WFFA and WFA Judging


I learned this past weekend that I was nominated by my kids on 5686 for WFFA.

A few days ago, this post from @Paul_Copioli made me realize I don’t really know what the judging structure of WFFA is, who judges it at the regional level, and what the judging process is like.

Does anyone have insight about this process? @Andy_Baker

I’ve heard that the judges try to get references and testimonials. Is this true?

If so, is this something I’m supposed to provide someone?

Sorry for all the questions - not an award I have paid close attention to before.

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For my WFFA win, it was a total surprise. I wasn’t asked for any info, etc. The kids gave me their essay after the fact, but as far as I know the essay was the only thing submitted.

Cool, good to know!

I believe the WFFA & WFA is not judged at the regional/event but judged by a commitee remotely. I have heard that they collect all old and new essays for a particular mentor, review them, and then select a finalist for each regional.

I doubt it. I had no idea until they were halfway through presenting the award (at some point it becomes obvious!), and the same was true for the two other mentors from my team that have won it. Additionally, I know a bunch of WFFA winners here in MN, and I’ve never been asked to give them a reference or testimonial, when I would have been a natural person to go to for that (for example, when Katie Bach won WFFA at 10,000 Lakes this year - she’s one of the other LRI’s in the state, and I’ve worked with her a ton on that stuff. From what they read during the award ceremony, it sounds like the essay referenced her work as an LRI as well, so the committee would have known about it).

From what I understand about the judging process (which may or may not be accurate, I don’t think it’s actually published information anywhere!), the Championship WFA winners are the ones that judge it. They essentially break into small groups each week, with each group taking a subset of the events for that week to judge. They’re careful to avoid geographies they know well, to help prevent personal bias from entering into the process (so, for example, Mark Lawrence wouldn’t be part of the group that looks at MN events). I have no idea how they do it - there are so many deserving mentors, it must be next to impossible to pick one.

Thanks, although I’m not sure how it is possible for a small group like that to avoid geographical bias.

Would love to hear from the WFA folks about this. How do you avoid bias in judging this award?

If the WFA people are willing to answer questions, I would also like to know how true it is that you essentially need to be nominated for several years in a row to have a serious shot at winning an WFFA. We’ve heard that there’s such a strong backlog of mentors in New England that haven’t won yet that it’s almost impossible to win if you haven’t been nominated several years in a row.

I don’t doubt being nominated year after year aids your chances, adds to your resume and possibly enables them (the WFA) to track your progress as a mentor (by reading multiple submissions) but I doubt it is an absolute prerequisite. Of our now four WFFA at least two were first year nominations or at the very least their nominations were spread apart by several years. I think when we started getting our WFFAs recognized back in '12 there was a fundamental change in understanding the award’s criteria as written. The criteria didn’t change, our interpretation changed. Focus on the wording of the criteria with the student(s) that are submitting. As you noted though we are in a different region as well and that may (or may not) impact the volume of very deserving nominees and the difficulty of selecting each event’s WFFA.

Well I know at least one person who won it in their team’s first season. To the best of my knowledge I had not been nominated before the year that I won it.

I’d like to think this is not an important criteria, but I do have to agree with the sentiment above that there seem to be so many mentors in areas that “deserve it” by now which creates a backlog of deserving nominees.

I really recommend something FMA does, and IRI too, if you feel this way: create your own mentor recognition award. This is something I’ll be proposing in NE FIRST as well. You can define the criteria, submission guidelines, judges, and everything else. It won’t be an official FIRST HQ award, but that shouldn’t matter if recognition is what’s important to you!

It still feels weird that the mothership only recognizes 1 mentor out of over 500 teams in Michigan. I know there’s another thread about this. Feels sometimes though that these folks are trying to keep new people from joining the club. Judging the entrants shouldn’t be a problem because you still need to read all the essays, even if you’re picking 10 vs 1 to win for WFFA.

Recognition of every mentor nominated at the event is admirable, but it’s recognition by the entering team, not by FIRST.

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Maybe we should start a thread on mentor written WFA essays. :slight_smile: (Please observe the snarky font this post is written in.)

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I know two mentors (Regional system, not District system) who won a WFFA the first year they were submitted, though they were LONG time mentors. Most of it has to do with just how well the essays are written - a compelling essay for a weak mentor will beat a weak essay for a compelling mentor nine times out of ten.

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