What does kindness mean to you?

That was the theme for the 2022 Art and Essay Contest presented by the George Washington Carver National Monument. A longstanding partnership with Missouri Southern has given students in the Teacher Education Department the opportunity to put their studies into practice by judging the essays written by area third- and fourth-graders.

“This partnership precedes me, but we’ve had it for decades,” said Dr. Kristi Mascher, a master instructor who teaches the block class for pre-service teachers. “We learn about the “6+1” model of teaching and assessing writing. The essay contest gives them an authentic opportunity to practice these concepts.”

The “6+1” model is a way for education students to learn about writing traits and instruction models and covers voice, conventions, ideas, presentation, word choice and sentence fluency.

The theme for this year’s essays come from the “Eight Cardinal Virtues” espoused by the renowned scientist and educator. For the future teachers judging them, it was a chance for some first-hand experience when it comes to grading.

“We talk a lot about ‘6+1’ in class, which is where the grading rubric for the essays comes from,” said Kalissa Taylor, a senior education major. “It was good to be able to tie in all the things we’ve talked about in class.”

Boone Macy, also a senior elementary education, said he was interested in seeing the different levels of student work displayed in the entries.

“We’ve learned a lot about the different systems of writing,” he said. “This was the first time we’ve seen actual examples of student writing (outside of textbooks).”

The winners of the essay contest were announced during a ceremony held at the Carver national monument on Saturday, April 2. Representatives from the Teacher Education Department were on hand to congratulate the winners, as well as Roary the Lion.

“The annual Art and Essay Contest is a strong partnership that benefits both MSSU and the George Washington Carver National Monument,” said Diane Eilenstein, park ranger. “These future teachers often return here with their classes for field trips, building the next generation of visitors.”