Excellence in Teaching Award

This award for Excellent in Teaching goes to a faculty member* from one of the following colleges: 

  • Business and Economics
  • Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Fine and Performing Arts
  • Huxley College of the Environment
  • Woodring College of Education

*Please Note: Only Assistant Professors, Associate Professors, or Professors are eligible for this award. (Instructors, Lecturers, Senior Instructors are not eligible. Please check the staff directory for faculty titles.)

Selection Criteria

The criteria that will be considered include:

  • Inspirational/Transformational and value of learning for career/life decisions/etc.
  • Vision, purpose, and intentionality for teaching
  • Engagement beyond class, mentoring student (students, other faculty, etc.)
  • Innovative pedagogy, continual development
  • Overall awesomeness


The award recipient will be presented with a Western medallion award at the Celebration of Excellence Awards in June. This award also includes a payment of $2,500, made possible by the Western Washington University Foundation. (Please note: for each payment, the University also contributes approximately $1,553.66 for tax related deductibles plus benefits for a total expenditure of approximately $3,553 per award).

Award Administration

Huxley College of the Environment and Woodring College of Education (rotates)

Nomination Process

Students, alumni, faculty and staff members are encouraged to nominate faculty members (Professors, Assistant Professors, or Associate Professors) for the Excellence in Teaching Awards. Nominations open in the fall and are due by December 1.


Photo of John Korsmo, Health & Community StudiesJohn Korsmo - Health & Community Studies

Dr. John Korsmo is a Professor of Human Services, and Chair of the Health and Community Studies Department. His scholarship relates to human ecology - particularly related to youth and family efforts to deal with and depart from cycles of poverty. His dedication to supporting low income and first-generation students has been central to his work at Western. His teaching is inspired by more than two decades of practice in the human services sector – primarily working with children, youth, and families experiencing poverty, systemic racism, and marginalization.

John’s relational practice in the classroom supports sense of belonging and connection, which enhances his ability to work with students on critically understanding complex systems and emotionally-laden topics such as personal identity, systemic oppression, racism, and inequities. With a PhD in Urban Education and a MS in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, John has developed numerous case studies, curricular materials and simulations that are used by thousands of educators and practitioners around the country and globally. His scholarship has been published in dozens of journals and professional publications as well as books and periodicals, and more.

John’s motivation comes from his own experiences in poverty and as a 1st-gen college graduate, and is sustained through his family, friends, community partners, and students.

Past Awardees


Photo of Verónica VélezVerónica Vélez - Secondary Education

Dr. Verónica Vélez is an Associate Professor in Secondary Education and the Founding Director of WWU’s Education and Social Justice Minor. Dr. Vélez’ work broadly analyzes racial inequities in education, the causes of those inequities, and how they impact the educational trajectories of Students of Color, particularly for Latinxs. Her research is informed by interdisciplinary expertise in Critical Race Theory (CRT), Latinx Critical Theory (LatCrit), Radical and Tactical Cartography, and Chicana Feminist Epistemologies. She has published in multiple academic journals including Educational Forum, Harvard Educational Review, Association of Mexican American Educators Journal, and Race, Ethnicity, and Education, and has contributed several chapters to edited anthologies.  

In addition to her scholarly work, Dr. Vélez worked as a grassroots organizer with Latinx im/migrant families for over 15 years calling for educational reform. She is currently organizing with teachers, administrators, and community members to develop an Ethnic Studies curriculum for Bellingham public high schools. In 2017, she was one of six faculty across Washington State awarded The Ormsby Award for Faculty Citizenship to recognize exemplary service in the public interest for her efforts to create systems through which institutionally underrepresented and underserved students can access higher education. Dr. Vélez is the proud daughter of a Mexican im/migrant mother and a Panamanian im/migrant father, whose journey to provide her with a quality education fundamentally inspires her work for social justice.