Our top teachers

University of Auckland staff have scooped four of the 12 National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards for 2011 with Professor Mike Walker (Science) also named the Prime Minister’s Supreme Awardee.

Professor Mike Walker, who teaches in the School of Biological Sciences, won a sustained excellence in teaching award in the Kaupapa Māori category. Rena Heap, (Education), Dr Ross McDonald (Business and Economics), and Professor Robin Kearns, (Science) were all winners in the General Category.

“On three occasions University of Auckland academics have won two of the awards but this is the first time the University has taken four awards,’ says Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor John Morrow.

“This year’s results, recognising outstanding contributions to teaching in three faculties, provides pleasing confirmation of the University’s ongoing encouragement of innovative teaching and of the extent to which members of the academic staff have risen to this challenge.”

This is the second time a University of Auckland staff member has won the Supreme Award since the awards inception in 2002. Dr Gary Bold (Physics) was the winner in 2004.

Mike Walker is renowned as an outstanding teacher, researcher and quiet champion of equity initiatives. Very shortly after his appointment to the School of Biological Sciences as a Research Fellow in 1990, he formed the Tuākana Programme, which is now established in every faculty in the University.

“Professor Walker’s pioneering work to reverse patterns of under-achievement among Māori and Pacific Island students has transformed the lives of thousands of students,” says Senior Māori Development Manager, Ngahiwi Apanui from Ako Aotearoa – The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence . “He is a rare educator, whose impact goes beyond the University campus - benefiting whānau and the community at large.”

Rena Heap, at the Faculty of Education’s Science, Maths and Technology Department since 2004 has continually improved her teaching practice through research. “As a role model for pedagogical excellence, she transforms her learners to do great things,” reads the citation submitted to Ako. “Her classes epitomise theory-in-action by making science fascinating, relevant, and fun.”

Ross McDonald joined the Business School in 1996 and has consistently delivered outstanding teaching in the field of business ethics. “He is a charismatic lecturer who makes his learners think about the world and their place in it,” reads the Ako citation. “A master facilitator, he seeks to co-create learning with his learners and build on their experiences. Learners greatly appreciate this interactive approach.”

Robin Kearns has taught Geography at the University since 1990. “He is an advocate of interdisciplinary approaches, and his teaching and research reveal a desire to continually expand his knowledge in new subject areas. “Theatresports training helped him to use humour and “embrace the unexpected” says the citation. “In supervising, he journeys alongside learners, resulting in a shift from being regarded as an expert, to being viewed as a colleague.”

<p>Pictured from left: Mike Walker, Rena Heap, Ross McDonald, Robin Kearns</p>