President McAleese honours outstanding teachers at National Awards ceremony

DIT lecturers win team award

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President McAleese with the recipients of the National Excellence in Teaching Award
From left to right (front) Helena Lenihan (UL), Marian McCarthy (UCC),
President McAleese, Susan Bergin (NUI Maynooth), and Bettie Higgs (UCC);
(back) Sarah Rawe (DIT), Aisling McCluskey (NUI Galway), Michael Seery (DIT),
Amanda Gibney (UCD), Claire McDonnell (DIT), and Christine O’Connor (DIT)

1st December 2009

A team of lecturers from DIT were presented with a National Award for Excellence in Teaching by President of Ireland, Mary McAleese at a ceremony hosted in Dublin Castle on 18 November. The President presented five Awards on behalf of the National Academy for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning.

More than one hundred guests attended the ceremony, including Higher Education Authority representatives, senior management of many higher education institutes as well as family and friends of the award winners. Jennifer Murphy, Manager of the National Academy, welcomed the guests and highlighted the significance of the awards programme in recognising and rewarding teaching in Higher Education.

Winners of the five Awards were nominated by senior managers within their institutions and selected by a committee which included international representatives as well as representatives of the Irish University Association, the Institutes of Technology Ireland and the Union of Students in Ireland. The committee was chaired by Professor Áine Hyland, Chair of the Academy’s international advisory board.

DIT colleagues Michael Seery, Claire McDonnell, Christine O’Connor and Sarah Rawe won an award as a team, for their approach to teaching in the School of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Awards were also presented to Helena Lenihan, University of Limerick; Aisling McCluskey, NUI Galway; Amanda Gibney, University College Dublin; and Susan Bergin NUI, Maynooth. Bettie Higgs and Marian McCarthy from University College Cork received a Special Commendation. The Award winners received a crystal vase, a certificate and a cheque for €5,000, which can be used for further professional development and enhancement of teaching.

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National Excellence in Teaching Group Award recipients
(L-R) Dr Michael Seery, Dr Claire McDonnell,
Dr Christine O’Connor, and Dr Sarah Rawe,
with nominator Dr Declan McCormack (far right)
all from Dublin Institute of Technology

Presenting the Awards, President McAleese highlighted the significant role of integrating research, teaching and learning in the recovery of a sustainable economy, and she encouraged teachers to lead by example and to provide innovative and creative teaching and learning opportunities in our higher education institutions. She said “The experience of having a truly excellent teacher or lecturer is one that remains with those fortunate enough to encounter such a person long after the particular course is finished, its imprint can not only last a lifetime, but it can change the course of a life for the better. So in honouring the most innovative and exciting teachers in higher-level education, we are also acknowledging the investment each one has made in the education of others, in encouraging intellectual curiosity and giving the leadership that allows students to see limitless horizons instead of fixed and impermeable boundaries.”

Dr. Declan McCormack, Head of the School of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences in DIT, was nominator of the DIT group. Echoing the President’s words he said, “The recipients of this award epitomise what’s best in DIT and what we do exceptionally well. All four are intimately involved in the teaching they provide at every level from 1st year (level 7/8) to final year undergraduate and right through to PhD supervision (at level 10). All are active teacher/researchers and professional chemists in every sense of the word.”

Accepting the Award on behalf of his colleagues, Dr. Michael Seery thanked academic and technical colleagues for their support and for giving the team space and time to develop their work. Noting that there is a drive towards provision of fourth level education in higher education institutions in Ireland, he said “While this is to be welcomed, at the chalk-face it can sometimes appear that developments and initiatives at fourth level may be at the expense of support at third level – especially so in a difficult economic climate. Therefore the HEA and NAIRTL are to be commended for recognising that the development of research-informed teaching at third level plays an enormous role in helping graduates to bridge the gap between third and fourth level.”

Despite the diversity of their disciplines and the Institutions represented, it was noted that all the award winners shared an enthusiasm for teaching that, combined with their own research expertise, creates an exciting learning environment for students. Closing the ceremony, Mr. Michael Kelly, Chairman of the HEA said “This morning I was inspired and inspiration runs throughout the approaches adopted by the award winners which make for attention grabbing teaching”.

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