Currently the United States is facing a shortage of educators, but in a field where pay is low and rigid bureaucratic systems can inhibit innovation and creativity, many bright young graduates have taken their talents to more lucrative and dynamic fields. The current public education system pays not based on merit but seniority, which doesn’t exactly inspire educators within that system to go above and beyond what’s expected. After all, why should instructors work overtime to create meaningful learning experiences for their students when they’re going to get paid the same as the colleague who chooses to simply collect his paycheck and enjoy summers “off”?
Luckily teachers within the system are mostly comprised of the former, creative individuals who aren’t in it for the money and are choosing to innovate and go above and beyond anyway. But morale can sink low among teachers as they’re often blamed for all that’s wrong in the system, as this cynical teacher describes in an article that attempts discourage young, bright minds from entering the profession. But the Minerva Project has create a grant-like prize for educators that hopes to do just the opposite by awarding educators who go above and beyond in higher education.
The Minerva Project is an online university that hopes to match the quality of other Ivy League schools, and they announced today that they’ll award The Minerva Prize, a $500,000 sum to one professor a year for advancements made in higher education. Founder and CEO Ben Nelson established this prestigious award in order to encourage advancement in education among professors and instructors, awarding those who inspire learning rather than focus on their own research projects and papers. “We have a dual purpose — not only knowledge creation but also intellectual development,” said Nelson in a statement to Inc. ”[The prize] at least begins mirroring the research infrastructure as far as giving teaching the recognition and prestige it deserves.”
Nelson wants to award professors who “change the way students look at the world,” and he hopes that this prize will encourage other grants and awards in order to recognize excellence in the education field.
Nobel Prize winner Roger Kornberg will be the Governor of the Minerva Academy, the group who will select the Minerva Prize winners. “Respect for teaching has declined over the years. Teachers were once one of the most esteemed members of the community and, in some way, their remuneration reflected that. But today that’s much less true,” said Kornberg in a press release. “The purpose of this prize [is] to enhance the public appreciation of people who today make a great sacrifice and devote their lives to this profession.”
Kornberg comments on the importance of encouraging outstanding educators in a video below:
The first Minerva Prize will be awarded a year from now, in May 2014. Nominations are now open and will remain so until the end of November. The nomination form can be found here.
Having a prize for excellence in higher education is a wonderful first step towards honoring instructors who devote their careers to education. Hopefully the Minerva Prize will gain esteem and have a trickle-down effect, so awards are created for bright, inspiring K-12 educators as well who also deserve recognition for their life’s work. It’s time that educators who find their own rewards within their work are rewarded financially as well for their efforts.