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Interviews with the nominees for the Teacher of the Year Award 2017

What do Loes Keijsers, Ger van der Sangen, Bob van den Brand, Mariek vanden Abeelen and Karim Schelkens have in common? They are all five nominated for the Tilburg University Teacher of the Year Award. Click on the names below and get to know more about the nominees.
And the winner is... Loes Keijsers (TSB, Development Psychology).

Loes Keijsers - Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

What courses do you teach?

"Developmental Disorders, a large course in the second year of the Bachelor psychology, and I am educational director of the English Bachelor Psychology. Furthermore, I supervise theses, and I provide guest lectures in Tilburg and throughout Europe."

What do you like best about teaching?

"What I love about teaching is seeing students grow, and helping them in recognizing and developing their own unique talents. As an illustration, last year a student came to my office. She asked me if I had time for a cup of coffee and I immediately noticed that she needed to share something personal. She told me that she had this extremely weird feeling. As if she had fallen in love. With research. With statistics. When events like this happen, when students all of a sudden notice their own unique potential, when I can lighten a fire and see a spark my students’ eyes, this is what truly makes my heart sing. This is why I think being a teacher is such an honor. At the same time, sometimes as a teacher you can be of great practical help in building a CV. I see this as my responsibility. I have a big network, and it is quite often that I can link my students to inspiring colleagues for student assistantships or even help them successfully acquire a job after the Master program. Nothing is more satisfying than writing a compelling and convincing recommendation letter, and finding out that it has resulted in a dream job for one of my students."

This is how I distinguish myself as a teacher:

"I have a personal and positive style of teaching, and I have faith in the learning capacity and intelligence of my students. We are all part of an academic community, after all. In order to achieve this, my teaching style is quite horizontal at an interpersonal level. In practical sense, I am approachable, and very much open to discussion and exchange of arguments. But at the same time, I don’t provide answers. There is no such thing as one truth, and I hope to motivate students to be confident, and independent thinkers. I dare to challenge my students to grow and find their own answers to questions. Perhaps it is best illustrated with this famous quote: "Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three." – Confucius. When it comes to providing feedback to students, they often tell me they find the tone positive, and the content constructive."

This is how I make my lectures/classes interesting:

"Obviously, there is not a single answer to this question. Getting a message across requires many didactical techniques, especially when it comes to larger audiences. Firstly, I draw techniques from what works for TED talks and in theater. I use props and invite volunteers on the stage. For instance, I have developed some exercises with Easter eggs and dices to explain the fundament of statistics. Second, I bring in guests to connect science to society and to show role models to my students. For instance, I invite alumni to tell about what it is like to be a clinical psychologist. One day I even brought my parents to class to give the most vivid examples to my students of how difficult parenting a teenager can be. Thirdly, during lectures, I provide test-questions, discussion statements, and quizzes with prices by using presenter’s wall (i.e., students can vote and answer questions using their phone). To me, this is a great interactive tool that allows to break down the wall between stage and audience, and helps to stimulate active thinking within the context of large scale education."

What does your nomination mean to you?

I am honored that my students consider me an inspiring teacher. I learn every day by interacting with them, and it is a great pleasure to learn that they also grow by following my classes.

Who did you feel was the best teacher when you were a student, and why?
When I was a student, I was strongly inspired by different teachers. For workgroups, two teachers stood out who managed to know all of the names of students after the first work group. I have learned this technique now, and I notice how powerful it is in setting the stage for an open dialogue and optimal learning environment. Being able to see every student as an unique individual is something that I truly value. For me, this starts by knowing their names. At the same time, as a psychology teacher, I often teach large groups. For this larger scale education, Jan van Hooff, a famous behavioral biologist was one of my role models. He was such an inspiration because of the natural authority, the deep knowledge of the subject, and a creative, interactive, and warm teaching style. I have adopted this way of teaching: I always aim at some jaw dropping moments, several ‘Aha-Erlebnissen’, and several good laughs."

Ger van der Sangen - Tilburg Law School

What courses do you teach?

"Business Law (bachelor), Organizational Theory & Strategy (bachelor), Capita Selecta Company Law (master), Capital Markets Law (master) and Not for profit Organizations (master)."

What do you like best about teaching?

"The interaction with students."

This is how I distinguish myself as a teacher:

"A combination of theory meets practice, based on research and personal interest."

This is how I make my lectures/classes interesting:

"Actually, I don’t know what specific elements appeal to students best. I am passionate about the subject and aim to tell the story as if it is the first time (which of course is the case for students)."

What does your nomination mean to you?

"It gives me a warm feeling"

Who did you feel was the best teacher when you were a student, and why?

"I studied at the Law School in Nijmegen: the best teacher was – for me – prof. Harry Honée: he challenged students to search for the best in themselves on a personal level by giving face-to-face feedback on work produced. Back in 1987, this approach was quite new and innovate."

Bob van den Brand - Tilburg School of Economics and Management

What courses do you teach?

"Mainly Accounting courses, Financial Accounting, Management Accounting & Business Reporting (Book keeping)."

What do you like best about teaching?

"A few things:
Starting with zero knowledge and ending after 13 weeks with analytical skills in accounting;
Interaction with students;
Bringing boring subjects to life by using examples of Starbucks tax issues;
Giving students the idea that they matter and that we really care about them;
Creating surprising video-lectures, you expect another balance sheet but you get the details of your lovely sports team, MUFC, AJAX, PSV or Pizza…"

This is how I distinguish myself as a teacher:

"Although I have seen so many excellent and enthusiastic teachers & lecturers at Tilburg University…
Creating a good working atmosphere, in class & on-line (e.g in a live-online video a little X-mas tree to create the feeling of this season, besides studying hard);
Giving students just that little extra thing ….;
A bit of humour…;
Live video-sessions after exams where students get answers to questions and can discuss live the exam with dr Bob on the top of the C-Building (with a green screen);
Accommodating all different learning styles, in class, online only, blended with video and short quizzes and individual learning routes. The Burberry ‘attributes’ have a role in all of these educational forms in discussing a P&L account."

This is how I make my lectures/classes interesting:

"I explain the theory in a lecture and with actual examples of things students really care about, such as Ajax, Louis Vuitton, Cars and local companies etc. I illustrate the theory.
I use examples of accounting theory in the life of a student e.g. by using bottles of beer I explain the functioning of a T-account.
This enables me to explain difficult issues in many different ways.

Show that I have fun in teaching them...
I do not take myself too serious.

Explain difficult issues in many different ways.

Take students seriously, ask them for feedback (is this clear to you, are you able to explain this to ....)
Listen carefully to them…."

What does your nomination mean to you?

"Wow! Great news! When the news entered my room, a big smile got on my face and lasted for several days... I am also happy for the team I am working with, education is appreciated.
Students seem to appreciate my style of teaching and all efforts taken to help them.
Finally education is taken seriously, not only by students but also in the University... so there is not only champagne for research but also for education."

Who did you feel was the best teacher when you were a student, and why?

"Jos Grazel (finance) and Willem Konings (accounting). Their teaching styles were really great. Even Friday at 4 the lecture halls were full.
Jos combines parts of theory with daily news and had a very nice teaching style and dry humor.
Willem’s teaching style is great, even with a dusty subject he shows great enthusiasm. "

Mariek vanden Abeele - Tilburg School of Humanities

What courses do you teach?

"Statistics for Premasters, Social Media at Work, Mobile Media & Society."

What do you like best about teaching?

"I have always liked to perform, and I am a terrible know-it-all. Hence, what I like about teaching is that I can combine both: I am allowed to take the floor to explain things to other people, and take joy and pride in doing so in a convincing and enjoyable manner."

This is how I distinguish myself as a teacher:

"The teacher-Mariek is very similar to the colleague- or friend-Mariek. I therefore feel really at ease when teaching – not afraid to fail, or to make stupid jokes."

This is how I make my lectures/classes interesting:

"I aim to construct my lectures in such a way that I would enjoy them myself. This involves selecting interesting lecture contents, choosing creative lecture formats, and considering the pace and build-up of not only the individual lectures, but also the entire course."

What does your nomination mean to you?

"I invested a lot of effort last year to improve my lectures in terms of contents and work formats. The nomination for me feels as encouragement that these efforts were well spent."

Who did you feel was the best teacher when you were a student, and why?

"I once had a professor, Paul Moyaert, who taught philosophy & ethics. He was so popular, that whenever he made a joke, you could hear all the women in the room give out a longing sigh. One time, he used the entire lecture to explain one particular viewpoint. He was a passionate teacher, hence he really captivated the entire audience, and convinced us of the viewpoint. Then, just minutes before the class ended, he completely tore down the original viewpoint with a few pointy remarks. It was fascinating. Last year, I met him by chance in front of a red light on our bicycles. I decided to just go for it, and tell him how much I had always enjoyed his lectures. His head turned all red, he smiled, and stumbled “oh no…” and he raced off."

Karim Schelkens - Tilburg School of Theology

What courses do you teach?

"As a church historian, I evidently teach mostly historical courses. On the one hand I lecture a general, introductory course to students in the Bachelor program, covering two millennia of Christian evolution and thought, with a focus on issues and questions that are relevant even today. Think of the relationship between governance and religion, but also of questions on the limits of human autonomy, … Besides this, in the English-speaking Master program my course deals with the tensions between Christianity and Enlightenment and post-enlightenment thought and critiques."

What do you like best about teaching?

"I guess it would be the fact that you are always questioned and triggered to explain what you are doing in research. To connect these two is quite important to me, but it means that answers sometimes are not (yet) available. The best moments are either when a real dialogue evolves, or when as a teacher, you don’t know the answers yourself and are pushed to expand your own knowledge, advance your research after you leave the classroom."

This is how I distinguish myself as a teacher:

"Difficult to say. My spontaneous reaction would be: ‘ask the students…’ Now in history classes, it is undeniable that a good proportion of the students does not arrive with enthusiasm, but rather with a fear for the endless lists of names and dates they have to learn by heart.
I try to steer them away from that, to explain that history is about people, about understanding culture and (in my courses: European) thinking and its roots. More than this perhaps, I try to teach students that past generations often thought differently about topics that are still fundamental today – such as ‘liberty, identity, beauty, autonomy … - and that thinking about different past and present worlds views may broaden your spectrum today, and may even help discover unexpected pathways for our time. History, including the history of religious traditions, is never just about the past."

This is how I make my lectures/classes interesting:

"By turning the axiom ‘show, don’t tell’ around. Meaning, I talk and discuss a lot and ask of students to learn to listen and talk, and I try to avoid an overload of images. This may sound a bit awkward, but present-day students (and admittedly, teachers too) are continually fed with visuals, from the moment they awake until late in the evening, they sit in front of laptops, gaze at powerpoint presentations, watch smartboards, and in the moments in between they check their smartphones.
So, at a certain moment, having followed lively discussions on the problem of distraction in Times Higher Education, I decided to combine ‘old school’ teaching - which triggered relief with some students - alongside the use of digital resources. As a result I use digital media in my history classes where they add real value (in my case, think of maps and charts), and make use of online platforms, where historical events are made accessible to contemporary students. To give one example, I was co-responsible for the online project ‘www.volgconcilie.nl’, which combined historical materials from newspapers, archives, historical diaries, audio and video files in order to make students and the wider public acquainted with a key event in the history of christianity."

What does your nomination mean to you?

"Honestly, I was a bit surprised. Since I just teach and try to do this as good as I can, and I’m only teaching here for two years. So when students express their appreciation it makes me happy, and even proud. I can only thank them for it."

Who did you feel was the best teacher when you were a student, and why?

"It’s difficult to point to just one. When I had my training at KU Leuven and at the Canadian Université Laval, my experience was that the combination of really different types of teachers was the most exciting thing. You could sit with five students and a silently murmuring professor in a seminar, bending over Late Antique Greek texts, while in other classes enthusiastic teachers that never once stood still were discussing their field and relating it to that morning’s newspaper, … and you had to guess how the exam would go. I think what made my own university curriculum so fascinating is also the contrast with secondary school, even with other institutes of higher education. There was a sense of freedom in my professors to express their insights in the various ways and means they found most fitting. There was no unified model or template for education, because well, the idea of ‘universitas’ entails precisely that: diversity. In ways of thought and in ways of conveying it."


The election is organized by Fractie Sam. The winner was announced at the Education Bazaar on September 28. And the Teacher of the Year is: Loes Keijsers, associate professor, Department of Development Psychology, at the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences (TSB).