Thousands of hard-working teachers in the United States receive no formal recognition for their outstanding contributions to society. Teacher awards help fill this gap by honoring educators who excel in their profession. Awards also provide the teaching community with examples of high-quality teaching and focus public attention on the value of the teaching profession.
While not comprehensive, we’ve compiled a list of teacher awards below. Follow the links to learn more about eligibility and the application process. And to find out about additional awards in your area, try contacting your state Department of Education and local school district.
National Teacher of the Year Program
Sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, this is the oldest and most prestigious teaching award program. The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among winners of State Teachers of the Year. The winner of the national award is announced by the President of the United States and is released from classroom duties to travel, and speak nationally and internationally about the teaching profession during the year of the award.
Milken Educator Award
The Milken Educator Awards are one of the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition programs, having honored more than 2,500 K-12 teachers, administrators and specialists across the country. Awardees are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and the promise of what they will accomplish in the future. This program has no formal nomination process. Each participating state’s department of education appoints an independent committee to recommend candidates.
YoungArts Distinguished Educators in the Arts
This award is presented by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts to three outstanding high school teachers in the fields of visual, performing and literary arts. Teachers are nominated by students who have won YoungArts awards. The award includes a $1,000 “Distinguished Educator” stipend.
National Teachers Hall of Fame
The National Teachers Hall of Fame recognizes and honors exceptional career teachers. A National Selection Committee selects honorees from a pool of nominated teachers who have at least 20 years of full-time teaching experience. Winners of the award are inducted into The National Teachers Hall of Fame Museum in Emporia, Kansas.
Teams that Make a Difference
The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) recognizes teams of teachers, parents and administrators who have worked together to influence the lives of young adolescents. Prizes to the winning team include a $5,000 cash award, a one-year membership in AMLE and the opportunity to present the winning team project at the AMLE Annual Conference.
The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards
This award spotlights inspirational teachers throughout the United States who have been nominated by a student whom they profoundly affected. Each winner is recognized with a $10,000 monetary award and featured, along with the student they inspired, on the Inspirational Teacher Awards website.
SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Awards
This award recognizes a teacher who is working at the grassroots level to preserve and protect the environment. The winner of the award receives $10,000 in cash, along with a trip to a SeaWorld or Busch Gardens park for themselves and a guest for an awards event, as well as a trip to the National Science Teachers Association National Conference.
Outstanding Special Education Teacher Award
The National Association of Special Education Teachers bestows this award to teachers who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in special education. In addition to classroom service, award winners are expected to have provided service to the community or to professional education associations.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
The VFW recognizes three teachers each year for their commitment to teaching American history, traditions and patriotism. Each award winner receives a $1,000 monetary award to be used for professional development, as well as a $1,000 award for his or her school. Winners also receive a trip to a Veterans of Foreign Wars conference to receive their award.
Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching
Since 1986, Golden Apple has annually recognized 10 outstanding teachers in Illinois. Full-time classroom teachers in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties are eligible to be nominated for the award. Recipients of the award receive a semester sabbatical at Northwestern University with all expenses paid, as well as a cash award of $3,000 and induction into the Golden Apple Academy of Educators.
Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award
The United State-Japan Foundation recognizes exceptional teachers who contribute to mutual understanding between the U.S. and Japan. Each year, the foundation bestows its award on two elementary or secondary level teachers (one in humanities and one in Japanese language). Award recipients receive a $2,500 monetary award and $5,000 in project funds.