JEA announces 6 Rising Star recipients

JEA announces 6 Rising Star recipients

By Erinn Harris, MJE, JEA awards chair

The Journalism Education Association names six teachers with its Rising Star Award to honor their commitment to scholastic journalism and media advising. They will be recognized at the Fall JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention.

Rising Star awards are presented to advisers who are in their first five years of advising a school media program, have shown dedication to scholastic journalism and have had success advising at least one media program.

The 2021 Rising Stars are Joanna Chadwick, Derby (Kansas) High School; Jackie Davis, Christian Academy of Guatemala, San Cristobal, Guatemala; Carly Gates, CJE, Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, West Palm Beach, Florida; Jessica Hanthorn, CJE, Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, Washington; Candice Thomas, Haskett Junior High, Katy, Texas; and Laurel Wicke, Drake Middle School, Arvada, Colorado.

Sample pages from Derby High School newspaper.

Joanna Chadwick

Joanna Chadwick

After 20 years as an award-winning professional journalist, in August of 2016, Joanna Chadwick decided to dedicate her career to fostering the careers of student journalists at Derby (Kansas) High School, creating an inclusive, welcoming and rigorous classroom environment for her students. This type of environment gives her students the confidence to tackle important topics such as diversity, sex and gender issues and school safety.

Under her leadership and with the confidence she instills, Chadwick’s students are able to experience how good journalism can affect positive change in a community. 

“Joanna teaches her students to recognize news, to cover breaking stories and to show journalistic leadership,” retired adviser Mary Anne McCloud, CJE, said. “Her staff scooped the local media online when a gun was found on campus posting six stories before administrators announced the information to teachers and students. Students wrote an opinion piece about the delay in making the announcement, and six months later when another crisis arose, administrators notified the school community within five minutes after that crisis was resolved.”

In addition to supporting her students in their journalistic pursuits, she exhibits a desire to help her students achieve their full potential, all while caring for them as individuals.

“My oldest son just finished his first year on the newspaper staff,” journalism professor at Wichita State University Amy DeVault, MJE, said. “She pushed him out of his comfort zone, taught him much and inspired him to take a real interest in writing and reporting. Joanna Chadwick brings not only passion for and expertise in journalism to her classroom, but she also brings a genuine care for each of her students.”

Sample pages from Christian Academy of Guatemala newspaper.

Jackie Davis

Jackie Davis

Jackie Davis of Christian Academy of Guatemala in San Cristobal, is the journalism teacher and adviser to the yearbook, newspaper and literary magazine. Davis has found her niche in the publications classroom, despite the fact that there is little emphasis on scholastic journalism in Guatemala.

“Student media is almost unheard of in Guatemala, or at least I was never aware of it before I got involved with it at CAG,” newspaper managing editor Jonathan Loveall said. “What our team is doing for journalism in Guatemala is going to make a difference in what journalism means to people in Guatemala.”

Instilling in her students this level of responsibility is one of things Davis loves most about advising student publications. 

“Seeing the students go from idea to published piece is a joy especially when the students are proud of their work with the skills and experience gained from the entire project,” Davis said.

Davis helps hone those skills by bringing experts to the classroom, turning it into a truly global workspace.

“Although her school is in another country, she contacted Quill and Scroll, to have Jeff Browne, MJE, induct some of her students into Quill and Scroll using Zoom,” mentor Jane Blystone, MJE, said in her nomination letter. “She also brought in Mary Beth Tinker using Zoom and other journalism professionals to speak to her students. She utilized current and retired teachers and current media experts to help teach her students best practices in reporting and writing.”

Sample page from Dreyfoos School of the Arts publication.

Carly Gates, CJE

Carly Gates, CJE

Carly Gates of West Palm Beach, Florida, teaches Introduction to Journalism and advises The Muse newsmagazine and online news, and The Marquee yearbook at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. 

Staffers of The Muse have earned local awards from The Palm Beach Post and Sun Sentinel, National Scholastic Arts & Writing medals and earned Crown and Pacemaker awards. Recognition for their work from local professional media outlets is largely due to Gates’s dedication to fostering authenticity in the student publications.

“In today’s age of misinformation, hatred of the media and a lack of funding for journalism programs, Carly Gates is a rare leader,” Walsworth Yearbooks representative Veronika Levine, CJE, said. “She is fostering incredible future journalists who will definitely be defending future attacks on our industry while creating new voices that are inclusive, informed and most importantly educated.”

Despite her staffs’ successes, Gates sees awards as a byproduct of the successful work done by teams of students to produce quality journalism. This mindset is what helps her create effective leaders and better citizens. 

“Carly is not just a rising star,” retired adviser Jim Jordan said. “She is a star in every sense of the term. She is an innovative adviser who empowers her staffs to lead and find their own voices and great success and recognition has followed.”

Sample pages from Mid-Pacific Institute newspaper.

Jessica Hanthorn, CJE

Jessica Hanthorn, CJE

For Jessica Hanthorn, CJE, creating student leaders in her program is of the utmost importance. While empowering those leaders is one of her primary goals, just as important is creating a sense of belonging for her staff members.

“Some students aren’t great athletes, nor are they honors students or involved with theater or the arts,” Hanthorn said. “It’s those students — who might not have a place yet in high school — who I encouraged to come to journalism. In journalism, they find a group of people who are passionate about what they do, work hard to produce a great product and have fun doing it.”

Currently teaching at Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, Washington, Hanthorn played an active role in New Voices while teaching at Na Pueo at Mid-Pacific Institute in Hawaii. Though Na Pueo is a private school, Hanthorn embraced how important scholastic press rights are to the work of student journalists. Even though a New Voices law would not have any legal bearing at the school, Hanthorn worked tirelessly on the Hawaii Student Journalism Protection Bill.

Her dedication to scholastic journalism and press rights is contagious. Students like Kamm Kojima come into her class thinking it’s going to be a “cool experience,” but journalism quickly becomes part of their identity.

“Not only is Hanthorn qualified on paper, but through her teaching,” Kojima said. “Because of her passion, dedication and teaching style, I have decided to minor in journalism. It’s who I am. I’m Kamm Kojima, sports editor for Na Pueo, and I wear that title with pride.”

Sample page from Haskett Junior High yearbook.

Candice Thomas

Candice Thomas

Beginning her career as a science teacher, Candice Thomas now finds herself a fourth-year yearbook adviser at Hasket Junior High in Katy, Texas. 

“[She] was just waiting for the opportunity to leave the microscopes behind and unleash the journalism teacher she was always meant to be,” Balfour Yearbooks representative Kathleen West said. “They say everyone has a calling and a passion and this is certainly hers.”

Thomas sees advising yearbook as a transformative experience for her students. 

“My program starts off with 16-20 pre-teens and teens who are excited about taking pictures and walking around campus. It transforms into 16-20 journalism students who are excited about writing, photography and creating a record of all of the exciting things happening around our campus and in their world,” Thomas said.

Thomas generates enthusiasm among her students throughout the production process and beyond. Even after they have left her program, they have a deep appreciation for not only her dedication to her craft, but also to her students.

“She continues to be there for me, that’s why it is my pleasure to write this letter on her behalf, if she needed me to, I would write a hundred more letters,” 2018 and 2019 editor-in-chief Ava Hallman said. “If any teacher is a Rising Star, it’s Mrs. Thomas, she’s a supernova!”

Sample page from Drake Middle School yearbook.

Laurel Wicke

Laurel Wicke

Laurel Wicke took over the yearbook at Drake Middle School in Arvada, Colorado in 2018. A drama teacher with a bachelor’s in English and theater education, she credits any success as an adviser to being an expert at following the advice of experts. Despite her humble nature, her students and colleagues see Wicke as an expert and mentor.

In her letter of recommendation, Principal Mindi Feir included the words of many of Wicke’s students.

“Mrs. Wicke is constantly reminding us of how crucial journalism is, and how we are storytellers for our community,” a yearbook staffer told Feir. “In terms of Mrs. Wicke’s role in producing our yearbook, it amazes me how much happens because of her. That isn’t to say that Mrs. Wicke does the work herself, but rather, she is always there to check spreads or stories and leave suggestions about what could make it better.” 

It is relationships such as these that give Wicke her greatest joy in advising. 

“I can’t imagine doing any other job that would feel as important or fulfilling,” Wicke said. “After all, I get a front row seat to watch them discover talents, improve their abilities and develop a greater sense of accomplishment and confidence through this unique, hands-on, classroom experience.There’s nothing better!”


Founded in 1924, JEA supports free and responsible scholastic journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities, promoting professionalism, encouraging and rewarding student excellence and teacher achievement, and an atmosphere which encompasses diversity yet builds unity. It is headquartered at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.

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