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Clocktower clockTuesday 1 April 2014 8:00am

Awards recipients (L-R) Dr Timothy Cooper, Dr Suzanne Pitama, Dr Karyn Paringatai, Dr Ros Whiting and Dr Lynnette Jones

This year's University of Otago Teaching Excellence Awards were presented yesterday to five high-achieving lecturers who keep the real world very much in mind when taking their students on journeys deeper into their subject.

The 2014 awards consist of two Kaupapa Māori Awards, which have gone to the Maori/Indigenous Health Institute's (MIHI) Dr Suzanne Pitama and Te Tumu's Dr Karyn Paringatai; and three General Awards, received by Accountancy and Finance's Dr Ros Whiting, the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences'Dr Lynnette Jones and Theology's Dr Timothy Cooper.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne warmly congratulated the five lecturers.

“Excellence in teaching is a clear point of difference that we offer our students, and this is driven by the skill and effort of our teaching staff. Today these five people have been deservedly recognised for their outstanding teaching skills. They are inspiring and the praise from their students and colleagues is testament to the high standard of teaching they consistently achieve.

Otago has traditionally been recognised at a national level for teaching excellence and the five people receiving awards today is an indicator of why this is so,” says Professor Hayne.

Dr Suzanne Pitama is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Māori/Indigenous Health Institute (MIHI) and also Associate Dean Māori at the University of Otago, Christchurch. She teaches postgraduate and undergraduate students with a focus on indigenous health. Student feedback has repeatedly confirmed that her teaching has stimulated their interest in the subject, creating a comfortable learning environment and assisting them to develop new viewpoints and appreciations.

The Associate Dean Māori Dunedin School of Medicine Associate Professor Joanne Baxter says, “Suzanne's passion and commitment to excellence in indigenous medical education is well recognised locally, nationally and internationally.”

In response to one of the teaching components of the Hauora Māori curriculum organised by Dr Pitama, which involved student-led screening clinics alongside the Māori community, a letter from participating students stated it was the best clinical experience they had had in the five years of their medical training.

A lecturer in Te Tumu School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, Dr Karyn Paringatai primarily teaches Māori language acquisition and Māori performing arts. She has researched pre-European Māori teaching methods and incorporated some into her teaching.

Dr Paringatai says, “One particular method that has proven effective in the teaching of performing arts was to immerse the students in darkness in order for them to focus on what they are hearing and not what they are seeing whilst they learn the lyrics and tune/beat to waiata/haka. Teaching is a two-way process: my students learn from me;and I from my students. I believe learning should be engaging, challenging and student centred.

Associate Dean Maori – Division of Humanities Associate Professor Poia Rewi says, “[Early in her career] Karyn exhibited many key characteristics that would put her in good stead as an academic, the pivotal two of these being quality and passion. She has consistently and consciously pursued better ways of delivering and sharing the knowledge she has inherited and acquired herself.”

Senior Lecturer Dr Ros Whiting has taught Accountancy at Otago for 23 years. She says she modifies her courses each year, aiming to take her students to a position of technical competency, but also to arm them with skills that will enable them to operate effectively and ethically in the business world.

In this vein, Dr Whiting is a “champion” for Dunedin Community Accounting through which her senior accountancy students volunteer to advise small, not-for-profit community groups on their accounting functions. She says this has provided her students with invaluable real world experience.

In a feedback survey, one student said of Dr Whiting: “Probably the best lecturer I've had in my university life. Her personality lights up the class. She makes each student feel individual as she remembers names. For such a huge number of students, this is fab!”

Head of the Department of Accountancy and Finance Professor Colin Campbell-Hunt says, “Dr Whiting's philosophy of teaching has emerged from a life-time of deep reflection about the purpose and effectiveness of her teaching. It is no wonder her senior students go on to senior roles in accountancy.”

Dr Lynnette Jones says that as a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Sciences her goal is to prepare students to become safe and effective exercise professionals who can respond to any client, including those with various medical challenges.

In Dr Jones's advanced classes, students learn and apply the latest research regarding the effects of exercise on health. She believes that planning and delivering an exercise programme to someone with a serious medical condition is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle.

“In my classes, students learn how to fit the pieces together safely and effectively,” Dr Jones says.

School of Physical Education Acting Dean Associate Professor Lisette Burrows says of Dr Jones: “I am in awe of Lynette's capacity to communicate complex scientific concepts in ways that even the utterly naïve may understand. Perhaps most poignantly, (students of hers I have talked to) unreservedly rate Lynnette as a caring lecturer who understands where they are at and inspires them to want to continue learning about whatever it is she happens to be teaching about.”

Theology Senior Lecturer Dr Tim Cooper says, “I teach the History of Christianity, a global story spanning almost two thousand years. But I do more than that: I try to inspire my students through transformative learning and effective pastoral care. Above all I want my teaching to be personal and relational. I try to create a learning environment in which students feel safe and confident.”

Head of the Department of Theology and Religion, Professor Murray Rae, concurs, adding, “Tim consistently maintains an excellent standard of teaching, is very responsive to the needs of students, is innovative in his own teaching and has provided very able leadership in the development of the distance learning programme in theology.”

For further information, contact:

Dr Suzanne Pitama
Maori/Indigenous Health Institute (MIHI), Christchurch
Tel 64 3 364 3677

Dr Karyn Paringatai
Te Tumu: School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies
Tel 64 3 479 8122

Dr Ros Whiting
Department of Accountancy and Finance
Tel 64 3 479 8109

Dr Lynnette Jones
School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences
Tel 64 3 479 8962

Dr Tim Cooper
Department of Theology & Religion
Tel 64 3 479 5760

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