Excellence in Teaching Award

This award for excellent 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

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 for the Excellence in Teaching Awards. Nominations open in the fall and are due by December 1. Nominations are currently CLOSED for the 2021 award.


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. 

Past Awardees


Photo of James HelfieldJames Helfield - Environmental Sciences

Jim joined Western’s faculty in 2005 as an assistant professor of terrestrial and aquatic ecology in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Huxley College. His research focuses on rivers and salmon. He earned his Ph.D. in forest ecology at the University of Washington. He also holds an M.Sc. in physical geography from the University of Toronto and a B.A. in English literature from Duke University. Jim’s approach to teaching emphasizes the development of critical thinking and clear communication, as well as an enthusiasm for ecology and learning in general. His most valuable teaching skill is being unafraid to look foolish in front of a room full of people.