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Otago teachers thrilled with national awards

Thursday 10 August 2017 10:44am

Celebrating Otago's teaching success at the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards at Parliament this week were (from left) Martine Darrou Fitzgerald, Professor Tony Ballantyne, Associate Professor Selene Mize, Haruko Stuart, Dr Brad Hurren, Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald, Associate Professor Rachel Zajac, Tony Zaharic and Dr Tasileta Teevale.

Three Otago teachers who received national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards at an event at Parliament this week say they are humbled and honoured to be recognised in this way.

Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald of Anthropology and Archaeology, Anatomy Teaching Fellow Dr Brad Hurren and Teaching Fellow in the Japanese programme of the Department of Languages and Cultures Haruko Stuart each received Sustained Excellence Awards on Tuesday evening.

Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald

Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald has been teaching all of her adult life – with the past 16 being at Otago.

Her award citation describes the way she shows students how to appreciate and celebrate human diversity and instils in them a belief that the future is in their hands ready for shaping.

“Her students go on to do just that by becoming diplomats and caring mental health workers, aid workers and policy analysts, teachers and doctors,” the citation reads. “Ruth’s engaging teaching approach and ‘life changing learning spaces’ create an environment for students to thrive, challenge themselves and develop critical thinking skills.”

006_RUTH FITZGERALD from Ako Aotearoa on Vimeo.

Associate Professor Fitzgerald told the Otago Bulletin Board she was “delighted” to receive the award – and was inspired to hear the stories of the other awardees.

“The Ako Academy hosted us all in such a generous and welcoming manner – it was such a privilege to be invited into the academy – and I am really looking forward to working more closely with its members.”

Dr Brad Hurren

Dr Brad Hurren’s citation describes the way he brings a unique blend of enthusiasm, student-centred learning and passion for his subject to his teaching.

“He truly inspires students in the field of anatomy to be the best they can be and so much more,” reads the citation. “Brad Hurren is an inspirational teacher who maintains a critical balance between the scientific demands of his subject and the dynamic challenges of exceptional teaching practice.”

002_BRAD HURREN from Ako Aotearoa on Vimeo.

Dr Hurren says he is “incredibly grateful and humbled” to have been recognised at this level for his work in teaching anatomy, but says it is important to note that the award is the result of the work of many people in his Department.

“In particular, the technical and other support staff that work so hard to maintain the resources I use to teach, and the amazing help I receive in order to translate (often strange and difficult) ideas and requests into reality.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to teach anatomy and supporting my students to get the most out of their University journey.”

Haruko Stuart

Haruko Stuart’s citation says her students love her passion, enthusiasm and commitment to their learning.

“She has been recognised year after year by receiving many teaching awards from the Student Association,” the citation reads. “Often students, after taking a first paper with Haruko, decide to continue learning Japanese. Many have subsequently moved into careers that utilise their Japanese language expertise.”

It goes on to describe the extra events Mrs Stuart creates to teach and support her students including opportunities for them to participate in hanami cherry blossom viewing parties, learn calligraphy and meet exchange students.

011_HARUKO STUART from Ako Aotearoa on Vimeo.

Mrs Stuart says she still can’t believe she received the award, and is very honoured and grateful.

"For me, teaching is my passion and life. To receive this award means so much; teaching is what I love to do and the greatest joy for me is to be able to help my students and facilitate their needs and dreams. I just feel so humbled and I am completely overwhelmed by this recognition."

Otago’s ongoing success

The Awards, hosted annually at Parliament, celebrate New Zealand’s finest tertiary teachers as recognised by their organisations, colleagues, learners and broader communities.

One-quarter of the 12 national Sustained Excellence Award recipients were from the University of Otago.

In congratulating the Otago winners, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Vernon Squire (Academic) noted that these recipients were the latest in a long line of staff from the University to be recognised in these awards.

“These new honours mean that now 29 Otago teachers across a wide range of disciplines have been recognised for their sustained excellence since the awards were established in 2002.

“This has included Otago teachers who went further to win seven Prime Minister’s Supreme Awards – the most of any tertiary institution in the country.”

Professor Squire says he is delighted by the success of the Otago academics in the latest awards.

"Their showing reflects our ongoing dedication to remaining at the forefront of New Zealand universities in teaching – and excellent, inspiring teachers are key to this goal," he says.