Distinguished Teacher Award for UKZN’s Dr Aneshkumar Maharaj
Dr Aneshkumar Maharaj of UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) has been awarded the prestigious Distinguished Teachers’ Award for 2014 in recognition of his contributions to Teaching and Learning at UKZN.
Maharaj has been at the University since 2003 and his career activities have not been limited to teaching only students. Maharaj has played an instrumental role in the in-service training of mathematics teachers at high school level through programmes aimed at up-skilling them.
Having been shown informal appreciation by his students for his teaching methods over the years, Maharaj said it was a good feeling to be recognised by the University for his efforts in the field of education.
Maharaj’s approach to teaching the sometimes challenging subject of mathematics is grounded in his practice of recognising the level his students are at, and formulating his teaching based on the students.
‘I believe one can only work with the students that one has, not the students one would like to have,’ explained Maharaj. ‘With this as a starting point, I carefully plan my teaching to take into account my students’ background, knowledge and abilities and to determine the level of thinking I would want my students to be at by the end of the course.’
Maharaj’s meticulous practice of thinking ahead and planning for his students has permitted him to reach each student at their level and help them to reach their full potential. His advice to other teachers is to follow a similar method of planning based on students’ capabilities, and be passionate about one’s teaching.
‘If you are enthusiastic about your teaching that will be detected by your students, who hopefully will then be motivated in their studies,’ said Maharaj.
He has also identified technology as a useful tool to contribute to the acceleration of his students’ progress.
‘I put a lot of effort into implementing my plans, and use technology to make teaching and learning resources available to enable students from different backgrounds to work and progress at different paces,’ said Maharaj. ‘However, one needs to remember that the whole process has to be completed within a 13-week time frame and the students also need to satisfy the conditions to write the examination.’
Maharaj’s success in terms of taking into account the criteria his students must meet to pass their modules is reflected in the excellent pass rates for the modules he has lectured. He counts this progress of his students among his proudest achievements, and has been delighted at feedback from his students regarding how his teaching has helped them, both at university and later in the workplace.
In addition to being a popular lecturer at UKZN, Maharaj’s research in his field has been recognised internationally, and he received invitations and funding to attend the HP Global Catalyst Education Summits in New Delhi in 2011, in Beijing in 2012 and in Sao Paulo in 2013. He heads the NRF-funded collaborative project: Online Diagnostics for Undergraduate Mathematics.
The Distinguished Teachers’ Award affirms Maharaj’s sustained contributions to Teaching and Learning, which he aims to continue alongside his research.