Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett
Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching – Kaupapa Māori category
Head of Department of Geography, University of Otago
"In my teaching I aim to impassion students to think rigorously, question the norm, challenge the status quo, reflect on their practices, and bring about change where there is injustice".
Michelle Thompson-Fawcett was once described by her students as a “taniwha” – a mythical creature, often feared, but likewise something with mana and strength, presence and power. This reference is a useful metaphor for her approach to teaching and learning. She is passionate and engaging, a leader and innovator - kaupapa driven, and student-focused. She encourages interaction and dialogue between herself and her students; providing opportunities for them to experience learning in real-world settings and environments, to relate theory to what they see around them and to real-world history and events.
A colleague wrote “She embraced me and instilled in me the confidence and integrity to dream of and implement curriculum and teaching practices that made sense to us as Maori”
Michelle, therefore, is indeed a taniwha – a leader and visionary, compassionate and driven, sharp and sincere, but always with her students front and centre. Tihei mauri ora.