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The ACTFL Wilga Rivers Award for Leadership in Foreign Language Education, Higher Ed

The Wilga Rivers Award honors the memory of the internationally renowned scholar and author, and one of the first women to be appointed to a full Professorship at Harvard University.

Each recipient will receive a $500 cash award provided by ACTFL.

Criteria for Selection

  1. The recipient must be a current ACTFL member.
  2. The recipients must have a minimum of five years teaching experience with at least half of each year's assignment in the area of foreign language education.
  3. The recipients must submit evidence of excellence in teaching, such as program descriptions and supporting letters from students, colleagues, school or institutional officers; and/or
  4. The recipients must submit evidence of service to the school, community, and state, as well as to state, regional, and national professional organizations.
  5. In the case of administrators or supervisors, the recipient must submit evidence of instructional leadership.

Procedures for the Nominating Organization

  1.  Nominations may be made only by organizational members of ACTFL.
  2. Include the following items on the online submission form:
    1. Nominator and nominee information.
    2. Curriculum vitae of the candidate (length must not exceed 10 pages).
    3. Current letters of support clearly explaining the rationale for the choice of this individual.
    4. Other documentation, e.g., copies of newspaper articles or other materials, if appropriate for the award.
  3. Evidence of the nominee's leadership should consist of a record of active participation in the activities of various foreign language organizations. This would include not only membership and holding office but also work on committees, significant publications, conference presentations, and other organizational activities.
  4. On the nomination form include a record of special honors and awards received and a brief description of innovative curricular programs that the nominee has inaugurated. Document also recognition of the nominee's professional contributions and leadership by those with whom the nominee has regular contact. This recognition should be expressed in supporting letters from supervisors, colleagues, students, or others who benefit from the nominee's services; a current supporting letter from the nominating organization; and in the case of a nominee who is in a supervisory position, supporting letters from those who work under the nominee's supervision. Supporting letters should indicate the nominee's excellence as a teacher and/or professional leader in foreign language education.
  5. No member of the ACTFL Board of Directors or Officer may write a letter of support for any award nominee or actively shepherd the nomination of an award candidate.  If a dossier packet is resubmitted that contains a support letter written prior to the establishment of these guidelines, that letter will be removed from the packet by the Committee Chair.
  6. No member of the ACTFL Board of Directors, Officer, or contracted employee is eligible for nomination for any award while holding these positions.
  7. 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.
  8. IMPORTANT: Nominations in excess of thirty (30) pages (excluding the curriculum vitae) will not be accepted. The nominating dossier must not be stapled, placed in scrapbooks, etc., or attached in any manner other than an elastic band or a large office clamp. This will facilitate the duplication of the dossier and its circulation to members of the selection committee.


  • Nominations submitted online on or before: May 29.
  • Copies of all documentation pertaining to the winner(s) 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.
  • Winners and finalists notified by September 12.
  • Wilga Rivers Award Chairperson submits a 200-word statement on why the recipient was chosen: September 30.
  • Winner 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.

Nominations will be judged on:

  • Impact of the individual's leadership and contributions to the profession at the regional and national levels.
  • Impact of the individual's leadership and contributions to the profession at the state and local levels.
  • Individual's service to the profession at the regional and national levels (e.g., committees, projects, policy making, editing journals).
  • Individual's service to the profession at the state and local levels (e.g., committees, projects, newsletters).
  • Individual's participation in professional organizations and associations.
  • Individual's leadership and contributions to the profession recognized through special honors and awards received.
  • Quality and impact of innovative curricular/instructional projects developed by the candidate.
  • Quality and number of workshops and presentations given at local, state, regional, national, and/or international level.
  • Quality and impact of published materials (articles, books, monographs, reviews).
  • Support shown in letters of recommendation.

Submit Online

Past Recipients:

2019: Peter Swanson, United States Air Force Academy; 2018: Elizabeth Bernhardt, Stanford University; 2017: Mary Lynn Redmond, West Forest Lake University (NC); 2016: Bridget Yaden, Pacific Lutheran University; 2015: Antonia Schleicher, Indiana University; 2014: Dave McAlpine, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; 2013: Bill VanPatten, Michigan State University; 2012: Heidi Byrnes, Georgetown University