The Journalism Education Association selected Betsy Owen, retired teacher of Delray Beach, Fla., as its Teacher Inspiration Award recipient for 2004. She will formally accept the award Saturday, Nov. 20, during the organization’s national convention in Atlanta, Ga.
This award recognizes a teacher who, through the teaching or advising of journalism, inspired others to pursue journalism teaching as a career and who has made a positive difference in the teaching community. It is a juried award with a cash prize of $1000.
“I cannot tell you how flattered I am with all of the wonderful teachers that are out there that could be receiving this award that I was chosen,” Owen said. “I am humbled by this experience.”
Valerie Amster, yearbook adviser at Oakton High School in Vienna, Va., nominated Owen, who was Amster’s yearbook adviser at Spanish River High School, Boca Raton, Fla., 14 years ago.
“She has been my yearbook adviser, mentor, friend and colleague for more than 14 years,” Amster wrote in her letter of nomination for Owen. Amster paid tribute to Owen for modeling a caring, involved, empathetic educator and publications adviser who always found ways to celebrate the accomplishments of her students.
“My colleagues, administrators and community see the success that my students and their publications have had at the state and national levels and the wonderful relationship I enjoy with my students and my peers,” Amster wrote. “What they can’t see, though, is that so much of what I do on a daily basis comes straight from the lessons that ‘Grandma’ Owen taught me.”
Owen said Amster plans to attend the awards luncheon in Atlanta.
“I have yet to go to a convention or workshop without running into someone who knows her work and understands how lucky I was to be a part of it,” Amster wrote. “Not only did she inspire me to enter this profession, she continues to inspire me every day.”
Owen said she retired from teaching “on July 1, 2003, at 2:10 p.m. from the Palm Beach County School Board, Spanish River High School after teaching there for 20 years.” Beginning in 1962 her career also included teaching at schools in Miami, Fla.; Del Rio, Texas; and Adel, Ga.
“This is such a wonderful way to finish a fantastic and fulfilling career,” Owen said. “I cannot thank Val enough for the nomination and JEA for considering me for this honor.”
Amster said the pivotal day for her came when she was “frustrated with my section editor’s lack of leadership during my first year on staff, and the chaos almost made me quit yearbook entirely. As a last resort, I went to Mrs. Owen and explained that I needed immediate instruction.
“Without a word, she put down what she was doing, and 10 minutes later, I understood how to make a senior section layout. I never considered quitting again, and I learned to advocate for my own educational needs. And the rest,” Amster wrote, “as they say, is history. Mrs. Owen and I quickly became each other’s biggest fans.”
The two kept in touch during Amster’s years at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and throughout the nine years Amster has been teaching and advising yearbook herself.
Amster credits Owen with her acceptance to Northwestern: “Not only did she write me a glowing letter of recommendation, she called the university in February to update them on my achievements. I have never met a teacher who goes so far above and beyond for her students.”
“In short,” Amster wrote, “my entire life changed when I got the privilege of being one of ‘Betsy’s kids.’ The impact she has had on this profession is amazing.”
Owen has not slowed down in retirement. She is an appointee to the Education Board of Delray Beach, a member of the SAC Committee of Atlantic High School, a volunteer for the Realtor Association of Palm Beaches, President of the Sunrise Rotary Chapter of the Rotary Club of Delray Beach, and still finds time to play tennis, sail, fish, travel and play golf.