Cody Caba is the  2017 recipient of the GATA Award for Educational Leadership. Cody is a recent Master’s graduate coming from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  His research focusing on an enzyme involved in neurological diseases has been featured on the University’s website for its successful acquisition of a $200,000 grant.  His teaching career began in his fourth year and continued throughout his graduate studies for a total of five semesters of teaching.  Cody is currently a PhD candidate at McMaster University, studying the biochemical aspects of infectious disease control.  He hopes to provide impactful, far-reaching insight about the world on the molecular level.

The GATA Network Coordinators conducted the following interview with Cody:

1.  What was the most difficult part of the nomination process?

Asking people for reference letters was most difficult as many came from past students of mine that I had to get in touch with once again.  It was a nice surprise to see how quickly they were able to come forward and help.

2.  Had teaching and learning been a big part of your life before you won the award? How did the award change your views on teaching?

I never consciously focused on teaching or learning before my award.  As a student, I did my best to establish good study habits and learn what type of person I was in the classroom.  I came to realize where I excelled and what attributes a teacher (professor) must have to gain my attention and instill a drive in myself for learning.  As a teaching assistant, my goal was never to be recognized for my efforts; I did not know this award existed prior to my nomination.  I tried to channel all that I looked for in a good teacher and bring that forward for whomever I taught.  Upon receipt of my nomination it became apparent that my outlook on teaching, although not extensively calculated, was indeed effective.  My current views on teaching have changed quite drastically since.  I know more than ever how good teaching practices can have a marked positive impact on students, with long lasting effects.  As well, it became apparent that becoming a better, more effective teacher is something that comes with experience and I hope to develop more in this regard in the future.

3.  How will you continue to demonstrate outstanding educational leadership in your academic and professional career?

I am looking forward to continuing as a GA in the natural sciences, perhaps one day becoming a professor.  The base of teaching I am establishing currently will undoubtedly translate to future endeavours.  I will continue with my current practices whilst always focusing on ways to improve- be-it in the classroom or the laboratory.

4.  How has the GATA Award impacted your life, if at all?

The impact of the award at this point is minimal.  Being formally recognized as an accomplished young teaching figure will likely be most impactful in the near future.  The fact that post-secondary education is becoming a near requirement for the job industry goes hand-in-hand with a need for exceptional teaching staff at Universities.  Pursuit of a career in academics will be fraught with these universities seeking out the best and most accomplished teachers.  I believe my award as an educational leader will help me in this regard.

5.  What is the most rewarding or best part about being a GA/TA?

I found it most rewarding to be able to translate knowledge to others.  The opportunity to put the things I know into a context that countless students can understand and take forward with them in their respective studies.

6.  What is your favourite GA/TA memory?

Watching the improvement of students during the progress of any given course was a favourite aspect of mine.

7.  Is there any advice that you would give others who are considering being nominated for a GATA award?

Most importantly, don’t look for affirmation for your efforts.  I think one should always do their best work whether or not someone is watching.  If you can put yourself in the student’s shoes and/ or reflect on when you were an undergraduate yourself, you will surely shape to be an effective and sought-after teacher.  Being approachable, enthusiastic and a clear leader in the classroom is key.  It is also equally as important to show humility and be open to learning from the very people you are teaching.


For more information regarding descriptions and criteria of the GATA Awards, visit the CTL Website.



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