April 14, 2011

Brandt honored as top graduate teaching assistant

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale will honor graduate student Rachel C. Brandt for her outstanding teaching abilities as part of the 2011 Excellence Through Commitment Awards.

Brandt is this year’s outstanding graduate teaching assistant. She teaches in the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education in the College of Education and Human Services. SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng will host a reception honoring Brandt and other recipients of Excellence Through Commitment Awards on April 19 in Morris Library.

In his letter nominating Brandt for the award, college Dean Kenneth Teitelbaum noted that she “has the understanding of her field of study, skills in teaching, related professional experiences, and (a) caring and supportive approach that make her an excellent candidate for this award.”

Brandt came to SIUC in 2009 with a bachelor’s of science degree, and with four years of experience as a special education teacher at Urbana’s Circle Academy -- a middle school intervention program for children with emotional or behavioral disabilities. At SIUC, Brandt teaches two upper division courses in the special education department. She also worked as a field intern on two projects. In every one of these endeavors, she finds admiring colleagues or students.

Michael May, assistant professor of special education and Brandt’s mentor, praised Brandt’s clear and precise lectures, including her use of PowerPoint presentations and her ease at facilitating classroom discussion. He noted that she deliberately varied her teaching approach throughout the semester, thereby demonstrating “an understanding that students learn in different ways.”

He referred also to her professional experience. Brandt not only taught at the Circle Academy here in Illinois, but also spent time In Ireland in 2007 teaching children with disabilities. He said her experience both here and abroad contributed to her understanding of the complex issues families with special education needs face.

Gina DeRosa Warren, who supervised Brandt during her preparation for certification in Behavior Analysis from the Behavior Analysis Certification Board, was pleased especially with Brandt’s professionalism and kindness toward her clients. “(Brandt) is deserving of recognition for her diligent and thoughtful work…” she wrote. “I recommend her for this award because I believe she represents the best in teaching -- she is kind, caring and wishes the very best for her clients and students.”

One of her University students, Rachel M. Lowery, a senior majoring in special education, stated that Brandt was, in her opinion, the best graduate teaching assistant she’d had. “(Brandt) has been very helpful in guiding me through my undergraduate special education courses,” she wrote in a letter supporting Brandt’s nomination for this award. “She exudes positive energy and has a constant willingness to help others.”

Brandt said she believes that “teaching teachers is one of the most important professions.”

In addition to her teaching responsibilities as a graduate teaching assistant, and her role as a student herself in the master’s program, Brandt assists the Student Council for Exceptional Children, an undergraduate organization providing professional development to pre-service teachers, and she provides technical support to Tri-County Special Education, a cooperative special education district in Southern Illinois.