A few weeks ago, my husband learned one of his favourite professors at Brock University had passed away. This particular professor was an ongoing inspiration to my husband and upon his passing, he wrote a short, heartfelt blog about the professor’s impact.
This struck me. What would the conversation had been like if this conversation was face-to-face, or even if the professor had been able to read my husband’s blog.
I wanted to dedicate this blog a professor who was an inspiration to me: Marilyn Cottrell (aka Econ Diva).
In 2003, despite my keen interest in business and economics, I applied to universities that offered Child and Youth Studies. Eventually settling on Brock University’s Child and Youth Con-Ed program, I was faced with the opportunity to select two electives. Like any good nerd, I chose Canadian History with Donald Wright (also an amazing professor), and micro and macro economics. Having taken OAC economics in high school, I felt prepared for these courses.
First Year Microeconomics
When creating my university schedule, I chose a Wednesday lecture from 19:00-21:00. That’s right. Three hours of microeconomics on a Wednesday evening. The professor was a stereotypical professor – quirky, intelligent, with a side of dry humour.
The following day was my tutorial, a small class-like setting in which a teacher’s assistant (TA) would review material discussed, as well as deliver assignments, quizzes, and exams. Marilyn was different. She was energetic, funny, and enthusiastic about the otherwise dry, topic of economics.
Within a short period of time, I found myself writing my first university midterm, which was comprised of 50 multiple choice questions. When the midterms were returned in our tutorial, Marilyn smiled as she returned the majority of the exams. When it came time to retrieve my exam – she had a disappointed look upon her face. I got 55%.
Terrified that I had jeopardized my entire university career, I learned how study properly, as well as implement techniques to master multiple choice exams. When I received the second midterm back, Marilyn had a smile upon her face. I got 96%.
By this point, I had made the decision to change majors from Child and Youth Studies to a BA in Business and Economics.
Because economics was not a full credit, the second course was macroeconomics. Having signed-up for another 3-hour lecture, I was surprised to learn that my previous TA Marilyn, was a professor. She was energetic, enthusiastic, and many times, used props to engage students. Throughout the semester I went to visit her to chat about economics and clarify anything I didn’t understand. She was always willing to help. She cared about her job and her students. She also inspired others to be their best, and encouraged students to succeed.
Second Year University, First Year Business & Economics
By the following September, Marilyn, my formerly disappointed TA, had hired me to proctor midterms and exams for the economics faculties. At the end of my second year, I was hired as a Research Assistant for another professor in the economics department.
Life as a Teaching Assistant
In my third year, Marilyn hired me as a teaching assistant (TA) for three sections within the economics department. Terrified, nervous, and questioning what I had gotten myself into, I went to my first tutorial. I loved it. I couldn’t get enough of teaching, watching students learn, and the “AH HA!” moment. I was hooked.
I was a TA from 2005-2009, teaching as many as three tutorial a semester: fall, winter, and summer. I loved the concept of teaching, and thinking of better ways to explain concepts, theories, and formulas to students. I had students transferring into my tutorial (which was a huge compliment), as well as asking to be in my tutorial. I still keep in touch with many of my former students.
One semester I was tasked with teaching two evening tutorials. The class demographics were different than I was used to, as it was filled with people who were twice my age, and held full-time jobs like, ‘financial advisor,’ ‘real estate agent, and ‘mortgage broker.’
This was my “AH HA!” moment. At the tender age of 21, I realized that education does not end with a degree. Adults will continue to seek learning and education, for either professional or personal reasons. This idea has become a huge part of my life, as someone who provides training to adults.
Thank you Marilyn for having faith in me 10 years ago to become a teaching assistant. Thank you for giving me a chance to teach – allowing me to discover my true passion.
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