Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award Recipients 2022-2023


Devin Burns

Department of Religion

College of Arts and Sciences

Devin Burns is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the American Religious History track of the Department of Religion. An alum of Florida State’s Departments of History and Religion for her BA, she earned her MA in Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University before returning to Florida State for her PhD in 2019. Her main area of interest is the religious culture of the nineteenth-century American South, focusing specifically on the Civil War, the Lost Cause, and white supremacy. She is currently writing her dissertation on the Confederate Episcopal Church and its ties to the religion of the Lost Cause. In addition to her research, Devin devotes much time to teaching. She has taught classes on religion in the United States and religion, race, and ethnicity. She works to bring abolitionist practices into her classroom and believes that incorporating the lived experiences of her students can create a more equitable and democratic classroom. She is grateful for the chance to teach at Florida State and introduce students to the exciting process of historical research.

Spirit Karcher

School of Teacher Education

College of Education

Spirit Karcher is a third-year doctoral candidate in the Mathematics Education program of the Curriculum and Instruction PhD within the School of Teacher Education. She has a BA in Mathematics from Christopher Newport University and a MS in College STEM Teaching with a focus in mathematics from Florida State University. Spirit’s research centers on the professional development for graduate teaching assistants with a focus on the teaching of Precalculus and Calculus I. Spirit has taught both mathematics and education courses at Florida State University and says that her work with students is a constant source of growth and inspiration, both personally and professionally. She hopes to continue working towards improving the teaching and learning of undergraduate mathematics through her work with both mathematics graduate and undergraduate students while completing her PhD and in her future career.


Sunah Lee

School of Communication

college of communication and information

Sunah Lee is a second-year PhD student in the School of Communication with media studies focus. She earned her master’s degree in Communication & Digital Media Studies from Florida State University. Her research focuses on the political economy of media industries, including media ownership, media labor, independent media, and journalism. She is especially interested in the increasing precarity of media workers today. Recently, she published an article about the South Korean hit Netflix show Squid Game with her advisor in Communication, Culture, & Critique. She is from South Korea and worked at a South Korean 24-hour cable news network for 13 years before transitioning to academia. As a mother of two children, Sunah is passionate about providing caring, supportive, and inspiring learning experiences to students. She values every student in the classroom as they are and, as a student herself, tries her best to be an empathetic instructor. As a communication studies researcher and instructor, Sunah believes in the power of open-mindedness and collective knowledge. Her favorite course to teach is the Political Economy of Media, and she thinks of herself as a curator toward new ways of thinking rather than delivering information one way. In this digital era, where one can easily find any information on the Internet, she believes teaching how to fish is not enough: It is time to teach where to fish and how to tell good fish from bad fish.

SaÚl Moreno

department of modern Languages and Linguistics

college of arts and sciences

Saúl Moreno is a PhD student in Spanish with a concentration in Hispanic Linguistics. His research specializes in the field of Spanish heritage speakers. He is at the stage where he is getting ready to collect data for his thesis, in which he implements both sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic aspects. Additionally, he has been involved in pedagogical research regarding Spanish heritage speakers within classroom settings. Working with the right people has made Saúl grow professionally within research – he cannot express how thankful he is for all of those who have mentored him along the way. His aspirations and goals in life are to learn as much from those who come and go in life while making a positive impact, regardless of whatever endeavor in which he finds himself. While personal aspirations are key components to personal success, Saúl’s family and friends are the most important part of his life.

Gwen Niekamp

Department of English

College of arts and sciences

Gwen Niekamp is a second-year PhD student in English and Creative Writing at Florida State University, where she is working on her first book. An excerpt of her dissertation project won the Black Warrior Review’s 2022 nonfiction contest and was named a finalist for The Cincinnati Review’s 2022 Robert and Adele Schiff Awards. Her work has appeared in Boulevard, Essay Daily, and elsewhere. In addition to her own writing practice, Gwen is passionate about teaching. She holds an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, where she was awarded the 2019–2020 Senior Teaching Fellowship in Nonfiction. Within the English Department at FSU, her pedagogy has been recognized with several awards, including the Fred L. Standley Award for Most Effective Instructor Among Graduate Students. Gwen currently serves as president of the Rho Epsilon chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, International English Honor Society, and as a teaching mentor for the College Composition Program. She is incredibly honored to have received a 2022–2023 Outstanding Teaching Award, a milestone moment in her teaching career. She’d like to thank her many students and her many mentors.  

Jessica Simon

Department of psychology

college of arts and sciences

Jessica Simon is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Program in Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology. She received her BA from the University at Albany, SUNY in Psychology. As a neuroscientist, she is driven by the desire to understand neurobiological processes that subserve complex behaviors (e.g., motivation) and to use this information to better treat mental health disorders (e.g., depression). More specifically, her dissertation investigates cognitive factors like effort and expectations and their impact on neural reward processing, and whether aberrant processing of reward is a potential biomarker of depression. She has been fortunate to teach many classes in the Department of Psychology, including Neuroanatomy, Brain and Behavior, and “Abnormal” Psychology. Jessica’s teaching centers on active engagement with course materials to make the content relevant and allow for deeper understanding. This aligns with her focus on mastery over performance, which encourages her learners to become masters of the material and to be able to think like neuroscientists beyond their grades in her courses. Teaching is Jessica's passion and she is fortunate to apply her scholarship to her teaching practice.