Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching Excellence

2017-2018 Award Winner: Denver Brunsman, Associate Professor of History


This award for outstanding undergraduate teaching was established in 1990 by President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg in memory of his parents. The Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching is presented annually to a tenured member of the faculty who regularly teaches undergraduate students. A $1,500 honorarium is awarded for professional development. Nominations are solicited from October through November. Departments may then endorse nominated faculty by submitting all supporting materials by mid-January. A selection committee of faculty and students select the recipients.

Award Criteria

Only undergraduates may nominate faculty members for this award. Faculty must be full-time, tenured professors to be eligible for this award. Teaching excellence is defined as “the accurate and effective communication to undergraduate students of important cultural, historical, or scientific material, as well as current scholarship and scholarly debates in the fields involved.” Recognition for teaching will be based upon demonstrated excellence in the following criteria:

  • Application of appropriate pedagogical principles and effective teaching practices in higher education and/or the specific discipline or area being taught.
  • Commitment to student learning and adaptation of instructional methods to differing students' strengths, needs, and differences.
  • Use of student assignments that reflect high academic standards and expectations for high achievement.
  • Fostering a high level of student involvement and intellectual excitement.
  • Availability to students outside of regularly scheduled class times.
  • Participation in the peer review of teaching.
  • Engagement in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Please download the Trachtenberg Teaching Award Criteria (.pdf) for more information.

Selection Process

The Trachtenberg Teaching Prize winner is nominated by undergraduate student(s), endorsed by the department, and then voted upon by committee. Each year, Faculty Affairs invites nominations from currently enrolled undergraduate students. 

To endorse the nomination, the department is asked to submit the following supporting materials electronically as a single PDF document. Nominees also must fill out and attach the new GW Teaching Award Submission Package Cover Letter (.pdf):

  • Summary of teaching experience and approach as it relates to the materials in the package (1 page).
  • One letter (1–2 pages) stating the department’s support of the nominee and addressing all of the criteria. This letter should be from the department chair or other departmental colleague with the chair's co-signature.
  • Two letters (1-2 pages) from departmental colleagues. At least on of these letters should include a peer-review of teaching by a colleague who has observed the nominee.
  • At least two but not more than five letters of support (1-2 pages each) from students/alumni who have completed a course with the faculty member. Letters should also address some or all of the criteria.
  • Summaries of two recent semesters of teaching feedback. All quantitative scores should be summarized into a table and all student comments into themes with supporting quotes (4 pages maximum).
  • At least one but not more than three examples of the teaching materials used in the course(s) (maximum of 10 pages total). Each should be labeled as to which criteria or criterion it is supporting. These can include:
    • Sylabi.
    • Course assigments or projects descriptions/prompts.
    • Presentation slides.
    • Active learning techniques.
    • Classroom or laboratory activities.
    • Sample of complted student work, with grading/feedback.

The submission package should be a maximum of 30 pages; materials beyond the 30-page limit will not be considered. Letters need not be on letterhead nor signed by hand; typed signatures are acceptable but must be accompanied with complete contact information in the letter.

*Nomination materials will not be returned.*

Award winners will be selected by a committee consisting of a member of the student association, previous Trachtenberg and Bender award winners, “external” faculty who has not won either award, and a faculty senate representative. The recipients will be honored at the Faculty Honors Ceremony in the spring.


Nominations for 2017-2018 Faculty Awards will be open from October 11th through November 26th. Submission packets from candidates endorsed by their department are due to Aaron Kramer by January 25th

Please contact Aaron Kramer (202-994-5884; [email protected]) with any questions.

List of previous winners of the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching Excellence