Quartet of outstanding teachers féted

12 December 2011
Bumper crop: (From left) Tim Low, Dr Susan Levine and Dr Gregory Smith along with Assoc Prof Michael Campbell (photo below), are the recipients of the 2011 Distinguished Teacher Awards.
Bumper crop: (From left) Tim Low, Dr Susan Levine and Dr Gregory Smith along with Assoc Prof Michael Campbell (photo below), are the recipients of the 2011 Distinguished Teacher Awards.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of UCT's Distinguished Teacher Award (DTA). The highest accolade given to teaching staff at all levels in the university, the honour recognises excellent teaching; and the primary importance of teaching and learning in the university's work.

As chance would have it, 2011 is a bumper year for the award, with four recipients joining the university's DTA ranks. (Only two DTA winners were named in 2010.) They are Associate Professor Michael Campbell, Dr Susan Levine, Tim Low and Dr Greg Smith, announced at the recent Distinguished Teacher Dinner. Further announcements will be made during this week's graduation ceremonies.

Assoc Prof Michael Campbell
Assoc Prof Michael Campbell is one of the recipients of the 2011 Distinguished Teacher Awards.

Teaching always came first, Michael Campbell explains. It had to, as he started up the jazz programme at UCT's South African College of Music as soon as he was appointed some 22 years ago. He's led jazz studies ever since. Campbell has been hailed for "his ability to integrate the creative, abstract elements of his field with systematic study methods in order to provide students with real perspective into the subject and broad understanding of its 'real' world application". Mostly self-taught, those real-life and practical components have become staples of his teaching. As has a sore back, a clear indicator he's been pushing hard in class, he says. "You have to give some of yourself to [teaching] if you want to engage people, and that can be stimulating or draining, and sometimes both."

Colleagues and staff have sung the praises of Susan Levine as a teacher of both medical and visual anthropology (a teaching field she pioneered in South Africa) in the Department of Social Anthropology. She treats her students as equals, they say, and offers them tools for living. She's inspired colleagues, who joke about cloning her, and students, one of whom who credits her with changing said student's attitude towards academic work. "Teaching social anthropology requires some skill in the art of seduction," Levine says. Sometimes that requires a bit of humour and clowning, sometimes not. "If there is laughter in the classroom, then I know I'm on the right track," she says. "But there is also a kind of silence that indicates a captive audience. It is a silence infused with noise. This is a beautiful sound."

Tim Low teaches mathematics and statistics on the extended degree programme of the Faculty of Commerce. To make up for schooling shortcomings takes creativity, and an appreciation of what makes the current generation of students tick. So he's embraced social media, harnessing everything from Facebook to MXit and BBM (that's BlackBerry Messenger, for the older folk). "His use of [these] mediums to communicate with students," rings his citation, "underpins a truly progressive teaching philosophy with an approach of accessibility and taking education to the learners." He applies social media to teach concepts and to force students into a deeper understanding of the material. He's not all about remote technology, though. He has been praised for his energy, warm nature and enthusiasm. His teaching changes and inspires students, says one, and they and UCT are lucky to have him in the classroom.

Gregory Smith, of the Department of Chemistry, likes to take the research laboratory into the classroom. He's lucky though, he says, in that the various research projects he's involved in translate easily into lecture notes. "This pragmatic approach gives students a broader sense of the field of chemistry, and often helps to engender a passion for the subject," he says. A Superman t-shirt also helps. He uses this - and the power of chemistry - to teach chemical reactions by breaking a pre-treated cold-drink can in half. Videos, animations, role-playing (the television show The Apprentice) and various web-enhanced materials are similarly recruited. He wants to challenge students, so often tests them with short problem-solving and critical thinking questions. The aim of which, he says, is to gauge and improve students' understanding of what are conceptually difficult topics.


Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.


Distinguished Teacher Award

 

The Distinguished Teacher Award is the highest accolade awarded to teaching staff at all levels within the university. Through the award, the University of Cape Town acknowledges the primary place of teaching and learning in the university’s work.

Read more about the award.

 

2018


‘Teaching swept me off my feet’ Despite the challenges, Anneliese Schauerte – a recipient of UCT’s Distinguished Teacher Award for 2018 – says she’s right where she’s meant to be. 19 Jun 2019
‘No stupid questions’ in Distinguished Teacher’s classes Curiosity, responding to change, technology and empathy are what 2018 Distinguished Teacher Award recipient Jeff Murugan says make an excellent teacher. 19 Jun 2019
 

2017


Discovering purpose and potential Trauma surgeon Professor Pradeep Navsaria, one of four 2017 Distinguished Teacher awardees, describes himself as ʻan accidental or incidental teacherʼ. 08 Jun 2018
Top teaching honour for celebrated surgeon Lead from the front, support from behind, says acclaimed teacher and spinal surgeon Professor Robert Dunn, who was recently honoured with a Distinguished Teacher Award. 08 Jun 2018
Distinguished physics teacher leaves his mark Relaxed, irreverent, interactive, engaging. That’s how physics lecturer Gregor Leigh describes his teaching style. Leigh is one of four new Distinguished Teacher awardees. 05 Jun 2018
Voting creativity and engagement into law Distinguished Teacher awardee Associate Professor Jacqueline Yeats didn’t plan to become a teacher, but almost 13 years later she wouldn’t have it any other way. 04 Jun 2018
 

2016


Put students at the heart of pedagogy Distinguished Teacher Awardee Dr Janice McMillan's work is not discipline-specific; rather it's about transformative teaching and how we engage the wider world beyond the university. This community-based learning encourages students to think about themselves simultaneously as students, emerging professionals and active citizens. 30 Mar 2017
Number's up for scary statistics Senior lecturer Dr Miguel Lacerda teaches statistics with an artful combination of precision and creativity. 27 Mar 2017
Tax time made easier Associate Professor Ryan Kruger has taught on every finance course offered at an undergraduate level, which he says has allowed him an understanding of the development that students undergo over the course of their academic careers. 24 Mar 2017
Winfield teaches ethical accounting Associate Professor Jimmy Winfield, an accounting scholar at UCT, runs a course called Business Ethics which aims to open his students’ minds a little 24 Mar 2017
The formula to make maths fun Dr David Erwin’s philosophy of creating a comfortable classroom, keeping students focused, and developing the structures they need to succeed is visible in his teaching. 22 Mar 2017
Taking the shock out of teaching maths Dr Jonathan Shock, who convenes a dreaded first-year mathematics course, was one of six DTA awardees for 2016. 15 Mar 2017
   

2015


'A good teacher? Someone who teaches to learn' Dr Joanne Hardman of the School of Education gives us a peek into her classroom and talks about her teaching style, what makes a good teacher and her five top tips for teachers 30 Nov 2015
'If learning is not engaging it is not happening' Associate Professor Jacqui Kew from the College of Accounting engages her students by asking questions in the classroom. 30 Nov 2015
Find the 'amazing' in all you study and teach Dr Azila (Tzili) Reisenberger, Head of Hebrew in the School of Languages and Literature, says that her classes are like communities and she's always on the lookout for that amazing bit of information to impart when she's teaching. 30 Nov 2015
Knowledge is not fixed in textbooks Dr Adam West of the Department of Biological Sciences says that a teacher’s job is to help students realise that the creation of scientific knowledge is on-going and dynamic, and that they have a role to play in that. 30 Nov 2015
 

2014


Dr Spencer Wheaton – Senior Lecturer, Department of Physics Dr Spencer Wheaton creates multi-dimensional, active experiences for students by making connections with the real world and linking physics to their major subjects. 01 Dec 2014
Assoc Prof James Gain – Deputy Head of the Department of Computer Science Assoc Prof James Gain believes that it is important to create the type of environment where students are not afraid to ask questions. 01 Dec 2014
Prof Delawir Kahn – Head of the Department of Surgery For Prof Delawir Kahn, being a surgeon and being a teacher are intricately intertwined. 01 Dec 2014
Dr Linda Ronnie – Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Business Dr Linda Ronnie believes that an eagerness to learn is vital to being a great teacher. 01 Dec 2014
 

2013


Dr Helen Macdonald – Anthropology Dr Helen Macdonald's teaching portfolio and her students' and colleagues' comments all indicate clearly that she is as passionate about her teaching as she is about her discipline, anthropology. 09 Dec 2013
Dr Hedley Twidle – English language & literature Dr Hedley Twidle believes that teaching literature in English should be a fluid and evolving thing. 09 Dec 2013
Dr Ian-Malcolm Rijsdijk – Film and Media Studies Dr Ian-Malcolm Rijsdijk is described as an inspirational teacher of film studies, film production and screen-writing whose energy, enthusiasm, deep generosity and passion for cinema have captivated a generation of students. 09 Dec 2013
Paul Maughan – Accounting Paul Maughan’s teaching philosophy is underpinned by a fundamental insight: Ken Bain’s view that effective teaching results in deep learning that is best achieved through the disruption of existing mental models. 09 Dec 2013
 

2012


Professor John Higgins – English Literature Professor John Higgins believes that what counts is the question of identity, in a view of teaching as process and not transmission. 12 Dec 2012
Dr Jeremy Wanderer – Department of Philosophy Dr Jeremy Wanderer believes that it is possible for academic life to be set up in a way that does not lead academics to experience a tension between teaching and research. 12 Dec 2012
Dr Zenda Woodman – Department of Molecular and Cell Biology Students working under the tutelage of Dr Zenda Woodman have remarked on her use of humour to create a safe environment for learning. 12 Dec 2012
 

2011


Quartet of outstanding teachers féted On the 30th anniversary of UCT’s Distinguished Teacher Award (DTA), four recipients joined the ranks. 12 Dec 2011
 

2010


Medical teachers grab 2010 awards Professor Roland Eastman and Professor Zephne van der Spuy, both of the Faculty of Health Sciences, have been named the recipients of UCT’s 2010 Distinguished Teacher Awards. 15 Dec 2010
TOP