Long list for election Teacher of the Year published

The list includes two new names and four former winners among the top ten.
Part of the Teacher of the Year statue. Photo Guy Ackermans

Students voted for their favourite WUR teacher from 20 to 26 March. This year, there were even more teachers to choose from, a total of 1,342. Ignas Heitkönig and Ori Rubin are new on the longlist, which includes four former winners in its top ten: Roel Dijksma, Jessica Duncan, Henry van den Brand and Arie Nieuwenhuizen.

A total of 1402 students cast their ballot, which amounts to 16 per cent of all students. Although this may not seem much, it is considerably more than last year’s 12 per cent. Last year’s winner is automatically excluded from the longlist.


Anneke Valk (a biology teacher at Experimental Zoology) almost collapsed when she heard she had been nominated, she says. ‘I had to leave the practicum room; I was so surprised. This year, the nomination system was changed. So that students could elect their favourite from among well over 1300 teachers. I can hardly believe that I made it to the top ten.’

According to Valk, one of the key aspects of teaching is maintaining contact with the students. ‘Connecting is my priority. I am always asking questions, and I always demand a reply. If I see students becoming indifferent, I say: “guys, if this continues, the results will disappoint.” A message that hits home, the students tell me. Perhaps because I really am myself during my classes. If I laugh, I laugh.’

A joke?

Ignas Heitkönig, assistant professor of  Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, was at his laptop when he received the email which announced he had made it to the top ten. ‘I thought: this can’t be true, someone has made a mistake or is pulling my leg. It’s amazing. I’m flattered.’

Why do students appreciate him so much? ‘It is difficult to say’, according to Heitkönig. ‘The feedback I get from students indicates they appreciate my commitment and the way I try to coach them. Perhaps that weighs in more than my expertise. I consider it a challenge to help those who lack just a little understanding of ecological processes fully understand them so that they can see how we, as humans, can be more engaged in nature.’

Student jury

A student jury will interview all ten teachers who made it to the long list. The jury will then select a top five at the start of June, also known as the shortlist. The winner will be announced on 20 June, during an event where the Excellent Education Prizes are also awarded.

Birgit Boogaard was proclaimed teacher of the year last October. That was later than normal due to the transfer of the organisation of election from the University Fund to Education & Student Affairs. Resource took the opportunity to attend her final class in her African Philosophy course. Boogaard is also one of the nominees for the national title of Teacher of the Year.

De longlist, alphabetically:

  • Henry van den Brand (Winner 2018)
  • Julia Diederen
  • Roel Dijksma (Winner 2016)
  • Jessica Duncan (Winner 2017)
  • Ignas Heitkonig
  • Tijs Ketelaar
  • Klaas Metselaar
  • Arie Nieuwenhuizen (Winner 2019)
  • Ori Rubin
  • Anneke Valk

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