Promoted as a Gala Celebration, the recognition of 2021’s recipients of awards for teaching excellence did not disappoint. The event began with the dignity and dash you would expect from our opening hosts: Professor Asmi Wood and Indigenous elder Aunty Matilda House. The stage was set for a Pacific-themed evening honouring the wonderful achievement of Katerina Teaiwa who was recently announced Australian University Teacher of the Year in the prestigious Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT).
As the evening progressed, our Executive staff – Brian Schmidt, Grady Venville and Maryanne Dever – proudly acknowledged the place of teaching at ANU, reminding us all of its transformative potential and capacity to improve not only individual circumstances but also the future prosperity of our interconnected nation.
At the heart of the event’s planning was the recognition of some of our best teachers, renowned for their dedication to discipline knowledge which they so generously share with students eager to engage with their enthusiasm. In addition to Katerina, two other award recipients – Timo Henckel and Alex Maier – spoke to an appreciative audience about their own passion for teaching. Timo, winner of an AAUT citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, expanded on a humanistic approach to enlivening economics. Likewise, Alex, winner of the VC’s Excellence Award for Education, used his time at the podium to share his unique approach to incorporating a holistic worldview into the students’ study of the natural sciences.
The Vice-Chancellor Awards for Teaching Excellence are divided into various categories, allowing the ANU ample opportunity to show its appreciation of all manner of teaching contributions. Almost twenty award recipients had their moment in the limelight, including teachers, supervisors, tutors and professional teams. Again, the imagery established a sense of educational context: a caring and committed community of teachers at ANU – an inspiring place for learning.
As the evening turned to a less formal program, our Pacific community brought a wonderful touch of cultural custom to the occasion. Previously, Katerina had spoken of her heartfelt enthusiasm for teaching Pacific Studies; this was now reinforced with dedications including a poetry reading, speeches and a musical conclusion imbued with the rhythm and harmony of Pacific relationships.
‘Congratulations’ had a physical presence in the form of a celebratory cake that, awash with Pacific symbolism, served to end the night with a message strongly affirming the notion that education is a multi-dimensional partnership. When done well, it is something worth celebrating.
Tim Grace, is the Manager of the Education Communities and Environments (ECE) team – one of three teams within the ANU Centre for Learning & Teaching (CLT)