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The ACTFL Melba D. Woodruff Award for Exemplary Elementary Foreign Language Program

Melba D. Woodruff was a classroom teacher for over 40 years and it was in the classroom where she had her most profound impact.  She encouraged her students to do their best, dream their dreams, and work hard to fulfill them.  For many of her students Woodruff was more than their professor, she became their mentor and friend.  In addition, Woodruff was a leader of the profession as an author and officer of many professional organizations.

In recognition of Woodruff’s dedication to the profession this award was established in 2004 with funds from a series of national conferences on foreign language acquisition by children donated by Dr. Michael Evans and Dr. Rosemarie Benya to recognize an exemplary K-6 foreign language program.

Criteria for Selection

Submissions must describe how the program is exemplary in each of the following six areas:

1)    Program Characteristics

  • Elementary school foreign language program during the school day in place for a minimum of five years.
  • Participation open to all students within parameters of campus staffing.
  • Articulation plan for elementary school through high school for sequential language learning.
  • Periodic plan for program evaluation based on evidence of student progress.

2)    Curriculum

  • Curriculum aligned with the World Readiness Standards for Learning Languages.
  • Integration of language with content areas as appropriate to the program model and grade level.
  • Proficiency targets are set for each grade level for each mode of communication.

3)  Staff

  • Elementary school foreign language teachers are highly qualified for their positions.
  • Evidence that staff are lifelong learners, i.e., involvement in personal learning communities or networks, web resource curation, action research, articles, and/or studies, etc.
  • Evidence of teacher participation in foreign language professional development, i.e. attending conferences and/or webinars, presenting sessions and/or workshops, etc.
  • Collaboration among building or district colleagues, both language teachers and classroom teachers (as appropriate to the model).

4)    Advocacy

  • Evidence of promoting and advocating for early language learning in the community.
  • Evidence of opportunities for service learning within the local community.

5)    Achievement

  • Evidence of student progress toward the program proficiency goals.
  • Evidence of performance assessment at meaningful intervals as defined by the program model.

6)  Overall quality of program

  • Evidence of other noteworthy achievements, qualities, or characteristics not noted in 1-5 above, based on dossier and detailed by committee member.

Rubric: 0 – 10; 0 meaning no evidence & 5 meaning average & 10 meaning excellent.

Procedure for Nominations

Include the following information on the online submission form:

  1. Nominator and nominee information.
  2. Narrative that addresses the above criteria from program teachers and administrators.
  3. Documentation, such as newspaper articles, that support the above criteria.
  4. Letters from parents, administrators, professional organization leaders, teachers from other content areas, including classroom teachers.
  5. Letters of recommendation are to be sent to the person submitting the nomination so that they may be included in the complete nomination submission package.


  • Nomination submitted online on or before: May 29.
  • Copies of all documentation pertaining to the winner sent to the ACTFL Executive Director: September 1.
  • Copies of all documentation pertaining to finalist(s) returned to individual(s) who submitted them: September 1.
  • Woodruff Award Chairperson submits a 200-word statement on why the recipient was chosen: September 30.
  • Representative(s) of the winning program submits 150-word acceptance remarks to be printed in Awards Ceremony Brochure: September 30.

For Selection Committee Members: Please visit the ACTFL Online Community for specific information.


Submit Online

Previous Recipients

2019: Schaumburg School District 54 (IL); 2018: Canyons School District, Sandy, UT; 2017: Glastonbury Public Schools, Glastonbury, CT; 2016: Providence Day School, Charlotte, NC; 2015: Lexington County School District One, Lexington, SC; 2014: Hutchison School, Memphis, TN; 2013: The Milwaukee German Immersion School; 2012: E. E. Waddell Language Academy, Charlotte, North Carolina; 2011: West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, Plainsboro, NJ 2010: Holliston Public Schools, Holliston, MA; 2009: East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids, MI; 2008: The River Oaks Baptist School, Houston, TX; 2007: Winston-Salem/forsyth County Schools, Winston-Salem, NC; 2006: St. Paul Academy and Summit School, St. Paul, MN; 2005:  Eisenhower International School, Tulsa, OK.