National Teaching Fellow 2015
Dr Susan Deacy is in her third decade as a practitioner in classics, a subject with an elitist reputation that she is passionate about making relevant to the modern world and accessible to all. Her academic interests include subjects that students can find sensitive, or even troubling, including sexual violence, domestic violence and infanticide. She strives to ensure that teaching such subjects can transform rather than block the student learning experience.
One student said: “Susan's teaching particularly on the subject of gender was so engaging, so responsive to the evolving perceptions of each student in the group, that our learning was a completely organic process.” Another student commented on how Susan’s teaching impacted on the path chosen after graduation: “When I became a teacher, you were one of the teachers I tried to emulate, always bringing enthusiasm to the topic, being readily approachable and promoting discussion around subject matter with open questions, allowing for debate and group collaboration.”
As well as striving to ensure that the curriculum is relevant, inclusive and transformative, Susan has contributed to understandings of how to support students who experience difficulties when they encounter particular topics. She has been at the vanguard of initiatives to challenge current practice and to equip tutors to support students in the courses on gender, the body and sexuality that are among the most popular in the UK and beyond. As the project leader of ‘Teaching Sensitive Subjects in the Classical Classroom’, funded by a HEA Teaching Development Grant, she gathered invaluable data on staff and student experiences of sensitive subjects.
One UK classics lecturer commented on how Susan’s initiatives have put the pedagogy of sensitive subjects on the classical agenda, saying her “impact has been considerable – and with a wide ranging remit”. A US classicist commented: “The initiatives of Professor Deacy make an international community of teaching endeavouring to approach violent themes in antiquity.”
Susan’s work has started to impact upon how academics in other disciplines approach sensitive subjects, including criminology and education. Her plans for future innovation include a cross-disciplinary conference on the pedagogy of sensitive subjects.
Principal Lecturer in Classical Civilisation
University of Roehampton