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Recipients of the teaching staff of the year awards have been announced

Based on the proposals submitted by students, the committee formed by the UT Student Union has chosen the recipients of the teaching staff of the year awards for 2022.   

Hanna Britt Soots, Vice President of the Student Union, said that there are many excellent teaching staff members at the university, and it was difficult to select the best ones. "The opportunity to gain and consolidate knowledge in different ways is one of the reasons the teaching staff members were praised. In addition, the lecturer's good mood, enthusiasm for the subject and real-life tasks make learning creative and exciting for the student," said Soots.  

According to Aune Valk, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs, this year's feedback often highlighted teaching staff for creating a safe learning environment. "Students are motivated to learn by a well-structured and guided learning process and by discussions where different opinions and questions are welcome. In addition to teaching field-specific knowledge, a good lecturer encourages students to develop their learning skills, to explore and discover on their own," said Valk. 

Olga Schihalejev

The University of Tartu teaching staff of the year 2022 award in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities goes to Olga Schihalejev, Associate Professor of Religious Education, who, according to her students, is the epitome of the good practice of teaching. She fascinates students with her exciting topics and her personality. Everything she teaches relates to what we actually experience and what is science-based. Student feedback is important to Olga Schihalejev – she thinks about what could be done better in the future and encourages students to do the same. 

Her seminars and lectures are always well-prepared and methodologically varied, so learning in her courses is always meaningful. The intellectually stimulating debates with her were among the most rewarding parts of my master's studies. She is also highly credited for her delightful sense of humour and ability to see everything as a learning opportunity. Schihalejev provides consistent and in-depth support to students, relates to learners and teaches and supervises students as equals.  

Other nominees at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities:   

  • Gerson Stefan Klumpp, Professor of Finno-Ugric Languages; 
  • Cätlin Mägi, Lecturer of Folk Wind Instruments; 
  • Piret Toomet, Teacher of Estonian Language; 
  • Mari Tõrv, Associate Professor in Archaeology. 
Andero Uusberg

The University of Tartu teaching staff of the year 2022 award in the Faculty of Social Sciences goes to Associate Professor of Affective Psychology Andero Uusberg. 

Students find Andero Uusberg a charismatic and engaging speaker with a wonderful ability to talk about things in a very interesting way, using real-life examples. As a lecturer, he always manages to generate a lot of interest in the subject and show you how it could be studied further. His assessment method is motivating because the grade fully depends on the student's contribution. He does not just test your theoretical knowledge with his tests but builds on practice, helping you to learn better. The tasks he prepares allow using your creativity to consolidate what you have learned, and you can always get feedback from him after you have completed the task. 

Uusberg also asks for and listens to student feedback. He shares examples from research, yet is also open to approaches that are still looking for a science-based answer. The topics he teaches are well interlinked, and the way the course is structured creates a sense of security in the learner. All materials are available, and clear instructions are given on how to access them. The structure of his Moodle course is the best I have seen so far. 

Other nominees at the Faculty of Social Sciences:   

  • Emanuele Bardone, Associate Professor of Educational Technology 
  • Malle Erend, adjunct lecturer; 
  • Aleksei Kelli, Professor in Intellectual Property; 
  • Anneli Lorenz, Junior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship. 
Raivo Puhke

The University of Tartu teaching staff of the year 2022 award in the Faculty of Medicine goes to Lecturer in Functional Morphology Raivo Puhke. 

Thanks to Raivo Puhke, students have acquired a strong basic knowledge of the subject, which helps them to master other subjects more quickly. Students say that his lectures and seminars are never boring. Raivo Puhke is always positive, inspires his students and knows how to make even the most difficult topics understandable with humorous expressions, real-life examples and exceptionally good explanations. One can see that he really likes his specialisation. It also motivates students to work harder and do more reading at home. Raivo Puhke knows how to create a safe environment for students – they are not embarrassed to ask questions and interesting discussions arise during the classes. Students are motivated to attend lectures and seminars and always look forward to them. 

Other nominees at the Faculty of Medicine:    

  • Külli Jaako, Associate Professor of Pharmacology; 
  • Janne Kommusaar, Assistant of Nursing Science; 
  • Priit Pauklin, Assistant of Cardiology; 
  • Kristiina Sepp, Junior Lecturer of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurship. 
Ivo Leito

The University of Tartu teaching staff of the year 2022 award in the Faculty of Science and Technology goes to Professor of Analytical Chemistry Ivo Leito, who, according to his students, is an incredibly charismatic and lively lecturer who is a role model for all. His every sentence radiates an enthusiasm that makes even the dullest topics interesting. In each lecture, he gives real-life examples of how analytical chemistry can be applied to study the environment around us. 

In one of his most legendary lectures, he described the process of chemical analysis from start to finish, using the example of pesticide analysis in tangerines. Thanks to Ivo Leito's ability to bring clarity and excitement to complex terms and abbreviations, this process has been etched in every student's memory as a model of chemical analysis on which to build.  

Using the flipped learning method, he constantly engages students in discussions and creates a very safe environment for asking questions in lectures. It is worth noting that Professor Leito does not proceed with the lecture until he is absolutely convinced that every last person in the room has understood what he has just said. 

In addition to his dedication to educating students in the classroom, he is always available for every learner outside of working hours. He will be happy to answer all your analytics-related questions at the earliest opportunity. It is not an exaggeration to say that he is available 24/7, even when he is abroad. He takes a genuine interest in the progress and development of every student. Ivo Leito also holds regular meetings with all his students planning to graduate in the spring to see if their thesis is going well and to give advice on how to advance with the task. Sometimes he will drop into the lab to ask how it is going and whether the students still like their project. He is genuinely happy every time he gets a positive answer to this question.  

Other nominees at the Faculty of Science and Technology:    

  • Erki Enkvist, Associate Professor in Bioorganic Chemistry; 
  • Ilona Faustova, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology; 
  • Dmytro Fishman, Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence; 
  • Johann Langemets, Associate Professor in Functional Analysis. 

The University of Tartu teaching staff of the year award is given to recognise one teaching staff member in each faculty for excellent teaching skills in the previous year. The evaluation proceeds from the Good practice of teaching. A reasoned proposal to recognise a teaching staff member with the teaching staff of the year award may be submitted by one student or several students jointly. The student council of each faculty chooses the five best teaching staff members of their faculty, from among whom the evaluation committee of the University of Tartu Student Union decides the recipients of the award. Students can nominate candidates throughout the year. In 2022, 131 proposals for recognition with the award were submitted, mentioning 104 teaching staff members. 


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