Andrews and Erwin (2003) conducted a national study of American community college recognitions programs found that one award a year was the number most often selected when asked, “How many teacher awards are given by your college each year?” Table I summarizes the numbers of awards reported by the respondents in the study. The size of the faculty group in these community colleges did not seem to matter in terms of the number of awards presented.
In other words, if a college had 50 or 350 teachers, the same award numbers were most often the same:
Number of Responses Number of Rewards
A department chairperson at a US university summarised this best when he said that if he continued with only one award a year for his faculty he would give out between 25 and 30 over the years and there would be many more teachers deserving such recognition who would never receive such a reward during their teaching careers.
Stanaway (2011, January 30) found parents want a greater say in the running of schools in Australia. They asked for the following:
- “Name and shame” the poor-performing schools.
- The teachers should be reviewed each year and the best should be paid more.
- Sixty-five percent want bad teachers to lose their jobs.
Peter Garrett, Federal Education Minister, was quoted: “We want to work out the best method to make sure our best teachers get the recognition and the rewards they deserve.” On the other hand, teachers in South Australia who are “beginning to wane” are to be given a $50,000 “burnout bonus” incentive to retire. This scheme was announced in The Advertiser (Hood, January 29, 2011) after Education Minister Jay Weatherill announced it would begin in 2011. The same type of “bonuses” had already been introduced in Queensland in 2002 and more recently in Victoria.
In the United States evolving since 1952 a Teacher of the Year program at local, state, and national levels. Schools wishing to participate are asked to submit one candidate from their school each year as their Teacher of the Year. These candidates are then forwarded to a state competition for the state Teacher of the Year. The next step is to forward the 50 state Teacher of the Year recipients to a national 'contest' for the national Teacher of the Year to be selected. Statements from two of the 2011 state level winners follows:
Michelle M. Shearer, 2011 Maryland Teacher of the Year, Michelle is a tenth through twelfth grade chemistry teacher, Urbana High School in Liamsville, Maryland: This is a tremendous honour, an incredible opportunity for me to advocate for students, represent teachers, and draw positive attention to our collective efforts in public education.
Gingerlei Maga Uil, America Samoa; Lauli’i Elementary School Pago Pago, AS: It was a surprise because they asked for our presence at the office without letting us know of the matter at hand, and really, emotions ran wild, tears fell and I was stunned.
This program is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and has been running since 1952.
This is an excellent way to bring to the public's attention that there are excellent teachers throughout the state and countries of Australia and the United States. The national winner commits a year to traveling throughout the country speaking to groups, schools, and others in bringing inspiration for the teaching profession to others.
There are, on the other hand, hundreds of thousands of other exceptional teachers going wanting for recognition within their own school districts. Limiting recognition to one teacher does little to promote the satisfaction that could be felt by many other exceptionally well performing teachers within every school district.
The Gordon S. Black Corporation (1999) determined that recognition was one of the three most important motivational factors for teachers. Their survey of over 23,000 teachers found that only half of them reported having a recognition program for teachers in their school districts.
Australian recognition programs and concerns
An Australian teacher research report by McDonald & Staff (2010) on Dr Ben Jensen’s work found only 8 per cent of Australian teachers felt they would be given any recognition reward. Ninety plus percent reported that their schools were not recognising quality of innovative teaching. This same ninety percent also reported under-performance of teachers was not being addressed in their schools. The Melbourne think-tank, The Grattan Institute, supported this study.
One of the most prestigious award programs in Australia is the NeiTA and Australian Scholarships Group (ASG). The awards have the outcomes of public recognitions for the teaching profession, educational leaders, and for their work to inspire educational stimulation to student learning. Two of the winners who were nominated (by parents, school councils, secondary student councils and others) follow:
Nicky Taylor, Reynella Primary School, Old Reynella, South Australia. Her profile included the following statement: Nicky has a profound influence on the students at Reynella Primary School. The attendance rate for her class is extremely high and student motivation has greatly improved. Reported classroom and yard behaviour incidents for her students have dropped to zero.
Mark Sullivan, Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Spring Hill, Queensland. His profile stated the following: Mark Sullivan believes in the power of music and its ability to transform lives. An impressive 50 percent of the school population fills over 800 ensemble positions. He has certainly imbued the school with an intense musical culture.
In 2011 they received 1401 nominations for these Inspirational Teaching Awards. The total awards they present at the state and territorial level is 60 awards. This works out to just over 4 percent of the nominees. When one compares these 60 awards against the 250,000 plus teachers in Australia (Australian Social Trends, September, 2011) one can quickly see what an extremely small percentage of teachers can qualify for these prestigious national NEiTA teaching awards. This is in no way a criticism of the Neita program but is offered to document how small the group of exceptional teachers is who can presently benefit from such an excellent recognition program.
How recognition candidates are selected
Teacher recognition is often initiated from a parent or student nomination process A number of outstanding teachers may be nominated for one of these awards but it usually boils down to one 'winner' for an award. Teacher evaluation research has found that teacher evaluation by students may give some of the weakest teachers the highest praise because they may be the easiest graders and/or demand less homework. Student evaluation is not a legally defensible means leading to the dismissal of a poor teacher from the fact that student evaluations are almost universally 'anonymous' evaluations. There is a 'fear factor' that students have if they are asked to sign their names to the evaluation.
The most responsible nomination process should be as a result of the evaluation of the teacher by the supervisor, department head, and/or other administrative evaluators who actually review the classroom presentations, organisation of the teacher's work, student progress and other factors that are involved in a school's teacher evaluation processes. Many universities utilized a peer evaluation system where teachers evaluate their colleagues within the department. Past research has found that peers seldom are found to really provide negative evaluation even if a peer is seen as weak in their teaching. The weak teacher can possibly turn against the peer when it is his or her turn to evaluate that person.
My association with many university peers over the years has made me conclude that many of the university faculty awards are passed around from year to year so that most in the department, whether deserving or not, may receive the recognition award when it is 'their turn'.
There are a number of outstanding recognition programs for teachers in the United States and Australia. Some of them were presented in this article. There still is, however, a gapping neglect in the arena of recognitions for outstanding teachers in both countries. It is time for our educational and political leaders to expand these recognition programmes in order to create more highly motivated and satisfied teachers in all of our school districts.
About the Author:
Hans A. Andrews is a former secondary school teacher and counselor and held instructional administrative roles in community colleges. He retired as college president at Olney Central College in Illinois and is now the Distinguished Fellow for Community College Leadership for Olney Central College. He is President of Matilda Press and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.matildapress.com. His most recent books are Accountable Teacher Evaluation and Awards and Recognition for Exceptional Teachers
Andrews, H.A. & Erwin, J. (2003). Recognition for outstanding teachers: A national study. Community College Journal. 73(2), 36-39.
Australian Social Trends. (2011, September). Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved from www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4102.0
Harris Interactive. (1999, March 19). Teachers recognized for excellence rate career satisfaction higher. Rochester, NY: Retrieved from http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/printerfriend/index.asp?NewsID=303
Hood, L., Ed. (2011, January 29). Teachers given $50,000 to retire. The Advertiser.
Retrieved from adelaidenow.com.au/teachers-given-50000-to-retire/story-e6frea6u-122599642
McDonald, T., & staff (May 24, 2010). Teachers say best work not rewarded. ABC News. Retrieved from www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/05/24/2907219.htm
National Teacher of the Year Program (2011). NTOY Program. Retrieved from www.ccsso.org/ntoy.html