Hardin Simmons College Prowler Essay

Aug. 3, 2017 - Amanda McKnight, a Gifted and Talented Language Arts teacher from Briarhill Middle School, was named the 2017 Region 11 Secondary Teacher of the Year at a special awards banquet at the Hurst Conference Center. The banquet, hosted by the Education Service Center Region 11 and generously funded by the EECU credit union, recognizes all of the teachers of the year from school districts in the north central Texas region. The Teacher of the Year Program, sponsored by the Texas Association of School Administrators, allows districts to submit one elementary and one secondary candidate to compete at the regional and state levels. Seventy-two teachers, representing 40 school districts in Region 11, participated in this year’s competition. 

District winners who competed for the regional award were required to complete seven lengthy essays describing their educational history and professional development, professional biography, a defining lesson they have developed, a special project or initiative they have spearheaded, an example of how they connected students to their community, knowledge of educational issues, and their message should they be selected as state teacher of the year. The regional selection panel, comprised of teachers (including past regional winners), assistant principals and central office staff from school districts within Region 11, reviewed and scored all of the essays before selecting McKnight as a regional winner.

Amanda McKnight earned her bachelor’s degree in language arts and reading from Hardin-Simmons  University. She has served as a middle school teacher in Lewisville ISD since 2004. 

In reviewing her application, the judges expressed they felt like they were reading a really great novel. “The quality of her writing is so engaging,” commented one judge. “There is a vulnerability about it…an authenticity.”

The judges were also impressed with the tangible examples McKnight shared about her teaching style. “She’s so full of positivity and motivation, and every idea she shared can be used by other teachers in their own classrooms,” said another judge. 

In her essay about a defining lesson, McKnight likens her role to an artist. “Time is my canvas; my lessons, my paint. I choose the colors and brushstrokes wisely, with intent and purpose,” she writes. “And just like artists have their own signature styles, I believe that we teachers do, too.”  She goes on to say that her favorite part of the canvas is the blank space that she leaves for her students “to discover how to make sense of what the paint reveals to them as learners and, ultimately, fellow human beings.”

McKnight will now compete at the state level for the Texas Teacher of the Year award. The Texas Association of School Administrators will meet with selection committees to review the applications of the regional winners on Aug. 7. Following that meeting, three elementary teachers and three secondary teachers will be named as state semifinalists in the competition. 

These six semifinalists will then travel to Austin for an interview with the selection committees on Sept. 14. The elementary and secondary state winners will be announced at a state ceremony on Sept. 15.

In April, McKnight was named Lewisville ISD's Secondary Teacher of the Year. Learn more about McKnight and watch her winning reaction here. 


Let’s start off by saying that this list could go on and on. There are so many scholarship opportunities out there that it would be unwise to enter college without applying for some kind of financial aid.

Spending the time to apply for a large number of scholarships is hard, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Plus, the more scholarships you apply to, the faster you’ll get and the more tricks you’ll learn, such as repurposing essay answers from application to another.

To add a little bit of fun to the process of looking for scholarships, we went out and found some of the wackiest ones available. Keep reading to get an idea of how vast the range of opportunities to fund your education can be.

Check out this crazy grouping, and know that this is only a taste of a very large list of scholarship opportunities.

As you start searching for the right college and applying to different schools, always keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for scholarship opportunities. Don’t forget, it’s not only big companies that offer scholarships; the more you search in your niche or in your local community, the more you’ll find.

9 Wacky Scholarship Opportunities


  1. Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship. If you’re a vegetarian who isn’t afraid to speak up about your beliefs and promote vegetarianism in your school or community, this scholarship is for you. You could win a $5,000 or $10,000 scholarship. This scholarship is available to high school seniors. Deadline: February 20.
  2. Create a Greeting Card Scholarship. Calling all artists! You could win $10,000 for submitting the winning design for a new greeting card. On top of that awesome prize, your school will also receive $1,000. Double bonus! Deadline: March 2.
  3. UBC Family Epilepsy Scholarship Program. This scholarship is wonderful, it not only is awarded to prospective students with epilepsy but can also be awarded to caregivers and family members of people with epilepsy. UBC offers 30 scholarships worth $5,000 and two worth up to $10,000. Deadline: March 10.
  4. American Association of Candy Technologists John Kitt Memorial Scholarship. Niche interests are always a great way to find scholarships, and this one sounds like too much fun. If you have demonstrated an interest in confectionary technology through projects, work experience, or formal study and are majoring in food science, chemical science, or biological science, you can receive a $5,000 scholarship. Deadline: April 4.
  5. Ayn Rand Institute Essay Contest.The Ayn Rand Institute offers multiple scholarships for different contests that reward up to $90,000 to students for their thoughts on Ayn Rand’s books. Why not apply? You get to read and discuss literature—and you just might win a scholarship. Deadline: March or April.
  6. Asparagus Club Scholarship. Don’t worry, for this one you don’t have to eat asparagus. This scholarship is awarded by the National Grocers Association to students who are interested in pursuing a degree in business, food management, or another degree that will lead to the grocery industry. The scholarship totals $2,000 per semester for a maximum of four semesters. Deadline: April 30.
  7. Stuck at Prom by Duck Brand Duct Tape. This scholarship is lots of fun to participate in, even if you don’t win. The first prize place is awarded a $10,000 scholarship and second place is awarded a $5,000 scholarship. You can enter as a single or a couple. Deadline: May 31.
  8. Kerope Zildjian Concert Percussion Scholarship. This scholarship rewards a great, undergraduate percussionist enrolled in a music program a $5,000 scholarship. Deadline: June 10.
  9. Wells Fargo College Sweepstakes.This scholarship might just be the easiest one on the list to apply for, as it is what is known as a lottery scholarship. Sign-up to receive college planning and money management tips from Wells Fargo and you’re automatically entered to win a $5,000 scholarship. It’s almost too easy to be true! Deadline: June 30.

If none of these fit your interests—don’t fret! As we’ve illustrated, there are many, many scholarships out there. Keep looking and find the one that is right for you!
With so many great scholarships available, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t start college with some money to help you along. What scholarship will you be applying for? Let us know in the comments!

As the Chief Content Officer of Colleges of Distinction, I get to read about and visit colleges and universities across the country. I'm always looking for admission tips and new and exciting learning programs to share with our college bound community.


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