Outstanding teachers honoured

University of Otago teachers (from left) Drs Ros Whiting, Lynnette Jones, Timothy Cooper, Suzanne Pitama and Karyn Paringatai gather before an award function on campus yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
University of Otago teachers (from left) Drs Ros Whiting, Lynnette Jones, Timothy Cooper, Suzanne Pitama and Karyn Paringatai gather before an award function on campus yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.

Five academics have been awarded University of Otago Teaching Excellence Awards for their ''outstanding teaching skills''.

Kaupapa Maori awards went to Dr Suzanne Pitama, of the university's Christchurch campus, as well as to Dr Karyn Paringatai; and General Awards went to Dr Ros Whiting, Dr Lynnette Jones and Dr Timothy Cooper.

At a university function in their honour yesterday, Otago University vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said the ''inspiring'' winners had shown ''outstanding teaching skills''.

The two Kaupapa Maori honours were awarded for the first time this year.

Award winners were humbled and delighted at their success and and several highlighted the importance of taking a fun, student-centred approach.

Dr Paringatai, a lecturer at Te Tumu, the School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, said learning performing arts in the Maori language was potentially ''quite difficult'', but she aimed to teach in a ''fun and exciting'' way.

''Teaching is a two-way process: my students learn from me; and I from my students.''

Dr Pitama , who is director of the Maori/Indigenous Health Institute, at the university's Christchurch campus, was ''excited'' about the award.

Dr Whiting, a senior lecturer in the accountancy and finance department, has taught accountancy at Otago for 23 years. A student said in a feedback survey Dr Whiting was a high quality lecturer whose ''personality lights up the class''.

Dr Jones, a senior lecturer at the School of Physical Education, said good teaching was partly about knowing how to ''interact with your students at their level'', and offering some humour as well as information. Dr Cooper, a senior lecturer in theology, teaches the history of Christianity.

He wanted students to feel safe and confident and tried to inspire them ''through transformative learning and effective pastoral care''.

Otago teaching award winners also go forward to national teaching awards, which are decided later in the year.

Four Otago academics have won the Prime Minister's Supreme Award for tertiary teaching excellence in the last 11 years, the highest such success rate of any New Zealand university.