14 advisers honored with 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award

14 advisers honored with 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award

By Erinn Harris, MJE, JEA award chair

Fourteen individuals who have contributed significantly throughout their scholastic journalism careers have been named Journalism Education Association Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. They will be honored April 22 at the Spring JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in San Francisco.

The award recipients are

  • Ellen Austin, MJE, San Jose, California
  • Michelle Coro, CJE, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Kim Green, Greensburg, Indiana
  • Yvette Manculich, CJE, Littleton, Colorado
  • Susan Massy, Shawnee, Kansas
  • Pat Monroe, El Paso, Texas
  • Mark Murray, Sante Fe, New Mexico
  • Marci Pieper, Clayton, Missouri
  • Rebecca Potter, CJE, Texarkana, Texas
  • Colleen Sanders, Centerville, Ohio
  • Sheri Scott, Santa Rosa, California
  • Tracy Anne Sena, San Francisco
  • Ed Sullivan, New York City
  • Ray Westbrook, Dallas.

Ellen Austin, MJE

Superstar. Powerhouse. Exemplar. 

These are just some of the words used to describe Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ellen Austin, MJE. Austin began her teaching career as an English teacher at Cannon Falls High School in Minnesota in 1999, and retired as the director of journalism for The Harker School in 2022. 

“Certainly, the publications she advises are award winning and cutting edge,” retired journalism adviser Linda Puntney, MJE, said, “but the thing about Ellen is she puts people before product and that makes all the difference.”

Austin’s service to scholastic journalism is legendary, partly because of her dedication to lifelong learning. Because she continues to learn and grow, Austin is able to inspire that same dedication in everyone she encounters.

“One of the things I saw her demonstrate multiple times is the importance of empowering her female students to value their voices and opinions,” said Mark Murray, executive director of the Association of Texas Photography Instructors. “She helped me become more aware of my biases and privileges that I have as a white male that she and her female students, often of Asian or Indian descent, didn’t have access to.”

Ellen Austin motivated her students, her colleagues and all of scholastic journalism to be the best version of themselves, and she is certain to continue to do so in retirement.

“You can’t be around her and not be motivated to dig a little deeper for the real story or fight a little harder for student freedom of expression,” Puntney said. “It’s just who she is.”

Michelle Coro, CJE

“I love working with Michelle,” retired journalism adviser Jeanne Acton said, “or perhaps I should say, I love watching her work.”

Michelle Coro, CJE, led award-winning multimedia programs in broadcasting, newspaper and yearbook for more than 20 years by encouraging students to explore their creativity in the areas of writing, videography, digital photography and computer art technology. 

“Michelle’s experience and knowledge of journalism is important,” Jostens creative account manager Tina Cleavelin, CJE, said, “but I believe her tenacity and passion for her programs and her students was the driving force for her success. She is a true master adviser.”

One of the most striking things about Coro’s tenure as an adviser was her innovations in the classroom.

“Boy, did she excel there,” Acton said. “In the classroom, Michelle focused on convergent multimedia journalism — teaching her students cutting edge technology to give them the skills they need to continue journalism after high school.”

However, it takes more than a vast and varied knowledge of journalism to create a 

legend. It also takes heart.

“It was easy to see why her students (and pretty much every single person who meets her, really) love her,” Jostens creative accounts manager Lizabeth Walsh, MJE, said. “She is a vivacious and generous human and an expert in both journalism and education, making her the kind of person students gravitate toward and peers respect.”

Kim Green

“Kim Green has used the words ‘rockin’ awesome’ to describe so many others over the years,” Shawnee Mission West High School adviser Amy Morgan said, “but it’s pretty obvious that it applies to her as well.”

Green is most recently an instructor of journalism from Ball State University. Prior, Green advised student media at Columbus North and Greensburg High Schools in Indiana. 

“Kim is without a doubt one of the most influential and powerful advisers of the last 35 years,” North Central High School adviser Tom Gayda said. “As a high school adviser, college instructor and dedicated JEA member, Green has done it all. Hundreds of students can attest to the powerful presence Kim has been in their lives, both while in her class and after.”

Not only did Green have an impact on hundreds of students over the course of her career, but she also had an indelible impact on advisers who wanted to be just like her.

“I remember keeping a notebook out so I could take notes while Kim taught,” Morgan said. “I learned so much from her about journalism, but also about the kind of teacher I want to be. Kim encourages kids to achieve more than they ever thought possible. She puts an emphasis on doing things the right way and encouraging positive leadership.”

Yvette Manculich, CJE

“Let’s face it,” Brighton High School adviser Justin Daigle, MJE, said. “Great advisers are just big journalism nerds at heart who want to share our knowledge with others. Yvette is one of those advisers who so unselfishly does that, never even thinking that she’s really that good. But she so is!”

Manculich advised The Prowl yearbook for 19 years at Powell Middle School in Littleton, Colorado, and retired in 2022 after 29 years in education.

“I’ve made it a point to speak with many of her alumni who joined my staffs,” Arapahoe High School adviser Greg Anderson said, “and they’ve shared some common observations: ‘Ms. Manculich is not afraid to try something new.’ ‘She just takes her staff on the ride with her, but she lets them lead.’ ‘She wants us to do our best to tell the year’s stories.’ ‘The whole experience is really incredible.’”

It takes a special skill set to have the kind of success Manculich has created. “It is relatively easy to come up with words to describe Yvette — dynamic, passionate, enthusiastic, humorous, creative, attentive to detail,” retired journalism adviser Mary Kay Downes, MJE, said. “And she brings all these qualities a hundredfold to every session she presents, every class she teaches.”

Susan Massy

Think about Shawnee Mission Northwest High School publications. The Lair. The Northwest Passage. You see stunning photography and even more stunning prose. You most certainly see Susan Massy.

“Yes, she is literally the queen and goddess of all things yearbook and journalism related,” Walsworth Yearbooks account manager Mike Taylor, CJE, said, “but she is more! She is kind and nurturing, she is committed to excellence, and she is a warm loving person.”

Massy’s commitment to building a community of care is what made the publications under her care so successful. When you operate as a team — a family — it is much easier to face the challenges of scholastic journalism.

“When you are a member of one of her staffs or a student in one of her classes, you become part of her family,” Shawnee Mission West High School adviser Amy Morgan said. “That family has meals together on work nights, and they learn dining etiquette in restaurants, and they are inspired to see the world around them on convention trips. They learn to work together, and to try new things and to do things that are hard.”

The spirit of family extends from Massy’s students to each life she touches with her generosity and kindness. 

“She is a giver in every sense of the word,” retired journalism adviser Jim Jordan said. “She will always give you everything she’s got to make you more successful.”

Pat Monroe

After 30 years of teaching journalism and advising publications at El Paso Burges High School, Patricia Monroe retired in 2020. Some know her as a Dallas Cowboys fan. Some as an animal lover, but in the realm of scholastic journalism, you know her as a miracle worker, constantly making the impossible possible.

“Each year,” writing coach Bobby Hawthorne said, “I was stunned at the book’s originality, its command of color and form, and its higher purpose of capturing — visually and verbally — the truth of a sliver of time. I will never understand how she pulled it off, and I kept waiting for her to fall short. It never happened. How was this possible? Because Pat was an extraordinary teacher, mentor, coach and adviser.”

Not one to seek the spotlight, Monroe built one of the best scholastic programs in the nation, and her publications earned top awards at both the state and national level by mastering all facets of journalism: photography, writing and design.

“[It’s] some of the best I’ve ever seen in my 35-plus years in scholastic journalism,” retired journalism adviser Jeanne Acton said. “And here’s the thing — Pat wasn’t working at an affluent suburban high school. She was in El Paso, Texas, working at a high school with [some] students who lived in poverty. But that never slowed down Pat or her program. In fact, I think it motivated her. Her students produced incredible work year after year.”

Mark Murray

You know Mark Murray.

“He’s the guy with the good chocolate,” Texas Association of Journalism Educators Director Cindy Todd said. “His generosity doesn’t end with his time, talent and knowledge. He shares his fancy chocolate, too.”

All jokes about chocolate and Levain Bakery cookies aside, Murray’s contributions to scholastic journalism over the years have been immeasurable.

“It’s hard to put on paper the qualities which have made Mark a ‘glue’ in our scholastic journalism community,” retired journalism adviser Ellen Austin, MJE, said. “Mark has a deft sense of tact which is coupled with an understanding that topics and issues need to be addressed nevertheless — but he finds the right way (and the right moment) to do so.”

While Murray officially retired from Arlington Independent School District in Texas in 2019, he continues to serve nearly every scholastic journalism organization you can think of. ATPI, CSPA, TAJE, SIPA, NSPA, JEA. He’s helped nearly the whole alphabet through instructing, planning, organizing, photographing and more. In his retirement, it’s easy to celebrate Mark Murray and his lifetime of achievement.

“I couldn’t begin to estimate how many lives he’s had a positive impact on during his career, lives of students and instructors,” JEA’s Magazine Editor Bradley Wilson, MJE, said. “But I know that each one of them owes a debt of gratitude to someone who has committed his entire career to making them better photographers and better teachers.”

Marci Pieper

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is not only a movie starring comedy legends John Candy and Steve Martin, but also a description of how far Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Marci Pieper will go to serve the scholastic journalism community at large.

“She is willing to literally go from planes to trains to buses to cars during a multi-week period to visit schools that would not otherwise have the opportunity to improve their yearbook staff cultures and performance- in photography, design, and writing,” Jostens creative accounts manager Lizabeth Walsh, MJE, said.

Her generosity has spanned a career full of achievements and accolades, but what Pieper is truly known for is her dedication to the craft, even now that she has retired.

“Marci is the definition of all give and no take,” Kirkwood High School adviser Mitch Eden said. “Both her commitment to teaching and her unconditional selflessness continue to be on display even post-retirement from Clayton High School.”

Though her dedication to students and teachers all over the country is apparent, one cannot forget the profound impact she had on her own students at Clayton.

“One of her biggest strengths is teaching the ‘why’ of something,” Jostens account manager Jace Dumont said. “Any time a student did not understand or needed help, she welcomed them with not only a well thought out answer, but the reasoning behind the answer. She never left a student wondering why. She created spaces where, through journalism, students learned and grew and stretched themselves beyond their comfort zones to meet with unprecedented success.”

Rebecca Potter, CJE

“Great advisers know that their task is to educate, guide, inspire — to be a facilitator, not the editor,” Pleasant Grove High School adviser Charla Harris said. “That’s exactly what Rebecca Potter did.”

Rebecca Potter, CJE, advised publications in Arkansas and Texas for 25 years. She ended her teaching career with 20 years at Texas High School in Texarkana, Texas, where her students’ newspaper, yearbook and online news site collected top honors at the state and national levels, including CSPA Crowns, NSPA Pacemakers and ILPC Gold Stars. Despite these awards and accolades, Potter was never one to put herself in the spotlight. 

“She doesn’t like to be the center of attention,” retired journalism adviser Jeanne Acton said. “She doesn’t like to stand on the stage. Instead, she liked the background where she directed and orchestrated one of the best, if not the best, yearbook and newspaper in the state and nation.”

For someone who does not seek the limelight, Potter has the ability to draw people to her, making a significant difference in their lives just by sharing her knowledge and expertise. 

“Rebecca mentors newer advisers in the area and keeps other veteran local advisers sane,” retired journalism adviser Paul Ender said. “She teaches workshops, serves on boards and is an advocate for student journalists and their rights. She was always — and continued to be — willing to help in whatever capacity is needed.”

Colleen Sanders

“When a teacher retires,” Jostens creative accounts manager Lizabeth Walsh, MJE, said, “the last place she might expect to find herself is back in her classroom, teaching the schedule she just left behind. However, that is precisely what happened to Colleen Sanders almost immediately after her first ‘free school year’ began.”

Sanders spent the last 27 years coaching Centerville High School yearbook students in photography, design and interviewing, and was happy to answer the call when those students needed her once more. Not only is she dedicated to her former students, she is also ready and willing to devote time to her colleagues.

“Colleen Sanders advised the Centerville High School yearbook for several decades before I took over the program,” Allanté Johnson-Taylor said. “I was incredibly nervous, but she answered each question I had — no matter the time of day or method of communication. She is extremely passionate about photography, art, design and capturing memories for students to cherish for a lifetime.”

Sanders had dedicated her career to scholastic journalism, but more importantly she has dedicated her career to the people lucky enough to know her.

“Her students and anyone who knows her well affectionately refer to her as ‘Sands’,” Jostens account manager Donny Boyd said. “If the educational world had its own language, the word ‘Sands’ would surely be added to the vocabulary — with its own special meaning combining mentorship, compassion, heart, family, and hero.”

Sheri Scott

A teacher at heart, retired Jostens representative Sheri Scott used the power of storytelling to help her schools learn about capturing memories that will be invaluable following the publication and distribution of each volume. 

“Her lifetime of excitement about helping schools achieve their goals, her lifetime of growing yearbook programs through the careful and deliberate cultivation of a strong yearbook culture, her lifetime of being a shelter in a storm for so many people during their times of tribulation, all those achievements deserve recognition with this award,” Jostens creative accounts manager Lizabeth Walsh, MJE, said.

One of the first female Jostens yearbook representatives, Scott paved the way for many other women in the yearbook world. “Early in her career, Sheri earned the respect of her fellow reps as she developed her territory,” Jostens creative accounts manager Tina Cleavelin, CJE, said.

A yearbook representative’s job is often about more than just creating and selling yearbooks. The relationships reps develop go far beyond customer service. These relationships were — and remain — Sheri Scott’s calling card.

“Guiding thousands of students throughout her career to do their best is undeniable her calling,” yearbook adviser Lorraine Martinez said. “Guiding anxious advisers new and experienced is admirable. Making friends with so many advisers along the way is priceless.”

Tracy Anne Sena

“She recognized that the students could be doing more,” said Mark Murray executive director of the Association of Texas Photography Instructors, “and so she decided to do something about it. She sees a problem or a missing piece and she just takes it on herself.”

Tracy Anne Sena — throughout her 25 years at Schools of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco — was just that. A problem solver who could see what needed to be done and took the initiative to do it.

“Her most recent work has been done in her early stages of retirement in the form of a weekly newsletter called ‘In The News.’ It’s a gold mine of story ideas, model texts and discussion-starters centered around current events,” JEA President Sarah Nichols, MJE, said. “I can’t imagine how long it takes to develop and share each week, but it’s a great example of how Tracy sees a need or a weak spot and uses it as an opportunity to help.”

As adults, advisers find Sena’s work and contributions invaluable. For students, those contributions — paired with her belief in the power of journalism to give young women a voice — are life-altering. 

“Outside of my immediate family, Ms. Sena has had the biggest impact on my life more than anyone else,” former editor-in-chief Ina Herlihy said. “Today I am the CEO and founder of a tech startup. I previously worked in product management at Walmart and at a startup before that. I’ve progressed in my career because of my lessons from Ms. Sena.”

Ed Sullivan

“When Ed Sullivan began as director of this organization, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Michael Jackson had just released the ‘Thriller’ album, and the internet was 20 years away from becoming a commonplace vehicle of everyday life,” retired journalism adviser Ray Westbrook said. 

Forty years later, The Gentleman of Scholastic Journalism, Ed Sullivan, retired as director of the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, an organization that has had a profound effect on scholastic journalism under his leadership.

“He has provided the field of scholastic journalism a steadfast and duty-bound voice of reason,” said Monica Hill, CJE, executive director of North Carolina Scholastic Media Association. “He has worked to amplify and support the cause of student expression, and he has advocated on behalf of student voice.”

Through conferences in the fall, spring and summer (even through the lockdown days of the pandemic), Sullivan has created opportunities to bring students from all over the country to Columbia’s Ivy League campus to hone their journalistic skills.

“Ed bleeds Columbia blue. He recognized the value of the University’s name on all awards and citations,” retired journalism adviser Mary Kay Downes, MJE, said. “Critiques, Gold Circle awards and Crowns all bear the logo he is so proud of. Calm and measured, he navigated all events and award opportunities with a gentlemanly demeanor that was always a pleasure to witness.”

Ray Westbrook

“Any list of ‘who’s who’ in scholastic journalism is incomplete without Ray Westbrook included,” retired journalism adviser Mary Pulliam said. 

Westbrook spent 40 years of his life involved in scholastic journalism. He worked for the San Marcos High School, Texas University Interscholastic League, Taylor Publishing Company, and then finally at St. Mark’s School of Texas. In his years as an adviser, Westbrook’s students won hundreds of national and state individual achievement awards, but more importantly, they made a difference in their schools and communities. However, none of this would have been possible without the guidance and mentorship of Ray Westbrook. 

“Ray never measures the success of his program by the number of certificates pinned to the wall,” writing coach Bobby Hawthorne said. “He measured the success of his program by the level of trust he and his boys earned from the St. Mark’s student body, faculty, administration, alumni and community.”

While the impact Westbrook had on the entire St. Mark’s community cannot be understated, one only has to look at the publications his boys produced to realize how Westbrook helped change the landscape of scholastic journalism. 

“As an adviser-driver, he literally reshaped many of the standards practiced inside classrooms nationwide,” retired journalism adviser C. Bruce Watterson said. “He shared his vision and commitment with fellow advisers and student staffers at workshops and conventions. It was simply part and parcel of his authentic nature as a teacher.”

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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