California Students Excel in K12 Poetry Contest

K12’s Poetry Contest showcases the creative talents and unique brilliance of  students in all grades, across the country.

This year, embracing the theme “Smiles and Laughter,” more than 1,000 entries were received. Indeed, exceptional entries came from across the country in a wide range of poetic styles, making the judging a true challenge.

A trend, however, did emerge: The abundance of extraordinary entries from California Virtual Academies, a network of 11 independent, publicly-funded charter schools. This was particularly evident in the elementary grades. Four California students in grades K-6 earned top honors and California Virtual Academies led all schools with six winners (first- to third-place finishers) in all grade categories.

We asked California Virtual Academies teachers if there is a secret to their students’ success.

“Only that an independent study-type program like K12 California Virtual Academies allows for the time to pursue this variety of interests,” says Lisa Westcott, a K-5 teacher whose fourth grade student Arielle was a first-place winner.

“California Virtual Academies teachers meet in-person, quarterly—or more frequently—with their students and provide encouragement. They celebrate student learning. I think that the relationship with the teacher is ‘richer’ than just an online face. I think that helps challenge some students to ‘stretch’ their boundaries, giving them something new to share at the next meeting with their teacher.”

Westcott says that Arielle is creative in a variety of media, receives considerable adult support from both her mother and grandmother, and is involved in the Advanced Learner Program (ALP) which helps students “widen their horizons” on a variety of topics ranging from birdwatching to mythology to travel and more.

Teacher Robin Hinderliter considers winning first place to be a terrific accomplishment for Madisen, one of her fifth-grade students.

“The students love to share ideas and our class is very interactive,” Hinderliter says.

“Two things come to mind that may have helped Madisen. We enjoy talking about and emphasizing the importance of using adjectives and becoming descriptive writers. We also spend a lot of time discussing that what we write can influence the reader’s feelings and how the words we choose can help readers understand what we are trying to convey.”

See all K12 Poetry Contest entries online at All entrants were eligible to receive a certificate of participation. All winners will receive a trophy with second-place winners in each grade also receiving a poetry journal. First-place winners in each grade receive a poetry journal and book of poetry.

Creativity doesn’t end with summer vacation. Through July 31, K12 is accepting entries for its third annual Music Showcase, inviting all students to step up to the mic and share their musical talents. More information is available at



Featured Image © K12 Inc.

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