Dr Robbie Pott wins Teaching Excellence Award

Author: Asiphe Nombewu, Corporate Communication

Dr Robbie Pott, a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Faculty of Engineering, says it is gratifying to be honoured as one of the 12 winners in the SU Teaching Excellence Awards for 2019.

Waking away with an award in the category for “Developing teacher”, he says this shows that excellent teaching is encouraged, supported and recognised at SU.

“My main goal is to impart an inquisitiveness and sense of fascination in my students. We have tools at our fingertips to change the world and create new things – I hope to help them realise that they also have access to these tools, and to teach them how to use these,” says Pott.

Launched in 2017, the awards acknowledge lecturers in two categories, “Distinguished Teacher” and “Developing Teacher”, based on their experience and leadership in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Applicants had to submit a portfolio that demonstrated their reflection on and evidence of four main components: context, students, knowledge and professional growth. They also had to indicate the lessons they had learnt on their journey to becoming excellent teachers.

“I am not only a teacher – I chose to stay in academia because I believe in the impact one can have as a researcher and a lecturer. I spend much of my energy on my research and my postgraduate students. I also enjoy my undergraduate students, and relish the challenge of trying to meet them where they are and induct them into engineering – as they will be the ones building our nation in years to come.”

Pott describes working with young people as a privilege. The lecturer says he has been involved in teaching since he finished his undergraduate studies in 2004, when he started out as a tutor, working in both South Africa and the United Kingdom (UK).

“I was privileged enough to have the opportunity to read for my PhD in the UK, and then bring the ideas and skills I learned home to South Africa. I was an assistant lecturer before my appointment as lecturer at Stellenbosch,” he says.

Pott says it is critically important for one to evaluate your own teaching, and the process one goes through as part of the application. He says he also values feedback from peers and experts in the field, as it helps one hone and enhance one’s teaching and learning methodologies.

“The transition from only doing research to having to balance a full research program with postgraduate students, as well as trying to make an impact in undergraduate teaching was a bit tricky. It is easy to focus on one or the other, but thankfully, I enjoy both.”

He says the award is a reminder that teaching is important to him and it will allow him to refocus on his efforts with his undergraduate students.

When he is not teaching, Pott attends escape rooms with friends. These involve problem solving and teamwork.

*Dr Pott will receive his awards during a ceremony at the end of the fourth quarter.

For more information about the Teaching Excellence Awards, contact Dr Karin Cattell-Holden at kcattell@sun.ac.za or 021 808 3074.