2009 Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards recipients
Profiles of the recipients of the 2009 Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards
Dr Heather Kavan, Massey University; Sam Honey, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic; Paul Denny, The University of Auckland; Education Minister Hon Anne Tolley; Dr Rachel Fewster, The University of Auckland; Selene Mize, University of Otago; Professor Eric Pawson, University of Canterbury; Jean Crane, Insight Learning Academy; Judy Magee, Otago Polytechnic (absent from the ceremony were awardees Associate Professor Christopher Marshall, Victoria University of Wellington and Norman Meehan, Massey University)
Prime Minister's Supreme Award Recipient
Selene Mize, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Otago
Passion for the law coupled with a deep commitment to teaching underpins Selene Mize’s exceptional practice. Selene is an excellent teacher who designs learning that engages and stretches students. For more than 20 years she has demonstrated sustained excellence and is regarded by students and colleagues as an inspirational teacher. Her teaching draws on her nationally and internationally recognized expertise in client interviewing, client counselling and legal negotiation. The outcomes of Selene’s skills are clearly evident through her coaching of New Zealand teams from the five law schools to achieve great success in international counselling and negotiation competitions.
Selene places a high priority on staying current in respect to her teaching practice and to her discipline. She has embraced innovations that can enhance her teaching and she shares her expertise through participation in a range of university and New Zealand wide teaching initiatives. Described by one of her past students as “an inspiration, and an irreplaceable gift to the legal profession”, Selene is a shining example of an outstanding tertiary educator who is creative and innovative in her practice.
Sustained Excellence Award Recipients
Jean Crane, Tutor, Insight Learning Academy
Building on her extensive teaching and leadership experience in early childhood education in the Pacific, Jean has developed and led the delivery of the National Certificate in Early Childhood Education (Level 3) at the Insight Learning Academy since 2004. Most of her students have had little prior academic success, and Jean is extraordinarily effective in working closely with them to develop their confidence and learning skills. In many cases the students have gone on to achieve at levels they originally thought were well beyond their capabilities.
Jean is highly supportive of her colleagues and also works extensively with external service agencies for the benefit of her students and their communities. Jean relates how fortunate she is “to have had such rich and varied learning experiences throughout my life and how drawing on this knowledge and sharing these wonderful experiences with others has enabled me to assist students to catch the vision for their own lives and move on to realise their own potential”.
Jean won the New Zealand Association of Private Education Providers’ Tutor of the Year Award in 2008.
Paul Denny, Senior Tutor, Department of Computer Science, The University of Auckland
Students say that Paul brings to his classroom “unparalleled enthusiasm, confidence, and charisma”. Paul has been teaching computer programming since 1999, and his teaching is characterised by its creativity and innovation plus genuine empathy for students. One of his students comments, “I’m sure that one day during a lecture we’ll see a sequin-clad assistant and several white rabbits leap from his computer, such is his magic”.
Paul describes his teaching as being motivated by “identifying barriers to student learning, and designing approaches and innovations to break these down”. His range of strategies and tools to help students engage in new ways of learning is truly remarkable and includes: voluntary programming competitions, on-line peer assessment forums (for which Paul has gained international recognition), an interactive on-line instruction tool, and the use of wiki reports as a form of assessment. He uses this diverse range of approaches to encourage student autonomy in very large classes and at the same time creating opportunities for him to give individual attention where needed.
Dr Rachel Fewster, Senior Lecturer, Department of Statistics, The University of Auckland
Rachel loves statistics and wishes to share its fascination and fun with her students. Her enthusiasm is evident in the phenomenal amount of creative energy and sheer hard work she has put into her delivery during the ten years she has taught at the University of Auckland. Rachel’s students appreciate her ability to transform potentially dry and mundane numbers into something relevant and practical. She is a very popular teacher and students are attracted to her programmes. Colleagues respectfully refer to this as the “Fewster effect”.
A superb teacher at all levels, the impact of Rachel’s teaching goes well beyond her classroom: she maintains a strong interest in her students long after they leave her course and is also involved in numerous teaching activities in the community. Rachel believes every teacher has insights and experiences to contribute and she hopes her experiences will inspire others just as she acknowledges others have helped her. Her most important piece of advice to all those continually striving to be great teachers is “to enjoy it”.
Sam Honey, Senior Academic Staff Member, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic
Responsible for the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic’s preparation programme for aspiring police officers, Sam’s curriculum is strongly contextualised and based on an understanding of student purpose. She believes that as a teacher she must embody what she is asking for from her students, even going back to policing work and passing the police physical requirements with her students.
Sam’s teaching is characterised by her caring, empowering relationship with her students, and this has a deeply lasting impact on their careers and self-belief. As one student comments, “Every time I do something towards my career I think to myself, I know I can do this, and I hear Sam saying, you go girl!”
With her teaching grounded in research, Sam generously shares her expertise with other programmes. The hallmark of her teaching is communicating her faith in her students. In the words of one student: “She relates to students as if she already knows that we are going to make great police officers”.
Dr Heather Kavan, Lecturer, Department of Communication Journalism and Marketing, Massey University
Heather thinks what might differentiate her from other dedicated teachers is her “tremendous gratitude for my job as lecturer”. For her, the overall meaning of teaching is “to liberate” and she bases many of her methods on the writings of Paulo Freire. “My perception of excellence is action-based, evoking a life-long love of knowledge, bringing original perspectives, and enabling students to find their own best path.”
Over eight years, Heather has taught a wide range of subjects in religious studies, communications and research methods. She is aware that students attend university for many different reasons including “the need to belong, to create meaning and forge an identity”. Heather works hard to create a positive environment, help students explore new possibilities and learn from constructive feedback. “Nobody is going to get an idea if I don’t first grab their attention”, she says.
One of her student’s sums up Heather’s commitment and impact: “You clearly have impeccable standards for both your work and research. Personally I find that enormously inspiring!”
Judy Magee, Senior Lecturer, School of Foundation Learning, Otago Polytechnic
Judy Magee’s love of science and her practical application of these disciplines are touchstones of this highly motivated and excellent teacher. Her ongoing passion for her subject area is second to none. Judy teaches difficult concepts in innovative, collaborative and memorable ways. She makes learning engaging. Working with distance and on-campus students, Judy has developed successful learning opportunities for a range of learners, including those who may not necessarily have had positive educational experiences previously.
Judy provides a learning environment that builds learners’ confidence and acknowledges their unique and diverse backgrounds. For her, “satisfaction occurs when students take their first steps along the road of life-long learning….to reach goals they had not yet thought of”. This commitment to continuing learning also extends to her own practice. Judy says, “I accompany my students along their own path to become life-long learners”. Judy employs innovative learning approaches and models exemplary teaching practices. She willingly shares her creative ideas with colleagues.
Associate Professor Christopher Marshall, Religious Studies Programme, Victoria University of Wellington
For over twenty years Chris Marshall has taught Christian studies at all levels of tertiary study and also worked nationally and internationally to translate theory into personal practice, especially in the area of restorative justice. His blend of teaching and scholarship has inspired many others to become involved in justice and peace work. He believes that the way teachers act and react in the classroom, and the values they demonstrate are crucial.
Chris lists six principles which guide his teaching: presence, conviction, content, respect for students, preparation and delivery. Respect for students is particularly important given that his classes include students from a variety of cultures and faiths. He regards students as his co-learners, and tries to establish relationships with them founded on humility and trust. He says, “Anything I have given to students, I have received back in double measure. I have learned from them more than they have learned from me, and I have been shaped by them every bit as much as I have inspired them”.
Norman Meehan, Senior Lecturer, New Zealand School of Music, Massey University
Norman is very clear about his approach to teaching. He wants to “help students really understand music and develop their own ideas about it”. The confidence to express their ideas is “the greatest gift I can give them”. Students say they feel “extended, challenged and encouraged to take the material head on, to be critical and to value our own judgement” and are “starting to amaze themselves at the ideas they are coming up with”.
Questions and discussion in classes are “the meat and potatoes of my classes”, says Norman. During the eleven years he has worked in Jazz education, Norman has become increasingly committed to life-long learning, something he wants to encourage for others. Through staff seminars, journal articles, published textbooks, radio interviews and music reviews, he reaches a wide audience in an accessible, user-friendly way. Norman’s commitment was summed up by a colleague who commented on his “genuinely held belief that he has the best job in the world!”
Professor Eric Pawson, Department of Geography, University of Canterbury
Eric is an excellent and scholarly teacher who has taught geography at the University of Canterbury for over 30 years. As a Professor, Eric teaches courses at all levels and has supervised over 50 Masters and Doctoral students. He is committed to student-centred learning and as a reflective teaching practitioner his aim is that as his students become more experienced they will become increasingly confident learners. Past students now in senior academic positions credit Eric with being the inspiration for their own careers.
Eric is recognised as a “leader and supporter of the learning of his colleagues in the discipline internationally”. Having a special interest in the first year geography curriculum, he has taken a leadership role in identifying the skills portfolio that students will build as they progress through geography’s curriculum pathways. Eric is involved in the scholarship of teaching and learning and has made a significant contribution to higher education in geography that goes well beyond New Zealand.