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2015 top teacher connects with students

Thursday 24 September 2015 10:12am

As chosen by the students ... OUSA top teacher for 2015 Dr Hunter Hatfield at the teaching awards ceremony on Wednesday. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

Linguistics lecturer Dr Hunter Hatfield admits to having a common problem – remembering most easily the occasions in his lectures when things go wrong.

Therefore, winning the Otago University Students’ Association top teacher award for 2015 is a good reminder that things do very often go right in his classes.

“I’m thrilled. I really do want to connect with the students when I teach and to make their lives better in some small way.”

The awards, presented at a ceremony at OUSA’s Clubs and Societies Building yesterday afternoon, recognise top teachers as chosen by their students.

Dr Hatfield holds a PhD from the University of Hawaii, and joined Otago in 2011.

He says his teaching has shifted dramatically during the past few years – as he tries to prepare his students for a vast range of careers.

"He challenges all students in the class to do more, to do better, and he does it in a way we do not feel completely out of our depth."

“Most of our students are not future professional linguists, literary critics, historians, biologists, physicists, etc.,” he says. “What we’re doing is different than a professional degree oriented towards a career path. If so, how does that affect our teaching? What I think these students are gaining is improved abilities to wrestle with the world in a hundred ways that we cannot predict yet.

“So, the course is about the student, not about the field. It’s about their minds and giving them something to develop with. How can I use linguistics as a means to further personal development?”

His students say he is a teacher who truly cares about them and their learning.

“He challenges all students in the class to do more, to do better, and he does it in a way we do not feel completely out of our depth,” says one. “He is my vote for top lecturer for many reasons, and I am proud to be able to say to others that I have been taught by him.”

Another says: “I've done an entire linguistics degree because of his teaching in LING111 which inspired me to pursue the subject further. I just hope you know how much we appreciate you Hunter, because we really do.”

OUSA Student Support Manager Philippa Keaney, who organises the awards, says they are unique and special because many of the teaching awards that are offered nationally allow for lecturers to self-nominate.

“These awards are a true reflection of how students value their teachers/lecturers. It is delightful to see the appreciation from students to the staff who help them gain knowledge and navigate their studies.”

The full results:

The top 10 teachers:

Winner: Overall Top Teacher 2015 Dr Hunter Hatfield (LING215)
Peter Barton (GERM131)
Associate Professor Nathan Berg (ECON371)
Dr Ben Schonthal (RELS314)
Haruko Stuart (JAPA132)
Nicola Beatson (BSNS107/ACCT222)
Professor Tony Binns
Tony Zaharic (BIOC192)
Dr Matt Bevin (MICN201)
Dr Sheila Skeaff (HUNT223)

Best Tutor Demonstrator 2015 (TIED):

Althea Blakey, MICN201
Megan Anakin, EDUC101/102

Most inclusive teacher (presented by Melissa Lethaby, DIS):

Dr Bradley Hurren (ANAT241/242/243 and PHTY 250)