Aaron Benavidez, a PhD student in sociology, was referred to by his nominator as “one of the very best teaching fellows that we have ever had the pleasure of employing in sociology”. He was praised by students and faculty for his pedagogical innovation, leadership, and his attention and care for each of his students.
Aaron’s pedagogical interest, intelligence, and breadth of knowledge have made him a valued asset of the department, serving as a teaching fellow for courses ranging from medical sociology to gender and sexuality to urban poverty. As noted in his nomination letter, “…regardless of the topic we give him, and regardless of how closely or distantly related that topic is to his own area of expertise, we can always count on Aaron to receive among the highest Q scores in our program.”
This ability to contribute to the student learning experience on a range of topics is echoed by comments from his past students. Phrases like “life changer”, “best teacher period”, “greatest TF I have ever had”, are only a few of the accolades that regularly appeared in evaluations.
This praise is clearly due to his unwavering commitment to teaching all of his students. As noted by Professor Jocelyn Viterna, “Aaron’s guiding goal in any classroom is to teach to the range and not to the average.” Based on numerous student comments, he implemented this principle in the classroom. “He is one of the most caring people on campus and genuinely takes an interest in ensuring that each student enjoys the class and does the best they can. I don’t think I could have made it through this semester without Aaron.”
Whether by discussing a Time magazine article, a Planned Parenthood ad, or Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance, Aaron repeatedly found innovative ways to relate various concepts in sociology to his students. Even for the cynical student, Aaron made the difference. “I have literally never enjoyed a section…they are a waste of my time and they don’t actually enhance my understanding of the material…, but every section with Aaron passed quickly and was exciting and I actually learned something.”
Aaron’s commitment to pedagogical innovation has impacted his fellow graduate students as well as the faculty. Referred to as the “Chief Pedagogy Advisor,” he has helped shape the development of other TF’s. This generosity has resulted in what is referred to as the “Benavidez effect,” whereby other instructors and undergraduates are impacted by Aaron’s sharing of his pedagogical expertise.
Aaron, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is pleased to present you with the Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching of Undergraduates. Congratulations!