Keeping the subject alive

14 June 2004

Passionate teacher: Assoc Prof Lesley Marx.

"Teaching is my salvation," said Associate Professor Lesley Marx after hearing she was the recipient of this week's Five-Star Staffer award.

Nominated by second-year film and media student Oscar Masinyana, Marx is praised for creating a relaxed environment and boosting group morale.

"She is never too busy to listen to our queries," Masinyana explained. "She understands that we are all different individuals, with varying interests in film, and she treats every script as if it were a gem.

"In our course she realised some students, including me, were not comfortable with presenting our ideas to the whole group, and she encouraged us to have one-on-one consultation slots with her throughout the semester. I began to think she had no other courses to teach other than ours - of course I was wrong," he added.

This is not the first time Marx has been praised for her ability to inculcate knowledge in her charges. In 1992 she received the university's Distinguished Teacher award.

"I received my PhD at the same time but the award meant so much more to me because it was an acknowledgement of what I value. Research can be very distant at times but by being able to teach what you research you receive instant feedback and you can see which ideas work and which don't."

As director of the Centre for Film and Media Studies, Marx finds herself caught up in a "taxing and tiring" web of paperwork, meetings and bureaucracy.

"For me, teaching is restorative - it's my oasis. What keeps me going is the energy I'm given by my students. It reminds me why I have to deal with the admin side of things."

Marx is also applauded for providing her students with much-needed tea and snack time-outs.

"Teaching and learning is serious. It is about growing minds and imaginations. But it is also fun as it is a social space where human relations are sustained. I have been fortunate that most of my students become friends who stay in touch long after they have left university."

Marx pointed out that the challenge of teaching is keeping the subject alive for students.

"It's about being in touch with the student's world and being able to introduce them to yours. It gets more difficult as the age gap between student and teacher widens.

"It is also crucial to love what you teach. Students pick up very easily if you are jaded and tired of the work."

(To nominate a Five-Star Staffer, please e-mail Helen Théron,

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