|Vanessa Everson, Dr Justin O'Riain and Leonard Smith are the recipients of this year's Distinguished Teacher Awards.|
In one citation for this year's Distinguished Teacher Awards, the nominator writes: "The award of distinguished teacher is a once-in-a-lifetime award which the university bestows upon brilliant teachers who create conditions in which students become learners for life."
In a nutshell, this underpins the DTA award, presented this year to Vanessa Everson, Dr Justin O'Riain and Leonard Smith.
Everson, a senior lecturer in French in the School of Languages & Literatures, has transformed the teaching of French at UCT, creating "a model for French as a foreign language at tertiary level", reads her citation.
After modernising the syllabus and retraining and mentoring the teachers, she designed courses on French and the media, on the practice of translation, and redesigned the course teaching business French. She also pioneered a new honours-level qualification, Teaching French as a Foreign Language, the first of its kind in South Africa, Her students praise her innovative teaching methods and approaches. A former student writes: "Ms Everson guided me through many moments of despair, opened the world of French literature and grammar to me and has also inspired me to become interested in translation."
A senior lecturer in the Department of Zoology, O'Riain's primary aim as an educator is to build intellectual confidence in his students and to provide them with the tools to forge their own scientific theories. Students have the status of partners in education, ensuring that they become the main drivers of their own education.
O'Riain reminds students that behind the complexity of accepted scientific ideas, (the finished product he calls it), lie years of floundering and an imperfect process. His citations reads: "This is important because as the world enjoys the fruits of the scientific enterprise, few are aware of the blood, sweat and tears behind every scientific fact, vulnerable to testing and change as time moves along."
Smith, a senior lecturer in the School of Economics and the Centre for Higher Education Development, adopts a student-centred, active-learning style. He makes economics accessible and applies real-world examples. In a relaxed and open style, he acknowledges the challenges students face and supports them with innovative opportunities. He also works to improve their linguistic and communication skills, critical in a university context that is often overwhelming in the 'sink or swim" environment of huge undergraduate economics classes.
Smith has also shown that with the right rigour, care and method academic development students can outperform their mainstream counterparts. He has brought his innovative teaching methods to mainstream first-year economics courses, through improving tutorials and building tutoring skills in the school's first-year courses.
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