ISEA Awards & Scholarships

ISEA Awards & Scholarships

ISEA Student Essay Contests

ISEA student essay contests promote academic excellence in our Iowa public schools.

Exploring History

This essay contest allows Iowa students the opportunity to explore why it is important to study our past to learn and grow toward a better future. Studying history allows us to observe and understand how people and societies behaved. It provides us with data that is used to think about various aspects of society. Please write about why it is important to look back in time from different perspectives, focal points, and voices.

Click here for 2021-22- Exploring History essay contest information.


ISEA Awards

Looking for a way to spotlight a special person’s accomplishments while generating goodwill for your association? Consider taking part in one of ISEA’s major awards programs which recognize outstanding achievement by students, association members, school administrators and citizens.

You can download a nomination form here.

Friend of Education

Education is a total community effort. The ISEA Friend of Education Award honors all citizens who give their time and energy, but pays special tribute to one individual or group who has made a significant contribution to education. The ISEA Friend of Education selection committee consisting of the ISEA president, vice president, and executive director shall review the nominations and select the recipient. The ISEA Executive Board approves the award. To fairly evaluate all nominations for this award, comparable information is needed for all candidates. Please provide information for the following:

  • A statement describing the most outstanding educational contribution made by the nominee.
  • A list of the areas or ways the nominee has contributed to improving educational opportunities for students (include length of involvement for each area if applicable – i.e. developing programs for gifted and talented students, 3 years; or summer school programs, 5 years).
  • Describe whether the contribution made by the nominee was within the nominee’s regular job and whether the nominee was involved in the planning and implementation of their area of contribution.
  • Outline the scope of the nominee’s contributions (how many students and buildings were impacted, was the contribution for one year or is it ongoing?).
  • List the contributions provided by the nominee that resulted in better educational opportunities for children (i.e. new or expanded programs, opportunities provided not available through other sources).
  • Provide any additional information on why you feel the nominee should be selected for the Friend of Education Award.

Eligibility Requirements

Only citizens or groups not currently employed by an education agency can be considered for the ISEA Friend of Education Award. School employees are not eligible for consideration.

Nominees for the Friend of Education Award should be individuals or groups who have made a significant contribution to the support of programs and activities resulting in better educational opportunities for children.

A recent head and shoulders photograph of the nominee(s) should be included with the nomination.

The ISEA Friend of Education Award will be presented in the home community of the winning nominee by an ISEA officer at a time and place mutually agreeable to the ISEA and the local association. Public announcement of the Friend of Education selection will be made by the ISEA after notification and consultation with local association officials.

Nominations shall be submitted by affiliated local associations, UniServ units, or individual members of the association to the ISEA Communications Department no later than January 15.

Charles F. Martin Award for Association Leadership

The Charles F. Martin Award has been presented annually since 1972 as ISEA’s top honor to a member who has made a significant contribution to the teaching profession through association involvement. It’s named in honor of the late Charles F. Martin who served as ISEA president in 1945 and then as executive director from 1946 to 1961. Any ISEA member, local association, or UniServ unit may submit a nomination.

The selection committee consists of the ISEA president, vice president and executive director. Please provide information for the following:

  • Number of years of service to education in Iowa through association activities.
  • Current association position.
  • A listing of the candidate’s association activities (local, UniServ, state, and national levels), educational background, and teaching experience.
  • Letters of recommendation from association members, co-workers, and others who are familiar with the nominee’s association and educational activities.

Eligibility Requirements

Only ISEA members who have been involved in leadership and who have provided support of association activities for at least ten years are eligible.

Nominees must be currently employed as educators in Iowa. Current ISEA Executive Board members are not eligible during their terms of office unless retiring from the profession.

Deadline for nominations: January 15.

Paul Mann Memorial Human Relations Award

The ISEA Paul Mann Memorial Human Relations Award honors an individual or group for exemplary contributions toward the advancement of human and civil rights. It is named in honor of the late Paul Mann, a long-time association activist from Des Moines who championed civil and human rights causes. This program is designed to recognize contributions of individuals and/or groups, while encouraging others in their human and civil rights efforts, and foster development of programs for the advancement and protection of human and civil rights among ISEA members.

In order to help the Multicultural Committee fairly evaluate all nominations for this award, provide two references and a written summary with supporting artifacts to show the nominee demonstrated effectiveness in working in at least two of the following human relations areas:

  • Established or improved an effective human relations program in a school district or building, area education agency, area community college, or four-year institution of higher education.
  • Promoted multi-ethnic educational opportunity.
  • Helped to bring about improved inter-group and intra-group relations and understandings.
  • Promoted quality in educational opportunity for minority children.
  • Promoted the inclusion of human relations training for educators in in-service and pre-service programs.
  • Designed and initiated plans to identify and encourage the use of effective multi-ethnic teaching materials in the area of human rights.
  • Demonstrated creative leadership in women’s rights.
  • Worked to gain for women a greater voice in educational policy and decision making.
  • Helped to eliminate sex-role stereotyping within school curriculum.
  • Worked to improve the economic situation and job opportunities for women in the educational community or community in general.
  • Contributed significant leadership in eliminating discrimination against, and providing increased opportunity for, persons with disabilities.
  • Advanced educators’ rights and worked to involve the community.
  • Helped protect and advance the human and civil rights of educators.
  • Worked to eradicate discrimination in the education profession.
  • Established program(s) that provide for real community involvement and created in the community a feeling of investment and responsibility for the operation of the schools.
  • Designed and carried out project(s) to inform the public about what human rights are and how they can be secured.

Eligibility Requirements

Any association member, other educator, school district or group, or member of the general public is eligible to receive this award. Members of the ISEA Executive Board and Multicultural Committee are not eligible during their terms or appointments unless retiring from the profession. Nominations may be submitted by local associations or by individuals working through their local association officers. Nominations may be considered for one of the NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards. Deadline for nominations: January 15.

Design-a-Decal Program

After nearly 30 years of the Design A Decal program, the ISEA is reimagining how to highlight and celebrate student artwork from across the state. Please stay tuned for our new program celebrating Iowa’s amazing students.

TEAM Award

The TEAM award (Together, Educators and Administrators Make it Happen) honors a school administrator who has worked to create a collaborative, collegial working environment for all staff in a school building or district.

The ISEA president, vice president and executive director evaluate all nominations. Please provide typewritten information for the following:

  • The full name, position, and mailing address of the nominee as well as the name and address of the individual and local association making the nomination.
  • A statement describing how the nominee has worked to create a collaborative, collegial working environment in a school building or school district and the time frame during which this working environment has been created.
  • A recent “head and shoulders” photo.

Eligibility Requirements

Any school administrator, current or retired, is eligible to receive this award. Nominations may be submitted by local associations or by individuals working through their local association officers. Deadline for nominations: January 15.

Education Support Professional (ESP) Award

The ESP Award was established to recognize contributions by a currently employed, active, ESP member for their efforts to advance the ISEA and ESP activities within the association in the following areas:

  • Professional Practice: Describe the worksite responsibilities and personal achievements the nominee has made in his/her classification or field. How has the nominee demonstrated leadership, creativity, and innovation at the worksite? How has the nominee’s professional growth made a difference for the school, the students, and community?
  • Advocacy and Association Involvement: In what ways does the nominee serve as an advocate in the day-to-day educational process, for members, for the profession, and for public education? How has the nominee’s involvement in association work (local, ISEA and/or NEA) contributed to his/her success as a professional? How would the nominee persuade a new colleague to join or become more active in the Association?
  • Community Engagement: Specify in detail how the nominee has been involved in promoting public education in the community. In what other ways is the nominee involved in community activities/projects?
  • Personal Achievement: How has involvement in association and community activities enabled the nominee to meet his/her own personal goals? What advice would the nominee give to someone entering the profession?
  • Enhancement of ESP Image: Describe in detail how the nominee’s activities have enhanced the image of Educational Support Professionals at the worksite, in the association, and in the community.

All nominations submitted to ISEA will be evaluated on the basis of criteria stated above. The selection committee consists of members of the ISEA ESP Committee. The ISEA president presents their recommendation to the ISEA Executive Board for consideration and approval. Because the ISEA ESP winner is automatically nominated for the NEA ESP Award, all five of the criteria must be met and clearly outlined.

Eligibility Requirements

The nominee must be a member of the ISEA. Members of the ISEA Executive Board and members of the Education Support Professionals Committee are not eligible during their terms or appointments, unless retiring from the profession. Nominations may be submitted by local associations or by individuals working through their local association officers.

Deadline for nominations: January 15.

Beacon Award for Local Association Excellence

This award is designed to honor local associations that have demonstrated outstanding leadership and activity in the areas of communications, community involvement, advocacy, and programs.

Please provide printed summaries as well as supporting documents or artifacts as appropriate to demonstrate the local association’s activities in the following areas:

  • Communications: The local association has a regular system for keeping members informed.
  • Community involvement: The local association undertakes activities to generate goodwill, build support for local schools and increase its visibility in the community.
  • Advocacy: The local association advocates on behalf of the needs of members and students.
  • Programs: The local association and its members are actively engaged in programs and activities that meet members’ needs and help the association achieve its goals.

Eligibility Requirements

Any ISEA local association is eligible to be nominated. A special committee appointed by the ISEA president will review the nominations and select the recipient(s).

Deadline for nominations: January 15.

Newsletter Recognition Program

How does your newsletter measure up with others published in the state? Does it merit special recognition? There’s only one way to find out – enter the annual ISEA Newsletter Recognition Program! Click here for additional rules and entry form.

Excellence in Education

Education professionals change lives. They nurture. They inspire. They challenge. Now Iowans have the opportunity to say thank you. If there’s a professional educator who’s changed your life or the life of your child, why not nominate him or her for the Excellence in Education award? It’s a recognition program sponsored by the Iowa State Education Association to honor Iowa’s everyday heroes–the ones who demonstrate excellence every day for their students or schools. The winner receives a check for $1,000. Thank an education professional today! For more information, contact Jean Hessburg. Nomination period is January 15 through March 1.

Download a nomination form.

Sue Wiele Distinguished Service Award

The Sue Wiele Retired Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor given to an Iowa retired member in recognition of contributions to public education and community including political action, community organizing, mentoring and volunteering to help meet educator and community needs.

Download a nomination form here.

H.O. Maxey Community Spirit Award

H.O. Maxey was an educator and long-time leader in ISEA. He believed the association should give back to the communities we serve and, to demonstrate that, started food bank drives at the NEA Representative Assembly and ISEA Delegate Assembly. To continue H.O.’s efforts and recognize local associations that give back to their communities, the H.O. Maxey Community Spirit Award was established by the ISEA Executive Board in 2009.
The ISEA president and executive director review the nominations and select the H.O. Maxey Community Spirit Award winners. Awards are presented at the annual ISEA Summer Conference. Please provide printed summaries as well as supporting documents or exhibits that demonstrate the following:

  • The local association organized and/or participated in community events that helped build support for public schools by putting members on the front line with other community leaders and volunteers. (Appropriate activities would include various health walks and vigils; Habitat for Humanity projects; Toys for Tots; food drives or community dinners; flood-relief efforts; helping a new teacher move; clothing drives; and other similar endeavors.)
  • The local association took a leadership role by partnering with other groups or agencies to organize an event; financially sponsoring or co-sponsoring particular events or activities; or both.
  • The local association demonstrated length of service–participation in a single event or activity that occurs on an annual basis; or participation in different events is an annual focus for the association.
  • Demonstrated breadth of involvement by having different members participating in community events or activities.
    association participation in a single community event or multiple events may be given consideration.

Eligibility Requirements

Any local association is eligible to nominate itself or be nominated by another individual or association, using the ISEA Annual Awards Program Nomination Form cover sheet.

Deadline for nominations: June 1.

Community Outreach Grants

The Iowa State Education Association Community Outreach Grants help local members and/or local associations collaborate and create opportunities for community service or school projects. The outreach grants have turned out to be among the most popular ISEA programs and awards have been made in all parts of the state. Click here for a full set of guidelines and an application for 2021-22.

ISEA Scholarships

Kathy Williams Scholarship for BIPOC students

The ISEA is committed to recruiting, placing, and retaining profession-ready teachers and supporting efforts to address shortage and lack of diversity. It is important to focus on the entire teaching continuum, starting with potential educators and teacher candidates. Increasing the number of BIPOC educators requires intentional preparation, hiring, providing ongoing support and addressing college affordability. ISEA’s Kathy Williams Scholarship for BIPOC students helps address college affordability at the beginning of the program when a student needs it most. The scholarship will be available to a BIPOC student applicant once they are accepted into their respective college of education program. In addition to the scholarship, the student will be enrolled into the NEA Aspiring Educators program. The deadline for application is January 15.

Download an application here.

Scholarships for Future Teachers

The ISEA offers scholarships to help sons or daughters of association members become teachers. Applicants must be a member of the NEA Student Program and have completed 60 semester hours (or equivalent) or they must be considered a junior at the college or university in which they are enrolled. A statement of enrollment in the teacher education program is also required. In addition, applicants must indicate by their transcript and a written statement their intent to become a teacher. The deadline for application is January 15.

Download an application here.

Download a scholarship program information brochure here

Roland and Dorothy Ross Scholarship for ISEA Member School Counselors

The Roland and Dorothy Ross Scholarship Award for ISEA members who are school counselors. The Scholarship is in memory of Roland and Dorothy Ross. It is administered by Wells Fargo Bank with assistance from the ISEA. This Trust makes funds available for qualified individuals to further their professional learning by their attendance and participation in classes or programs. Funds may be applied for by filling out the application and emailing it to These funds may ONLY be used for registration and materials for professional learning. NO TRAVEL or LODGING will be available through the scholarship. If meals are a part of the registration, the scholarship will cover what is included in the registration fee.

For questions, contact Cindy Swanson, ISEA Teaching and Learning Specialist.

Download an application here.