Canvas Teachers of the Year: One Year Later

As we celebrate our educators during this Teacher Appreciation Week, Canvas would like to reflect on the daily examples given by our inaugural Canvas Teachers of the Year. Their dedication inspires us, and we wanted to check in with them a year after their awards to hear how winning the award has reinforced their teaching, advice they would give to other teachers, and new success stories.

Todd Miller photo



After Todd’s father passed away this year, he admits that he has had to push himself to get in his groove. He says that by staying involved, focusing on new ways to engage his students, and teaching other teachers to use Canvas better has made him even more enthusiastic about blended learning and incorporating new tools into his teaching (including his popular “digital lockboxes” that he shared in Canvas Commons). He wants to improve the students’ love of learning, and said that he wants them to enjoy going to class and to be disappointed when it’s over.

“I’ve seen much more peer tutoring during gamified lessons this year,” Todd said. “The students are willing to help each other because they want everyone to move forward to the ‘payoff’. Kids have more patience, and as soon as you make it into an engaging game, they’ll want to tutor each other.”

Nancy Barbara photo



Nancy has spent much of the past year teaching her peers about “prescriptive feedback”-more individualized feedback to enhance participation. She uses ungraded surveys in the Canvas Gradebook to get information from students and make them feel like a person, not just a number in her course. Nancy says that the more she knows about her students, the more engagement she sees, which translates into better outcomes.

Nancy says she has had a great experience connecting with a young man with autism. She took extra time to show him the internet, Canvas, and other additional tools he would need to succeed. He then emailed her: “I need to tell you that I’m autistic. You will need to explain things to me several times. You just did that.” Through online video examples, the student became more engaged, became a more social person, and gained confidence. 

“I think winning Canvas Teacher of the Year made me more accountable. People looked to me as more of a leader and wanted more information about Canvas. I frequently hold little workshops where I show other teachers hidden gems,” Nancy said. “Canvas is like a Georgia sweet onion. There are so many layers.”

David Holland photo



David was humbled with winning a national award because it was just his fifth year of teaching.

He says he learns so much for others, and is committed to finding different ways to reach students and get them engaged in their learning. “Whether you are a first-year teacher or someone who has taught for 20 years, the most important thing is making a difference,” David said.

David had another opportunity to make a difference this year with at-risk students. One of them was failing school and constantly missing school. He wanted to provide hope to this student and an example of perseverance (something he knows about well as a teacher and marathon runner). Through reaching out with phone calls, visits, and help from her friends, the student made a major turnaround. It all “clicked” and she started to seek out help. She stayed in school and out of trouble. Her grades improved, and she was recently named “Student of the Month” for her entire school district. All because of perseverance — from her and her teacher.

Canvas awards

Thanks to these teachers for opening up and sharing their stories with us.

Nominations for the 2019 awards are now open and we’ll reveal the winners at InstructureCon!


Keep learning,

The Canvas Team