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SU celebrates teachers at annual excellence awards

Three lecturers in the Faculty of Engineering were amongst the group of Stellenbosch Engineering academics honoured for Teaching Excellence. They are Prof Debby Blaine (Teaching Fellow) and Drs Tobi Louw and Martin Venter (Developing Teachers).

 Author of article below: Rozanne Engel (Coorporate Communication and Marketing)

“In excellence there is no end. At Stellenbosch University, excellence is prominent, it is clear, but it is also hard to achieve. It is about staying at it. The teaching portfolio should be a document of reflection. Reflection on what we have learned by continuously trying harder to be a good teacher.”

This was the message from Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, outgoing Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching, at the annual Stellenbosch University (SU) Teaching Excellence Awards and Research Excellence Awards, which was held virtually this year.

SU initiated the annual system of institutional teaching excellence awards in 2017. The awards were designed to acknowledge excellent teaching at institutional level and offer an opportunity to value reflective and contextually aware teaching.

Candidates were nominated by their faculties on the basis of a teaching portfolio and the applications were then evaluated by an institutional selection committee.

Schoonwinkel, who presented the Teaching Excellence Awards, said the awards were important to SU, as they created an opportunity to celebrate “outstanding achievements” despite the huge adversities many of the SU academic staff experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

“While we were experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, it was amazing to see with what agility everyone adjusted to emergency remote teaching, learning and assessment. This agility at Stellenbosch, willingness and preparedness to take on anything to make a success of our academic programme was outstanding and helped the University achieve its goal of completing the academic year,” said Schoonwinkel.

In the same context, Prof Wim De Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor at SU, also congratulated academic staff on their teaching & learning achievements. He said that there “would not be a university without teachers and learners” and that academic staff plays a key role in providing students with the “transformative experience” that SU aims for.

“When the coronavirus pandemic struck early on in 2020, all our plans became focused on just two priorities – completing the academic year and ensuring SU’s sustainability. I think the University has done well in both respects, and it was heart-warming and inspiring to see how the whole of the University community rallied in response to the crisis, but I especially want to thank you for your contribution in teaching and learning, which has been key to our success,” said De Villiers.

Schoonwinkel presented eight Teaching Excellence Awards. These awards acknowledged lecturers in two categories, ‘Distinguished Teacher’ or ‘Developing Teacher’, based on their experience and leadership in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Applicants had to submit a portfolio that demonstrated their reflection on and evidence of four main components: context, students, knowledge and professional growth. They also had to indicate the lessons they had learnt on their journey to becoming excellent teachers.

The following lecturers received Teaching Excellence Awards in the category ‘Developing Teacher’:

  • Dr Alexander Andrason (Department of Ancient Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences),
  • Dr Marenet Jordaan (Department of Journalism, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences),
  • Dr Tobi Louw (Department of Process Engineering, Faculty of Engineering),
  • Mr Juan Ontong (School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences),
  • Dr Ilse Rootman-le Grange (Faculty of Science),
  • Dr Martin Venter (Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering), and
  • Dr Shantelle Weber (Department of Practical Theology and Missiology, Faculty of Theology).

Dr Mags Blackie (Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, Faculty of Science) received a Teaching Excellence Award in the category ‘Distinguished Teacher’.

During the virtual event, the SU Teaching Fellows 2020/2021 were also announced. The fellowship scheme provides the opportunity for excellent teachers and scholars of teaching and learning to spend more consistent periods of time with various forms of support, to focus on aspects of renewal, exploration and dissemination of good practice in departments and faculties.

The four teaching fellows are:

  • Dr Taryn Bernard (Extended Degree Programme, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences),
  • Prof Debby Blaine (Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering),
  • Dr Gretha Steenkamp (School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences), and
  • Prof Susan van Schalkwyk (Director: Centre for Health Professions Education, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences).

For more information about the Teaching Excellence Awards and the Teaching Fellowships, contact Dr Karin Cattell-Holden at kcattell@sun.ac.za.

Photographs: From the left Dr Tobi Louw, Prof Debby Blaine and Dr Martin Venter.