New Zealand’s top tertiary teaching excellence honour was awarded to Dr Te Taka Keegan, senior lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Waikato.
Presented by Prime Minister Bill English, the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award acknowledges Dr Keegan’s sustained commitment to teaching and learning over a 30-year career where he has skillfully woven his love for te reo Māori with his love for computers. Te Taka is still the only person who can teach a computer science paper completely in te reo.
Student success data and their feedback tell of a superb teacher who is creative, compassionate and persistent, with an engaging manner that has made him an extremely popular teacher and colleague. His outstanding contribution to the Māori language has enabled learners to use the benefits of his computer science expertise to study in te reo. He has made a profound contribution to The University of Waikato.
Beyond the teaching environment, he has managed the development of the Niupepa Collection – resulting in the digitisation of the historical collection of Māori language newspapers released on microfiche by the Alexander Turnbull Library. From 2000-2004, Te Taka worked with Microsoft to macronise the keyboard, which is now a Microsoft standard, and in 2005 worked on the translation of Office 2003 and Windows XP into Māori.
From 2005, he worked with Google on various projects including the translation of the Google Web Search interface into Māori, a feature that was released in 2008. He then worked at Google Head Office in 2008/2009 on developing a translation toolkit that led to Google Translate for te reo Māori.
The Awards are hosted at parliament by Hon Paul Goldsmith, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment. Ako Aotearoa – the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence - administers the awards for the Minister.
Ako Aotearoa’s Director, Dr Stanley Frielick says, “Celebrating excellent teaching is part of Ako Aotearoa’s core business. Our award winners all demonstrate the ‘X-factor’ that makes them truly special teachers. They create the kinds of inspirational learning experiences that ignite inquiry and engagement with the subject, and help shape students’ identities and pathways to future careers.”
In addition to the Supreme Award, 12 Sustained Excellence awards were presented tonight; two under the Kaupapa Māori category (including Dr Keegan) and a further ten in the General category. All Sustained Excellence winners receive $20,000 and the Supreme Award winner an additional $10,000.