JEA Announces 2018 H.L. Hall Yearbook Adviser of the Year
The Journalism Education Association is pleased to announce Charla Harris, CJE, the 2018 H.L. Hall National High School Yearbook Adviser of the Year. The surprise announcement was made tonight at the Pleasant Grove ISD Board of Trustees meeting in Texarkana, Texas.
The National High School Yearbook Adviser of the Year program is designed to honor outstanding high school advisers and their exemplary work from the previous year, as well as throughout their careers.
A $500 award for the winner’s school, and $500 awards for Distinguished Advisers’ schools may be used to buy equipment for the yearbook classroom or to fund student scholarships to summer workshops. The Yearbook Adviser of the Year also will receive a personal $1,000 prize.
The program is underwritten by Balfour Yearbooks, Herff Jones Inc., Jostens Printing and Publishing and Walsworth Yearbooks.
Adapting to 21st Century Learning
Harris, a teacher and adviser at Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana, Texas, has been advising yearbook staffs for 33 years.
When Harris began teaching journalism in 1985, she had a quality journalism education from the University of Arkansas behind her and a Texas teaching certificate in multiple fields (journalism, English and history). She was ready to teach students in separate journalism, yearbook and newspaper classes.
Since then, her classroom has significantly changed.
“My classroom is a little like a one-room schoolhouse, with yearbook, newspaper and broadcast students working simultaneously on different projects with different deadlines all day long,” Harris said. “The yearbook copy editor may polish newspaper stories while one of the PGTV staff loads broadcast stories from our morning show to our online newspaper site and the newspaper feature editor works on yearbook theme copy. My staffs share resources, deadlines, story ideas, and my time.”
However, the skills Harris’s students gain in class still give them the advantages they have had since the beginning.
“Through the processes students learn how to be flexible and how to compromise, how to be tolerant of others, how to contribute and how to lead,” Harris said. “They learn how to problem solve and how to meet deadlines. They become disciplined and organized, and they figure out how to learn from their mistakes. Essentially, they gain exactly the skills that 21st century employers are looking for.”
Harris’s reach goes far beyond her school, too, as she gives of her time to both the Texas Association of Journalism Educators and to JEA. Harris has served on the TAJE board for the past six years, specifically working to mentor young and new advisers.
“I’ve worked with Charla in summer workshops and watched the students in her classes become ‘her’ kids. When I was an adviser at Westlake High School, I loved having the opportunity to put my editors in her class at the (Interscholastic League Press Conference) Summer Workshop — and they loved having her,” TAJE Executive Director Cindy Todd, CJE, said.
Harris’s success with her students and others comes through years of experience challenging kids to think beyond what they thought was impossible.
“Year after year, The Hawk yearbook is one that all our students pore over, reveling in the photography, the storytelling and the classic design,” said advisers Carrie Faust, MJE; Erinn Harris, MJE; and Meghan Percival, MJE. “But don’t let the word ‘classic’ fool you. The staff of The Hawk utilizes solid design techniques with trend-setting coverage techniques to give its audiences something different every single year, something that we all aspire to achieve.”
“We’re a little big” was The Hawk yearbook theme for 2018, capturing all of the big things and little details that come with being a consistently successful small school.
“Our concept fit what students have done for the past 33 years: We think big, we win big and we live big,” Harris said. “Actually, we’re a little big.”
Harris, along with the Special Recognition Yearbook Advisers and the Distinguished Advisers will be recognized April 27, 2019, at the Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Anaheim, California.
The Distinguished Advisers are Rebecca Pollard, MJE, Lovejoy High School, Lucas, Texas; and Leslie Shipp, MJE, Johnston (Iowa) High School.
The Special Recognition Advisers are Ava Butzu, Grand Blanc (Michigan) High School; Bernadette Cranmer, MJE, Granite Bay (California) High School; Annie Gorenstein Falkenberg, CJE, Longmont (Colorado) High School; Carrie Hendrix, CJE, Lewis-Palmer High School, Monument, Colorado; and Debra Klevens, CJE, Parkway West High School, Ballwin, Missouri.
Rebecca Pollard, MJE, has advised yearbook and a variety of other media for the past 18 years in Texas. Pollard teaches at Lovejoy High School in Lucas, Texas, and also spends time serving other journalism advisers in a variety of roles.
During her tenure as an adviser, Pollard has judged for Columbia Scholastic Press Association and ILPC, she has helped build curriculum for the JEA Curriculum Initiative, she serves on the Gloria Shields National Scholastic Press Association Media Workshop planning committee, and she is the committee chair for the JEA National High School Journalist of the Year scholarship and the Aspiring Young Journalist contest.
Pollard’s students’ success comes in a large part because she insists on giving them the power to make the publication theirs.
“Students are educated on their rights as a free press, what does that mean, and there is such a thing as libelous reporting. A great deal of time is spent discussing what it means to be an ethical journalist and what an unethical journalist looks like. Ultimately, the power and decision-making is in the students’ hands,” she said. “Yearbook editors and staff members are made aware their program is a student-run business. They must have total control so they do take ownership to the fullest of extent.”
Leslie Shipp, MJE, has served as the yearbook adviser for the past 29 years at Johnston (Iowa) High School, and has spent many of those years serving in other scholastic journalism capacities as well. Shipp has been a part of the Iowa High School Press Association as a leader, speaker and judge; she is the JEA Iowa state director; she has served on the NSPA Principal Outreach project; and she has taught at numerous workshops and camps.
Advising at the same school for the past 29 years, Shipp has seen significant changes to the school and to her program, but the end goal has always stayed the same for her and her students.
“High school is not about working to arrive at a destination (college, career),” she said. “It is about the journey. On the journey, we encourage students to learn how to talk to people and dig up good stories. We write those stories down and revise the drafts. We make photos that tell stories. We design spreads. We revise to clarify the message. We laugh. We cover for each other. When we need to make an important decision, we talk it out.”
Shipp’s method for student success has helped her and her staffs transform student journalism for their audience.
Special Recognition Advisers
Ava Butzu did not follow a journalism path to become a yearbook adviser, but found herself absorbing everything she could while in her third year of teaching so she could be a quality adviser. Since then, Butzu has advised 21 yearbooks, 16 of those yearbooks at her current school, Grand Blanc (Michigan) High School.
During her tenure as an adviser, Butzu also has published numerous articles for Jostens; contributed to the Jostens marketing, advising and photography curriculum guides; served on the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association board; judged for Northern Illinois Scholastic Press Association, Virginia High School League, JEA and CSPA; and regularly presents at state and national conventions.
At the heart of Butzu’s program is the desire to prepare students for their future by giving them opportunities today.
“Over the years, we have worked to build journalism skills and professional work product into the course (learning by attending local, state, and national conferences and studying professional and exemplary scholastic work),” Butzu said.
Bernadette Cranmer, MJE, who has been advising yearbook since 2006, knows the impact a high-quality yearbook can have on the student population. After taking over the advising role at her current school, Granite Bay (California) High School, she pushed her students to challenge the status quo of that product, implement journalistic standards and improve coverage.
After doing so, the staff sold out of the 2013 yearbook. “The best compliment came from a student I didn’t know who thanked me because the yearbook included clubs and activities on campus beyond the popular crowd,” Cranmer said. “She had never seen herself or her friends in the yearbook before.”
Cranmer’s multiple years of teaching journalism and advising newsmagazines, and her service to scholastic journalism prior to taking on yearbook, gave her the boost and background necessary to ensure high standards.
“When each of us — each yearbook adviser — talks about yearbook as journalism and teaches to the same writing, student press law and ethics standards as a trained newspaper adviser does, we are advancing the standard,” she said.
Annie Gorenstein Falkenberg, CJE, has yearbook built into who she is. As the former editor of her middle school yearbook, becoming a yearbook adviser made sense. Now, Gorenstein Falkenberg is in her ninth year of advising yearbook, currently at Longmont (Colorado) High School.
Since becoming an adviser, Gorenstein Falkenberg has immersed herself in ways to both grow and give back. She has contributed numerous articles to Herff Jones Yearbook Discoveries, written an article for the Reynolds Institute, taught at multiple local and national conventions, judged for several state organizations, and served on the Colorado Student Media Association Board.
Her involvement in these programs helped prepare Gorenstein Falkenberg for a challenging position of taking over advising the yearbook staff at her current school while also advising the student leadership class.
“From 2015-17, I advised the yearbook as part of the student council. In year one, we fit creating the yearbook in between planning homecoming, prom and other events throughout the year,” she said. “In that first year, the students didn’t really know what they had signed up for, and they were pretty resistant to putting in the work necessary to create a journalistic yearbook. Those students who really weren’t sure about the whole ‘yearbook thing’ really did a phenomenal job of saving a program that was almost eliminated from Longmont High.”
Carrie Hendrix, CJE, fell into advising yearbook because she “had a background in teaching technology.” Now, she has been advising yearbook at Lewis-Palmer High School in Monument, Colorado, for the past 16 years and grown the program significantly during that time.
In the time she has advised, Hendrix has grown in her knowledge and been able to share what she has learned through articles for Herff Jones Yearbooks, the Herff Jones podcast, teaching at state and national conventions, and serving on the Colorado Student Media Association board.
“I started by learning all that I could and presenting at all the state and national conventions that I attended. I’ve presented sessions on a variety of journalism topics such as copy and caption writing, interviewing skills, empowering staffers, etc.,” she said. “My love for journalism programs has grown each year, and now I just can’t get enough of it and want to spread my joy to others in our ‘nerdy’ journalism world.”
Debra Klevens, CJE, places a priority in doing what she can to stay relevant in the journalism industry so the students she advised at Parkway West High School in Ballwin, Missouri, have the right opportunities to stay at the forefront.
Klevens, who has been advising yearbook for 20 years, takes the time to attend conventions, learn at workshops, participate in a multi-school journalism professional learning community, and serve state and national organizations to improve her students’ experience and that of others.
“Over the past 20 years, I have worked to meet students where they were and empowered them to strive for more,” Klevens said. “I have been fortunate to build the program from a single blocked class to having it offered five hours a day.”
However, those five classes are not yearbook taught in isolation. Klevens manages both the yearbook and newspaper staffs in each class and levels two to four all in the same class at any given time — a convergent style of journalism that forces the students to learn more and adapt.
“Day in and day out, students are required to critically think and solve problems as they work to meet deadlines,” she said. “We work together as a community to solve each other’s problems through collaboration and communication. In both yearbook and newspaper, we are seeking to provide a broader set of skills for the multi-platform journalist of the future.”
The H.L. Hall National Yearbook Adviser of the Year judging committee included Brenda Field, MJE, 2017 H.L. Hall YAOY recipient; Renee Burke, MJE; Mary Kay Downes, MJE; Casey Nichols, CJE; and Jamie Ray.
Founded in 1924, JEA supports free and responsible scholastic journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities, by promoting professionalism, by encouraging and rewarding student excellence and teacher achievement, and by fostering an atmosphere which encompasses diversity yet builds unity. It is headquartered at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.