2020-2021 Graduate Teaching Awards

To highlight and honor the University’s graduate students for their commitment to and excellence in undergraduate instruction, the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs is soliciting nominations for the 2020-2021 Graduate Teaching Awards. 

Supported since 1990 by the Provost and the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, the Graduate Teaching Awards considers all forms of teaching conducted by graduate students, whether it occurs in a classroom, a laboratory, or in a studio.  Any currently enrolled graduate student who has served as a GTA, or as instructor of record for at least two semesters, including but not limited to fall 2020 and spring 2021, is eligible to be nominated.  The nomination process will allow at least one nomination from each department or school that employs GTAs.  The deadline for submission of nominations for the 2020-2021 Graduate Teaching Awards is Monday, March 1, 2021 at 5:00 PM.

Although the process for determining awardees will remain largely unchanged from prior years, we recognize the many challenges of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage nomination letters and materials that highlight excellence in teaching both before (if applicable) and during the crisis, including a teacher’s ability to foster community and connection among their students and to adapt creatively to online learning environments.

*Please note the requirement for a first-hand teaching observation conducted by a faculty member.* Observations may be conducted online (e.g. via Zoom) or in-person.

Nomination and Selection Process

The number of nominees a department or school may submit is based upon the number of active GTAs in the unit.  Each department with at least one GTA is permitted to put forward at least one nominee.  Departments with greater numbers of GTAs are permitted to submit additional nominees, as follows:

  • Between 1 and 15 GTAs: 1 nominee
  • Between 16 and 30 GTAs: 2 nominees
  • 31 GTAs or more:  3 nominees


From among all nominations an interdisciplinary faculty selection committee will determine the recipients of the following 15 awards. 

  • Ten All-University Graduate Teaching Awards, each of which carries a $500 award, and a certificate in honor of the achievement.
  • Three Distinguished Graduate Teaching Awards, conferred to the top graduate instructors in the following areas:
    • one from arts and humanities disciplines, including architecture
    • one from social science disciplines, including education
    • one from science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines

Each of the three Distinguished Graduate Teaching Awards includes a $1,000 award, and a certificate in honor of the achievement.

  • One award of the Frank Finger Graduate Fellowship for Teaching.  The Frank Finger award is offered to a student in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences in recognition of stimulating and organized classroom/ lab instruction.  The awardee will receive a $2,000 award, and a certificate in honor of their achievement. 
  • One award of the Class of 1985 Fellowship for Creative Teaching.  The Class of 1985 Fellowship is offered to the candidate who best demonstrates exceptional creativity in teaching activities.  The awardee will receive an award of $5,000, and a certificate in honor of their achievement.

All awards will be announced no later than Friday, April 16.

Required Materials and Submission Process

All departmental/school nominations will be submitted online by the department DGS or other administrator/designee through the nomination upload form referenced below

All materials required for nomination must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM on Monday, March 1.  

Nomination packets must include the following materials as a single PDF, in the order below, and are limited to no more than 12 pages in length, using no smaller than 12 point font:   

  1. A letter of nomination provided by the department that summarizes the reasons for the nomination and provides a job description: In what capacities has the graduate student taught and/or contributed to the learning of undergraduate students and in what types of environments?  How much freedom for innovation was there? What constitutes the most effective teaching in this situation?
  2. A one to two page, reflective teaching statement. In the reflective teaching statement, nominees should articulate their beliefs about and commitment to teaching and learning. The statement should describe the nominee’s overall goals for student learning, the ways the nominee assesses learning, how the nominee engages students in and out of the classroom, and how the nominee purposefully attends to creating equitable and inclusive learning environments. The most compelling statements provide clear examples supporting these aspects of their teaching.

  3. A first-hand teaching observation completed by a faculty member.  The report may refer to teaching completed in a classroom, a lab, a studio, or an alternate environment, but should address the techniques employed by the graduate student to positively affect learning outcomes.  
  4. A quantitative and qualitative synthesis of student evaluations that makes clear the graduate student's impact on undergraduate learning.

Please click here to navigate to the nomination upload form.

Successful nomination packets from previous competitions can be viewed here.

No letters of recommendation from former or current undergraduates should be sought or included. It is important for the sake of fairness that all nomination packets conform to these requirements. Any nominations that do not, will not be considered by the committee


Please feel free to direct questions to:
Amy Garrou, ags8d@virginia.edu, (434) 243-0807
Phil Trella, trella@virginia.edu, (434) 243-2018