Inaugural Presentation of the Residential Colleges Teaching Excellence Awards

November 27, 2014

n Friday 21 November 2014, the first ever presentation of the Residential Colleges Teaching Excellence Awards celebrated winners from Tembusu and the College of Alice & Peter Tan (CAPT).

These awards recognize excellence in teaching among Tembusu and CAPT faculty. Since 2013, the two Colleges have been part of the University-wide teaching awards process that applies to all faculties, schools and programmes at NUS. In future, RC4 will also be included. The Residential Colleges Teaching Excellence Awards focus on Junior and Senior Seminar teaching within the University Town College Programme, whereas Ideas & Exposition teaching is covered under the Centre for English Language Communication.

Nominations for these awards are judged annually by the Residential Colleges Teaching Excellence Committee (RCTEC), and results are announced in October-November. The dossiers of the strongest candidates are further submitted for the Annual Teaching Excellence Awards (ATEA) and Outstanding Educator Awards (OEA) at the university level.

The Winners’ Citations are as follows:

For AY 2012-2013

Tembusu College: Dr Kelvin Pang

Dr Kelvin Pang is a highly effective teacher, with a talent for making students feel at ease in the classroom. He is very good at building trust, which allows him to push and challenge his students while always remaining supportive. His module, ‘Social Innovation’, is highly regarded by students for its innovative assignments, its real-world relevance and the passion Kelvin brings to it.

From his student feedback:

“He is very receptive to feedback and is constantly improving himself to better address our needs and concerns. He is a humble teacher who listens and gives constructive feedback. [...] He is always prepared for lessons and ever ready to tell us more about what he had found over the weekends. He is energetic and lively in class, and makes me really want to attend his lessons, because I always end up feeling so inspired and enlightened afterwards.”

College of Alice & Peter Tan: Dr Tan Lai Yong (also winner of the ATEA)

Dr Tan Lai Yong’s personal experience in practicing community medicine in China and Singapore and his vision for community service have been instrumental in shaping the curriculum for the College of Alice and Peter Tan. As a teacher he demonstrates a broad commitment to learning inside and outside the classroom. His ‘Hidden Communities’ module, which provides exposure to marginalised people and aspects of life in Singapore, is very highly regarded by students, and encapsulates the core values to which the CAPT community aspires.

From his student feedback:

Provides many new experiences, focuses on first-hand experience. Very different approach which is very enriching for learning. Challenges your thinking and preconceptions on many issues pertaining to Singapore and her hidden communities.”

For AY 2013-2014

College of Alice & Peter Tan: Dr Tan Lai Yong

Residential Colleges Teaching Excellence Award winner for the second time, Dr Tan Lai Yong’s student feedback attests to his rare ability to engage students both intellectually and emotionally. He has continued to strengthen his teaching portfolio through the ‘Hidden Communities’ module, the ‘Community Leadership’ senior seminar, and as a mentor and supervisor of Independent Study Modules, capstone projects, and overseas study trips. His focus on interactive teaching and hands-on problem solving has made a real impact on his students and the communities he connects them with.

From his student feedback:

“My two̢ear journey in CAPT has truly changed me as a person […] and the one teacher/professor that has made the most impact on my life is Dr Tan Lai Yong. […] My learning under Dr Tan has been so tremendous, and as a future teacher I am learning from him how to teach effectively and how to inspire learning in my students.”

College of Alice & Peter Tan: Assoc Prof Theresa Tan

Assoc Prof Theresa Tan is a highly knowledgeable and dedicated teacher who spares no effort to provide the best possible environment for students to learn. Her module on ‘Eating for Health’ has captured students’ interest and has allowed them to go beyond disciplinary boundaries to appreciate the relevance of biochemistry and nutrition to life and society. Being jointly appointed and therefore having to juggle demands from different units, she has shown a remarkable commitment to CAPT’s educational mission.

From her student feedback:

“She understands the science behind calories and is able to explain things to laymen like us without being too generic, giving us a deeper understanding of the matter. It is good that she always tries to link whatever we learn back to the working world and to show the relevance between what we are learning and the various disciplines we are in, be it business or engineering.”

Tembusu College: Dr Connor Graham

Dr Connor Graham’s approach to teaching and learning makes excellent use of the residential college environment of University Town. The boundaries of his classroom are made permeable through fieldtrips, the involvement of guests, and assignments that prompt students to engage external audiences. Beyond his well-regarded teaching of junior and senior seminars, Dr Graham has made a deep contribution to Tembusu through his mentorship of student projects under the Third Year Experience, and by nurturing the debate, and writing, culture at the college.

From his student feedback:

“An excellent educator who is genuine and sincerely interested in the learning process of his students. Goes out of his way to give detailed and personalised feedback and also organising field trips during class periods to better allow students to apply what they’ve learnt in class to the real world. A great teacher whose efforts need to be recognised.”

Tembusu College:Dr John van Wyhe

Dr John van Wyhe’s student feedback shows him to be an engaging and inspiring educator. An expert on the life and work of Darwin and Wallace who is known to be a strong public speaker and lecturer, Dr van Wyhe has successfully adapted his teaching style to the UTCP seminar format. He emphasizes skills as well as knowledge, and allows students to pursue their own interests within the boundaries of the module. Being jointly appointed, he has nevertheless found time to contribute to Tembusu’s teaching mission more broadly by hosting soirees and work-in-progress seminars.

From his student feedback:

“Dr John van Wyhe's classes are truly a delight to attend. His knowledge of the subject is truly deserving of its global renown, and it has been an honour to learn under him. Yet despite his qualifications and unrivalled competency, he has never caused students to feel inferior, in fact he genuinely encourages the input of each and every student and actually makes the student feel it is of value.”

Photo by Chia Hsiao Ching.

Sitting in the front, the winners of the Residential Colleges Teaching Excellence Awards, from left to right: Dr Kelvin Pang, Dr John van Wyhe, Dr Connor Graham, A/P Theresa Tan and Dr Tan Lai Yong. Standing in the back are A/P Reuben Wong and Dr Catelijne Coopmans (RCTEC members), Prof Bernard Tan (Vice-Provost, Undergraduate Education), A/P Adeline Seow (Master of CAPT), and A/P Phil Chan (Head of the RCTEC).

The Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) is a large evergreen tree in the family Gentianaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia. Its trunk is dark brown, with deeply fissured bark, looking somewhat like a bittergourd. It grows in an irregular shape from 10 to 25m high. Its leaves are light green and oval in shape. Its yellowish flowers have a distinct fragrance and the fruits of the tree are bitter tasting red berries, which are eaten by birds and fruit bats.