8 advisers earn JEA Rising Star honors
By Erinn Harris, MJE, awards committee chair
The Journalism Education Association will honor eight teachers with its Rising Star Award to recognize their commitment to scholastic journalism and media advising. They will be recognized at the Fall JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention, Nov. 19-20.
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 2020 Rising Stars are Brit Crew, Creekview High School, Carrollton, Texas; Patty Gomez, Pine Crest School, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Cody Terrance Harrell, CJE, East Lansing (Michigan) High School; Christina Levinson, Bear River High School, Grass Valley, California; Tucker Love, Shawnee Mission South High School, Overland Park, Kansas; Heather Rice, CJE, One School of the Arts, Longwood, Florida; Julia Walker, Olathe (Kansas) West High School, and Shanon Woolf, McIntosh High School, Peachtree City, Georgia.
Brit Crew started her career as a multimedia specialist and advertising project coordinator in Dallas. Now, in addition to acting as the design and multimedia instructor and University Interscholastic League academic coordinator, she advises the Trail Dust yearbook.
“I thought I would enter the media world after college, but boy, I was in for a surprise once I realized I belong in a high school newsroom,” Crew said. “My fire burns at its brightest when I am in my second home, my classroom — working with my students, advising my publication staff and training photographers. I’ll do this until I am a 100-year-old woman if time allows it.”
A lifelong learner, Crew serves as a role model for her students, showing them how passion for the craft of photojournalism is enhanced by seeking out opportunities for growth.
“She has gone to countless trainings and conventions on her own dime, and she does it because she is that eager to continue her professional development,” said adviser Rebecca Pollard, MJE, of Lovejoy High School, Lucas, Texas. “She wants to not only continue to refine her skills, but also provide resources to better her students.”
Patty Gomez, adviser of the Crestian yearbook, has transformed the yearbook program at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After 72 years of functioning as a club, the Crestian now operates as a hybrid club-plus-class model.
“Patty took over a program that was ready for more,” Walsworth yearbook representative Veronika Levine, CJE, said. “Her first year teaching was so successful that the second year there was an enormous amount of students who wanted to be part of both the class and the club — this in a college prep private school where kids are encouraged to take AP type of classes.”
Jim Jordan, retired adviser and host of Walworth Yearbooks “Yearbook Chat with Jim,” remarked on the professionalism of Gomez’s staff when they joined him on an episode of his podcast.
Witnessing this sense of pride and professionalism in her students is one of the things Gomez enjoys most about advising.
“The learning and personal growth I witness in them at the end of each cycle is tremendous,” she said. “Whether they continue to pursue a career in media and journalism in college or not, the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they take with them are solid and permanent. I love empowering them — to do, to change, to create, to question, to work hard, to expect a lot of themselves.”
Cody Terrance Harrell, CJE
Cody Terrance Harrell, CJE, is the Ceniad yearbook and Portrait newspaper adviser at East Lansing (Michigan) High School. A 2015 recipient of a JEA Future Teacher Scholarship, Harrell is now in his fifth year of teaching, and serves as a trustee for the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association.
While heavily involved in the world of scholastic journalism, in his classroom, Harrell said he guides his students in their decision-making process by serving as “a visual thinker, cheerleader and rut-getter-out-of-er after they have been assigned their content.”
This role is important to Harrell as he builds community in his classroom, striving to create buy-in and a classroom built on “an ethos of dedication and enthusiasm,” said Ava Butzu, past president of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association. And it’s worked.
“He has doubled the size of his program,” Butzu said. “He has exponentially increased the standards he expects from his staff, and they have quickly recognized him as the expert, seeking to please him and to grow in their own curiosity and determination as journalists.”
“I love empowering my students!” Christina Levinson said. After a decade in newspapers, mostly at the Sacramento Bee, Levinson now enjoys her second career teaching journalism, yearbook, literary magazine, video production and graphic design at Bear River High School in Grass Valley, California.
Levinson not only empowers her students inside the classroom, but also in the community.
“Christina helped bring the publication online, giving students a chance to learn WordPress and use professional tools to publish the news,” said Keri Kemble, CJE, of Nevada Union High School, Grass Valley, California. “She also forged a relationship with our local newspaper, The Union, which publishes a selection of student pieces on a monthly basis for the community to read.”
Through her support, expertise and empowerment, Levinson has helped her students find their voice — and their purpose.
“I cannot tell you how many students have shared with me that they accidentally landed in Christina’s journalism program and, as a result, have found their passion and calling,” said Amy Besler, former Bear River High School principal and 2019 JEA Administrator of the Year. “They know who they are and who they want to be because of her guidance, mentorship and belief in their capabilities. To me, that’s a grand slam home run any day of the week.”
Becky Tate, the 2019 H.L. Hall National Yearbook Adviser of the Year, has known Tucker Love was a rising star since 2008 when he entered her journalism classroom at Shawnee Mission North High School, Overland Park, Kansas.
“After only having him in class for a few days, I knew that I’d hit the jackpot,” Tate said. “Here was a then-freshman who acted like a seasoned upperclassman.”
Now teaching journalism and advising publications at Shawnee Mission South High School in Overland Park, Love has spent the last two years working with newspaper and yearbook staffs that create Kansas Scholastic Press Association All-Kansas, National Scholastic Press Association First Class and Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Medalist quality work, and having fun while doing so.
“I wanted to advise and teach because I know how significant and transformative my time spent in my high school journalism room was for me as a student,” Love said. “The space that my high school adviser made for students allowed me to discover aspects of myself during a time when I felt pretty lost. In many ways, scholastic journalism gave me a purpose and a voice. I teach because I want to try to create that space for students today.”
Heather Rice, CJE
Heather Rice, CJE, is a passionate educator and visual storyteller. She has been a yearbook adviser at One School of the Arts in Longwood, Florida, where she also teaches digital media, communicative arts and journalism.
When Rice took over the yearbook program at One School of the Arts, she was taking over for a group of parent volunteers.
“I threw myself into learning all that I could about what was necessary to begin building a successful team, then a successful journalism program,” she said.
Five years later, the program is thriving, as are her students, as they learn about journalism, photography, writing, design and their First Amendment rights.
“Mrs. Rice encourages me to always be aware of what is going on around me in the journalism world, which includes the rights I have as a journalist,” yearbook Editor-in-Chief Emily Parker said. “She has guided me and taught me what it means to be a leader.”
Julia Walker, adviser of the Parliament yearbook and Owl Post online newspaper at Olathe (Kansas) West High School, started the media programs when the school opened in 2017. Three years later, Walker and her students have created a community that values professionalism, continuous improvement, diversity and inclusion.
“The environment I strive to create is not just a physical one,” Walker said. “I frequently talk candidly with students about current events and the world around us. By creating this culture, my staff members feel confident in approaching these topics and covering them at our school.”
This confidence-building community keeps growing. When she began, Walker had a combined newspaper and yearbook class of 15 students. Now, she has 28 students enrolled in yearbook, nine in newspaper and 31 in her introductory course.
“In the short three years that our school has been open and Mrs. Walker has been advising the journalism programs, we have soared higher than we ever thought possible,” Parliament yearbook Editor-in-Chief Isabell Mayuga said. “Mrs. Walker encourages everyone to never stop learning, to be who we are and be confident in that, and to give our very best effort 100% of the time.”
Shanon Woolf spent 18 years as an English teacher before finally getting her dream job advising news media and yearbook.
Having completed her second year advising at McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, Georgia, she truly believes in the idea that representation matters. This belief is evident in the publications community she has created at McIntosh High.
“This past year, not only was our staff racially diverse,” Legend yearbook Editor-in-Chief Jaylen Smith said, “but [Woolf] attracted students from different areas of the school, such as athletes, AP-honors students, those invested in fine arts or foreign languages, as well as those looking for a place to call home on campus.”
Home for McIntosh Student Media means trust. And Woolf trusts her students to do the jobs she has trained them to do.
“When kids take ownership of something, and they see that it really is theirs, they realize how powerful they are,” she said. “And nothing is more exciting or makes me prouder than watching kids be powerful.”
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.