However, winning the award was a catalyst for one of the most introspective weeks I'd had recently. Though I was overjoyed to win, I felt a wave of self-doubt. How could I have possibly won an award for teaching excellence, when I had made so many mistakes? How could I have beaten anybody when there were times when I had not been excellent? I brooded over every misfired classroom management policy (draconian late policies? NEVER AGAIN), every time when I could have explained things a little better, every time when I didn't turn around exams or papers fast enough. I day-mared (daydreaming about scary things) that I would get an e-mail, rescinding my award, telling me that there had been some mistake.
Finally, after a week of thinking about it on and off, I came to an important realization:
I would not have won this award four years ago. I would not have won this award even two years ago.
I won this award today because I became a good educator.
I'm not a good educator because I haven't made mistakes. I am a good educator because I take stock of my mistakes, because I solicit feedback and take it seriously, and because I am determined to be the kind of educator that my students deserve.
It is hard to articulate how grateful I am to have won the award, how indebted I am to everybody who worked so hard to mentor me, to provide me with thoughtful feedback, and to write me letters of recommendation. But I am so much more thankful to have had the opportunity to confront my shortcomings, and to see them in the broader context of my pedagogical development. That's the real prize.