Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award Recipients 2020-2021


John Thomas (J.T.) Bandzuh

Department of Geography

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

Originally from Portage, PA, J.T. received his B.A. in Geography and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and his M.S. in Geography at Virginia Tech. J.T. 's doctoral research focuses on human-environment interactions related to mosquito control and malaria prevention in East Sumba, Indonesia. Additionally, J.T. has a research project related to pedagogy, specifically flexible learning in higher education which is part of his classroom. J.T. is currently a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography, teaching World Geography and his own developed course, Geography of Wine. Pillars central to his classroom are active learning (e.g., field trips, games, gardening) and flexible learning (e.g., à la carte syllabus, feature-length foreign films). J.T.’s classroom embraces the world’s diversity of knowledge and is universally inclusive. J.T. has a passion for teaching and thinks it’s the best way to spread positive change around the world.

MOrgan Luttig

Music Education

College of Music

Morgan Luttig is a second-year doctoral student in Music EducationChoral Conducting. As a choral graduate assistant she has served as assistant conductor for the University Singers and Tallahassee Community Chorus as well as teaching assistant for Undergraduate Choral Conducting. She considers teaching and working with undergraduate students every day one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a doctoral TA. She is also current Co-President of the FSU Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and treasurer of the Festival Singers of Florida. Morgan believes in service to the past, present, and future of the choral profession both inside and outside of the university. Working toward this mission, she has presented interest sessions at state and regional conferences, and is recognized for her volunteer work as honor choir coordinator for ACDA regional and national conventions and Honor Choirs Chair for the 2020 and 2022 Southern Region Conferences. Before coming to FSU, Morgan taught at the collegiate level as Visiting Choral Director and Visiting Instructor of Music at Washington and Lee University, and at the K-12 level as Choral Director and General Music Teacher at St. Andrew’s School in Savannah, GA. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington and Lee University and Master of Music Education –Choral Emphasis degree from Westminster Choir College. Morgan is honored to be a recipient of the 2020-2021 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, and would like to recognize the phenomenal choral students who made it possible. Her passion for teaching stems from seeing their resilience, drive, and enthusiasm to make choral music every day.

Jessi Thomsen

Department of English

College of Arts and Sciences

Jessi Thomsen is a Ph.D. candidate in English with a specialization in Rhetoric and Composition at Florida State University. Her dissertation “Alternative Cartographies: Reflection(s) for the Complexities of Writing and Sustainability” has been recognized by the Philanthropic Education Organization (PEO) with the Jane B. Smith Endowed Scholar Award. She has served as president of the Rhetoric Society of America - FSU Student Chapter, production editor for the Southeast Review, and mentor to undergraduate interns and researchers. Her work has appeared in English Journal and Teaching English in the Two-Year Classroom (TETYC), and her golden retrievers supervise all of her research endeavors, including current projects on reflection, mentoring, new materialisms, decoloniality, and sustainability.

James W. Waters

Department of religion

College of Arts and Sciences

James W. Waters is a third-year Ph.D. student in Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy in the Graduate Department of Religion. He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies and Philosophy and an M.A. in Theology from Trevecca Nazarene University. He graduated from Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School in 2017 with a Masters of Theological Studies (M.T.S), where he received the Wilbur F. Tillett Prize for finishing at the top of his class in the area of Religious Ethics. His research interests include Religion, Activism, and Social Change, American Indian Religious Traditions, and Ecology and Religion. A member of FSU’s Fellow Society, James also served as an Editorial Assistant at the Journal of Religious Ethics. He has taught REL 3170: “Introduction to Religious Ethics and Moral Problems” since Fall 2019. While dedicated to his research, he finds working with students to be the best and most rewarding part of his job. His favorite ethicists, philosophers, and theologians are his students.

Porche' Whitby OKAFOR

Criminology and Criminal Justice

College of Criminology & Criminal Justice

Dr. Porche' Whitby Okafor  received her Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the College of Criminology & Criminal Justice in 2021. Dr. Whitby Okafor is currently an Assistant Professor of Criminology in the Department of Anthropology, Criminology, & Sociology at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY. Her research interests include race/ethnicity and other social factors, courts and sentencing, and social control. Particularly, her current work seeks to address the inattention of analyzing the intersection of individual-level characteristics across racial and ethnic contexts and how these effects contribute to sentencing disparities.

Hye Ryung WON

Early Childhood Education

College of Education

Hye Ryung Won is a third year doctoral candidate in Early Childhood Education in the College of Education. She has over 13 years of teaching experience with children in PreK-G3 settings. During her time as a doctoral student, Hye Ryung taught courses designed for preservice teacher candidates including Introduction to Education and Problem-Based Science Learning for Elementary Teachers. Hye Ryung also served as an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Mentor for three years to support undergraduate students for their participating experience in research projects. Hye Ryung’s research centers on the intersection of STEM education and early childhood education. Her dissertation research focuses on investigating preschool teachers’ instructional approaches to design and implement inquiry-based STEM activities. She is very passionate about teaching and interacting with the undergraduate students at FSU. Hye Ryung’s professional goal is supporting pre- and in-service early childhood educators to gain content and pedagogical content knowledge in STEM so that they can be better equipped as future educators for young children. She is honored to be a recipient of the 2020-2021 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award.