Filene Teaching Award Winner: Zak Gezon
The Filene Teaching Award is given out annually to the graduate student teaching assistant who best exemplifies the qualities of a college educator. One of this year’s recipients, Zak Gezon, is a PhD student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department.
Zak Gezon, a second year PhD student in Dartmouth’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, was selected as one of this year’s recipients of the Filene Teaching Award. Currently, Zak is in Gothic, Colorado, where he is researching the plants and pollinators of the high-altitude region. Zak’s work focuses on the impacts of human disturbances on the reproduction of these plants and animals; currently, he is investigating how the earlier snowmelt of the Rocky Mountains is affecting the reproduction of the region’s sub-alpine flowering vegetation.
Zak has exhibited a commitment to teaching throughout his academic career. During his undergraduate years at the University of California, San Diego, Zak worked at outreach programs at both SeaWorld as a camp counselor and at a local kids camp. After matriculating from UC San Diego, Zak worked at the Monteverde Butterfly Garden in Costa Rica, where he managed a butterfly and insect education center. After learning about the research that Professor Rebecca Irwin was conducting on the ecology and evolution of pollinators, Zak came to Dartmouth to start his doctoral career.
After completing a teaching assistant training course at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL), Zak “jumped right into teaching,” and by the end of the year, was working as a teaching assistant for several undergraduate biology courses.
“I think it is in the classroom that we realize our limitations, and challenge them. Everything we study in school is based upon something that we don’t know. As teachers, we work through unknown concepts with our students, and hopefully, overcome them,” says Zak.
While conducting research in Colorado, Zak volunteers as an educator at a summer camp for kids run by the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). With other RMBL educators, Zak teaches campers about the pollinators and bees of the Rocky Mountain region, and leads field excursions where campers use nets to gather insects, including bees.
“I am not worried about my campers getting stung,” says Zak. “In the Rockies, there are well over a hundred known species of bees, and most are so small that they can’t sting you. Also, most of the species we gather are insects, such as crickets.”
After Dartmouth, Zak intends to apply to postdoctoral positions that investigate the physiology of the pollinators he studies. Zak hopes to one day become a college professor, and to teach in a manner that is fun, imaginative, and visceral.
by Wesley Whitaker