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Meet the Teaching Excellence Award winners from Science
Author: Corporate Communication/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Rozanne Engel]
Published: 23/10/2019

The 2019 winners of the annual Stellenbosch University (SU) Teaching Excellence Awards were announced recently. Lecturers of the Faculty of Science have bagged two of the 12 awards.

Dr Marnel Mouton was awarded the Teaching Excellence Award in the category 'Distinguished Teacher' and Prof Gareth Arnott was awarded the Teaching Excellence Award 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 Marnel Mouton

According to Mouton, she is extremely grateful for this award and SU acknowledging the extreme hard work that goes into research and publications, especially in a field that is not her first original field of expertise.

“It is a great motivation to continue with this important work. It also means that I acknowledge the role that others played on this journey, such as colleagues from our faculty and the Centre for Teaching and Learning, the teaching and learning hub of the Faculty of Science, as well as initiatives of the University to develop its staff," says Mouton.

Mouton's teaching focus is currently mostly on science education. Over the years of teaching first-year Biology, she discovered that there was an articulation gap between school and first-year in higher education, which she hopes to help with over time.

“I found their understanding of most lacking or rather superficial. Over time I realised that we cannot just teach from where the school curriculum seemingly ended, but that we had to circle back to make sure that students indeed have a solid foundation for further knowledge building."

Mouton is also no stranger to winning awards at SU. In 2015, she received a Rector's Award for General Performance and in 2018, she was awarded the Faculty of Science: Best presentation from the Faculty of Science at the Annual Conference on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL).

“Receiving the Teaching Excellence Award will definitely also be one of my career highlights. This award is a significant motivator. I have applied for funding to expand my research outputs in this field and have considered applying for more funding or a possible fellowship. After this award, I am even more motivated to pursue such avenues," says Mouton.

Prof Gareth Arnott

According to Arnott, winning the Teaching Excellence Award is also a career-defining highlight. He has been teaching for almost 12 years and says he feels honoured for being recognised for his work as a teacher.

“I don't teach for the recognition of course, but being recognised as a good teacher is rewarding. It is a big thing and I am honoured by it. It makes me feel that the work I have put in has been seen. Also having had a number of top first year students saying that they were impacted by my teaching has been rewarding," says Arnott.

He says he always loved science, but thought he would study genetics or biochemistry until he changed direction in his second year, which he believes was the best move he could have made.

Apart from teaching in the classroom, Arnott also has an active online presence, where he shares many of his lessons and other teaching materials. He has a YouTube Channel under his name and a research group based in the department of chemistry and polymer science at SU.

Arnott says he hopes that not only will his teaching inspire students but that it will also instill a sense of independence to help them figure things out on their own.

“If I can get them to accept that the 'Answer is not the Solution' and that they need to try and figure things out for themselves, then I feel I have done a good job. There are aspects where engaging more with the educational literature has made me better at teaching. It's not so much the award that has helped me see this, but the award is something that has come along this path I am travelling," says Arnott.

*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 or 021 808 3074.​

In the photo above from left, Dr Marnel Mouton and Prof Gareth Arnott.