“My teacher inspired me to…” 2016 Essay Contest Now Open!

We are excited to announce the Tennessee Department of Education is launching our third annual student essay competition. We know that the most meaningful thank you’s come from the students who once sat in your classroom. We were blown away by the 2,000 Tennessee students that shared their stories last year, and cannot wait to read about more incredible teachers across the state.

Maria and Mr. Roach pose for a picture after being honored in front of the McFadden School of Excellence student body.

Essay Prompt: “My teacher has inspired me to …”

Your essay should discuss one specific teacher who has inspired you in a meaningful way. Be sure to discuss both your teacher’s actions (how he or she inspired you), as well as the result (how you have changed or what you have done as a result of your teacher’s inspiration).  If you have entered this contest in previous years, please note the essay prompt has changed.

Who can participate:

All Tennessee public school students in grades kindergarten through twelve (the complexity of the essay will vary by age; K-2 students should record their thoughts on video).

What to write:

Students should write an essay sharing how a teacher has inspired them. You may honor a teacher you had in a previous school year, but please make sure you are celebrating a teacher who is currently teaching in a Tennessee public school. Submissions should be no longer than 500 words. Both typed and handwritten submissions will be accepted. Videos by K-2 students should be under 90 seconds. Take a moment to view two of last year’s winning entries (here and here) for inspiration.

Contest categories:

One winner will be selected from each of the following grade bands: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

We love the moment that Page Middle teacher Amy Tidwell realized her former student had written about her.

Student prize:

The students who author the winning essays and the honored teachers will be celebrated publicly, and the winning submissions will be posted here on the Tennessee Department of Education’s blog, Classroom Chronicles. There is also a scholarship prize for winning students and the amount will be announced soon.

Teacher prize:

The teacher who is the subject of the winning student essay will be celebrated publicly and receive a prize amount that will be announced soon.


All submissions must be received by the Tennessee Department of Education office by 5 p.m. CDT on Friday, April 8. Please note submissions will not be returned.

If you have any questions about the contest, please email Educator.Communications@tn.gov.