English graduate student receives Outstanding Teacher Assistantship Award

Graduate English student Ali Vlahos received the Outstanding Teacher Assistantship Award. She hopes to teach in correctional facilities after graduation.

Graduate student in creative writing Ali Vlahos was awarded SIUE’s Outstanding Teacher Assistantship award for teaching Composition 101 last year.

Vlahos said teaching involves more than lecturing but performing as well, especially to get students excited for a required course.

“One of the biggest things in a classroom is you’re required to be a performer or actor,” Vlahos said.

English professor Matthew Johnson, who nominated her, said her enthusiasm and energy as well as flexibility made her stand out.

“Ali’s teaching is the perfect balance between gentle, personal student motivation and helping students to recognize reality and limitations,” Johnson said. “Her enthusiasm and energy is boundless. Her energy is positively contagious. She runs that fine line between serious and playful work which I find remarkable.”

Johnson also said her performance as a teacher assistant in English has been stellar.

“She is sharp-witted, kind, generous, enormously caring and warm, fully dedicated to teaching and learning, and generally a delightful person, professionally and personally,” Johnson said.

Receiving the Outstanding Teacher Assistantship award was a pleasant surprise for Vlahos.

“It was an honor to be nominated but to actually have won it was not something I expected at all,” Vlahos said.

According to Vlahos, she always tries to prepare for the class “but you can’t be rigid… rather flexible to take issues as they come.”

“Something I’ve learned from my teachers is you learn to adapt to students and listen to what they’re telling you they need. You learn as much as you hope to them I’ve found,” Vlahos said.

Vlahos said she loves being an educator and learned much through the teaching assistantship.

“I learned to impart information in a meaningful and relatable way…be flexible and practiced different techniques and pedagogies to try and reach any type of learning style,” Vlahos said. “My teaching assistantship at SIUE has awarded me experience and given me transferable skills I apply to other aspects of my life, including my volunteer work”

Vlahos currently volunteers for a youth correctional facility in Illinois and said it really brings her perspective and she finds it fulfilling.

“It really opened my eyes to a lot of things,” Vlahos said.” With the population I work with they need voices. They’re not allowed to express themselves. It’s a very real and rewarding thing.”

Vlahos said she would like to teach English in a correctional facility after graduation.

“What I am hoping to do is teach creative writing for incarcerated youth, so I would really like to pursue teaching at correctional centers,” Vlahos said.

Vlahos received her bachelor’s degree in English from Eastern Illinois University. At SIUE she is in the process of receiving her Teaching of Writing Certification along with her master’s degree.

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