The 2019 winners of the annual Stellenbosch University (SU) Teaching Excellence Awards were recently announced. Lecturers of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) have bagged three of the 12 awards.
Dr Sharon Malan, Programme Leader: Extended degree programme, Mrs Carla Morris and Mr Alwyn Visser, both lecturers of the School of Accountancy, were awarded Teaching Excellence Awards in the category 'Developing Teacher'.
Launched in 2017, the awards acknowledge lecturers in two categories, 'Distinguished Teacher' and 'Developing Teacher', based on their experience and leadership in the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Applicants had to submit a portfolio that demonstrated their reflection on and evidence of four main components: context, students, knowledge and professional growth. They also had to indicate the lessons they had learnt on their journey to becoming excellent teachers.
Dr Sharon Malan
Malan's teaching experience spans over two decades, ranging from teaching high school learners to foundational, undergraduate and postgraduate students. Her journey to becoming an excellent teacher started with her being intrigued with the 'how' of learning.
“I was always intrigued with how learning happens, how the brain learns and how to best teach so that learning can occur. It is important that my students, mostly first-generation students, realise their rightful place on this campus and that they have the intellect, ability, resilience and strength to succeed and surpass our expectations."
She has also worked extensively in the field of Education Psychology, which has helped her with the necessary knowledge and skills needed to work with learners with diverse educational needs, enabling her to offer students more effective learning support and development opportunities within different contexts.
“What we as teachers often view as deficiencies in knowledge and skills, often masks our students' innate abilities. This can contribute to learners performing below their potential or even failing when they have the ability to pass. I realised early on in my career never to underestimate students – regardless of their backgrounds."
Malan is no stranger to winning awards. In 2014, she won the Rector's award for Excellence in Teaching in the Faculty of Education and in 2011 received the Rector's First Year Academy Award in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, which is awarded to a lecturer who contributed the most to a first year student's academic success.
Malan says that winning this latest award has helped her reflect on her teaching approach and the kind of teacher she wants to continue to be to her students.
“I view my students as total beings, acknowledging that what happens to them outside of class impacts what happens to them in class. I believe that my classrooms are safe spaces for students to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. In these spaces, I not only encourage active participation but also risk-taking where making mistakes is normal and even encouraged as long as we learn from them."
Mr Alwyn Visser
Visser also believes that being a good teacher goes beyond the classroom and says that he sees himself as more of a 'facilitator of learning' rather than just being a teacher.
“Part of my teaching philosophy is to be an approachable role model. This inevitably means that students confide in you with personal issues. This made me think about teaching more and it serves as some kind of validation that somewhere I am doing something right and making a positive difference."
Visser currently lectures Information Systems, Business Ethics and Auditing to first, second and third year students at SU. He has a passion for the education and training of chartered accountants and says his teaching methods focus on preparing students for practice after they graduate.
“Every graduation is a highlight to me. Sitting on that stage and overlooking the sea of potential in front of you. Knowing that the world is open to these students to explore and conquer. Nothing can quite compete with that."
Morris says she also wants her students to live out their full potential once they leave her classroom and hopes that it helps to give them a voice on issues that matter to them.
Coming from a family of teachers who inspired her, she entered this Teaching Excellence awards to have a teaching portfolio of her own to share with her family and have an invaluable tool for ongoing reflection and professional growth.
“The process has been highly introspective. Learning is lifelong - I see this award as part of my legacy that I have been growing, am still growing and will continue to grow as an educator."
Morris hopes to publish impactful research in the future that will help students in the field of chartered accounting.
“I entered academia in 2010 after realising, while training junior staff and reporting to clients, that the transfer of financial knowledge and skills was the aspect that I enjoyed most about being a chartered accountant in a corporate finance career.
“The field of finance flexes one's problem-solving muscles and demands analytical thinking. I want to continue to publish my research and help students to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape of the business world."
*The above-mentioned candidates will receive their awards during a ceremony at the end of the fourth quarter.
For more information about the Teaching Excellence Awards, contact Dr Karin Cattell-Holden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 808 3074.
In the picture above from left, Alwyn Visser, Sharon Malan and Carla Morris.