Macdonald writes: "I am passionate about learning, and every day I am grateful to have followed Confucius' directive: choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."
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. She is a demanding teacher who inculcates a love of learning. Even in large undergraduate classes, Macdonald has a keen awareness of each student's individual needs.
Her dedication to 'radical education' stretches also to postgraduates, and she strives to ensure that the next generation of anthropologists will combine an excellent grasp of ideas and theory with a solid set of research practices, enabling them to compete internationally and to share her commitment to a transformative social justice agenda.
Macdonald's head of department writes: "Dr Macdonald is, first and foremost, someone 100% present in her lectures, tutorials, individual student consultations and, in corridor talk with students, as an interlocutor.
"Over five years of course evaluations, she is consistently described as being 'accessible', which - if one reads more deeply into the evaluations - one senses means that she is always, always interested in what students bring to the table and that this interest gets seen, appreciated, and taken up."
Among the substantial positive student affirmations about Macdonald's teaching style, one student's comment speaks volumes about her personality as an educator: "She creates an exchange relationship with students - she allows us the freedom to make teaching and learning choices, but she also expects us to take responsibility for the contributions we make... She shows students that she values their work. She motivates students and instils in them the desire to achieve, not just at the postgraduate level, but from an undergraduate level."
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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.