Teaching Excellence Award
Award Submission Deadlines:
|Term||No later than|
|Fall Semester||No later than November 15|
|Spring Semester||No later than April 15|
|Summer Semester||No later than July 15|
All nominations can be submitted online by designated faculty members or department staff. Follow the selection process for your department/program. Submissions by students are not allowed. Up to three reminders will be sent to departments in the weeks leading up to the deadlines. Please be mindful of the deadlines and adhere to them.
Purpose of Program
The purpose of these awards is to recognize and encourage outstanding teaching achievement by graduate students. The intent is to recognize up to 10% of the graduate students involved in teaching each year. Departments can choose to be more restrictive in the number of awards they give out, according to their criteria and policies.
Description of Awards
Each Teaching Excellence Award consists of:
- a letter of commendation from the ISU President,
- a certificate of achievement signed by the ISU President and the Graduate Dean,
- an honor cord to be worn at commencement, and
- an official notation on the student’s transcript.
Many Teaching Excellence Award winners will not be graduating at the time they recieve their award. Recipients should keep their honor cord and wear the cord at the time of their graduation. A citation will be listed by their name in the ISU Commencement Program. Funding is not available through this program to offer cash prizes. However, departments are encouraged to use their own funds for this purpose whenever possible. Any cash prize should be handled directly by the department.
Any graduate student with teaching responsibilities, and who has been on a teaching appointment for at least two terms (including summer sessions), is eligible for an award. Students do not necessarily need to be on a C-base appointment, but must be at Iowa State primarily to work on a graduate degree. Recipients of these awards must be enrolled at ISU at the time the awards are given; students who have already graduated are not eligible. A student is eligible for only one Teaching Excellence Award per degree; however, it is possible to grant a student both a Teaching and a Research Excellence Award for the same degree during his/her academic career. Examples of teaching duties include:
- Serving as the sole instructor for one or more sections of a course;
- Making frequent classroom presentations while not solely responsible for the instruction;
- Serving as discussion leader for a recitation section;
- Serving as laboratory instructor presenting new material or experiments not covered in the lecture section;
- Serving as laboratory instructor reviewing homework assignments and/or answering questions
- Assisting with setting up experiments, preparing and/or cleaning up before and after class or lab;
- Tutoring students;or staffing a help room and/or assisting students in a lab;
- Proctoring exams, grading homework and/or lab. reports; working on course web pages, or projects
- Performing other teaching related duties unique to the department.
It is expected that those nominated for a Teaching Excellence Award would be involved primarily with teaching duties like those described in items 1-5, although additional involvement in items 6-9 is possible.
Deadlines for the Teaching Excellence Awards are posted on the website. Up to three reminders will be sent to departments in the weeks leading up to the deadlines. Please be mindful of the deadlines and adhere to them. The process of selection will be the responsibility of each department or interdepartmental program. In cases where departments hire students from other departments to teach courses for them, the hiring or employing department is responsible for recommending these students for awards (i.e. the department that organizes and supervises the courses taught).
To calculate your department’s maximum entitlement for Teaching Excellence Awards, multiply the number of students who are teaching assistants by 0.1. This will give you the number of entitlements you have during the year. Example: If Department A has 25 students who are TAs during the year, either fall semester, spring semester or both, the yearly entitlement for Teaching Excellence Awards would be 2.5. Round up if it is .5 or higher, otherwise round down. Each student is counted only once per year, so if the same students are TAs in the Fall and Spring, Dept. A would still have 25 students for the year, not 50. If you need to nominate more than one student over the allowed maximum, we ask you send an email justification to the Graduate College at for approval. A department may have up to one special request per academic year (summer, fall, spring) without requesting approval.
Departments/interdepartmental programs are encouraged to develop a procedure for evaluating teaching performance (if not already in place). For programs wishing to establish a formal review process, the Graduate College offers the following ideas:
- Consider the establishment of a committee of people who have direct knowledge of the individuals' teaching performance and responsibilities, and who have experience evaluating academic performance, such as TA coordinators, department chairs, teaching faculty, and past Teaching Excellence Award recipients.
- Consider methods of evaluation (e.g. direct observations, interviews with TAs, student evaluations and testimonials). If the teaching is being done asynchronously, we allow a student to "observe" by share-screen Zoom/WebEx meeting/tour of the other person's class. Consider using this evaluation form if you would like or you can create your own.
- Consider other factors such as 1) improvement and development; 2) difficulty of the teaching assignment; and 3) differences in teaching styles.
Completing the award form
Department selections are submitted online and can be submitted only by authorized staff or faculty. Submissions by students are not allowed.
- Calculate the number of awards available to your department by following the instructions listed under Award Process (above).
- The recipient needs to be a current student. Students do not have to be graduating in the semester they receive these awards. However, they cannot receive the awards after they have graduated.
- Do not use all caps when filling out this form.
- Required: Check with the student and find out exactly how they would like their name listed on the certificate and in the letter. We cannot guarantee reprints if a name is incorrect after you have made the final check. (i.e. Joe Smith entered; student wanted Joseph E. Smith.)
- Identify who will be responsible for verification and distribution of the awards.
- Identify people who would like to be notified “FYI” when the awards are submitted.
After the form has been submitted
- Upon completion of the nomination form, the submitter (and others indicated as FYI) will receive an automatic e-mail stating that information for the Teaching Excellence Award has been submitted.
- Following the deadline, the person identified for verification and distribution will receive an e-mail to respond whether “no edits are needed” or “edits needed.” It is very important that someone respond to this email, and that the student’s name is listed exactly how they want it on their certificate. We cannot guarantee reprints if a name is incorrect after the final check.
- The person identified for verification and distribution will also verify how the award letter, certificate, and honor cord will be distributed (campus mail or pick up), and verify name and address for delivery.
- After the name is submitted, you can check the running list of names available on the Teaching Excellence Awards website. Click here to view all Teaching Excellence Award nominees
Letters, certificates, and honor cords will be distributed to departments (the person/address indicated on nomination form) no later than Dead Week at the end of each semester. If a student is not graduating that semester, it will be the student’s responsibility to keep the honor cord and wear it during his/her graduation ceremony.
Departments will be responsible for presenting the awards and will have the opportunity to supplement the award with a cash prize at that time. Each student name submitted will be given an award and it will be the responsibility of each department to monitor the submission and accuracy of the awards. The honor cords should be kept by the student and worn during their graduation ceremony.
The Graduate College will notify the Registrar’s Office and the Commencement Office for the award to appear on the student’s transcript and in the Commencement program.
Awards will not be given after the student has graduated, so please check your nominations and records to make sure they are correct. Any corrections or adjustments should be settled before the student graduates.
If you have any questions about this program, please email the Graduate College: .➤