Biology announces that Portiaa McGonigal has won this year’s Award for Teaching Excellence in TAs

Portiaa McGonigalThe Department of Biology is pleased to announce the winner of the second annual Award for Excellence in teaching for TAs and Markers. This year’s winner is Portiaa McGonigal. Portiaa has been an active member of the Department of Biology since 2019, when she arrived to do her PhD with Dr. Louise Nelson, to study crown gall disease of grapevine. Portiaa has worked as a teaching assistant in a number of very different courses in Biology and Biochemistry, including first-year biology labs (BIOL116), Developmental Biology (BIOL363) and the Biochemistry of Disease (BIOC407). The faculty and staff that worked with Portiaa on these courses agree that she is a caring and conscientious teaching assistant, who excels at creating a safe and supportive environment in her classroom. Students specifically mention how adept she is at communicating complex science and making it easy to understand, and how supported they feel in her class.

Faculty and staff that have worked with Portiaa also note what a strong presence she is in the courses she works with. As a veteran TA, Portiaa knows what is required to make a large, multi-section course like BIOL116 run smoothly, and Portiaa is more than willing to share her experience with those around her. According to Dr. Tristyn Hay, Lab Coordinator for BIOL116, “Portiaa is always willing to help out others, whether it was a new teaching assistant trying to get familiar with the content, or coverage for other teaching assistants when scheduling conflicts arose.”

While Portiaa has spent most of her time at UBC Okanagan during the COVID-19 Pandemic, she has this to say about her experiences this past year, teaching in person for the first time since 2019: “being on this campus has allowed me to flourish as a student researcher and TA, something I believe that has a lot to do with the amazing community of people in the Biology department who are always willing to support and encourage each other.”

Congratulations to Portiaa for winning this award!