Amy Paysnick Selected University of Vermont Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year, 2011-12

Amy Paysnick, GTA Award Winner
Amy Paysnick (seated) with last year's winner, psychology graduate student Julia McQuade
The Graduate College of the University of Vermont has selected Amy Paysnick of the Psychology Department as the University's outstanding graduate teaching assistant. This highly prestigious award is a direct reflection of the subject knowledge, interpersonal skills, and clinical training she has brought into the classroom time and time again. Amy is a third-year student in the Clinical Training Program, and is interested in studying risk and protective factors for individuals who experience high levels of stress in childhood and adolescence. Her current work investigates how factors such as coping and competence can influence the associations between stressful life events and internalizing symptoms, as well as examining how physiological reactivity to stress is involved in these associations.

Rex Forehand, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor, Ansbacher Professor of Psychology, and Director of Clinical Training included these comments from faculty, graduate and undergraduate students in his letter of nomination:

Rex said "Let me begin by saying that whenever there is a GTA for a class that is going to require dedication, intelligence, knowledge, in-depth instruction, and caring, Amy is the first graduate student who comes to mind. As I am the individual responsible for allocating GTAs and graduate students, my first thought is “which assignment is most difficult and is Amy available to fill that assignment?” In short, she is the “go to” graduate student in the department! And, she has never let us down."

Psychology 001 Instructor Dr. Larry Rudiger, in his letter in this application, concludes that the success of our large PSYC 001 class was primarily due to “Amy Paysnick’s unique combination of hard work, deep thought, compassion, humor, and dedication (which) has made a palpable difference in the lives of thousands of current and future UVM students.”

Dr. Keith Burt, her primary mentor, pointed out to me in an email that “Amy has been a wonderful teaching force in the lab. She is empathetic and is able to connect with the undergraduate RAs, simultaneously holding them to a high standard but also not ‘talking down’ to them. On her own initiative, she organized a small seminar for undergraduate RAs in the lab pursuing Honors theses. She met regularly with students and worked with them on topics such as scientific writing, conference presentations, applying to graduate school, and general professional development. She did an outstanding job in this (as she does in her lab work generally) and I know the students greatly appreciated her efforts. I feel very lucky to have her in the lab!”

Dr. Betsy Hoza pointed out to me in an email that Amy, one of her GTAs for the graduate-level Child and Adolescent Assessment course, was “organized, conscientious, and genuinely cared about whether students were mastering the course material. She worked tirelessly to ensure that students learn the assessment instruments, often voluntarily working additional hours to ensure timely feedback to students on their assessments.”

 

The praise from Amy’s teaching comes not only from the faculty but also from undergraduate and graduate students. Quotes from a few of these exemplify Amy’s outstanding performance:

Undergraduate Caroline Shea says “During the seminar in my training as a research assistant, Amy could not have been more helpful, patient, and informed…. By taking Amy’s course on graduate school and preparing for an Honors thesis, I feel I have gained valuable insight into the graduate school process…. Amy has been a wonderful resource to me as a research assistant in the Risk and Resilience lab.”

Undergraduate Brianna Goddard, who had Amy as a GTA in Psyc 001 and in Dr. Burt’s lab, concludes: “Amy possesses the qualities that are necessary for a great teacher. Her enthusiasm for teaching paired with her intellect and ability to communicate in a clear and patient way, whether it is in a class of 250 students or a group of 10 students, speaks volumes to her capabilities as a teacher.”

Graduate student Maggie Evans points out that, as a GTA in a graduate course, Amy “spent hours giving each of the 11 students … individual attention”, "Amy’s role was incredibly important to my learning,” and “Amy went above expectations of her role.”

Finally, graduate student Meghan Schreck wrote: “While Amy’s ability to wear many hats is emblematic of her organizational skills and intelligence, it is her dedication to education and her willingness to give back to her classmates that separates her from the ‘average’ graduate teaching assistant.”