Organisation - January 13, 2011

Enthusiasm makes this lecturer the best

Gert Peek has won the 'Teacher of the Year' award for the second time (he also won in 2000). 'His approach to teaching is unique', says the jury.

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'No-one has ever won this award twice. So this is a real surprise', says a beaming Gert Peek on receiving the prize in the evening of Tuesday, 11 January. The prize consists of a bonus of 2500 euros, to be used for teaching, a small sculpture, a certificate and an assessment
Gert Peek has been teaching soil science since 1977. He works for the Land Dynamics Group. He notes with satisfaction that teaching has risen in status. 'In the past it was all about research - that was how you could make a name for yourself. In recent years much more effort has gone into teaching. Our chair group really focuses on getting teaching bonuses.'
The jury report praises his infectious enthusiasm and the fact that he is so accessible. For instance, he regularly goes on trips with students in his spare time to make soil profiles. 'We think Gert Peek makes a deep impression on students. His approach to teaching really is unique', says jury chairperson Jing Xiao.

Humus is dung
It is the transfer of knowledge in particular that gives Peek his drive, he explains. 'The students taking the basic courses in the first two years come in knowing nothing about geology and soil science. It is fantastic to see their knowledge grow from that starting point of zero. That is when you feel you are doing something useful.'
Students say this lecturer knows how to make complex subject matter comprehensible. 'I let people imagine complicated processes using their fantasy', explains Peek. He does not have to think long to come up with an example. 'If I am explaining to first year students what humus is, I say: humus is dung. Organic materials with recognizable plant structures are eaten, digested and excreted by soil creatures. It is just like sprouts and potatoes. Something recognizable goes in and something unrecognizable comes out. That always gets them laughing.'
The other nominees were Jan Willem van Groenigen, Ute Sass-Klaassen, Paul Torfs and Renger Witkamp. They too will receive a bonus of 2500 euros and a certificate.

Teaching bonus
Why is Gert Peek the best teacher when he did not get the biggest teaching bonus in December? That is because of differences in the methods. The teaching bonuses are allocated on the basis of course evaluations by students. These are handed out by the Executive Board, as are the teaching bonuses.
For the election of the Teacher of the Year, a list is drawn up of lecturers with high scores in the course evaluations. Then students can vote for these candidates (171 lecturers this year). This gives a longlist of lecturers (14 lecturers this year). A student jury compiles a top 5 based on interviews and chooses the Teacher of the Year from this shortlist.
 
Resource video-reporters made this video (partly in Dutch)

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