June 2020

By Darren Campbell

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Special honours for dynamic dozen in Spotlight on Great Teaching Awards

Twelve talented tutors have been nominated by University College Birmingham students to receive special awards in recognition of their outstanding teaching.

The dedicated dozen were named this year's winners of the University's annual Spotlight on Great Teaching Awards, celebrating the passion, creativity and insight of lecturers from across our four schools.

Students were invited to nominate tutors for the honour, with more than 600 nominations received before the final winners were selected.

Five winners were chosen from the School of Sport and Creative Services, with Karen Dubberley, Laura Hodgkiss, Varine Boothe, Stephen Walker and Stephen Underhill all scooping awards.

Business School celebrated three award winners – Helen Joyner-Harris, Simon Faulkner and Nav Ahmed – while Anthony Wright and Liz Stratton were chosen from the College of Food, along with Caroline Prior and Saira Malik from the School of Education, Health and Community.

Business lecturer Nav Ahmed said: "I am truly honoured to have received this award. I am fortunate to be part of a great team at University College Birmingham where so many staff would be equally deserving of this.

"My goal is always simply to do the best I can for my learners to provide them with an enjoyable learning experience. Although personal accolades are never my motivation, of course it's lovely to receive such recognition as student satisfaction is the top priority not just for myself but for all our staff.

"I feel very privileged to work with such fantastic learners, so I just see it as doing my job because teaching is what I love doing. But the fact so many of them took the time to vote means a lot to me and reading their wonderful comments is humbling."

Fellow winner Caroline Prior, from the School of Education, Health and Community, said: "I feel truly honoured. Establishing effective relationships is such a crucial part of my teaching role, which has only been made possible by having the opportunity to work with and support such fantastic students.

"Being part of the learning process in empowering them to achieve their goals and aspirations is such a privilege, and I am overjoyed to have received this award – a huge thank you to all who voted for me!"

This year has seen the COVID-19 pandemic pose unique challenges for teaching staff to find innovative ways to continue delivering courses during lockdown, engaging with students through a range of online classes and assignments.

And in recognition of the difficult circumstances continuing to affect the wider community, all 12 of this year's Spotlight on Great Teaching Award winners have each been invited to nominate a local support group to receive a £500 contribution from University College Birmingham.

Congratulating the winners, Vice-Chancellor and Principal Michael Harkin said: "I would like to put on record my admiration and appreciation, and that of the governing body, for the extraordinary dedication and hard work of all staff at this time, not just those who were nominated.

"This is, without doubt, the most challenging period that the University has ever experienced in its history. We are asking a lot more of staff than normal, and for them to think and work in new ways.

"Sometimes, what we are asking from them has been hard and has meant personal sacrifice. Nonetheless, this has been readily offered in order to maintain our level of service to our students."

Plans are being developed for the winning staff to receive their awards at one of the University's celebration or graduation events later this year.

University College Birmingham’s expert teaching staff have extensive knowledge of a range of specialist areas and provide a wealth of support for our students across all levels.

Find out more about our academic staff here, and discover the full range of courses we offer here.

2020 Spotlight on Great Teaching Awards: The winners

A selection of the great comments received from our students about the winning staff:

Nav Ahmed

"He goes the extra mile to help us all achieve more. It's not only about the subject matter, but his integrity, positivity, approach, his manners and listening skills."


Varine Boothe

"Always challenging every student but always offering all the support we need. She makes lessons fun and engaging, and is friendly and approachable for all problems we may have."


Karen Dubberley

"Not once have I ever seen Karen without a smile on her face, and her energy really does ring through the halls. Every lesson I have had with Karen teaching, I am engaged, wanting to learn more, hoping for the lesson to carry on for longer."


Simon Faulkner

"Irreplaceable lecturer, teaching, educating and empowering us. Ambitious, extraordinarily dedicated, calm and passionate... A positive approach and always gives useful information."


Laura Hodgkiss

"Laura is an amazing tutor. She is always willing to help all the students and she gives up her time during her breaks to help. Last but not least, her teaching methods are exceptional."


Helen Joyner-Harris

"Lights up a subject with passion, energy and insight. She makes you feel challenged but supported, gives useful and timely feedback and keeps you on track... She makes you want to learn more."


Saira Malik

"Saira is a very passionate, experienced, inclusive and considerate tutor who goes above and beyond in all aspects of her teaching. She has the power to engage the entire class on very sensitive topics without tension."


Caroline Prior

"I really enjoy her classes and she honestly has made my experience in university such a positive one. Not only is she a good lecturer but she is also a good person, kind and funny, and you can really see that she cares about her students."


Liz Stratton

"She has been a great help and very supportive when delivering lectures. She is very patient and determined for us to thrive for the highest grade in our course."


Stephen Underhill

"I consider Steve the kind of lecturer any student needs through their time at university. His teaching skills are outstanding, making lectures interactive and fun but also informative. He makes time to listen to every student."


Stephen Walker

"Steve is a lecturer who tries his very best to make every student comfortable with the subject he teaches, and he adapts his lessons to each group."


Anthony Wright

"I can safely say he is one of the most driven tutors I have met. While there are many examples of how he provides care and passion into what he does best, I will simply say it is a privilege to have met him."
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