Alumni Assist at GRACE

The+teaching+assistants+at+GRACE.+Left+to+right%3A+Alison+Brown+%E2%80%9919%2C+Abby+Kirk+%E2%80%9919%2C+Montana+Riggs+%E2%80%9919%2C+Will+Gray%2C+Gus+Vrattos+%2719%2C+Brian+Xiao+%E2%80%9919.

Courtesy of David Prockop

The teaching assistants at GRACE. Left to right: Alison Brown ’19, Abby Kirk ’19, Montana Riggs ’19, Will Gray, Gus Vrattos '19, Brian Xiao ’19.

This year’s Groton Accelerate Challenge Enrich (GRACE) program introduced teaching assistants to accommodate the record number of 36 students. 

Open to rising fourth formers, GRACE provides students with opportunities to either accelerate learning in order to skip a course (B courses) or to reinforce prior knowledge to ease entry into Upper School (A courses). 

The inaugural class of GRACE TAs consisted of six high school graduates: five members of the Form of 2019, including four members of the first ever class of GRACE. 

With significantly increased class sizes, Mr. Prockop was concerned that teachers would not be able to monitor students’ progress and support them individually. As a result, he reached out to a handful of recent graduates who had demonstrated excellence in chemistry and asked if they wanted to work as TAs at GRACE. 

Although Mr. Prockop originally looked for Chemistry TAs, other teachers were also eager to work with teaching assistants this summer. Ultimately, two TAs were hired for Chemistry, two for Latin, one for math, and one for English. 

“Having [TAs] help with grading meant we were able to return students’ work quickly, giving them nearly immediate feedback on how well they had mastered the material. Also, when a student was behind […], TAs gave students individual attention in addition to time [spent] with me,” Sandra Kelly, Chemistry B teacher, said.

John Capen, who taught English A, complimented Abby Kirk ’19 for taking the lead in introducing topics and “modeling our modus operandi of research, debate, and crafting an argumentative essay.” 

According to GRACE scholars and teachers, the teaching assistants went above and beyond their contractual duties and the expectations of GRACE faculty members, serving also as role models, supervisors, counselors and friends. 

“Their workday officially ended after evening study hall, yet [TAs] often attended dorm check-ins and checked on students during lights-out,” Mr. Prockop said.

Steven Pang ’22 was grateful to Gus Vrattos ’19 and Brian Xiao ’19 for taking the time to talk to him. “I spent hours talking to the TAs, who were really down-to-earth people,” Steven said.

In return, Gus replied, “It was very enjoyable to live and work alongside classmates, teachers, and friends.” 

From flipping patties at Friday night cookouts to tutoring students during study hall, the TAs played an indispensable role in making GRACE fun and productive for everyone. 

“I welcome future TAs and believe they are wonderful mentors,” Mr. Capen remarked.