12 advisers to receive JEA’s Rising Star Award

12 advisers to receive JEA’s Rising Star Award

The Journalism Education Association will honor 12 teachers with its Rising Star Award Nov. 23 to recognize their commitment to scholastic journalism and media advising.

Rising Star trophies 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 individuals who will be recognized are Makena Busch, Mead High School, Spokane, Washington; Jeni Daley, Shawnee Heights High School, Tecumseh, Kansas; Kaitlin Edgerton, Grosse Pointe South High School, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan; Erin L. Gallegos, Ronald Reagan High School, San Antonio, Texas; Samantha W. Lasarow, El Camino Real Charter High School, Woodland Hills, California; Roth A. Lovins, Columbus (Indiana) North High School; Vanessa M. Martinez, El Dorado High School, El Paso, Texas; Abrianna R. Nelson, Washington-Liberty High School, Arlington, Virginia; Bridgette E. Norris, William R. Boone High School, Orlando, Florida; Leigh A. Rogers, Hermann (Missouri) High School; Daniel Sidwell, Freedom High School, Tampa, Florida; and Angela Wolfe, Burke High School, Omaha, Nebraska.

Makena Busch, CJE, came into teaching with seven years of experience that included a creative arts director position and a graphic design and copy editing role. Now, as journalism teacher and adviser, Busch sets high expectations for her students and gets results. “I take pride in teaching my students everything from A to Z and hold them to the highest standards while in production,” she said. “I expect my students to be leaders in, and out, of the classroom and consider the yearbook program to be the hub of our student community, supporting every club, sports team, and performing arts group, while fostering the culture of our student body.”

Her students are also able to learn from Busch’s example, as she strives to serve the scholastic journalism community in any way she can. “After advising her first year of yearbook, Makena was asked to teach a photography and design strand at the Inland Northwest camp,” said Justin Daigle, CJE, of Brighton (Colorado) High School.

“Makena continued at the camp the following year and shared a keynote on creating a strong yearbook culture in your program,” Daigle said. “What I loved about working with Makena is how she is always thinking about how we can include a nice balance of ‘giving kids information’ and then time to ‘reflect and apply.’ We were able to accomplish this and more, and a big part of that is because of Makena’s ideas and planning.”

Jeni Daley, CJE, found her way into teaching and advising after working for two years after college as a marketing coordinator. Her passion to work with students, combined with her knowledge of journalism, was the perfect fit when Shawnee Heights High School was looking for a journalism teacher.

“I want to inspire kids to create better publications every year and set them up with the tools to be successful in that endeavor,” Daley said. “My program has grown exponentially because kids are excited about the opportunity to be a part of this staff.”

Daley also helped expand her students’ reach by connecting with the community. “Jeni’s success at Shawnee Heights is not limited to managing and leading changes to the yearbook publication,” Principal Ed West said. “Jeni entered into an agreement with our local newspaper, The Topeka Capital-Journal, to have a number of student newspaper publications included as part of the Capital-Journal circulation. The opportunity to showcase our school, our newspaper and the talents of our students is greatly enhanced by her efforts.”

Kaitlin Edgerton, CJE, stepped into a strong journalism school and took on advising without missing a beat.

“It surely couldn’t have been easy for Kaitlin to step into the role of Tower adviser after two legendary teachers, but Kaitlin did so steadfastly, kindling the fire that burns as a legacy to this program that historically defines itself through the pursuit of justice and truth,” said Ava Butzu of Grand Blanc (Michigan) High School. “Her insistence that her students strive to expand their horizons and take ownership of their publications has shaped The Tower to continue to be one of the finest examples of student journalism in our state.”

Edgerton has found that when she works to empower her students, she gets good results. “I find students are resilient and can make great journalistic calls when given the right skill set and tools to do so,” she said. “This also happens when students know I trust them to make the right decisions and to get the best sources every time because what they publish is a reflection of the whole staff.”

Erin Gallegos made an unusual transition into teaching high school journalism and advising student media — she came from teaching math to elementary school students.

“I became interested in teaching after doing humanitarian work in Russia for four years,” Gallegos said, where she taught English to kindergarten, secondary and college students. “Before living in Russia, I spent the first decade of my career working in network-level broadcast production.”

Since making the transition from math to journalism, Gallegos has already helped write district curriculum and planning maps for Journalism I and she has shared her broadcast Journalism plans with others to help them develop their own programs. “In just two years in the high school journalism classroom, Erin has made her mark in Texas scholastic journalism and in the hearts of her students,” Lori Oglesbee of McKinney, Texas, said.

Samantha Lasarow, CJE, is not new to the journalism world. While pursuing her B.A. in English, she was the head copy editor of The Stanford Daily newspaper, the Student Life editor of The Quad yearbook, and the co-editor-in-chief of The Stanford Service in Global Health academic journal. So it was fitting for her to take on the publications and journalism programs to pass along her knowledge and experience.

“My greatest enjoyment in advising and teaching is watching my students of all backgrounds become empowered to develop a strong, positive sense of self,” Lasarow said. “The growth in these kids — as they learn how to be responsible and ethical journalists and how to powerfully turn on their voices — is, for me, the most meaningful aspect of my vocation.”

Since beginning her role as an adviser, Lasarow has done everything she can to immerse herself in this world and continue to grow. She became a member of state and national scholastic journalism organizations, and as of this past spring, she became a part of the Southern California JEA board. “She has the unique ability to draw on her own experiences and observations to develop thoughtful opinions on a variety of issues and imparts that same wisdom to her students,” Assistant Principal Minita Clark said.

Roth Lovins, CJE, found his way back to his alma mater, bringing with him a drive to make the student media programs continue their long-standing tradition of excellence.

“Roth’s presence in and influence on the staffs of Columbus North’s national-award winning newsmagazine, The Triangle, and yearbook, Log, would be difficult to summarize in a letter,” said Kim Green, MJE, Roth’s former adviser. “It is a fact that Roth outpaced my expectations every day he was on both staffs! He did everything and did everything well.”

Now in his third year as an adviser, Lovins is committed to growing his own students in their abilities and their critical thinking. “Most of the time I play the devil’s advocate and make them think about the story from the other viewpoints and how people in the community might react to reading something that is more controversial,” Lovins said. “The main goal in getting them to think about these things is so that they address those principles that are part of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics —seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent.”

Vanessa Martinez came into teaching as a second career, and it did not take long for her students to find success under her guidance.

“She guides the students to making decisions based on fact, great design, and overall appeal,” said Mike Taylor, CJE, of Walsworth Yearbooks. “Her kind words allow the students to find those answers on their own.”

This skill has become extremely important for her students as they tackle a wide array of topics, including many controversial subjects. “I have students of all genders, income levels, sexual identities, races, religions and cultural differences,” Martinez said. “And we have covered coming-out stories, teen pregnancy, mental illness, border issues, religion, politics, military life, and much more.”

Their ability to do this well stems from the expectations she sets forth for them. “I do advise them on ideas for content,” she said, “and play devil’s advocate to make sure that their story ideas are solid and they have a plan for a good angle and reporting.”

Abrianna Nelson, CJE, has had a whirlwind career as a journalism teacher and adviser since she began back in 2011.

After a short hiatus from the journalism classroom, she returned to advising, all while staying dedicated to her responsibilities to give back to scholastic journalism. “I wrote the original iteration of the Entrepreneurship (now Marketing and Audience Engagement) module for the JEA Curriculum Initiative and served as the curriculum module leader for Entrepreneurship from 2013-2017,” Nelson said. “I have continued to manage the WordPress site for the Curriculum Initiative as a curriculum coordinator since 2017 along with advisers Shari Adwers and Megan Fromm.”

Nelson shows dedication to the power of scholastic journalism in her own school, too, working to build up the program in any way she can.

“She belongs in the journalism classroom, the publications lab, anywhere she can empower students to use their voices and tell their truths,” said Erinn Harris, MJE, of Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia. “We’ve had many conversations about staff leadership and organization. About lesson plan and story ideas. Through all these conversations, I remain impressed. She even gave a journalism presentation in Spanish to her school’s Hispanic achievement group in an effort to recruit students that more accurately reflect the demographics of the school.”

Bridgette Norris was not fazed to be taking over a well-established program at Boone High School.

“Walking into a storied journalism program is not an easy task and doing it as a brand new teacher can be even more daunting; it takes a courageous and enthusiastic person to do just that,” Tracy de la Feuilliez, CJE, of Walsworth Yearbooks, said. “Bridgette Norris is that person.”

Norris demonstrated her courage early on, giving students the freedom to make content decisions and power to cover what they want to cover. “I try to teach my students that they do not have to shy away from covering controversial topics,” she said. “Instead, they need to ensure there is a purpose for covering the topic and cover it well. I remind students that although their voices are important, the voices of parents, community members and school administration officials are also important.”

Norris’ own experience as a student journalist and media intern gave her a strong background to help push students to discover their own potential. “I get the pleasure of teaching and developing a relationship with the same students over the years as they progress through their high school career,” she said. “I love getting to watch these scholastic journalists grow and mature.”

Leigh Rogers made an immediate impact on the school journalism culture as soon as she started advising at Hermann High School.

“Watching Leigh transform the journalism program at Hermann High School has been exciting,” said Michelle Turner of Washington (Missouri) High School. “Ever since her arrival to HHS, she’s helped her students reach new heights in their journalistic endeavors.”

Much of Leigh’s success has come from her own drive to improve, but she also hasn’t hesitated to network and reach out for support. “Realizing that she couldn’t do it all on her own, she sought assistance and mentoring from both JEA and MIPA,” Turner said. “[Rogers] has taken the skills she’s learned from other journalism educators and customized them to work in her small (but mighty) program.”

And now, Rogers is taking everything she has learned from others and her own experience to share with the rest of the journalism community. Rogers has written numerous articles for SchoolJournalism.org and the Idea File, and she has taught at several state and regional conferences, presenting on the culture of her program.

“I enjoy creating environments where students can thrive and where they can find passion,” Rogers said. “Every year, I watch my yearbook kids strategize, plan, and excel as young professionals. It is the most rewarding class I teach for this reason.”

Daniel Sidwell transformed what a school yearbook means for his school and students. “Over the last four years, my students have shifted the yearbook from a picture-style book to a journalistic publication,” Sidwell said. “Each spread has a story, every picture has a caption that follows a consistent format. That was something that never happened previously. My students actually do interviews and write stories.”

Sidwell’s push to change how the book was created, however, goes far beyond the desire to teach journalism skills for the students. “I believe that we are teaching more than journalism in my classroom,” he said. “We’re building leaders. I want students to have a voice and be confident both inside and outside of the classroom, now and when they move on to college and the ‘real world.’”

This belief has pushed Sidwell’s students in more ways than just creating a good product. Currently, “Dan’s top editor is active in a small but growing countywide effort to help change some of our Hazelwood policies,” said Joe Humphrey, MJE, of Hillsborough High School, Tampa, Florida.

Sidwell’s students aren’t the only ones becoming more active. “Dan has already coordinated our district journalism in-service meetings,” Humphrey said, “and he is about to become way more active in our state association and the local team for the 2020 national convention.”

Angela Wolfe, CJE, saw the potential for what her school’s journalism program could become and has worked hard to make that vision a reality ever since.

“In her first year of advising, Angie taught a couple of Intro to Journalism classes and advised the yearbook. The rest of her schedule was composed of teaching English,” said Justine Garman of Benson High School Magnet, Omaha, Nebraska. “The next year, she took over newspaper. Since then, she has dramatically increased the number of students in her program. She also lobbied her school to allow her to advise and teach both photojournalism and digital journalism as well as take her newspaper program online.”

Wolfe, however, isn’t ready to stop in her transformation of the program. “Our school has improved every year we have entered it into the state competition hosted by the Nebraska High School Press Association. The book received an excellent, then superior and then was awarded the highest award available, a Cornhusker, in our last critique,” Wolfe said. “This year was our first year competing in national competitions and, although we did not win any awards, it was a great experience for some young staffers.”

The learning experience Wolfe and her staff receive through each experience drives them to improve. “I learn just as much from them as they do from me,” she said. “My favorite thing to do during class is to sit down with my ed(itorial) board or any student and problem-solve, create, provide feedback, and just help them create the best product possible.”

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.


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