We asked previous winners of the Distinguished Teachers Award about the secret to their success: what makes a teacher great?
Prof Andy Buffler
Head of the Department of Physics
"University-level educators are recognised by students to be excellent when they love their discipline, but have also learnt how to listen, are not slow to admit to not knowing, and share their resources selflessly. The best teachers I know are generous in all aspects of their lives."
Prof Jenni Case
Department of Chemical Engineering
"The greatest reward of all is that years down the line a student remembers something you said, some advice you gave. You have long since forgotten that throwaway line or that casual conversation, but it changed a life. I don't understand why smart young South African graduates aren't battering down the doors to become lecturers – it is such a hidden pleasure, it seems? We need to bring it out into the open and we need to welcome young lecturers into our communities, on the challenging but rewarding journey of learning to teach (and to research)."
Dr Susan Levine
Department of Social Anthropology
"The attributes of a great teacher are knowing your discipline, having empathy for the bravery it takes for students to speak, being vulnerable – but mostly, being a clown; and falling down sometimes helps."
Prof Carrol Clarkson
Department of Englishs
"I like to take students to the brink of what I know myself. That way, the questions I ask of them are genuine (it's not as if I know the answer in advance, and they have to guess the right one). The students sense that we're all trying to figure something out, and they quickly appreciate that their contributions play an active and valuable part in our intellectual adventures. I like to think that I'm bringing the excitement of a research strategy into the classroom, rather than introducing students to a well-established field where the answers are already known."
Dr Zenda Woodman
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
"The most rewarding aspect of teaching is when students become comfortable enough to participate in class, and when they are no longer intimidated by my position. They feel that I care about their progress, and are willing to put in as much effort as I do in making the learning experience what it should be at university: fun and inspiring."
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