Faumuina Associate Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga, from the Division of Health Sciences at the University of Otago took out the supreme award at Ako Aotearoa’s Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards, hosted by Education Minister Chris Hipkins at Parliament last night.

Sopoaga won the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award winner and was also the first recipient of the Endorsement for Supporting Pacific Learner Success.

It is the sixth time in seven years that the supreme award has been won by a teacher at University of Otago.

In paying tribute to Sopoaga’s achievement, University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says she is “enormously proud”.

“Tai Sopoaga’s total dedication to her craft has long been recognised here at the University of Otago – so to receive this award is further testament to this incredibly dedicated individual.”

Sopoaga credits her success to her team.

“There is a Māori saying: E hara taku toa, I te toa taki tahi, he toa taki tini ke. Mine is not the strength of one, but the strength of many. This encompasses the way in which I work in the teaching space.

“I work in a team approach incorporating our Pacific communities in the process. The medical students – who I am mainly involved with – appreciate the opportunity to learn in new and different contexts,” she says.

Also from University of Otago to receive Sustained Excellence awards were Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett (Kaupapa Māori category), Dr Rebecca Bird and Associate Professor Sheila Skeaff.

Other winners included Associate Professor Mānuka Hēnare (Kaupapa Māori category) and Associate Professor Christine Woods from the University of Auckland, Dr Donella Cobb from the University of Waikato, Dr Kathryn Hay and Professor Martin from Massey University, and Associate Professor Ekant Veer from University of Canterbury.

All Sustained Excellence winners receive $20,000. The Supreme Award winner, selected from one of the ten finalists, takes home an additional $10,000.

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