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In 2014, the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education launched their National Teaching Hero Award initiative which enables students from across the higher education sector in Ireland to recognise those teachers who have had a strong and lasting impact on their learning and on their lives.

The awards are:

  • A joint venture between Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Students’ Unions, and the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education.
  • Fully student -run awards, from planning through nomination to assessment of applications, and is the only student-run national teaching awards in Ireland.
  • Allows students to define teaching excellence under an agreed theme, and for students to reward their “Teaching Hero”

What are the characteristics of a Teaching Hero?

There are many definitions of heroes but the point is that there is no one, all-embracing, definition of a teaching hero. They come in both genders and all shapes and sizes. Some of them are dazzling, high profile technological wizards who have worked out how to reach and inspire large cohorts within their disciplines, others are quiet, committed, vigilant teachers who notice just when a student needs help and just how to provide it. All of them go beyond what is expected of them in some palpable way to have made enough of a difference that their students want to endorse and recognise that contribution.


A good definition of hero is the following :

Someone who is motivated by a shared sense of the public good, who takes responsibility of the life and circumstances of those around them and whose actions, efforts and skills improve the experiences of others and defend against hostile forces regardless of the risk to themselves.”

Everyone needs a hero like that in their lives, not least at those delicate stages of transition in and through higher education. Heroes give us courage, make us feel human, significant and important at times when that matters most.

Excellent teachers do more than come to lectures prepared, or stay up to date with their material, or publish useful work within their disciplines ‚however important such activities are. They set us on career paths, share their passion and they inspire and challenge learners in all sorts of ways. Each of us can remember a teacher that made a lasting difference in our lives. These awards provide students with the opportunity to nominate teachers who have done the same for them.

How are National Teaching Heroes identified?

Teaching Heroes are nominated by students - it is a way of ensuring that students have the opportunity to have their voices heard by identifying their teaching heroes, and to thank and recognise those excellent teachers at a national level. Each higher education institution’s student body works with the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning to ensure that they identify teachers across the sector who had a positive and lasting impact on students’ learning experiences.


The process is as follows:

  • The National Forum launches the Teaching Awards nationally.
  • Each institution's Students Union promotes the awards on campus using posters, information stands, social media, email, class representatives, etc.
  • Individual students nominate their Teaching Hero through an on-line nomination form. The form asks students to write a short personal piece that explains why this person is their Teaching Hero - this nomination form is managed by the National Forum.
  • Once nominations are complete, the National Forum returns an anonymised list of nominations to the corresponding institute.
  • The institute scores each nomination using an agreed qualitative framework and returns the scored nominations to the National Forum.
  • The National Forum then calculates the final score for each nominated Teaching Hero and returns the complete data set to each institution - the data received includes the top Teaching Heroes and all other nominated heroes from the corresponding institution.
  • The National Forum announces the top two Teaching Heroes in each institution and invites them to a National Awards ceremony.

How often do the awards take place?

These awards take place every two years.


The inaugural version of these awards was held in 2014 and they were held again in 2016.

Inaugral Teaching Hero Awards 2014 - Some of the Teaching Heroes receiving their awards from the students

Teaching Hero Awards 2014 - Some of the Teaching Heroes receiving their awards from the students

Teaching Hero Awards 2016 - Some of the recipients

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