Distinguished Teachers’ Awards for Four Top Academics
Four senior UKZN academics - Dr Suzanne Francis, Professor Albert Modi, Professor Thabo Msibi and Ms Rosemary Quilling - were recognised for their excellence in teaching at the Distinguished Teachers’ Awards dinner hosted by the University Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO).
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, said the Distinguished Teachers’ programme had helped the University grow ‘focus, scholarship and a community of practitioners in teaching and learning’.
Chairperson of the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA), Dr Amanda Hlengwa, who delivered the keynote address, spoke on the decolonising of the curriculum. ‘If indeed there is agreement that teaching and learning are not neutral, it stands to reason that distinguished teaching in the context of a post-colonial, post-apartheid state cannot simply mean glossy, generic best practice,’ said Hlengwa.
‘It has to take into account Higher Educations’ responsibility to our students and the needs of society for social cohesion development and the kinds of compassion that will allow us to move forward as a country,’ she said.
Hlengwa commended recipients of the award for their ‘fine achievements’ and acknowledged their contributions to teaching and learning.
Dean and Head of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Professor Albert Modi, was recognised for the way his research informs his teaching and creates a scholarly environment for learning.
‘When I got this award I felt humbled and a little bad because it made me feel as though I’m competing with my colleagues. But then I thought about the kind of students I deal with and my background and the first time I started working in KZN …,’ said Modi.
‘It got me thinking of my philosophy as a lecturer at university. I deal with students from all walks of life and I make sure that I take them from first year to final year and treat them the same and by the time they exit they feel like they’ve been through a quality university,’ he said.
Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, Professor Thabo Msibi, impressed the panel with his teaching approach that seeks to awaken the consciousness of his students.
‘I am very grateful for this award, I think South Africa is at a crossroads, particularly in relation to Higher Education. Part of the crossroads are questions about our identity, who we are as a people. And there are certain things that are difficult to address in the learning environment, things that make us uncomfortable. Questions of identity are not easy to interrogate and to present in the classroom environment,’ said Msibi.
‘I see this award as a validation from the University that it is serious about questions of social justice,’ he said.
Senior Lecturer in the School of Management, IT and Governance, Ms Rosemary Quilling, is a creative teacher who has a sustained record of innovative teaching. The selection committee said the ‘theory underpinning her teaching is evident in the interventions she makes, showing both depth and breadth in the educational approach, and which complements the goals of her teaching’.
Said Quilling: ‘I was trying to interrogate how I feel about teaching, how it fits into my life; actually it is a way of life for me, and it should be for our students as well. I strongly believe that you can’t be a teacher unless you are teachable and who teaches you the most? I find it’s my students.’
She said she was inspired by the lives she’d touched. ‘By doing that, I do make a difference and try to make the world a better place and that’s all every single one of us can do,’ she said.
Dr Suzanne Francis, who was unable to attend the event, was acknowledged for being the first recipient to receive a DTA for the second time over a five-year period. The assessment panel commended the way in which her teaching took account of the South African Higher Education context.
Academic Leader for the Cluster of Music at UKZN, Professor Chats Devroop, entertained guests while Professor Michael Savage was programme director.
After the dinner, a video montage featuring the DTA recipients was shown.