By Randy Fiedler
Samuel Barber, a master’s degree student in geology at Baylor University, has received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT). He is one of only 12 students nationwide in 2020 to receive the award, which recognizes both graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants for excellence in geoscience education.
Barber, who is pursuing a master’s degree in hydrological and surface processes, is the only student from Texas, and the only student from a Big 12 Conference school, to win the award in 2020. He is also the third student from the Baylor geosciences department in the past three years to win the award, following Bart Yeates in 2018 and Jiajun (Dylan) Jiang in 2019.
“Sam has consistently been one of the best graduate teaching assistants in our department during his time in the program.,” said Dan Peppe, Ph.D., associate professor of geosciences and the department’s graduate program director. “He’s an engaging teacher in the classroom who is always available to provide that extra bit of help to the students in his class. His students love him, which has been reflected by his remarkable teaching evaluations and the feedback we’ve received from his students. Sam has been a credit to our department and this award reflects the excellent work that he’s done as a teaching assistant.”
Sharon Browning, geosciences lab coordinator, worked with Barber while he was a teaching assistant.
“It was a pleasure to work with Sam these past two years,” Browning said. “Although he came to Baylor with previous teaching and outreach experience, to reach mostly non-science students requires a high level of engagement to assuage student misconceptions of science and their own quantitative abilities. Sam communicated concepts in a clear, understandable way and provided feedback to me on the effectiveness of lab activities. He will be an asset wherever he goes.”
One of Barber’s student evaluations from an Earth Sciences course he served as a teaching assistant for in the fall of 2019 was included on his NAGT award nomination form by Baylor. “I am not a science brained person at all, and Sam did an incredible job of creating an environment where I felt comfortable asking questions when I needed to do so in order to understand the activities,” the student evaluator wrote. “Sam taught the material in a fun and effective way, was always willing to help if we needed it, and consistently provided helpful feedback. I don't always enjoy science, but I genuinely looked forward to coming to lab with Sam every week.”