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Inspirational Teachers - Dr David Greenfield and Dr Andy Hirst

Wednesday 01 February 2017

Nominations for the Inspirational Teaching Awards 2017 are now open, giving you the opportunity to formally recognise a teacher or a member of staff who has made an inspirational or transformative contribution to your student experience, either inside or outside of the classroom.

To mark the opening of this year’s nominations, we caught up with a number of 2016 winners to find out how they felt about winning the award and how you can submit your nomination.

Dr David Greenfield, Department of Engineering & Mathematics

What did it mean to you to win the award last year?

Winning the award was a very moving experience for me. Nominees are told what comments the students made about them and it was extremely gratifying to read these to see that my efforts were having a positive impact on the students’ experience.

What do you love about teaching on your course?

Engineering is one of the most exciting areas I know. There are new and fresh innovations all the time; keeping up with these keeps me on my toes. Also, most of my student contact is with first and second years; it is good to see the new students grow and develop over this period especially when a student has a ‘lightbulb moment’ where a difficult concept suddenly makes sense.

What inspires you about the future of your subject?

Engineers are the ones who will really shape the future; everything you experience in your everyday life is touched to some extent by engineering development. The students on my course are going to make a difference!

What does working at Sheffield Hallam mean to you?

The engineering activity within SHU has a long tradition based not only on the acquisition of theoretical technical skills but also their practical application. We have a diverse body of students enrolled on our engineering courses and this is seen as an opportunity rather than a challenge: our students learn not only from the academic staff but also benefit from the wide range of backgrounds and experience that the student body itself brings to the mix.

What are your top tips for final year students?

It’s a bit late in the day for my primary piece of advice to final year students which is “make an early start on your individual final year project”. My secondary advice is “manage your deadlines; you don’t have to wait until the submission date to hand your work in” or “don’t burn the candle at both ends; you work better when you are not tired."

Dr Andy Hirst, Department of Computing

What did it mean to you to win the award last year?

Winning the award was a magical moment. I know that all lecturers are working hard. So to have my work identified as inspirational was a wonderful experience. I remember the first time the award was launched and wondered how you can get the award. Believe me its hard work and lots of effort. I’m not a natural public speaker, every lecture is a personal challenge to deliver something interesting and engaging. If my students choose to come to my lecturer they expect the teaching to be authentic and original, not a run through a text book. Over 7 years I've developed all my material from scratch, so every session is something I truly believe in. The award means that at the graduation ceremony, you follow the students up onto the stage. I’ve watched my students come across the stage for 7 years, so being able to be part of their celebrations was really exhilarating. You forget how scary the stage can be with all the people and lights in the auditorium. The most important aspect of this award is that I am making a difference, supporting the next generation of leaders and raising aspirations. However, I wouldn’t have won this award without the help and support of all the teaching team, support and administration staff, which is often hard to see, but vitally important our student’s successes. This is an award to share.

What do you love about teaching on your course?

For many years I had the privilege to work with students from the moment they step on campus for an open day; teach them every year while they are studying; and see them walk onto the stage during their graduation day. During these years I am able to support them and nudge them to find interesting and lucrative careers through my employability modules. I watch these students transform themselves into truly first class citizens. Working with my students is also enriching for me; they push you to do better than the previous years; drive my own passion for the subject; and inspire me to create new and innovative material or opportunities. As an academic we are given a lot of scope to do what we would like to do, it's a very creative and inspiring environment to be.

What inspires you about the future of your subject?

The world is getting smaller and we are becoming symbiotic with digital technology. To be a world leading graduate of the future, our graduates will need to prepare students for this new world. We are moving through a digital revolution. Just as the steam engine created the factories and industries in its day, the internet will changes our students world. Employability and enterprise will be the key driver in our own countries future performance as smaller growth organisations emerge and rapidly deploy new tech. My students are at the heart of this growth and I hope we continue to improve and develop their skills for it.

What does working at Sheffield Hallam mean to you?

Sheffield Hallam is a great University. It provides opportunities for staff and students to develop their careers and create. In many universities the relationship staff have with students is very arm’s length and staff bury themselves in research. At Sheffield Hallam we focus on having an impact on people's lives through: forward thinking; developing innovative teaching practice; having open relationships students and developing students. Many students come from backgrounds that are not familiar with Higher Education and that makes our role even more important, but essentially transformative!

What are your top tips for final year students?

In the final semester you must focus on your studies. This doesn’t mean you can't still go out with friends or play sport; a good work life balance is essential. Find plenty of opportunities to burn off any stress, but time any late night parties outside of deadline days. For any course work, my motto is start early and finish late. At the start of assessment you will have all the ideas and enthusiasm, but then you will be distracted, so finish your assignments close to the final deadline when you are most motivated. And finally, work with your tutors not against them. Every lecturer wants you to succeed and create brilliant work, so attend sessions, keep notes and meet with your groups and tutor when required. Imagine yourself in the Olympic boat race; push yourself to the limit for that final 1/2 mile of the race.

Who will you nominate for an Inspirational Teaching Award? Find out more

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