National University Teacher of the Year Recipient Receives $50,000 and a Full Tuition Scholarship to National University

Alejandro Diasgranados of Aiton Elementary School in Washington, D.C. selected from more than 51 state winners as 2020 National University Teacher Award winner.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 30, 2021) — Today, the National University Teacher Award (NUTA) announced that Alejandro Diasgranados, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Aiton Elementary School in Washington, D.C., is the nation’s top inspiring teacher for 2020.

Mr. Diasgranados was selected from more than 51 state winners and will receive a check for $50,000 and is eligible for a full scholarship for National University’s Master’s Degree Program in Social and Emotional Learning or a doctoral degree in Education from National University, City University of Seattle, or Northcentral University (all universities in the National University System). The surprise announcement was made today by Dr. Michael Cunningham, Chancellor of the National University System, on the nationally syndicated Drew Barrymore Show.

During a challenging school year that saw students learning remotely for almost a year, the nation’s teachers — including Mr. Diasgranados — have had to scramble to ensure that their students have remained focused, motivated, and inspired.

“Inspiring teaching is critical to the well-being and the advancement of students reaching their full potential, especially as we recover from a year of isolation and disruption,” said Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, Chancellor of the San Diego-based, National University System (NUS), which is home to the Sanford College of Education, a top 10 producer of master’s degrees in education nationwide. “Mr. Diasgranados represents everything the award stands for — a passion for teaching and a commitment to do everything they can to help children grow academically, socially, and emotionally.”

Mr. Diasgranados stays in constant communication with his students, which he found even more important than ever with the shift to remote learning and during a period of social and political unrest in the city.

“My students are like family to me. I have been able to stay connected to my students, even throughout this pandemic,” said Mr. Diasgranados. ”It is so important to listen to what students have to say. We want to amplify students’ voices and provide a comfortable environment where they can share whatever emotions they have to share… Their excitement and passion is my inspiration.”  

Influenced by an inspirational teacher when he was growing up, Mr. Diasgranados seeks to remove all barriers to his students’ success. Recognizing that students were being bullied or were not coming to school because they did not have clean clothes, he wrote to the Washington Football Team to set up a laundry facility for the community in the school. Recognizing that the school, in the Deanwood neighborhood of D.C., was in a food desert where students did not have healthy food options, he established a partnership with a local nonprofit that provides healthy cooking lessons each month to four grades throughout the school.

As he worked to earn a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University, Mr. Diasgranados included all of his students in the process, teaching them all about college, its culture, and how to apply. For his graduation day, he and his students raised money to rent a bus to Baltimore so that all 40 students were present as he walked across the stage.

Created by the national, nonprofit National University System, the award recognizes teachers around the country who exemplify what it means to fully engage students, build confidence, create inclusive learning environments, motivate students to succeed, and give students a voice in their classroom.

In June 2020, the awards program selected one teacher from every state and the District of Columbia as National University Teacher Award winners for their states. Each award recipient received a check for $10,000, which they could use in any way they wanted.

Applications for the 2021 National University Teacher Award are available now. Next year, the national award winner will be selected from five regional finalists.

About the National University System

The National University System (NUS) is a network of accredited nonprofit education institutions serving a diverse population of students including pre-K-12 students and working professionals. NUS higher-education institutions serve more than 45,000 students through National University, Northcentral University, and City University of Seattle. NUS education-focused initiatives include Workforce Education Solutions, Harmony SEL, Inspire Teaching & Learning, and Fundraising Academy Cause Selling Education.

About Inspire Teaching and Learning and Harmony SEL

The National University System is a leader in social and emotional learning, leading a national expansion of affiliate programs in the pre-K-12 sector. These programs include Inspire Teaching & Learning, which offers research-based teaching methodologies and on-demand, self-guided modules that are accessible online and at no cost to help teachers create inspiring learning environments and encourage students to succeed. Harmony SEL is a pre-K-6 research-based social and emotional learning program that cultivates strong peer relationships between all students. Harmony SEL has been recognized by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as a quality program.

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