Essay Awards

MIDTESOL is pleased to invite teachers to announce and submit student essays for the Best High School ESL Student Essay Award and Best ESL Student Award. Topics reflect this year’s conference theme of innovation and improvisation.


Best K-12 Essay Award – The student must be K-12 student in good standing who is enrolled—or was enrolled formerly—in an ESOL/ELL program in a K-12 school in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, or Nebraska.

Best ESL Student Essay Award – The student must be an adult ESL learner enrolled in a higher education ESL/EAP program, intensive English program, or adult education program in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, or Nebraska.

Essay Topic: Innovation & Improvisation

Write an essay on one of these topics:

1. “Absence is the mother of invention.” Think of an event in your life that didn’t occur as planned. Perhaps
something went wrong, you had a difficulty, or you lacked something you needed. What solution did you think of, or how did you improvise? Was the outcome better? What did you learn from this process?

2. Who is an innovative person that you admire? What has he or she created? What personal qualities led this person to success?

3. Explain the importance of creativity. How does formal education encourage or discourage creativity? What are ways teachers could help students develop it?

Rules and Format

Each student may submit only one essay and must be an ELL/ESL student in good academic standing who is enrolled in an ESOL/ELL/ESL program in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, or Missouri.

The essay must be submitted with a cover page, including the following

  • student name and contact information (phone number, address, email)
  • school (name, address, phone number)
  • grade level, for High School Essay Award
  • sponsoring teacher and teacher’s phone number, address, and email address

The essay must be solely the work of the student with limited guidance from others.

The essay must be 500 to 700 words in length; typed (12-point Times New Roman font) and double-spaced.

There should be no identifying information listed on any pages of the essay, just the cover page. This includes any mention of name or school.

Failure to abide by any of the above conditions will result in immediate disqualification.


Essays undergo blind peer review.

Scoring Criteria: Essays are scored on ideas/content, organization, conventions, voice, sentence fluency, and word choice/voice. In short, judges look for writing that is clear, creative, articulate, and logically organized.

Awards: The selected recipient of each contest will be awarded $100. His/her name, photo, and school affiliation will be published in the ensuing issue of MIDTESOL Matters, the organization’s electronic newsletter. Additional awards include one (1) second place award of $50 and one (1) third place award of $25.

How to Apply: To apply, submit essay, including cover page, to Denise Mussman (, MIDTESOL Awards Chair, by May 6, 2016. The subject line of the email should read “MIDTESOL 2016: Best Essay Award.” You will receive confirmation from the Awards Chair that your submission has been received and a notification if you are an award recipient by May 20, 2016. All applicant information will be kept confidential. Decisions made by reviewers are final.

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