Dr Poh Hillock
23 February 2023

First year mathematics students at The University of Queensland are getting the best possible start to their studies with their program director named Australia's University Teacher of the Year.

Dr Poh Wah Hillock was ‘blown away’ to be presented with the Universities Australia award by Minister for Education The Hon Jason Clare MP.

Four other UQ teachers have also been recognised, with UQ remaining the most awarded university through the Australian Awards for University Teaching scheme since 1997.

Dr Hillock was acknowledged for her personalised approach to supporting first year mathematics students at UQ, where she has taught more than 20,000 students over 10 years.

"Supporting students during their first year of mathematics is critical to set them up for success throughout their studies,” Dr Hillock said.

“If they stick with it through the first year, they understand the process, then everything else gets easier.

That’s what makes me passionate about the work I do.”

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said Dr Hillock had made exceptional contributions to higher education, which extend well beyond the classroom.

“We absolutely need to equip and inspire the next generation of Australians with the mathematical science knowledge that is so vital for our future,” Professor Terry said.

Poh’s positive impact is helping so many students to bridge the gap between high school and university and thrive in this area, where as a nation we have a shortage of expertise including in all levels of teaching.”

Dr Hillock said she had always loved how mathematics helped to explain the world around us.

“It’s not just about having one correct answer, it’s a way of thinking, and I use practical models and real examples in my teaching.”

A Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, she has also developed learning support programs to assist students at a formative time in their undergraduate degree.

“We’ve seen major improvements in students' academic results and engagement in their studies, and there’s a sense of camaraderie as they connect and support each other through the first year of university,” Dr Hillock said.

“I always encourage students to be proactive about seeking support if they need it – knowing when and how to ask for help are foundational skills that make all the difference to student success.”

The UA Australian Awards for University Teaching recognised four other UQ staff for contributions to teaching and learning:

  • Associate Professor Jodie Copley from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences received an Award for Teaching Excellence in Health. Professor Copley’s commitment to learning innovation has transformed clinical education, preparing students for increasingly complex healthcare systems.
  • Mr Mark Tanner from the School of Business received a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for a program called Taking Flight, a fail-safe approach that challenges advanced business students to build employability skills through authentic and peer mentored experiences.
  • The RiPPLE Team, Associate Professor Hassan Khosravi and Mr Nick Joseph from the Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation received a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for the design, implementation, validation and deployment of an innovative adaptive educational system that transforms student learning into an active, social and personalised experience.

The full list of 2022 Australian Awards for University Teaching recipients is available on the Universities Australia website.