Hi, I’m Ilke! I am originally from Belgium but moved around South and North America growing up before finally settling in Canada. I did my undergrad at McGill University where I did a BSc in Biology. I then did an MSc in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems as part of the Erasmus Mundus Masters Programme (TROPIMUNDO). For my MSc thesis I studied landbird populations in the agricultural zone of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Archipelago!
I loved my MSc work so much I ended up doing a PhD continuing this work and now I am studying the interactions between landbirds and the agricultural zone, including farmers, on Santa Cruz Island. I am a 3rd year PhD student in IRES under the supervision of Dr. Claire Kremen.
I also have the luck of being one of the first TAs for the re-vamped BIOL180 course (Thinking like a Life Scientist! and previously BIOL140). I have now TA’d this course for 3 semesters and am looking forward to more!
What do you most enjoy about being a TA?
Definitely connecting with students! I love teaching first years because it is such a period of transition for them and I love being able to be there and help them foster connections with each other and get them excited about learning.
My second favourite thing is the growth I get to experience through learning from teaching them! Each semester I learn more about teaching techniques and am getting to shape my own teaching philosophy and style, which is very exciting.
What has being a TA brought to your graduate studies experience?
More than I could have imagined! I have realized how much joy it brings me each semester I have taught. Often, we get into our own heads during our research and I find my excitement in research ebbs and flows a lot more than teaching, which is a constant. I look forward to getting to be in class with the students every week and see them grow and learn throughout the semester. This has actually kept me more motivated in my own PhD work as well. I have also ended up pursuing a lot of my own learning about teaching and pedagogy, which has very much enriched my grad experience. Finally, through TAing I discovered there is such a thing as a Professors of Teaching, education specialists and other teaching positions I was not aware of. I now am considering it as a potential future job avenue!
What opportunities relating to teaching and learning have you been a part of?
I have tried to learn as much about teaching and pedagogy as I can, mostly through the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTLT), and encourage others to take advantage of these programs too. A good place to start was the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) that CTLT offers for graduate students. I have also completed the Foundations of Pedagogy course and a Teaching Practicum with CTLT. The teaching practicum was really rewarding since I got to work with a mentor and develop my own lesson plans, which I then got to teach. These actually ended up contributing to the course development. Through all these efforts and great support from my mentor (shout out to Dr. Blaire Steinwand) I also won the Biology TA Award, which was very exciting!
What was your most memorable moment as a TA?
One semester, the instructor I was working with asked if I wanted to share my experiences as a woman in STEM with the class (as part of a module). It ended up being more emotional than I had anticipated, but the student responses were incredible. A lot of students expressed their appreciation and some even sent me emails about how it had impacted them. It definitely connected us more, and all this over zoom class!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have recently gotten into climbing and love going outside (when possible), to the UBC aviary and Richmond oval to do so! I also really enjoy skiing, playing squash, swimming and going on hikes. I feel super lucky to live in Vancouver so try to take advantage of the mountains when I can! When I am feeling lazy, I love walking to the dog beach (in Kits) close to my house and just sitting and watching all the dogs. Recently I’ve also gotten into puzzling and am currently struggling through a 2,000 piece bird puzzle – a fun challenge!