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This year's University of Otago Excellence in Teaching Awards recognise the winners' "unwavering dedication" to teaching.

Five wāhine have scooped the titles in this year’s University of Otago Excellence in Teaching awards.

Associate Professor Antonie Alm, Dr Gillian MacKay, Associate Professor Lara Friedlander, Associate Professor Naomi Ingram and Dr Mihiata Pirini are this year’s winners.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Stuart Brock says the annual awards recognise the winners’ unwavering dedication and innovative approaches to education.

“Their commitment to excellence not only enriches the learning experience of their tauira, but also serves as an inspiration to their peers,” he says.

Associate Professor Antonie Alm, Excellence in Teaching (with an endorsement in Teaching with Technology)

Associate Professor Antonie Alm profile
Associate Professor Antonie Alm

Associate Professor Antonie Alm, from Kā Reo me kā Tikaka o te Ao Whānui -Languages and Cultures programme, says “I am absolutely thrilled to receive this teaching award!”

“The pleasure of teaching for me is in seeing my students grow - in skills, in confidence, as independent thinkers who make their own way,” Antonie says.

Her aim as a teacher of German and intercultural communication is to equip students with the skills, knowledge and confidence to study, live and work internationally; or to communicate more effectively with people from different backgrounds right here in New Zealand.

She has been committed to the pedagogical integration of digital technologies to enhance and extend learning throughout her career.

“Yet, I have also increasingly focused on incorporating more non-digital elements, especially post-Covid, such as taking the class on walks to discuss topics free from digital distractions.”

Dr Gillian MacKay, Excellence in Teaching

Dr Gillian MacKay profile
Dr Gillian MacKay

Dr Gillian MacKay, from Genetics Mātai Ira Teaching Programme, says it’s “really exciting” to have won the award.

“I’m really pleased, it’s still sinking in that I have received the award!”

Gillian says she loves teaching genetics in the labs and seeing concepts “click into place” for students.

“Genetics is a challenging concept-based subject that involves a lot of problem solving, which many students find hard to grasp. It is extremely satisfying to break down difficult concepts and see students suddenly understand.”

She believes it’s important to show manaakitanga (respect) to students while welcoming and supporting them.

“I think it is vital to be approachable to all my students to enable the best student learning outcomes.”

Gillian is a Senior Teaching Fellow for Genetics, she teaches lectures, labs and tutorials. In addition to teaching, Gillian provides pastoral support for about 700 students.

Associate Professor Lara Friedlander, Excellence in Teaching

Associate Professor Lara Friedlander profile
Associate Professor Lara Friedlander

Associate Professor Lara Friedlander, from Faculty of Dentistry, says she feels “very humbled” to the receive the award.

“I am especially grateful for the support of students and colleagues over many years who have provided me encouragement and helped shape my teaching practice,” she says.

“It has, and continues to be, a privilege to make positive impressions on my students who are also my future professional colleagues.”

She enjoys teaching.

“I feel rewarded through my connections with students and inspiring them to strive to excellence. I enjoy motivating passionate young minds to learn about dentistry and witnessing their progress and personal and professional growth over their time within out dental faculty.”

She enjoys helping to shape the next generation of dental professionals to be patient centric, confident and competent in delivery of oral health care.

Associate Professor Naomi Ingram, Excellence in Teaching

Associate Professor Naomi Ingram profile
Associate Professor Naomi Ingram

Associate Professor Naomi Ingram says her colleagues at Te Kura Ākau Taitoka – College of Education show excellence in their teaching practice every day, and she believes “any one of them could have won this award”.

“They are experienced-informed and research-informed kaiako – true professionals who are leaders in their field.”

The award acknowledges the collective mahi of the College of Education, and she appreciates this.

Naomi enjoys the professional relationships she forms with her students.

“They are the future teachers of Aotearoa me te Waipounamu, New Zealand, and therefore my future colleagues,” she says.

“As such, we get to know each other, challenge each other, laugh together, care about each other and learn together.”

The co-construction of the learning environment and Naomi’s own high expectations of student engagement are important when it comes to successful teaching.

Dr Mihiata Pirini, Excellence in Teaching, Kaupapa Māori Category

Dr Mihiata Pirini profile
Dr Mihitata Pirini

Dr Mihitata Pirini is with Otago’s Te Kaupeka Tātai Ture - Faculty of Law. She teaches part of the first-year Law course, a Treaty of Waitangi elective paper for senior students and is involved in the wānanga at the beginning of second-year Law.

“I am so honoured, and feel privileged because I haven’t really been here that long and since starting here I have had so many opportunities to grow as a teacher and to learn from my colleagues, including my beautiful Māori colleagues, I feel really lucky.”

Mihiata says a big learning is to be authentic and connected.

“I have learned to relax in my teaching, to try and show my full self to the students. I think they’ve connected with that too. I’ve had students talk to me outside of lectures, come and say hello. As well as bringing in all those educational techniques, you want to be a human at the front of the lecture.”

Mihiata has also been bringing in more technology tools to her teaching.

“You’ve got to be bit strategic in how you use them and I am learning that as I go, a sprinkling here and there has been working really well.”

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