On 11 December, the prestigious Distinguished Teachers’ Awards (DTA) were handed to the recipients for 2022, at a cocktail event in their honour. The event was a celebration of exceptional educators who have made significant contributions to their respective fields.
University of Cape Town (UCT) Vice-Chancellor interim Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy welcomed attendees to the event. He mentioned that the last time a special event of this kind was held was in 2016. Since then, awardees were recognised at graduation ceremonies, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Emeritus Professor Reddy said that the DTA is “arguably the most prestigious” of the awards presented at UCT.
Emerita Professor Linda Ronnie, the acting deputy vice-chancellor for Teaching and Learning, who chaired the committee for the awards, proposed a toast to the awardees and handed over certificates.
The awardees are:
In conversation, Associate Professor Andersen emphasised the importance of enjoying the teaching process: “Try and have fun. If you are enjoying it and are feeling personally motivated and lit up by the content and the conversation, odds are that others are going to enjoy it too.”
“We need to educate our students to be the knowledge brokers and brave people to take on the challenges the world faces today.”
She stated that she draws her motivation to improve as an educator from her students, “My students are my primary motivation. We need to educate our students to be the knowledge brokers and brave people to take on the challenges the world faces today.”
Reflecting on his teaching approach and its evolution over the years, Dr Nejthardt credited his accomplishments to phenomenal clinicians and academics: “Each one had something unique to offer; whether it was approachability, astuteness, skilful command of the subject, eloquence, confidence, or their energy and passion.”
Offering advice to aspiring lecturers, he highlighted the importance of preparation, dedication, and approachability: “The lesson doesn’t have to be perfect, but you need to have thought about and grappled with the subject. Be approachable. Build strong relationships and be invested in the success of your students.”
His motivation for continuous improvement as an educator is rooted in the energy teaching provides him: “Teaching energises me. It motivates me to stay current and allows me to stay relevant. It also, hopefully, is my contribution to positively impact patient care,” Nejthardt said.
Planning for the future
Associate Professor Ras noted that receiving the DTA was one of the greatest honours of his professional life. “When I think about education, I think about planning for the future.” He quoted from a letter by Nelson Mandela to Winnie Mandela, written while Mandela was in prison: “A new world will be won, not by those who stand at a distance with their arms folded, but by those who are in the arena, whose garments are torn by storms and whose bodies are maimed in the course of the contest. Honour belongs to those who never forsake the truth, even when things seem dark and grim.”
In addition to bringing together the 2022 awardees as well as recipients from previous years, the occasion provided an opportunity to gain insights into the philosophy and motivations of outstanding educators. Among those in attendance was Emeritus Professor Dale Hutchison, the recipient of the DTA for 1983, one of the first lecturers to be bestowed with the honour. Dr Marlon Swai, who was an awardee for 2020, also addressed attendees at the event.
These educators, driven by a passion for teaching and a commitment to their students, serve as inspirations for the next generation of educators.
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