The Distinguished Teacher Award is the highest accolade awarded to teaching staff at all levels within the university and recognises excellent teaching.
Through the award, the University of Cape Town acknowledges the primary place of teaching and learning in the university’s work. All full-time academic staff who have taught students at the institution for at least 3 years are eligible.
Each year the Distinguished Teacher Award Committee considers nominations made by students and staff. The selection criteria include:
reflection on teaching practice
versatility in different teaching settings
innovation in teaching
an influence on students’ career development
concern and sensitivity towards the needs of students
endorsement from colleagues and students
intellectual vigour and communication skills in the interpretation and presentation of subject matter
consistently outstanding student evaluations.
Distinguished Teacher Award winners 2017
Gregor Leigh: Physics
Relaxed, irreverent, interactive and engaging, that’s how physics lecturer Gregor Leigh describes his teaching style. “Teaching is what you do when your student says for the 3rd time: ‘But I still don’t understand!’”
Not only does Professor Robert Dunn practise as a celebrated spinal surgeon, he heads up UCT’s Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, where he has pioneered innovative teaching practices at undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral levels. “My efforts to teach and train came from a desire to improve orthopaedic and, more specifically, spinal surgical care in the region,” he says.
Professor Pradeep Navsaria believes that the hallmark of good teaching is an active, collaborative and curiosity-driven learning environment in which all participants are both teachers and learners. “For me, teaching is about inspiring others to discover their purpose and potential. Medicine is about compassion, service, altruism and trustworthiness.”
Associate Professor Jacqueline Yeats: Commercial Law
Associate Professor Jacqueline Yeats was practising as an attorney in the corporate commercial department of a large law firm when UCT contacted the company looking for a guest lecturer. Almost 13 years later, she’s still at the university. “If you want law that creates groundbreaking arguments and changes the status quo, you have to be creative,” she says.
Dr Jonathan Shock: Mathematics and Applied Mathematics
Dr Jonathan Shock convenes a dreaded first-year mathematics course. He says that what he enjoys the most about teaching is also often what he finds the most challenging: “How do I get into the minds of students who come from such different educational, social and cultural backgrounds? How do I teach a class of 200 to 300 students who see this subject in such different ways?”
Dr David Erwin: Mathematics and Applied Mathematics
Dr David Erwin’s philosophy of creating a comfortable classroom, keeping students focused, and developing the structures they need to succeed is visible in his teaching. His students speak highly of his ability to entertain while being completely rigorous in all his mathematical statements. “If you have a class that engages with you ... then even the most routine stuff that you’ve taught 20 times before is great fun to teach,” he says.
Associate Professor Jimmy Winfield: College of Accounting
Associate Professor Jimmy Winfield runs a course called Business Ethics, which aims to open his students’ minds a little. He says that his favourite thing about teaching is, “the almost-tangible feeling that one can make a real, positive difference to many other people’s lives. Outside of medicine, I’m not sure there’s much else you can do which gives you this feeling so strongly.”
Associate Professor Ryan Kruger: Department of Finance and Tax
Associate Professor Ryan Kruger has taught on every undergraduate finance course offered at UCT. He says, “Students respond better when they are engaged and interested, and a lecturer who is enthusiastic about his or her subject is a big factor in ensuring that.” His teaching philosophy promotes critical and logical thinking, and encourages students to formulate their own opinions and take ownership of their learning.
Dr Miguel Lacerda: Department of Statistical Sciences
Dr Miguel Lacerda does his utmost to bring his complex and often abstract course content to life. And he has exceeded all expectations, if the course feedback is anything to go by. His chief objective while teaching is to communicate content in a manner that makes it accessible and meaningful. “It is my job to bring this material to life and to instil an appreciation for it in my students.”
Dr Janice McMillan: Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching
Dr Janice McMillan’s work is not discipline-specific; rather it’s about transformative teaching across the faculties and how to engage the wider world beyond the university. As a senior lecturer in the Curriculum and Course Design team, her community-based teaching and learning encourages students to think about themselves simultaneously as students, emerging professionals and active citizens.