Essay Writing Competition 2015 Online Teaching

The YES! National Student Writing Competition is an opportunity for middle school through university students to write for a real audience—not just you, the teacher—and the chance to be published by an award-winning magazine.

Each quarter, students are invited to read and write an essay on a selected YES! Magazine article. We divide contestants into four categories: middle school, high school, university, and Powerful Voice (for authors whose essays are powerful and passionate). Winning essays in each category are published on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter.

Read recent featured essays here.

Register here.   Registration is closed. See you in Fall 2015!

Learning That Matters

This spring, students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article “When This Teacher’s Ethnic Studies Classes Were Banned, His Students Took the District to Court—and Won.”

In this interview with Curtis Acosta, the Tucson teacher activist takes you inside his former ethnic studies classroom. Acosta shares how his school district’s “rehumanized” Mexican American Studies Program helped empower students by connecting their learning to their history and who they are. Dropout rates fell to almost nothing—until the Arizona Legislature banned it.

We recommend viewing the accompanying trailer for the documentary film Precious Knowledge, inspired by the story of Tucson's Mexican American Studies Program. 

The Writing Prompt

Curtis Acosta's Mexican American Studies (MAS) classes gave his students pride in their heritage and inspired them to do well in school.

Describe a teacher or a classroom experience that helped make learning joyful and meaningful for you. Conversely, what message do you have for teachers and administrators who make learning tedious, even painful? How could they make learning more interesting and inspiring?

NOTE: In addition to the writing prompt, students may discuss a time when their ethnic identity has or hasn't been addressed in school. How did this inclusion—or exclusion—affect your “joyful, meaningful” learning?

Who is eligible?

You must be a classroom teacher—homeschool cooperative, resource centers, supervised writing groups, and schools outside the U.S. included—for your students to participate.

Student writers should be in grades 6-8, grades 9-12, college/university, or adult continuing education.

How does it work?

  • Complete the competition registration form by March 6 (see link at bottom of page).
  • Students respond to the YES! article with an essay up to 700 words.
  • Submit up to three essays per class period, along with student release forms, by April 8.
  • For each of the following categories, YES! staff (and possibly the author of the article) will select one essay that we feel is well-written, compelling, and captures the spirit of the article:
    • Grades 6-8
    • Grades 9-12
    • College/university
    • Powerful Voice (for an author whose essay is uniquely powerful or thought-provoking)
  • The selected essays will be featured on the YES! Magazine website and in our online education newsletter, reaching thousands of YES! readers, including over  30,000 teachers.

Common Core State Standards:

This writing competition meets several Common Core State Standards for grades 6-12, including W.9-10.3 and W.9-10.4 for Writing, and RI.9-10.1 and RI.9-10.2 for Reading: Informational Text *

*This standard applies to other grade levels. “9-10” is used as an example.

What are the essay requirements?

  • Respond to the article and writing prompt provided by YES!
  • Provide an original essay title
  • Reference the article
  • No more than 700 words
  • Must be original, unpublished work
  • Teachers must read and submit their students' essays. Remember, the limit is three essays per class period! Please take time to read your students' essays to ensure they have met essay requirements, including correct grammar. Unfortunately, we cannot accept essays sent independently by students.

In addition, we are evaluating essays for:

  • Grammar
  • Organization
  • Strong style and personal voice. We encourage writers to include personal examples and insights.
  • Originality and clarity of content and ideas

How do I submit the three best essays from my class?

You must be registered for the competition by March 4.

E-mail your three best student essays as word-processed document attachments (please no pdf or scanned documents) to no later than April 8.

Include a scanned, completed student release form with each submitted essay. Please make sure student email addresses are legible.

The next YES! National Student Writing Competition is in fall 2015.

Questions? Please email, and thank you for joining us!

Get Started Here:

Registration Form

Student Release Form

Evaluation Rubric

Making A Difference: Great Teachers 2018 Essay Contest

Write a 500 word essay about the school teacher who has had the most positive impact on your life. Your story could be posted online at!

  • Author must be a high school senior in a WVIA ESP participating school (visit
  • Essay must be 500 words or less
  • Essay should be sent via e-mail to as a .DOC or .DOCX attachment with your last name in the filename by 11:59pm on Sunday, February 25, 2018. You will receive an email confirmation upon receipt of your essay.
  • Must include author’s name, home address and phone number at the END of the essay body in the lower left corner. Must include teacher’s full name, school name and school address and phone number at the END of the essay body, lower right corner
  • Winners will be notified no later than Friday, March 9, 2018 via the email address used for submission. WVIA will come to your school to film you and your teacher’s story to be posted online at
  • WVIA reserves the right to disqualify incomplete entries
  • WVIA and Penn College employees and their relatives are not eligible
  • One winner will be recognized from each of the Luzerne, Central Susquehanna/BLAST and Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit. 

Essays will be judged on the following:

  1. Grammar & Spelling
  2. Capitalization & Punctuation
  3. Sentence Structure and flow
  4. Word Choice and descriptive language
  5. Support for Topic and Overall Impact of teacher 

Download the rules as a .pdf (167.2 KB)

Good Luck!!

2017 Winners

LIU Division 

Mydia Alonso of Wilkes-Barre Area School District - Brooke Joyce, Teacher

L-R Brooke Joyce, Mydia Alonso, Wilkes-Barre Area SD, Andrea O'Neill - WVIA

Read the Essay (15.1 KB)

NEIU Division

Karen Whitaker of Abington Heights, Eric Boylan, Teacher

L-R Karen Whitaker, Abington Heights SD, Andrea O'Neill - WVIA

L-R Andrea O'Neill - WVIA, Eric Boylan, Abington Heights SD

Read the Essay (15.5 KB)

CSIU Division

Aleah Alderson of Mount Carmel Area, Shanna Haden, Teacher

L-R Aleah Alderson, Mount Carmel Area SD, Andrea O'Neill, WVIA

L-R Shanna Haden, Mount Camel Area SD, Andrea O'Neill, WVIA

Read the Essay (14.7 KB)

2015-2016 Winners




2014-2015 Winners




2013-2014 Winners

2012-2013 Winners




2011-2012 Winners




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