedication and confidence for a smooth transition. Senior Spanish major Taran Braman experienced this transition last fall when he taught a lab section for Chemistry 109 for the first time. He quickly overcame any uncertainty he had and has excelled as a teaching assistant. In recognition of this, he was awarded a Spring 2017 Citation for Excellence in Teaching Chemistry.

“Overall, it’s just a great honor to be selected for the teaching citation,” Braman said. “But I have to give credit where credit is due, and that’s to the amazing teaching staff.”

Braman said that Professor Eric Malina, Professor Jason Kautz, and lab manager Jessica Periago have been instrumental in helping him grow as a teaching assistant.

Periago thinks Braman needs to give himself more credit for his success.

“Taran is always asking questions and looking for ways to improve,” Periago said. “I really appreciate how dedicated he is to becoming a better TA.”

Last year was Braman’s first as a teaching assistant, teaching Chemistry 109 lab sections in the fall and Chemistry 110 labs in the spring. Each course presented its own challenges, but Braman believes staying confident in oneself is a key to success in any teaching situation.

“Be confident. Students are like horses, which can sense fear. Students can always sense fear,” Braman said.

A common worry among many new teaching assistants is that they won’t have all the answers.

Braman said that’s ok.

“You’re afraid you’re not going to know everything, and no one does,” Braman said. “If you don’t know the answer, it’s ok not to know. Look it up, and get back to them.”

Giving an answer just to give one should never be an option. Even if it takes a little extra time and effort from the teaching assistant to find the solution, providing insightful information is the only way to help students grow. And it’s the students’ growth that has Braman in love with teaching.

“To me, it’s seeing the students grow, become more confident, and enjoy chemistry,” Braman said as to why he finds being a teaching assistant rewarding. “A lot of people don’t like [chemistry], so I try to make it a fun environment. If they do like it, that’s what makes me happy. That, and just overall their success.”

Braman realizes that not everyone is going to enjoy chemistry, but he hopes that his students will realize the importance of learning the subject. He wants to help them realize that the problem-solving methods used in the class are applicable everywhere – as is the science itself.