Find the 'amazing' in all you study and teach

30 November 2015 | Curated Helen Swingler. Photo Michael Hammond.
Distinguished Teacher Award winner Dr Azila (Tzili) Reisenberger.
Distinguished Teacher Award winner Dr Azila (Tzili) Reisenberger.

Her classes are like communities and she's always on the lookout for that amazing bit of information to impart when she's teaching, says Distinguished Teacher Awardee for 2015, Dr Azila (Tzili) Reisenberger, Head of Hebrew in the School of Languages and Literature.

Q: What do you teach and how did you become a teacher?

A: I teach Hebrew language and literature as well as gender and sexuality and gender and religions.

Q: What enthuses you about being in front of a class or group, or helping an individual?

A: The diversity of students, the young minds and the fact that, through the introducing my research to newcomers to this subject, we are engaged in an intellectual fun relationship is exhilarating.

Q: How would you describe your style?

A: Fun and positive. Fun: I make sure that I find something amazing in anything I study and everything I teach. Students pick up on this and are very engaged.

Positive: I never put a student down. My students pick up on this and are never afraid to engage with the material or with each other. Our classes become a community.

Q: What do you think makes a good teacher?

A: Sharing knowledge and awakening the students' curiosity.

Q: How do you adapt to diverse classes in terms of language, culture, nationality, and so on?

A: As I myself am not a native English speaker and on occasion make linguistic booboos, it makes everybody feel that they are not stupid if they do not express themselves perfectly. And the class is flowing. There is a lot of participation. When we meet somebody new, I always ask them to tell us about their lives. And we have socials.

Q: Does technology play a big role for you?

A: It helps the students work in their own time. It's also useful when students have to catch up. 

Q: And how does your research shape your teaching?

A: It keeps my work fresh and up to date.

Q: Who was your best teacher, whether at school, university or elsewhere, and what made you remember them?

A: Two teachers shaped me: one in high school who told me that I was the cleverest young lady she'd ever met. After that day I never got less than A in any subject (I didn't want to disappoint her!). And the other teacher was at university; a visiting biblical professor who introduced the topic in such an interesting way that I changed direction and became a biblical scholar.

Q: What are your five top tips for teachers?

A:

  1. Make sure to know the subject really well.
  2. Treat your students as colleagues; don't talk down to them.
  3. Demand perfection from yourself, and the best that your student can do. Do not accept mediocrity. It is insulting for them and for you.
  4. Engage. Learn the students' names and more about them.
  5. Have fun.

Q: Any other comments or anecdotes you'd like to add?

A: Be inclusive. One of my PhD students was a disabled woman and I used to drive to her home for our seminars, as it was a huge inconvenience for her to come to campus. And another of my PhD students was an 80-year-old woman. When she walked onto the stage to be capped at graduation and the students saw her white hair and huge smile, they rose to their feet. The whole of Jameson Hall was clapping and whistling. Feeling like a rock star celebrity, she waved to them and then turned and blew kisses to me.


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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
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