Spotlight on the 2023 Teaching Award winners: Staff offering exceptional level of support to students

A bronze medallion on a key board, with text quoting Camden McKenna, Student Tutor of the year: 'recognition likes this, makes it feel like despite everything, we are continuing to make a difference'
Image by Narcis Ciocan from Pixabay, CC0

In this post, Callum Paterson, Academic Engagement Coordinator at the Students’ Association, turns the spotlight to the winners of the Students’ Association’s 2023 Teaching Awards↗️ for staff offering exceptional levels of support to students. This post belongs to  Learning and Teaching Enhancement theme: Students’ Association Teaching Awards 2023↗️.

Almost every member of staff across the University provides support to students directly or indirectly, and we are proud to recognise those efforts every year as part of our Teaching Awards. Members of staff nominated in these categories are often those who make the biggest difference to students’ experiences here and help them through their most challenging and difficult times.

Support Staff of the Year

This category recognises staff working in professional services who provided support to students, helped things run smoothly and efficiently (often behind the scenes) and signposted students to services and resources, so they could get the support they needed.

Our winner this year is Angela Joyce, who is a Disability Adviser in the Disability and Learning Support Service↗️. Angela was nominated for offering an exceptional level of support to her students – those who nominated her said, they felt reassured and supported from their very first meeting with Angela and that she made them feel that their health wasn’t a barrier to their time at university.

On accepting her award, Angela said,

“I was really surprised and delighted to be nominated for this award, especially at this time of year when my energy levels were flagging a little bit…At our service, our goal is to help all students, regardless of their situation, to reach their full potential. And I think the nomination proves to me that we are doing something right somewhere along the line. I’d really like to thank the student who nominated me for the award to take the time out of their busy day at a really stressful time to write such kind words about me. That was really wonderful”.

Personal Tutor of the Year

As we transition to the new model for Student Support across the University next year, we’re pleased to recognise the amazing work carried out by Personal Tutors over the past year.

This year’s winner is Uwe Schneider from the School of Chemistry↗️. Like many of our nominees this year, this wasn’t the first time Uwe was nominated but this was his first win! Uwe’s nominations praised the support and advice he gave his tutees on both academic matters and things like their CVs and future careers. He even went as far as searching for bus routes in other countries, so his tutees knew how to reach their accommodation when they arrived for their year studying abroad.

While accepting his award, Uwe said,

“I have occupied [this] role [for] five years. And so, since I’ve been nominated here in the category Personal Tutor of the Year…I would like to thank the two students who nominated me… And of course, I would like to thank all the [50] tutees I have currently”.

He continued,

“[Being a Personal Tutor is] rewarding work because you can see the development of students from the start in year one, towards year two, year three and then eventually the graduation year four or five for the Bachelors or the Masters…I try to support each student in an academic way, but also if they have personal issues”.

Uwe concluded, saying,

“I am happy to receive that nomination and I appreciate that maybe some of the work is recognised and that I could have had some positive impact on some students”.

Student Tutor of the Year

There are a huge number of student tutors across the University who provide personal and academic support to their tutees, and it is often their support that helps students to feel a sense of belonging and makes a huge difference to their time in Edinburgh.

The winner of our Student Tutor of the Year award this year is Camden McKenna, who has recently completed his PhD in Philosophy↗️. The students who nominated Camden, noted his enthusiasm and the enjoyment he brought to his sessions, with one saying that he reminded them, why they chose to study Philosophy in the first place.

On accepting his award, Camden said,

“It’s a tremendous honour to be nominated, shortlisted and selected for the Student Tutor of the Year award. This is my final year as a Ph.D. student, so it’s especially gratifying to see that I’ve been able to make an impact like this, before I graduate”.

He continued, saying,

“the positive feedback and genuine appreciation that we get from students, whether in person, by email, through evaluations or in the form of recognition like this, makes it feel like despite everything, we are continuing to make a difference. This kind of acknowledgment and positive feedback is invaluable and has kept my spirits up during a very tough year…A vote of confidence from students can go a long way to ensuring that your favourite tutors feel valued, giving them the extra push they may need to encourage them to continue pursuing a teaching career. Thank you”.

Supervisor of the Year

We’re also delighted to celebrate the exceptional supervisors at the University. From offering academic support and guidance on students’ dissertations or theses, to offering professional or personal support when they need it, the supervisors nominated this year are often the main points of contact some students have during some of their most stressful times of year.

This year’s Supervisor of the Year is Joe Zuntz, from the School of Physics and Astronomy↗️. Joe was nominated for providing support to students he supervised, when they were faced with microaggressions in the workplace and helping them to overcome imposter syndrome. His students felt like he had their backs, and said they felt empowered while they worked with him.

On accepting his award, Joe said,

“I would like to say thank you ever so much to EUSA for this…Even to be nominated is really, really nice. So to get this far is just joyous…It’s the absolute highlight of my job to work with talented Ph.D. students like [the student who nominated me and their colleagues]”.

Reflecting on his role, Joe said,

“The strange thing about this job is no one really tells you how to do that. There’s no real training in how to be a good Ph.D. supervisor. So you have to kind of feel your way. The biggest thing I’ve learned in doing this over a few years is just how different every student can be, and how different that can make the process of building a productive and trusting relationship with every individual person. This nomination suggests that at least I managed to do that in one case successfully, so I’m really grateful that, that’s worked out so well”.

A huge congratulations to Angela, Uwe, Camden, and Joe for their Teaching Award wins. As I did last week, I also wanted to thank and shout out the runners-up for these awards: Anne Goodall and Aletta Ritchie for Support Staff of the Year; Alasdair Richmond and Shari Sabeti for Personal Tutor of the Year; Albert Mkony and Adam Vacek for Student Tutor of the Year; and Aliandra Barlete and Sarah Stanton for Supervisor of the Year.

I hope every single nominee in these four categories is proud of their nomination, because your nominations are just scratching the surface of the immeasurable impact you have on students during their time here.

photograph of the authorCallum Paterson

Callum Paterson is the Academic Engagement Coordinator within the Student Voice team at the Students’ Association. He works with Programme and School Representatives as well as the Vice President Education, supporting and empowering them to make their voices heard on the issues that matter most to them.

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