Graduate students balance teaching and studying

Lindsey Reed

Ariel Sarmiento deals with tests, homework and deadlines like most Western students.

But while he studies for his own tests, he also gives tests to students.

Sarmiento, a graduate student from the Philippines, encourages his students to call him by his first name because he, too, is a student.

Like some of the students in his English 100 course, Adam Jolly, a graduate student from Lewisport, rides the shuttle to class.

Sarmiento and Jolly are just a few of the many graduate teaching associates and assistants on campus who teach general education classes at Western.

Like most instructors, Sarmiento incorporates diagrams, overheads, lectures and guest speakers into his lessons to make his Public Heath 100 class more applicable.

Florence freshman Riley Jones said he enjoys the guest speakers Sarmiento invites, as well as the strong efforts he uses to teach.

“He really puts a lot of effort into it,” Jones said. “He cares about what he does.”

Russellville freshman Aaron Davenport doesn’t mind that Sarmiento is only a graduate student.

“He relates pretty well to students,” Davenport said.

Although he’s a teacher, Sarmiento doesn’t have any more privileges than other students.

For example, Sarmiento still has to deal with crowded student lots since he is not allowed to park in the faculty parking lots.

“Whatever privileges (undergraduates) have are the same as I have,” he said. “I’m just one of them.”

Marissa Sitz, Graduate Studies office coordinator, said Graduate Teaching Associates must have completed 18 graduate hours from their subject area and must have attended seminars from The Learning Center. They cannot take and teach more than 15 hours a semester.

The work required to teach as a graduate student has paid off for Sarmiento. He said he enjoys teaching his class, and his students are respectful and attentive.

“The majority are dedicated or they just enjoy my class,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with a good class.”

Sarmiento said his opportunity to teach as a graduate student has made his training more well-rounded. Being able to teach now will make him an even better teacher later, he said.

“This has been the best training for me as a future health educator,” he said.

Jolly has also had a positive experience.

“It’s the first job I’ve had since I got a four-year degree,” Jolly said. “It’s definitely better than fast food.”

But Jolly also feels the rush of the approaching end of the semester. He spent part of his spring break doing research for his own classes and grading papers.

English professor Joseph Glaser, Jolly’s adviser, said he and other graduate assistants help students.

“All the teaching assistants are good because they are roughly the same age as their students and can relate,” Glaser said.

Public Health assistant professor Lisa Lindley, who advises Sarmiento, said she appreciates his teaching efforts.

“He’s doing a fantastic job,” Lindley said. “He’s very interested in what he does, and he puts forth a lot of time and energy into teaching.”

Sarmiento said Lindley has also been helpful in his teaching.

“I’m basically teaching under her guidance,” he said.

Although being a teacher and a student has limited Sarmiento and Jolly’s time, they still manage to enjoy several hobbies.

Sarmiento usually works out four days a week, and he also sings in the choir at the Newman Center, the Catholic center for Western students.

Sarmiento, approaching 37 years of age, works out regularly to keep his youthful appearance.

Although he teaches literature, Jolly enjoys reading a comic book from the extensive collection in his office.

Spiderman comics have been one of his favorites since childhood.

“That’s how I learned to read,” Jolly said.

There are several advantages to being a student and teaching, but these graduate students have more responsibilities.

But this is a challenge both Sarmiento and Jolly are learning to conquer.

Sarmiento has had to learn how to budget his time between his own studies and the class he teaches.

With his responsibilities as a teacher, he said he cannot go out as much as he could before. He also wasn’t sure how much material he needed to prepare for class.

“There are things you can only learn through experience,” he said.

Like Sarmiento, Jolly is learning to budget his time between teaching and going to class. He bought a timer at Wal-Mart to help him stay on task.

“I’m learning to juggle everything,” Jolly said.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]