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 four instructors annually at the March meeting of Senate. Nominations are due the first Friday of February.

Congratulations to the 2021 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 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 March 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


If you have questions about the DTA, please contact Trevor Holmes at CTE.

For advice on building a nomination, contact your DTA Faculty Liaison:

Faculty Contact
AHS Leanne Ferries
Arts Katherine Acheson
Engineering Ajoy Opal
Environment Carol Knipe
Math Brian Forrest
Science Marlee Spafford
Conrad Grebel Birgit Moscinski
St. Jerome's Cristina Vanin