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ASU Sanford School graduate student recognized for teaching excellence


Picture of Sonya sitting by an ASU fountain.

Sonya Xinyue Xiao is a family and human development graduate student from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at ASU.

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April 12, 2019

The Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) at Arizona State University recognizes graduate and professional students who exemplify excellence in education and classroom instruction. The GPSA recently announced its 2019 winners from six different award categories.

Included in this year’s list of winners is Sonya Xinyue Xiao, a family and human development graduate student from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, who received the Teaching Excellence Award.

Admitting that teaching is an extremely challenging position, Xiao is very excited about winning this award.

“Teaching is one of my greatest passions because it is, to me, one of the most direct ways to make an impact on people’s lives, and because I have been inspired and impacted by so many amazing teachers and mentors,” she said.

She has been exposed to teaching for most of her life, given that both of her parents are teachers. She herself has taught students across a wide range of ages, from teaching young adults English in college to working as an elementary school teacher in her hometown, Shanghai. Upon arriving in the U.S., she worked with preschoolers in Syracuse, New York, and is now teaching college students here at ASU.

“To facilitate effective learning and development, I have learned that the most important thing is to meet the students where they are, not where I am,” she said.

But it hasn’t always come easy for her, and she cherishes the support she has received from her Sanford School colleagues and friends.

“I am particularly thankful to fellow graduate student Chanler Hilley (a former Teaching Excellence awardee) for sharing his teaching practices with me,” Xiao said.

Her hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed.

“Sonya combines her strong curiosity about family and human development with grit, work ethic and a drive to always do her best,” faculty adviser Tracy Spinrad said.

Even her current and past students have great things to say:

• “I love how bubbly and happy my professor is. I can tell she is excited about the content and enjoys teaching it. It's obvious that she tries her hardest to make class fun for the students.”

• “She was very passionate about the material and eager for knowledge. Made me excited to continue my studies!”

• “I liked the excitement in her voice when teaching because it makes a difference in paying attention.”

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