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Otago Polytechnic’s Adult Learning Awards, to be held on Thursday 10 September, shine a light on learning paths strewn with personal challenges. 

From the implications of Covid-19, to the effects of the Christchurch mosque attacks of 2019, a wide range of Otago Polytechnic adult learners will celebrate their academic journeys this week.

Sixteen present or past Otago Polytechnic English Language Centre (ELC) students – as well as the entire cohort of ELC staff (8) – have been nominated for awards, which will be presented on Thursday evening at Otago Polytechnic’s Manaaki Restaurant.

The ceremony comprises two categories: Outstanding Adult Learner Award, and Exceptional Adult Educator Award.

The Outstanding Adult Learner Award celebrates the achievements of an adult learner (or group of learners).

Criteria include: learns with enthusiasm; has an infectious determination to learn; supports and encourages others to engage in adult learning; willingly shares new skills, knowledge and abilities with others; uses learning as a basis for improving his/her personal or professional life and/or the lives of others.

“The nominated students share a belief that language learning, tertiary study and cultural understanding are pathways to a better life,” says Aaron Blaker, Head, English Language.

“Many have overcome great difficulty on the road to success, including years spent living in camps and several attempts to reach safe asylum by sea or land. Some have never experienced or completed formal schooling; others have completed qualifications in their home countries and are now changing careers and cultures.

“Whether supporting children or partners in their own tertiary study, encouraging classmates during the period of learning online or balancing several part-time jobs with full-time study and family responsibilities, these students have been outstanding,” Aaron reflects.

“The challenges have kept coming in 2019 and 2020, but the prevailing attitude toward learning of the nominated students has encompassed dignity, intelligence, and collaboration: qualities and lives worth celebrating." 

In addition, the Exceptional Adult Educator Award recognises an educator (or a group of educators) in the fields of adult education and training.

Criteria include: ensures a quality learning environment for adult learners which is also collaborative and cooperative; has exceptional commitment to excellence and the advancement of his/her learners; demonstrates good practice in programme conception, design, implementation and evaluation; responds to adult learners’ needs with creativity and innovation; recognises that he/she is sometimes teacher, sometimes learner.

“For the past two years, this group of educators has worked together and individually to provide a quality, values-centred and deeply human learning environment for tertiary students studying English as an additional language,” Aaron says.

“It was during the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings in March 2019 that the centre’s exceptional commitment to care, courage and empowerment was clearly visible to and appreciated by learners, who were supported to continue in their language learning in a realistic and holistic way.

“In March 2020, during the period of Covid-enforced lockdown, teachers were learning as much as the students, which can be a vulnerable position when so much else is already far removed from the norm; an applied belief in ako – educators as co-learners with students – allowed the teaching and professional staff to implement flexible plans and meet learner needs with grace and integrity.

“In short, the English Language Centre team and individuals have been shining stars in what have been two challenging and unprecedented years in the lives of their learners and themselves.”

The awards take place during the nationwide Manaaki Festival of Adult Learning Ahurei Ākonga 2020 (from September 7-13).

The Festival of Adult Learning Ahurei Ākonga (formerly Adult Learners’ Week/He Tangata Mātauranga) aims to raise the profile of adult learning in New Zealand and to celebrate the wide range of learning opportunities available, and the impact that adult learning has on people’s lives.

More than 65,000 adults are engaged in some form of learning every year.

Published on 1 Sep 2020

Orderdate: 1 Sep 2020
Expiry: 9 Sep 2022