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Area Educators Judge Scholastic Writing Competition

Published: February 6, 2017

Kara Wicks, Colleen Narens, Valerie Shirley, Dr. Doris Davis, and Brandi Burrow

Kara Wicks, Colleen Narens, Valerie Shirley, Dr. Doris Davis and Brandi Burrow participate in judging for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious scholarship and recognition initiative for creative teens.

Most English teachers have their plates full with grading mountains of student papers every night.

But a panel of writing faculty from the Texarkana region recently took on an extra assignment, serving as regional judges for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious scholarship and recognition initiative for creative teens.

The 14 educators, all affiliated with the East Texas Writing Project,  worked 10 hours or more, evaluating and scoring the high school memoir, short story, flash fiction, poetry and drama entries, using a rubric supplied by Scholastic.

“Each judge scored 80 to 90 pieces of writing,” said Kara Wicks, an English teacher at Texas High School who organized and directed the group’s efforts. “We were looking for the best of the best, so it was important to distinguish what we thought was quality writing.”

The other judges agreed.

“Writing is such a reflection of the students’ personal experiences,” Pleasant Grove High School teacher Valerie Shirley said. “It’s always interesting to see the different types of students reflected in their writing.”

Dr. Doris Davis, Regents Professor of English at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, said the East Texas Writing Project received a $2,000 honorarium, which allowed the ETWP to offer the teachers an honorarium and retain funds for other ETWP activities.

“This type of program helps to emphasize the importance of writing and to stimulate the students’ writing talents,” Dr. Davis said. “The teachers put a tremendous amount of work into judging the entries. I am so proud of their efforts to support the East Texas Writing Project and student-writers.”

Judges included Kim Downs, Michele Rigdon, Jenny Walker, Brooke Ferguson, Brittny Crowell, Kara Wicks and Robin Welsh, all of Texas High School; Brandi Burrow of Simms Independent School District; Daina Land of Maud ISD; Valerie Shirley of Pleasant Grove ISD; Colleen Narens of TISD; Pamela Owney and Patricia Meyer, both of Texarkana College; and Dr. Doris Davis of A&M-Texarkana.

The awards, formally the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, began in 1923. Among the winners have been later luminaries Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford and Ken Burns.

Kim Downs, Colleen Narens, Kara Wicks, Valerie Shirley, Brandi Burrow and Dr. Doris Davis

Kim Downs, Colleen Narens, Kara Wicks, Valerie Shirley, Brandi Burrow and Dr. Doris Davis, along with eight other educators with the East Texas Writing Project, recently served as regional judges for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

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