The Journalism Education Association has chosen Mary Kay Downes, of Centreville, Va., as a 2012 Medal of Merit Award winner. This award is presented to JEA members who have made significant contributions to scholastic journalism.
In her long career, Downes has earned many of scholastic journalism’s top honors, including a Gold Key from Columbia Scholastic Press Association, Pioneer Award from National Scholastic Press Association and JEA’s National Yearbook Adviser of the Year in 2007. The Odyssey yearbook, which she advises, has earned 16 NSPA Pacemakers, and, as Chantilly newspaper adviser Bretton Zinger writes, “What yearbook person hasn’t heard of Odyssey?”
She is past president of Columbia Scholastic Press Advisers Association and co-wrote the CSPA yearbook guidebook. She has written numerous articles on all aspects of scholastic journalism and has spoken hundreds of times at all levels, and across the nation.
In addition to her journalism teaching duties, Downes is chair for her school’s English Department of 23 members. She has taught every level of English class over 40 years, including college, but has been at Chantilly since 1987.
Downes has served on local, state and national committees related to scholastic journalism and, most recently, on redefining the nature of what it means to be an educator. She has served on local committees for national conventions, and often contributes commentary on JEAHELP, a Listserv with more than 1,200 members.
As Kathleen Zwiebel, of Pennsylvania, wrote, “Mary Kay’s lessons about commitment, teamwork and self-motivation will follow her students the rest of their lives.”
And as Zinger wrote: “If your child were on a yearbook staff, who better than Mary Kay to be the adviser?”
Downes received the Medal of Merit Nov. 17 during the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention in San Antonio.