Student - January 8, 2009


Jan den Ouden turns his forestry classes into a ‘personal experience’, and that’s why a student jury has made him Teacher of the Year for 2009. He himself thinks he got student votes on account of his enthusiastic and relaxed classroom manner.

‘Like all the nominees, Jan is very involved with the students. He explains things and uses new media critically’, says Anne Reijbroek, a jury member. ‘We think that’s very good, and more teachers should do this. If what the teacher tells us is exactly what’s in the PowerPoint presentation, I won’t go next time. Den Ouden also does lots of practical work and takes his students out into the field.’

Den Ouden received his prize on Wednesday 7 January during the Unitas Student Council’s New Year drinks party. He came to Wageningen University as a PhD student in 1993, and he now teaches on various courses in the Forest Ecology and Forest Management Chair Group, as well as supervising Masters and PhD students. He is also on the study programme committee, is actively involved in Staatsbosbeheer’s forest ecology group and in an advisory body on dry sandy landscapes. He sees education as an active exchange between teacher and students. ‘Teachers must transmit their knowledge clearly, they must be sociable and aware of what’s going on among the students in the classroom. A teacher must also be a good listener, and not just a good speaker.’ This is what Den Ouden told the student jury. 775 students, including 110 international students, chose their favourite from a longlist of 180 teachers, one quarter of the university’s teachers. The list was drawn up on the basis of course and teacher evaluations. Then a jury of six students interviewed the fifteen teachers with the most votes and selected the five best teachers.

There was quite some discussion before they reached their unanimous decision, says Reijbroek. ‘Many teachers have strong points in common – it was very close.’ All five nominees receive a bonus from the Executive Board – 2500 euros to spend on education. As the winner, Den Ouden also receives a replica of The Teacher, a sculpture by the Flemish artist Jan Praet. / Alexandra Branderhorst

The other nominations for Teacher of the Year 2009:
Tinka Murk, Environmental toxicology
Annemarie van Paassen, Communication Studies
Huub Savelkoul, Immunology
Arie Terlouw, Human and Animal Biology