2016 Outstanding TA Award: Tamara Issak

May 1, 2016

Tamara IssakCongratulations to Tamara Bassam Issak, doctoral candidate in the Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program, for being awarded a 2016 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. The award recognizes teaching assistants who demonstrate excellence in teaching. Selection for the Outstanding TA award is made by a university-wide committee of faculty recognized for their teaching excellence, and is given to approximately the top 4% of all TAs campus wide.

Asked to comment on her award, Tamare responded, "I am honored that students and CCR faculty nominated me for the Outstanding TA Award, and I am grateful for the support and close mentoring I have received as a TA in the Writing Program. My teachers and peers have really been models for me and I have learned so much from observing them in action. I have a long way to go to be the teacher I want to be, and I view this award as encouragement to keep working at it."

The following are excerpts from letters nominating Tamara for this award:

Tamara is highly respected as a thoughtful and dedicated teacher. I have read all of her teaching evaluations and can attest to the fact that they are uniformly stunning. Tamara's students clearly enjoy working with her and like her, but their praise goes far beyond their appreciation for her warm and caring presence in the classroom. They write at length about the ways in which Tamara both challenges and supports their learning, pressing them to complicate their perspectives in ways that lead to writing that is stronger and more nuanced. They consistently praise her timely and helpful feedback, skill in leading class discussions, availability and willingness to help them succeed as writers, and unique capacity to guide them to acquire new insights about writing that they will take away from the class. It is always a pleasure to read such strongly positive comments about a teacher, and it is particularly gratifying when students across all sections are able to recognize that their writing class has given them greater confidence, enhanced their critical awareness, and made them more excited about writing.
—Lois Agnew, Writing Program Chair and Director

Tamara has distinguished herself as one of our strongest teachers. What stands out about Tamara is her incredible capacity to communicate thoughtfully and clearly with students and colleagues in a range of situations. Students repeatedly note how much they value the detailed and helpful feedback she provides and how she has helped them see what skills and practices are needed for development as a writer and the production of various documents. I especially appreciate how she helps students develop a critical distance from their topics, to recognize that the answers to their inquiries are dependent on multiple factors. It is this careful attention to reading and writing and, by extension, listening, that is emblematic of Tamara's pedagogy to a diverse range of students.
—Patrick W. Berry, Director of TA Education

Whenever I felt the need to ask a question through email, her replies were always prompt and thoughtful. Furthermore, Tamara was actively involved in our class discussion boards throughout the entire semester. She frequently responded to students’ conversations while providing her own insights and points for consideration. However, what impressed me the most about Tamara’s involvement was the way she clearly took the time to read the articles and watch the videos her students were posting. The learning process in Tamara’s class always felt engaged and reciprocal. As a student, I cannot stress enough how important and refreshing that was. Under Tamara’s guidance, I am certain that I grew as a writer, a critical thinker, and as a person.
—Jeremy Rood, Student

Mrs. Issak was my WRT 205 teacher for the Spring semester of 2015 and to date stands as the best teacher that I have had throughout my enrollment at Syracuse University. From day one, she created a safe space for us to be honest and vulnerable, a space that allowed us to fail and learn without the fear of embarrassment or feelings of inferiority. Her greatest strength was patience. She understood writing as a process and our own development as one too. Through her class, I gained a greater understanding of writing then I ever had before. I was challenged to break old habits and frameworks of thinking in order to succeed at meeting the course objectives of critical analysis and exploratory research. I became able to identify gaps in arguments and challenge ideas. I no longer “looked for the right answer,” but was able to form and articulate my own perception based on provided knowledge from other sources. Mrs. Issak embodies what it really means to be a teacher because the skills that I took away will remain relevant far beyond academic and professional settings. I grew as a person as well.
—Kristina Bugg, Student

Overall, my experience taking this online class with Professor Issak was outstanding. Especially since my previous experiences with online classes were not so great, I really enjoyed having her as an instructor for the course. She made this class very manageable with my busy schedule and in balancing the work with my other classes at this time.
—Danielle Leslie, Student

Her passion for teaching and challenging her students to look at topics in a different light pushed me, and continues to push me, to expand my viewpoint on many issues. The discussion that she encouraged humanized the topics that others cared so passionately about. This fundamental discussion of issues struck home and allows me to see things in a different light, and for that I am grateful. Thanks to her, I continue to look at the world in a different light, to form the best opinion I can, and to put that opinion on paper.
—Alexander Fedrizzi, Student

Photo Credit: Kate Navickas

April 2016