National UniversityTeacher Award FAQs

What is the National University Teacher Award?

Created to support educators, the National University Teacher Award is our way of recognizing the courage, compassion, and dedication of our nation’s teachers. Five Regional Finalists will be selected and awarded a gift of $10,000 and a full-tuition scholarship toward National University’s Master of Arts in Social and Emotional Learning. One of the five Regional Finalists will be selected as the National University Teacher of the Year and receive a grand prize total of $50,000!

Who is eligible for this award?

Applicants must:

  • Be a licensed/credentialed teacher with a minimum of three years teaching experience
  • Teach at a Pre-K-12 school (public, private, or charter) in the United States; all grade levels and subject areas are eligible
  • Be a registered user of Harmony SEL or Inspire Teaching & Learning. Not yet registered? Sign up at no cost here.
  • Be a legal resident of the United States

Which region do I teach in or which region does the teacher I’m nominating teach in?

Each of the five U.S. regions have been designated geographically and with consideration given to population size and density. These regions include the West, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast. See the interactive regions map to help identify your region here.
When you register or nominate a teacher in the application, the teacher will automatically be connected to one of the five regions, based on where the teacher currently teaches.

Who can apply?

Any licensed/credentialed teacher who meets the eligibility criteria listed above can apply or be nominated. We are looking for teachers who engage and support their students, with stories that inspire others.

What is the deadline for all nominations?

Monday, May 10, 2021, by 11:59 PT.

What is the deadline for submitting a completed application?

Tuesday, May 25, 2021, by 11:59 PT.

What is the process for applying for the National University Teacher Award?

Simply fill out the application forms with as much detail as possible and submit the forms. Any teacher who meets the eligibility requirements and embeds the Inspirational Instruction Indicators (see below) in their daily instruction is welcome to apply.

How do I apply?

You will set up a free National University Teacher Award account and then receive a link to the National University Teacher Award application. The application includes a short essay section where you can share your story. Once you submit your application form, you are officially in the running!

What happens after the application has been submitted?

Our committee reviews each and every submission and will reach out to selected finalists.

What is the process for nominating an inspirational teacher for the National University Teacher Award?

Teachers, students, school principals, program directors, or anyone else can nominate a teacher they believe should be recognized. Fill out the application forms with as much detail as possible and submit the forms. Multiple nominations for the same teacher do not provide weight in the winner selection, and a nomination for any one teacher will only be accepted once.

What happens after the nomination has been submitted?

All nominees who have a current credential and have taught a minimum of three years will receive a follow-up email, in which they will be invited to create a free account to complete the application process. They will then receive a link to respond to two short essay questions, sharing how they incorporate the Inspirational Instruction Indicators (see below) in their teaching.

What are the Inspirational Instruction Indicators?

An inspiring teacher can be recognized by the following indicators:

Inspirational Instruction Indicators

Inspirational Instruction Indicator #1: Engages Students in Learning

Teachers who inspire reflect on and continuously improve their practice with a commitment to engaging their students in all learning opportunities:

  • Encourage social responsibility toward the classroom community and its members and fostering gratitude for others’ kindness through the use of Harmony Meet Up, classroom discussions, and other community-building activities.
  • Reflect on ways to improve teaching practices through ongoing learning, coaching, and professional development resources.
  • Continue to learn and grow their teaching practices, classroom culture, and relationships with students by fostering the feeling that each student is valued and accepted as a member of the group and by promoting a sense of connection and classroom community.

Inspirational Instruction Indicator #2: Builds Confidence

Teachers who inspire build trust and rapport with students with the goal of students working hard, persevering, taking pride in their work, and demonstrating resilience in the face of challenges:

  • Add to their knowledge about their students. They strive to connect with student backgrounds, needs, and interests by fostering awareness and acceptance of commonalities and differences, feelings, and perspectives with activities such as Harmony Everyday Practices and other community building strategies.
  • Model positive behavior and work towards developing trust and rapport with all students by fostering and demonstrating empathy.
  • Integrate opportunities for creativity and self-expression that provide a foundation for students to experience resilience and healing from trauma as well as a deeper understanding of the causes of emotions.

Inspirational Instruction Indicator #3: Gives Students a Voice

Teachers who inspire engage in a high support/high demand approach with multiple opportunities for students to develop their curiosity, confidence, and voice:

  • Promote students’ self-regulation and self-confidence to communicate needs, interests, and ideas.
  • Help students understand the importance for taking responsibility for their actions.
  • Help develop students’ self-efficacy by strengthening their interpersonal skills with the capacity to generate alternative solutions and have an awareness that people can have different ideas for solving problems.

Inspirational Instruction Indicator #4: Motivates Students to Succeed

Teachers who inspire use assessments to effectively improve their understanding of students so that students can set their own learning goals and ultimately direct their learning to achieve their dreams and aspirations:

  • Encourage students to establish learning goals that focus on academic and personal growth.
  • Use assessment systematically and strategically to identify and support student learning needs and progress toward goals.
  • Provide useful feedback on student engagement, learning, and goals by reflecting and discussing with students what they have learned and experienced throughout the year.

Inspirational Instruction Indicator #5: Creates an Inclusive Environment

Teachers who inspire are caring and respectful, supporting students to feel a true sense of belonging as a result of their relationships with peers and staff:

  • Respect, accept, and celebrate differences and promote understanding of other peoples’ perspectives, facilitated by resources like Harmony Quick Connection Cards and other community builders.
  • Ensure students feel that they matter to the teacher as individuals through appropriate communication and the organization of the physical or distance learning environment.
  • Cooperatively establish and monitor Harmony or other classroom goals that describe how students want to be treated, solve problems, and support one another in the classroom environment.

What happens after I have submitted the essay questions?

The application forms and essay responses will be reviewed by a selection committee based at National University in San Diego, California. Once applications close, finalists in each region will be requested to submit additional items during a two-week submission period. Finalists will be invited to submit a 3-minute video about how they are integrating Harmony SEL in their classroom or using Inspire Teaching & Learning modules to augment their teaching practice. We request that no students are in the video. Finalists will also be asked to submit a high-resolution headshot and letters of support from their school’s principal/administrator and one other personal reference. We request you do not send these additional items unless requested as selected finalists.

What if I am not currently a registered Inspire Teaching & Learning or Harmony SEL user?

You may register for free for the Online Learning Portal, so you can start to explore and implement the curriculum immediately. In order to win, you must be a registered user and have provided evidence to how you have used the programs in your teaching practice.

How will the Regional Finalists and National University Teacher of the Year be chosen? 

A committee based at National University in San Diego, California, will review the finalists’ applications, videos, and letters of support. The panel will determine the Regional Finalists and the 2021 NU Teacher of the Year.

When will the National University Teacher Award recipients be notified?

The five Regional Finalists will be announced in fall of 2021, and the NU Teacher of the Year will be announced late in 2021 or early 2022. Throughout the contest, we will keep you abreast of the winner announcement dates. Due to the high volume of submissions, only those who are being considered for the award will be contacted.

How will the National University Teacher Award recipients be acknowledged?

The five Regional Finalists will receive $10,000 and a full-tuition scholarship to National University’s Master of Arts in Social and Emotional Learning. One of the Regional Finalists will be named the National University Teacher of the Year and receive a total of $50,000. All winners will also be featured on the National University Teacher Award website, social media sites, newsletters, and other communications.

Are there any rules governing how the $10,000 and/or $50,000 teacher award must be spent?

Monetary awards may be spent at the discretion of individual winners and schools. Winners are encouraged to consult school and district policy for any regulations or prohibitions on using the award.

Where can I find more information about National University’s Master of Arts in SEL?

The Master of Arts in SEL is designed to help you make transformational change in your school community as you promote the intersectionality of SEL both in and outside of the classroom. You can find out more about the program here.

When can I use the scholarship?

Courses begin online every month. There is no expiration on the scholarship.

What if I am selected as a finalist, but I decline the scholarship?

You are not obligated to accept the scholarship; however, there is no cash value for the scholarship. You will continue to be eligible for the $10,000 cash prize.

Are there any expectations for National University Teacher Award winners beyond receiving the recognition?

Our National University Teacher Award winners are so inspiring! We hope our winners will continue to be part of our efforts to inspire other educators. We may invite winners to join in future professional development opportunities. All future commitments will be voluntary.

Can 2020 National University Teacher Award finalists win again?

While we love our previous National University Teacher Award winners, the 2021 National University Teacher Award is for new inspirational teachers. If a teacher has been nominated but was not selected as a finalist in a previous year, they are welcome to apply again.

Do you have any additional questions about the National University Teacher Award?

Please do not hesitate to reach out to