Local News: English Department competition recognizes writing skills of young students (01/31/22)

University Press prints winning student work into a book, becoming the young writers’ first printed and published work in most cases. Above is the cover of the printed and published book that winning writers receive.

Image submitted by Crystal Bailey

For the past 40 years, the English Department has encouraged young writers through the Katherine Hinchey Cochran Writing Achievement Awards. The program collects written assignments from grades four through twelfth from local schools.

The awards are an outlet for student creativity, while creating connections between students and the Southeast. Students can submit pieces for poetry, non-fiction, and essays.

Teresa Cooper, an English teacher at Leopold High School, and her colleagues guide their students to submit a piece of poetry, then they can choose to submit a second piece of nonfiction or essays.

Cooper students work on these pieces outside of class, and Cooper is available to help with editing if needed. Cooper helps his students prepare by teaching a unit of poetry, then lets them create from there.

Cooper and his students began participating in the contest 30 years ago. According to Cooper, they’ve been blessed with winners over the years.

“It’s so exciting to see them being recognized and being recognized on this type of platform, ?” Cooper said. “And then when they come back, they have more confidence to try other things that maybe they didn’t have before.”

Exhibits are submitted to the English Department in late October or early November, and judging begins around the second week of the spring semester. Submissions are divided into grade levels and then into one of three writing categories, said associate English professor Sandra Cox.

Judges across the department are assigned an age group and writing category to judge. Some qualities sought by judges include the ability to develop a thesis, critical thinking and the ability to show readers what they mean, according to Cox.

??Often, I think, we write not just to show what we already know, but as a way to learn,?? said Cox. ??I think we are trying to build a rubric that rewards students who take risks, who do something new.??

For the past few years, the English Department has held an awards ceremony at the Rose Theater with students, as well as their parents and teachers. This allowed families to meet and get to know faculty members in the department, while celebrating student success.

The department will not hold an in-person awards ceremony this semester, but winning students will still receive their awards, said English department chair Susan Kendrick. All winning plays are sent to University Press and printed in a book which winning authors receive, providing students with their first printed and published work.

?? Writing is never fixed; it can always be improved. It??s very flexible,??? said Kendrick. “People can be creative, and there are so many different ways to express themselves through writing. »