On almost every college or university campus, there are various awards given out on a regular basis. Most typical are awards for student achievement: academic, co-curricular, or community service are just three examples. Also very common are awards for faculty, most likely based on the quality of teaching, or innovations in teaching, or the quality of research. Teaching awards often are based on student input while innovation and research awards are based on faculty/administration input. For me a “teacher of the year” award based on student input is particularly meaningful. We are all here to, hopefully, provide an excellent education to our students and I remain convinced that excellence in teaching is a key ingredient in making that happen.
The teacher of the year award program we have at Hofstra is based on the votes of graduating students. For a faculty member to be selected as teacher of the year we look at the cumulative votes of these students over a three-year and a five-year time frame. We have one award annually for each school or college and winning this award is considered a singular honor. However, once the award has been won by a faculty member, that person is ineligible to again receive teacher of the year recognition. A number of prior award recipients have questioned the fairness of being forever excluded from future consideration saying that there are many prestigious awards that have no such restriction. And if you look at the Tony Awards, the Oscars, the Pulitzer Prize, and many other awards, it is certainly possible for a person to win major recognition more than once.
We are now discussing whether a faculty member can be eligible more than once. On one hand, with 500 full-time faculty and many many outstanding faculty within that number, it makes sense, especially given the stature of this award, to maximize the number of different recipients. On the other hand, it is testimony to the on-going teaching excellence of the faculty member if that person can win this award more than once. It shows that year after year the faculty member involved is an inspiring teacher. And that the person involved can clearly stand the test of time with very tough competition.
Where do I stand? First and foremost I remain convinced that excellence in teaching is a key determinant in maximizing the learning of our students. And I do believe a person should be able to win more than once. How often? Difficult question — later rather than sooner; my preference is that a person be eligible to win no more than once a decade.