In a special ceremony at Loudon Valley High School in Purcellville, Va., on Nov. 28, H. L. Hall, JEA’s past president praised Akers for her work at Loudoun Valley High School and for her work nationally with yearbook staffs. JEA will recognize Akers again at its spring convention in April in San Francisco and will present her a plaque for her “outstanding accomplishments and significant contributions to scholastic yearbook journalism.” Akers will address the JEA membership at that meeting.
The Saga, the yearbook Akers advises, has received every top award in the country, including Gold Crowns from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and Pacemakers from the National Scholastic Press Association. Akers’ personal honors include the Gold Key Award from CSPA and induction into the National High School Journalism Hall of Fame at the University of Oklahoma.
Akers and her students have set trends for yearbooks across the country with their innovative ideas.
Members of the Saga staff changed the look of high school yearbooks in 1999 when they included more than 4,100 photos in the Purcellville book that year.
“I have always been proud of my students and their understanding of the change yearbooks need to experience,” Akers said, “if they are to continue to appeal to the ever-changing student population.”
Akers’ students think of her as more than just a teacher.
Her 2005 editorial board for the Saga said that Akers is “more than just a teacher. She is often our mother away from home, providing money for forgotten lunches, tissues and kind words for tears, and an easy smile to brighten anyone’s day. She has become our confidant, out therapist and above all our best friend.”
Akers said she cannot describe the enjoyment she gets “as a light bulb comes on when a student translates a mock-up design to the computer, utilizes a strategy at conflict management with the team, sees the results of hours in the darkroom with a perfect print, realizes the rights and responsibilities he has as a journalist, or simply finds a home away from home in the yearbook room.”‘
Her philosophy of teaching is “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.” She said as long as her students are willing not “to settle, but to work to the best of their abilities, I’ll continue to grow from and value my time with them.”
In addition to Akers, JEA named Linda Ballew, Great Falls High School (Mont.) as a Distinguished Adviser and Aaron Manfull, Francis Howell North High School (Mo.) and Ruby Dyer, Wayne High School (W.V.) as Special Recognition Advisers.