By Lexy Ludwig
Yearbook adviser Lori Oglesbee dropped her face into her hands when she realized what was happening. JEA former president H.L. Hall walked into the room, and Oglesbee knew the special presentation was not listening to the All State choir vocalist. She had won JEA’s Yearbook Adviser of the Year award. As the first recipient from Texas, Oglesbee could not hold back tears.
Hall flew in from Tennessee to present the award to Oglesbee. Executive Director Linda Puntney’s flight never left Manhattan, Kan. because of a flat tire. Friends from Taylor Publishing and former editors as well as current editors lined the stage.
“I was thinking, I can’t believe this. I can’t believe it’s really happening. I can’t believe this,” Oglesbee said. “It’s the most important awards I’ve earned in my career. It’s awesome, but the best part was reading those letters of recommendation because they mean so much to me.”
Oglesbee’s unique style of teaching earned her first nomination in 2004 when JEA named her a Distinguished Adviser, a high point in her career that began because of her rich experiences on yearbook staff in high school under Hope Carroll.
“As a member of the yearbook staff in high school, I found a medium that wedded my talents and energy into a meaningful relationship,” Oglesbee said. “I loved the jargon, the importance, the staff bond and the adviser. I didn’t want it to all end, and it hasn’t.”
Oglesbee focuses not just on producing a unique, quality yearbook each year but also on helping her students enjoy achieving more than they ever thought possible.
“That’s what I love about this job,” Oglesbee said. “I love seeing kids achieve beyond their wildest imaginations. It’s infectious and lasts a lifetime. They leave here knowing they have been a part of something extraordinary.”
Oglesbee has pursed her passion for teaching journalism and continues to learn and improve at what she does.
“I never tire of learning more about this field and developing skills as new developments demand,” Oglesbee said. “I admit it. I’m a nerd. I listen to podcasts from Grammar Girl and Scott Kelby. I can spend way too much money in the graphic design book section of Barnes and Noble.”
One of Oglesbee’s past staff members and current colleague, Alyssa Armentrout, has first-hand experience working on an award-winning staff.
“Even if you didn’t know her you could look at the yearbook and the staff and tell they are consistently the best,” Armentrout said. “I’m proud of her.”
Armentrout was editor of the 2000 and 2001 Lion and traveled to competitions and national conventions with her.
“Every day was an adventure, and I’m not exaggerating,” Armentrout said. “Number one, we had computers but they weren’t exactly what they are now, and she would help us with troubleshooting. We also took a 28-hour bus ride to South Carolina every year. That was always fun.”
Oglesbee teaches and attends 25-30 workshops and conventions each year. She takes students to conventions to allow the staff to bond. One of her current editors, Logan Webb, went to Phoenix and Washington, D.C.
“The conventions are my favorite part,” Webb said. “At the conventions she is more of a mother. I woke up one day in Phoenix, and there was a whole bouquet of fruit and chocolates. It was nice.”
Oglesbee keeps her students busy working to improve their yearbook as much as possible while still having a good time.
“Ms. O knows how it works, and she knows how to teach us to delegate, which is important,” Webb said. “She lets us do it ourselves, and it always comes out perfect. I think the hard work pays off, and I feel really proud. We work together.”
The students create the yearbook under Oglesbee’s direction. She oversees and gives advice to her students, but she has never made the book herself.
“I don’t do the book,” Oglesbee said. “I criticize the book as we make it. I never settle. I have high expectations, and you have to get to my expectations.”
These high expectations in the yearbook program also provide a different environment.
“D205 doesn’t look like any other room in the building,” Oglesbee said. “The latest Mac products crowd every available outlet. The walls are lined with plaques noting the legacy left to each staff. There’s always food, and the refrigerator is always stocked with drinks. The occasional smell of burned popcorn wafts from the back room.”
Oglesbee will give an acceptance speech at the Portland convention’s awards luncheon April 17. She will have 31 students with her to cheer her on in this special moment.
“These kids love what they do, they’re proud to be a part of this program, and they aren’t afraid to show it. It’s the best job in the world,” she said.
In addition to naming Oglesbee as the Adviser of the Year, JEA also named three Distinguished Advisers:
- Carrie Faust, MJE, Smoky Hill High School, Aurora, Colo.
- Tim Morley, CJE, Inland Lake High School, Indian River, Mich.
- Nancy Y. Smith, MJE, Lafayette High School, Wildwood, Mo.
And four Special Recognition Advisers:
- Charla Harris, Pleasant Grove High School, Texarkana, Texas
- Pat Hinman, Robinson Secondary School, Fairfax, Va.
- Jeff Moffitt, CJE, Olympia High School, Orlando, Fla.
- Chad Rummel, CJE, Oakton High School, Vienna, Va.
Lexy Ludwig takes Journalism I from Lori Oglesbee fifth period every day at McKinney High School. This freshman will be on the yearbook staff for 2011.