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Teaching awards honour four Otago staff

Monday, 20 February 2017 9:51pm

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The University of Otago's 2017 Teaching Excellence Awards recipients (clockwise from left): Associate Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett of Geography, Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald of Anthropology and Archaeology, Haruko Stuart of Languages and Cultures and Dr Bradley Hurren of Anatomy.

Dedication and passion has paid off for four University of Otago staff, who have each received Teaching Excellence Awards from the University.

This year, the awards have gone to Anatomy Teaching Fellow Dr Bradley Hurren, in recognition of his enthusiasm in creating an inclusive, supportive teaching environment and instilling a passion for science in students; Teaching Fellow in Languages and Cultures Ms Haruko Stuart for her student-centred and communicative approach to nurturing citizens of the world; Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald of Anthropology and Archaeology for creating life changing learning spaces where students explore the nature of being human in the broadest sense; and Associate Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett of Geography, who has been awarded a Kaupapa Māori Teaching Excellence Award for reflecting the unique context of Aotearoa and its cultural specificity as part of her discipline.

"We value our teachers, and this is one way that we show how much the University appreciates their effort and dedication, as inspiration to both students and their colleagues."

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Vernon Squire will present the award certificates to each recipient, who also receive $7500 each to support their learning and teaching.

“We value our teachers, and this is one way that we show how much the University appreciates their effort and dedication, as inspiration to both students and their colleagues.”

Every year since 2002 teachers send in applications which include letters of recommendation from other staff and students. A panel with representation from across the University then selects the top three in the general category and the top teacher in the Kaupapa Maori category.

Award convenor Associate Professor Clinton Golding says the candidates are judged on five criteria: their planning and design for learning; their ability to facilitate learning; to assess student learning; to evaluate learning and teaching ‒ including reflecting on and improving their teaching; and on professional development and leadership in teaching.

Associate Professor Thompson-Fawcett is passionate about teaching culturally-specific and locationally-sensitive geography that meaningfully communicates Te Ao Mārama and Mātauranga Māori.

“It is a privilege to see students blossoming over time and in particular to help them uncover the importance of place, the power relations evident in the practices surrounding space, then see the potential to envision just transformation. So it’s very affirming to have that acknowledged as important through the Kaupapa Māori Teaching Excellence Award.”

"The University does a great job of research, but it’s nice to see teaching being recognised as well, as the two really do go hand in hand."

Dr Bradley Hurren says he is humbled to have been selected, “especially when I look at the history of previous winners ‒ they are all exceptional teachers ‒ so I feel very proud to be in their company.

“This award is important to me because it recognises the value of good teaching practice and self-reflection so we can constantly improve on the way in which we communicate information to our students.”

Ms Haruko Stuart says her teaching award is an honour.

“My passion and love for language teaching has been recognised, thanks to all my students and colleagues, and this recognition has given me "my place in the world". I am extremely humbled and grateful and even more, I am overwhelmed, thrilled and moved,” she says.

“I have been putting my heart and soul into this for a long time. I love my job and I am truly grateful to my students, my HOD, all my colleagues and my husband! Without them and their ongoing support, love, advice and kindness, I could not have done this. I will continue to do my very best to spread my love and passion for language, learning and teaching.”

Associate Professor Fitzgerald is delighted to receive her award, and is pleased there are such awards at Otago, as “a forum in our University that recognises the importance [of teaching].”

“The University does a great job of research, but it’s nice to see teaching being recognised as well, as the two really do go hand in hand,” she says.