CHANTILLY, VA. — Mary Kay Downes, yearbook adviser at Chantilly High School, learned on Dec. 3 that the Journalism Education Association has named her as the 2007 National Yearbook Adviser of the Year.
In a special ceremony her school, H. L. Hall, JEA’s Yearbook Adviser of the Year committee chair, and Linda Puntney, JEA’s executive director, praised Downes for her work with her yearbook staff at Chantilly and for her work nationally with staffs across the county. JEA will recognize Downes again at its spring convention in Anaheim, and it will present her with a plaque for her “outstanding accomplishments and significant contributions to scholastic yearbook journalism.” She will address the JEA membership at that meeting.
Her school will receive $1,000 and the Distinguished Advisers’ schools will receive $500 to use for equipment for the yearbook classroom or to fund student scholarships to summer workshops.
Downes has been advising yearbooks for 23 years, including the last 20 at Chantilly High School. Odyssey, the yearbook at Chantilly, has won every top award in the country, including Pacemaker from the National Scholastic Press Association and Gold Crown from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.
Catherine Fratter, the mother of three of Downes’ former editors-in-chief said for nine years that MKD, as Downes is affectionately called, served as a mentor, cheerleader, coordinator, adviser, enforcer, supporter, travel agent and mom away from home.
Besides being a hit with parents and students, Downes has also been a hit with her colleagues in scholastic journalism. She is the recipient of CSPA’s Gold Key, and JEA has honored her twice before as a Special Recognition Yearbook Adviser and as a Distinguished Yearbook Adviser.
The theme of the 2007 Odyssey was “Plus.”
“The section titles for the book describe MKD,” Hall said. “ She is passionate. She is inquisitive. She is involved. She is competitive, plus she is so much more.”
Hall said her students did a dynamite job with a special fold-out section that dealt with Chantilly’s tribute to commemorate the 32 students who died at Virginia Tech last April.
“Her students deserved an A+ for that coverage,” Hall said. “Actually, they deseerve an A+ for the coverage throughout the book.”
Paul Ender, Jim Jordan and Crystal Kazmierski, all former Yearbook Advisers of the Year and a fellow teacher with Downes at CSPA’s summer workshop in New York, wrote a letter supporting Downes’ nomination.
“She is a great teacher, an accomplished adviser, a wonderful human being, and a friend who unquestionably deserves this recognition,” they said. “Her sessions at national conventions are on our ‘don’t miss’ list for our students, and we are proud to carry the 5-pound masterpieces her students produce each year.”
Other colleagues also praised Downes in their letters of support.
“Without question Virginians understand history,” Martha Akers, another former Yearbook Adviser of the Year, said. “From Jamestown to Williamsburg and from the Revolutionary to the Civil wars, we’re taught to appreciate the history of Virginia, and the state’s place in that history. The same goes for the role of Virginians in scholastic journalism history. No other adviser carries their torches higher or more proudly than MKD. She represents scholastic journalism with the same levels of knowledge, commitment and integrity as former Yearbook Advisers of the Year.”
In addition to naming Downes as the Adviser of the Year, JEA also named three Distinguished Advisers:
- Kathy Habiger (Mill Valley High School, Shawnee, Kan.)
- Margaret Sorrows (Bryant High School, Bryant, Ark.); and
- C. Dow Tate (Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kan.)
And two Special Recognition Advisers:
- Nancy Y. Smith (Lafayette High School, Wildwood, Mo.); and
- Mitch Ziegler (Redondo Union High School, Redondo Beach, Calif.)