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Associate Professor Anna High image

Associate Professor Anna High has been acknowledged by Te Whatu Kairangi - Aotearoa Tertiary Educator Awards.

University of Otago lecturers have today been recognised for their teaching excellence with national awards.

The Te Whatu Kairangi – Aotearoa Tertiary Educator Awards, hosted by Ako Aotearoa, celebrate outstanding tertiary educators who are making a difference to learners, their whānau and communities.

Associate Professor Anna High, of the Faculty of Law, was acknowledged for her initiatives for progressing hauora and wellbeing in education, and the CELS191 teaching team of Dr Lisa Russell, Andrea Brown, Dr Kim Watson, and Dr Keith King won for progressing on seamless ākonga transitions between contexts.

All winners were thrilled with the results.

Associate Professor High says teaching is a “true joy” and she is grateful to Ako Aotearoa for their mahi to encourage tertiary educators to pursue excellence.

“We have a really amazing group of educators at Otago Law and I’ve benefitted so much from being a part of that supportive community,” she says.

Associate Professor High is passionate about the benefits of mindfulness as a pedagogical tool for enhancing student hauora, wellbeing and academic achievement.

She believes her role as an educator is to see her students, in all their complexity, with all of the worries and concerns they bring to class, and to encourage them that they are capable and they belong.

She aims to support her students to grasp challenging material by recognising that health and wellbeing are the essential foundation for effective, lifelong learning.

“My students cannot focus, challenge themselves, take on new information, learn, if their minds are clouded by anxiety and worry.”

CELS team image

CELS191 Teaching Team group members are, from left, Andrea Brown, Dr Kim Watson, Dr Lisa Russell and Dr Keith King.

The CELS191 teaching team, with academic and professional staff from the Division of Sciences and Division of Health Sciences, is one of the three teams to win an award.

Dr King says it validates their student-centric approach to teaching, where they prioritize students’ diverse range of goals.

Some may be trying to get into medicine or other professional courses, while others may just be happy to pass, he says.

“Receiving this award motivates us to continue providing exceptional support to our students and to experiment and innovate in our approach. We will continue to develop new ways to support our students and this award will help us accomplish this.”

Dr Watson says teaching is a team effort, and the award not only reflects the current team but also the other “incredible” teachers over the years who have since left CELS, she says.

“Most importantly, I’m excited that this award reflects the incredible leadership we have from Lisa, who has always strived to keep our students at the forefront of every decision we make and whose desire to create the best experience for our students inspires us to never be complacent.”

The team is a national leader in biology education at tertiary level.

As experienced and emerging educators, they work together to create a learning environment which suits the needs of all the learners in their large first year course.

They provide specialist support and pastoral care for Māori and Pacific ākonga/learners, under-prepared adult learners, international students, neurodiverse learners, and students who have failed courses.

The awards are the most recognised awards for the entire tertiary education and training sector in Aotearoa New Zealand.

- Kōrero by communications adviser Jessica Wilson

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