MAY 1997
A newsletter for alumni, students, and friends of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Teaching Assistants Put in Long Hours Juggling Work, Study, and Family

The life of a TA is not an easy one, as many alumni can attest, emacroly when marriage and children are added to the equation.

Some of the unsung heroes of the ME Department are the teaching assistants (TAs) who work long hours to lead discussion sections and laboratories for undergraduate students and sometimes other graduate students. Meanwhile, they are also taking their own courses and conducting research for their theses or dissertations.

The life of a TA is not an easy one, as many alumni can attest, especially when marriage and children are added to the equation.

Tod Tesch, age 30, is one such TA who is currently working with Professor Robert D. Lorenz teaching mini-lectures for small groups in the lab sections of ME 546, automatic controls. He teaches six hours straight, two days a week, helping graduate students build analog and digital control systems. He also spends eight or more hours a week setting up and preparing for the labs.

Tod Tesch, ME Teaching Assistant

Tod Tesch, ME Teaching Assistant
(32K JPG)

Tesch earned his BS degree at UW-Madison in electrical engineering, worked three years in industry, and then returned to do his graduate work in 1992. He interrupted his masters program to spend a year in Germany on a graduate fellowship, and he has received departmental funding support since spring of 1994. Along the way, Tesch married Pam, who is a graduate student in German language studies, and they have a son, Sam, who is now 21 months old.

"Since we're both in school, it is stressful," said Tesch as he talked about the challenges of juggling their busy schedules and the expenses of tuition and daycare. Like most graduate students, they must budget both time and money carefully. "One benefit of graduate school, however, is that our time is more flexible," said Tesch. "We're not hustling out at 6 a.m. to get to a job, and we can shift our evening times for studying. I probably see Sam more than I would otherwise, but my wife less. After Sam goes to bed, I start working and stay up late."

Despite the pressures of graduate school, Tesch is really upbeat about the TA experience. He is very happy to have the funding and says that he really likes working with Prof. Lorenz. And he has become quite enthusiastic about working with students. "I actually enjoy the teaching. I didn't think I'd like teaching, but I do. And when you teach something, you really learn it yourself." He finds also that students really do come to him for help and they get so involved in the lab work that they don't want to go home at the end of class. Tesch likes the teaching so much, in fact, that he thinks every grad student should do it at some point. "It helps your personal skills, like the ability to talk in front of a group, and you get a good feeling seeing someone really learn something."

The ME Department supported 37 TAs for the spring 1997 semester, about the average number. According to Marlene Beilman, departmental administrator, all TAs take training programs offered by the College of Engineering at the beginning of each semester to help them understand their duties. Salaries are set according to a contract negotiated between the TA union and the university, and according to the number of hours worked.

Most ME TAs work with one of the five laboratory classes that are part of the undergraduate curriculum. Their continuing employment is based in part on evaluations written by their students.

ME Newsletter is a periodic publication of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Correspondence should be sent to the address below.

ME Newsletter
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1513 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706-1572

      Editor: Gail Gawenda

Designer: Lynda Litzkow

Last Modified: Friday, 25-Jul-1997 08:50:04 CDT

MAY 1997 Contents