Awarding teachers who inspire and engage – as voted for by students

07 Dec 2021
Awarding teachers that inspire and embolden – as voted for by students

The UNSW Students’ Choice Teaching Award is a new award introduced this year to recognise teachers that empower and embolden their students.

Everyone has at least one teacher in their life who made a real difference to them – by inspiring, boosting confidence, challenging or just being kind.

The UNSW Students’ Choice Teaching Award is a new award introduced this year to recognise that kind of teacher. Students were invited to nominate staff who go above and beyond, who inspire and challenge our students and support their development as people and professionals.

The Awards were presented by Prof Merlin Crossley, DVCA, at the UNSW Education Festival on Friday 26 November, along with a range of other UNSW Teaching Excellence Awards. They will be awarded annually to celebrate the contribution of outstanding teachers to the student experience.

For more information visit the Student's Choice Teaching Awards website here

Dr Theron Schmidt, School of the Arts and Media, was chosen for his creative response to teaching Theatre and Performance online. The nominating student said:

“Theron is an incredible course convenor, lecturer and tutor. Every course he creates is a work of love and dedication. Despite the immense difficulties of COVID-19, Theron has created the most engaging series of writing workshops this term for Arts2120.

In week five he created a site writing scavenger hunt to get us off our screens and out into the real world as writers. We were given a series of location prompts. For example,  "on Google maps, search for “a”. Click “More filters” and select “Sort by: distance”. Go to the first location.

Once we reached the location we were to SMS a number provided and it would send us a writing prompt. For this prompt, I was given "What is happening just out of sight? Or what happened before you got here? (You can make something up.)" We were then to write for ten minutes. This exercise went for an hour and then we returned to Zoom to share and build on our writing. I have never seen a task so detailed and innovative before!”

Dr John Napier, also from School of the Arts and Media, was chosen for his inclusive practices, and creation of safe spaces for students to express themselves and thrive. The nominating student said:

“I have benefited a lot from John’s instruction, and I think that his presence in the UNSW Bachelor of Music academic team has greatly contributed to the sense of community, social-awareness and support for the diverse performance mediums, musical backgrounds, etc., that the school has.

In my music history class, I had the pleasure to have John give some lectures earlier in the term. He makes me feel so seen by including female composers and discussing music from CALD backgrounds. Studying music at an institution can be elitist, isolating and riddled with colonist undertones, however John has done an amazing job of highlighting the issues and I feel like he’s made me and my cohort better people.”

Dr Leesa Sidhu, UNSW Canberra, was chosen for her emphasis on and commitment to student wellbeing. The nominating student said:

“Leesa’s ability to apply emotional intelligence along with academic mastery is a gift and a huge asset for UNSW Canberra, - a rare personal quality which I have not seen in any other lecturers. Leesa's personal commitment she applied to all her FDA students during the course was above and beyond, and I can’t thank her enough for how she coached, mentored, and made me feel academically secure during what was an anxious and stressful time – Thank you Leesa!

Leesa took the time to personally send me an email congratulating my successful pass and completion of the course. Leesa went above and beyond what was required of her pay-grade and UNSW job description. It was this simple email which meant the absolute world to me and showed that I was more than just another statistic (pun not intended).”

Marc Chee, School of Computer Science and Engineering was chosen for his ability to inspire and motivate students. The nominating student said:

“Every single person I've talked to in CSE almost unanimously agrees that COMP1511 was the best course, and the vast majority of that credit goes to Marc's incredibly engaging lectures. There's a joke amongst students that UNSW puts their best staff members in COMP1511 to lure you into CSE but there's a good reason for this and Marc is truly a world class lecturer.

It's amazing how one good teacher can completely change your world view. I found myself attending 9 am lectures despite my two hour commute. I found myself engaging in the content and pushing myself to complete the extensions not for marks but simply because coding was now interesting. A few years later and I'm leading a coding project at UNSW and considering moving to America to chase my tech dreams.”

Finally, Nick Jordan, Publications Coordinator at ARC UNSW was selected in the professional staff category for his dedication to supporting and developing the students he works with on extra-curricular activities. His nominating student said:

“In the beginning of the year, I had struggled to manage my studies while also designing and illustrating for a print edition. However, he was able to support me throughout this process and directed to me to different resources that could help me streamline my workload.

He taught me the value of not merely relying on yourself to complete a task and stressing over trivial imperfections, but how it's also really important to communicate with others and let them know directly if you're struggling with deadlines. He persistently encouraged me and the Tharunka team on our immense growth, hard work and passion, and was an amazing editor throughout our publication experience.”