By Harshini Dinesh ('23)
Many students at SBHS have met Teacher Assistants (TAs) in at least one of their many classes. Regardless of the class, one constant always remains: teacher assistant positions are given to undergraduate and graduate students who want to gain experience in teaching. Therefore, it is an anomaly to see high school senior Krisnajit Rajeshkhanna TA-ing for AP Statistics teacher Mrs. Lisa King. How did he become a TA? And why? Well, if you ask him, he’ll tell you that it started off as a joke.
When asked about how he got the position, Rajeshkhanna answered: “I asked Mrs. King to read my NHS letter and when she read about how I tutor students outside of school, she suggested that I should TA for her as a joke. So, when Mrs. Alfieri came to do a math department inspection, I asked her if I could TA for Mrs. King and she told me to go for it.”
His spontaneity and confidence helped him get his position, but his experience and skills helped him succeed. Throughout his high school career, Rajeshkhanna has completed many mathematics classes including Advanced Algebra II, AP Calculus AB, Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra, and AP Statistics. Currently, he is enrolled in Differential Equations and an independent study in Complex Analysis. While taking these math classes, he tutored his peers who were struggling in other math classes like Calc AB and Stat, so he gained significant experience in teaching others and became thorough with his own math skills. Now he is TA-ing for AP Statistics through an independent study program for credit.
According to Mrs. King, Rajeshkhanna is the first student to be her TA, so this is a new experience for both of them, but Mrs. King believes Rajeshkhanna’s motivation, maturity, and friendliness make him a great TA and the perfect fit for the role.
Mrs. King said, “Kris is extremely motivated and wants to work and learn. He does not necessarily want to be a teacher, but he enjoys helping people understand things, so I think that is a huge strength. He is super friendly and confident in himself, so, although it is challenging to get in front of 30 peers and teach them, he does it well.”
Although Mrs. King is having a student TA for her for the first time, she has developed a plan to ensure that Rajeshkhanna can use his skills to efficiently help her students.
“A few things that we have decided to do is have Kris compile free-response questions (FRQs) for each AP Statistic chapter and grade students’ FRQs. That is his ongoing project, and he periodically presents to the class as well. On Monday, he taught a 40-minute lesson with notes, slides, activity, and group work. He may start helping out in my Advanced Algebra 2 class as well.”
Although Rajeshkhanna is a diligent and excellent TA, his ambition is not to become a teacher. On the contrary, he wants to become an electrical or computer science engineer who helps innovate new technologies… So why is he TA-ing?
“I like teaching, so it is fun to be a TA for Mrs. King, and if I decide to TA in college, I could use the experience I gain here to speak and teach more fluently and confidently,” Rajeshkhanna said.
Not only can TA-ing for a class help build an individual’s soft skills, but it can also be a great source of accomplishment. Aside from the regular instructor’s teaching, TAs use their skills to help students learn by using different teaching methods. Accordingly, when they see their student’s improvement in understanding and grades, TAs feel accomplished and are happy that they were able to create a change in the learning community. Moreover, students who are planning to become teachers find great value in TA-ing because it gives them the opportunity to find their own teaching style.
Regarding how ambitious students can gain opportunities like him and succeed, Rajeshkhanna said, "For students who want to gain similar opportunities, I would say that it would be beneficial to be passionate about what you are doing and to develop a strong relationship with your teacher. In my case, I had Mrs. King for Algebra 2 and AP Statistics, so I was able to build a strong relationship with her and I am passionate about math.”
For students who want to become the next student TAs, be passionate, push your limits, and confidently initiate conversations with those who can help you gain the opportunity. With the right determination, passion, and confidence, you can do anything. Whether you want to become a teacher or not, TA-ing can be an experience that improves your skills and helps make a difference in our community.