The onset of Winter

Introducing ANTF committee member, Dr Jennie Winter

Becoming a NTF in 2016 was a very welcome accolade because I could see that NTFs I met were doing something exceptional in their practice, something significant and visible. So becoming one meant something very special – and being one has opened up a valuable and nurturing community of exceptional teachers that I continue to gain value from.

So…a little about me. I have a background in Geography and Education. I am currently heading up the Educational Development team at the University of Plymouth.

I am a student, always have been and always will be.

Learning is like air, food and water. I’ve got to be doing it to be in the world.

I am a teacher, always have been and always will be.

I’ve been teaching since I was about 5, when my student was my long-suffering younger sister who could not escape my schoolroom play (ironically she is now a head teacher). As I grew up I always wanted to teach, and I was lucky that I always had inspiring teachers and mentors around me, people who cared about and cajoled and encouraged and pushed and pulled me in all sorts of directions-coaxing the critical, the curious and the questioning out of me. They and others taught me by the way they were and the philosophies and materials they offered me. They taught me numbers, concepts, ideas, models, theories, images, languages and more – they taught me how to communicate, to listen and to be.

This need to be student and having such dedicated abecedaries meant I was attracted to the academy where I could teach and learn and be paid for doing so. But it wasn’t easy getting there. I was a ‘late developer’ and didn’t pull off my PhD until I was 35. During and since that time I have taught anyone who comes close enough: undergrads, postgrads, academics, professionals, I have taught in different countries, in different environments and in different disciplines. Students would describe my teaching as energetic, considered, humane, personable and (hopefully), fun. In my opinion, laughter is a critical learning ingredient.

My biggest successes and failures in teaching to date have been in sustainability education. Embedding this into a teaching qualification for university teachers was a hard sell, and whilst this was confined to the classroom it generated at best, disinterest, and at worst, resentment. Course reaccreditation offered an opportunity for curricula redesign resulting in a learning experience in line with the pedagogic principles of sustainability education; experiential, field-based, cooperative, authentic, research-informed and transformative. We moved beyond the classroom to focus instead on the University as an organization in sustainability transition and used it as a medium for pedagogy in place. We explored the University campus and community, talking to students and estates and marketing and human resources. We entered the underbelly of the university, touring boiler rooms and cleaning cupboards and cafes, and we followed rubbish from bins to refuse sites. And all the while we talked – in corridors and parks and walkways – and we made sense of sustainability in a context that was meaningful. This worked, this was successful, and this has been internationally recognized as good practice (Mader et al, 2014; Winter et al, 2015).

Research has been a pivotal part of my academic development. I see the roles of researcher and teacher as one. The more I think, research and teach and see the response to these activities by students, the more I am able to draw together what at first seem disparate areas of knowledge and activities, into a related schema of academic practice. This helps me to make connections between different actors, disciplines, and events and to offer distinct and innovative pathways to realising academic development in its broadest sense.

Dr Jennie Winter (middle) pictured with two Plymouth University colleagues

My PhD completion was 10 years ago now but my passion for the academy has not yet waned. My own academic needs and the mix of people, intelligences, technologies and possibilities motivates me as much as ever. I have a great life. I am a student, I am a teacher, I am a researcher, I am an academic and I am an NTF.

Associate Professor Jennie Winter National Teaching Fellow PFHEA Educational Development University of Plymouth, UK  

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