Since its inception in 1975, over 150 Distinguished Teacher Awards (DTAs) have been awarded to exemplary instructors at the University of Waterloo. The DTA is awarded to up to four instructors annually at the April meeting of Senate. Nominations are due the first Friday of February.
Congratulations to the 2022 recipients of the DTA!
Want to know who received a DTA in the past? Visit our list of DTA Recipients.
The DTA is not limited to faculty members — it's open to all those who teach students at the University of Waterloo.
The main criterion of the Distinguished Teacher Award is a record of excellent teaching over an extended period at Waterloo, usually at least five years.
Other criteria include:
- evidence of intellectual vigour and communication skills in the interpretation and presentation of subject matter
- evidence of educational impact beyond the classroom
- the instructor’s human quality and concern for and sensitivity to the needs of students
- a clear indication that the nominee has a favourable and lasting influence on students, and, where relevant, on colleagues
Evidence of successful innovation in teaching or publications or presentations on teaching and learning may support a nomination, but it is also clear that excellence in teaching does not necessarily require either.
How to nominate an instructor
- Ensure that the instructor hasn't already received a DTA by visiting our Distinguished Teacher Award Recipients page. An instructor can only receive this award once.
- Undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty, or colleagues may submit nominations. Self-nominations are not accepted.
- Submit a completed nomination form by email to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 4:30 pm on the first Friday in February.
- 10 or more nomination letters (not one letter with 10 signatures) are required for an instructor to be considered for the DTA. At least five should be from present or former students.
- It's important that evidence be collected from as many different sources as possible (students, colleagues, alumni, administrative officers, etc.).
Deadline: 4:30 pm on the first Friday in February. Recipients are announced at the April meeting of the University Senate.
Writing effective nomination letters
The following is a list of items that are often included in successful nomination letters. They are presented here as suggestions if these types of resources are available to you. You should also feel free to submit other materials that are not included on this list.
- The nominee’s teaching approaches, special strengths, teaching innovations, and impact on student learning and development with evidence of the nominee's success in promoting better student learning.
- Samples of excellent or innovative teaching materials, such as course handouts, project descriptions, and assignments that describe the innovation.
- Honours and awards for teaching, for example from student societies or professional organizations.
- Letters from colleagues who have direct knowledge of the candidate's teaching abilities and achievements.
- Evidence of work with colleagues to promote better teaching (e.g. presenting seminars on teaching, acting as a mentor to new faculty, organizing workshops for teaching assistants).
- Evidence of major contribution to curriculum development.
- Evidence of success of former students that can be traced back to the influence of the candidate (e.g. student projects or theses submitted for publication, prizes and honours awarded to students, examples of excellent student work).
Want to learn about how to write a strong letter of nomination? Read Effective Letters for Teaching Award Nominations.
Frequently asked questions
Is renomination permitted?
Yes. Members of the University community are urged to renominate candidates who have not won an award in previous years and who continue to show excellence in teaching performance. Each year, the Selection Committee reviews many nominations and a number of excellent candidates must be passed over simply because the awards are limited to four per year. It takes only one nomination letter from a student in the current year to make a file of accumulated past support admissible, and new and additional evidence is always desirable. Renominations submitted by the same person, for the same instructor, are not recommended unless there is considerable new evidence.
My professor has already received a DTA. Can I nominate them for a different award?
Yes! Consider nominating a past recipient of the DTA for an external teaching award. These awards include: the 3M Teaching Fellowships, the OCUFA Teaching Awards, the D2L Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning, the Alan Blizzard Award, and the Reimagine Education Awards.
For more information about each of these award programs, visit our External Teaching Awards page. For support in nominating an instructor for an external award, contact Alisa Sivak, Communications Associate, CTE.
Do the instructors with the most nominations win?
No. Quality of nominations is more important than quantity. Supportive letters from a number of people are more indicative of the nominee's favourable and lasting influence than a single letter with hundreds of signatures appended.
Who is on the selection committee?
The Committee, appointed by Senate, consists of three undergraduate students (nominated by Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association), two graduate students (nominated by the Graduate Student Association), one representative from the Alumni Association, four members of Faculty, and the Provost as chair. Membership is normally for two years, with half the membership changing annually.
How are award recipients selected?
The Selection Committee meets in mid-February to review the DTA criteria and process. Over the next month, committee members review all nomination files for that year that contain 10 or more nomination letters. Each committee member selects five worthy nominations for consideration, and the committee makes their final decision in March. The four recipients are announced at Senate by the Associate Vice-President, Academic in April.
Are nomination files made public?
No. These records are maintained in the strictest confidence by the Centre for Teaching Excellence. Members of the Selection Committee are permitted to read the files for that nomination year after the Deans from their respective faculties have reviewed the files.
What is the history of the DTA?
The DTA awards were approved by Senate on December 15, 1975, with the following explanatory statement:
"The Distinguished Teacher Award has been set up by the Senate of the University of Waterloo in recognition of the great importance of excellence in teaching at all levels in the University. The award is open to all those who teach students in the University of Waterloo and its federated and affiliated colleges. Recipients are to be chosen from among nominees by a Selection Committee of faculty and students. The University plans to honour three Distinguished Teachers each year."
Until 1988 three awards were made each year (except for 1983 when four DTAs were awarded because the committee felt unable to differentiate between the top candidates). However, in March 1988 Senate approved a fourth award for: Non-regular faculty members (i.e. part-time faculty, full and part-time staff, and faculty members holding adjunct appointments). From 1989 to 2005, one of the four annual awards was set aside for "non-regular" instructors, but in 2005 Senate passed a motion stating "that the categories of Distinguished Teacher Award - DTA, DTA [Non regular] - be removed, and that up to 4 awards be made each year to Distinguished Teachers."