Professor Katerina Teaiwa has been named the 2021 Australian University Teacher of the Year for her visionary approach to teaching and mentoring students in Pacific studies at The Australian National University (ANU).

Awarded by Universities Australia, the accolade celebrates the work of some of the nation’s best university educators.

Teaiwa, from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, has taught Pacific studies for more than 20 years and convened the innovative Pacific Islands field school from 2010 to 2019 and ANU Asia Pacific Week in 2020 and 2021.

Born and raised in Fiji, Teaiwa is of Banaban, I-Kiribati and African-American heritage, and is the first indigenous female from the Pacific to become a professor at ANU.

Her teaching methods are creative, unique and meaningful, and include experiences such as embarking on a metaphorical voyage in a canoe to gain a sense of the Pacific’s vast and diverse social and cultural dimensions.

However, Teaiwa says while metaphoric canoes and embodied teaching and learning are highly compelling for students, nothing beats travelling to the Pacific.

“We continually partner with universities, colleges, arts councils, non-governmental or intergovernmental organisations and communities in the Pacific and provide opportunities for students to represent the best of Australia while listening to and learning from Pacific peoples,” Teaiwa says.

She says she is thrilled to receive an award that recognises her teaching contribution at ANU.

“I am so grateful to Anna Buckley, the ANU Centre for Learning and Teaching, the many generous colleagues and students who wrote in support of this nomination, and to the School of Culture, History and Language and College of Asia and the Pacific for supporting her creative Pacific approaches to teaching over many years. 

“My vision is to see Pacific studies taught at every level of education from primary school right through.”

Watch the video “On Board The Canoe” which was made as part of Katerina’s submission for the award.

Congratulating Teaiwa on the award, ANU Chancellor the Hon Julie Bishop says she has inspired, motivated and influenced students to develop relationships and foster partnerships with our Pacific neighbours.

“The opportunities Katerina provides both to our ANU students and our Pacific partners through fieldwork, conferences and courses are of great national value,” Bishop says.

“Pacific studies courses at ANU are vital in building Australia’s capacity to engage with our region.”

Dr Timo Henckel. Photo: ANU

Dr Timo Henckel from the ANU College of Business and Economics has also been recognised with an award for outstanding contributions to student learning.

Henckel is a Senior Lecturer at the ANU Research School of Economics and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy.

His says his approach puts emotion into economics to transform it into a social science.

“Students of economics are often disillusioned,” Henckel says.

“The way economics is typically taught seems far removed from the real world. I experienced this disillusionment myself, so I vowed to be a different economics instructor – an emotive teacher who humanises economics and humanises teaching. I draw heavily on my training as a professional actor to achieve this.”

Dean of the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific Professor Helen Sullivan congratulated Teaiwa and Henckel on their innovation and commitment to research-led education that underpins the University’s vital work on Asia and the Pacific.

“All of our academics and students have achieved great outcomes during difficult times of late, and I congratulate Katerina and Timo on being recognised for their outstanding achievements,” Professor Sullivan says.

Top image: Professor Katerina Teaiwa. Photo: ANU

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