JTA program fails to fill 91 slots for fall by application deadline

Mar. 14, 2016

Hannah Harvey
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The Junior Teaching Assistant program has been around for over a decade and seeks to offer students skills in leadership, mentoring and teaching. But participation in the program has decreased.

Only 40 applications were sent in by the Jan. 20 application date. There is a need for 131 JTAs in the fall 2016 semester.

Last year, 94 applicants applied to fill the 120 Gateway Program Seminar class sections, according to Carrie Arnold, assistant director of the GPS.

“A lot of students assume that it’s a (teaching assistant) position,” said Arnold, referencing why students may not be applying to the program

The application remains open.

Junior theater major Minerva Valentine worked as a JTA for Studio A in 2014, a GPS class for freshmen interested in VAPA majors. Valentine said the experience was beneficial, especially if a student is interested in teaching.

“I think that if you want to be a teacher, it’s really crucial to get that hands-on experience of working with peers and students,” said Valentine, who is interested in teaching theater.

Valentine added that communication and leadership are important aspects of the experience.

The program has not seen any significant changes since Valentine’s time in the program, but 2014 was the first year that former JTAs were allowed to reapply.

“It was a little chaotic when I was doing it; everyone was figuring out how to make it work. It was a matter of when we could do it and where it would fit in the schedule,” added Valentine.

Former JTA Marcus Wright participated in a team building event with the students he mentored in fall 2014. Archives | The Scribe
Former JTA Marcus Wright participated in a team building event with the students he mentored in fall 2014.
Archives | The Scribe

Students who participate as a JTA during their sophomore, junior or senior years as an undergraduate or as a graduate student are offered benefits, including $600 in tuition assistance and teaching experience.

Undergraduate JTAs are required to take GPS 4090, a class that prepares them for their role as a JTA, but graduate students do not.

Students who become a JTA are expected to go through a two-day training, which includes learning leadership and student development theory. A maximum of 18 credits, including the GPS 4090 class, is allowed for students participating as a JTA.

The work load of a JTA depends on the student’s professor and their prior experience. Students typically do work outside of class, including activities on Blackboard, organizing field trips, communicating with instructors and meeting with students twice a semester outside of class.

“JTAs are also encouraged to participate in the assignments that students are doing so that they can help if a student needs it,” said Valentine.

There is room for improvement in the program, Valentine said.

“I wish the staff would’ve had a little more training because it seemed like the JTAs knew more than the staff. I also wish there was more time (for preparation),” said Valentine.

She said she also wished she could’ve seen her students more.

Students should become a JTA because of the enriching experience that is offered, according to Arnold.

“Students will understand the difference between being a TA and a mentor. They’ll learn a lot about themselves and see the GPS classes from a different perspective,” said Arnold.