Introducing an academic adventurer

Chrissi (@chrissinerantzi) is a Principal Lecturer in academic CPD at the newly formed University Teaching Academy (previously Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) at Manchester Metropolitan University. She became a National Teaching Fellow in 2015 and is a committee member of the Association of National Teaching Fellows, and joint Communications Officer with James Derounian.

Chrissi’s work and research focus on creativity, innovation and openness in learning and teaching. She has founded with others a series of open and cross-institutional professional development initiatives that provide alternative opportunities to engage, contribute and connect; these have grown and evolved in response to the needs of the academic community who are actively involved in these. Examples include the Teaching and Learning Conversations webinars (TLC), the Open courses Flexible, Distance and Online Learning (FDOL) and Bring Your Own Devices for Learning (BYOD4L), the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education tweetchat ((#lthechat) and the open community #creativeHE.

 

When were you ‘bitten’ by the Teaching bug?

It suddenly clicked when I was a student teacher doing my teaching qualification for post compulsory education at the University of Sunderland in the North-East of England. I was not new to teaching at the time, but the course was a real eye opener and changed everything for me. I suddenly understood the real opportunities teaching brought for learning and how we can create truly stimulating and exciting learning experiences. I felt free. I loved immersing myself into experimenting with more novel approaches and also reading some of the theory and related research and made connections to my teaching practice, which back then was modern foreign languages. I had many eureka moments as a result of this course and it also opened up a new path for me professionally. This is when the seeds to become a teacher educator/academic developer were planted, by one of my teacher trainers. It wasn’t my idea.

 

If you could give one bit of advice to your younger self, what would that be?

Work with what you have to stimulate interaction in and outside the classroom. Be resourceful. Experiment and take risks. Remember learning can happen anywhere. Reflect and evaluate your teaching. When I started doing some more unusual stuff in my teaching, a more experienced colleague advised me to research into my own practice to build an evidence base around what and how my interventions work. My colleague was right. Do some research around your teaching practice to gain deeper insights and evidence for what works, how and what doesn’t. Involve your students and colleagues in this process. You will become more experimental, playful and creative as a result of it and love teaching (even more).

Also, lay the foundations for learning communities. Help students and colleagues on their path to become independent actors. Love learning and discover the true value of collaboration. We can go so much further with others. Be there for them and look after yourself too.

 

Beyond the university, what floats your boat?

I love taking photographs, and illustrating but also making stuff and bricolage with pebbles and other materials and transforming these into digital artefacts.

I used to be a translator mainly of literary works and during that time I started writing my own stories. Today, I write children’s stories for picture books and have started illustrating some of them too. I am currently studying towards an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Salford and am enjoying every moment of it. Currently preparing my assignment for submission and adding the cover picture below of the story around the power of feedback which I also use in my academic development practice. A board game based on this story is also available and a more generic one through which we can explore storytelling in a playful way.

I think in pictures and through making images these become part of who I am as an academic developer and human being. Being creative and learning through this process is what keeps me excited.

… and I love traveling.

 

What difference have you made?

This is what Dr Gerasimos Chatzidamianos, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, said…

“Academic teaching is often seen as what academics need to do so that they can have the opportunity to do what they truly want to; i.e. research. Teaching, then, becomes the means to an end. The by-product of that? Teaching becomes a less rewarding experience for the academic, and by default for the students too.

But, Chrissi’s input challenges this attitude and the, dare I say, unhealthy dynamic. Chrissi empowers academics to dare to be different, to stretch their limits, to apply creativity, and yes to be playful and have fun. Her energy and passion for teaching is infectious. Those of us who have been touched by her magic teaching wand, reap the benefits. Our students notice that something different happens in class, something more meaningful, a deep and honest connection and a shared journey towards learning .

The threshold concept is acquired organically and without the risk of students’ ‘death by PowerPoint’. We see it in the student feedback with commends regarding the ‘unconventional’, ‘creative’, ‘passionate’, and ‘caring’ learning spaces being developed. Chrissi is a multitalented and deeply treasured colleague who acts as an outstanding role model of what being a teacher in academic settings truly means.”

Chrissi’s NTF Profile can be accessed here [https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/person/chrissi-nerantzi].

 

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