Scribner named JEA Diversity Award recipient
By Erinn Harris, MJE, awards chair
The Journalism Education Association has named Teresa Scribner, CJE, adviser at Cleveland STEM High School in Seattle, as winner of its Diversity Award. Scribner will be recognized in a video presentation on April 10 during the Spring JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention.
Receiving honorable mentions are Odyssey Media Group, advised by David Ragsdale, CJE, at Clarke Central High School, Athens, Georgia, and The Oracle, advised by Kristy Blackburn, CJE, at Henry M. Gunn High School, Palo Alto, California.
The Diversity Award honors a scholastic journalism teacher, student media adviser or scholastic journalism group demonstrating a commitment to cultural awareness and encouraging a multicultural approach with its student media staff, media production and/or community. The award celebrates those at the forefront in promoting diversity in the scholastic media arena and who have taken steps to break down walls of misunderstanding and ignorance.
Prior to teaching at Cleveland STEM High School, Scribner worked as a visual journalist at The Seattle Times, volunteering with local high schools around western Washington. As often as she is a proponent of racial equality, she is reminding people that diversity is not just about race — there is so much more to it.
“She stood at the front of the room describing the project to students and telling them to look everywhere except for the color of people’s skin,” said nominator and Arlington High School adviser Anne Hayman, MJE. “Not a single group focused their story telling packages on race; they found the elements of diversity in each person they met.”
Scribner teaches multimedia, graphic arts and is the adviser for Cleveland Publications, which oversees the production of the school’s yearbook, newspaper, news broadcast and website.
“She demonstrates a commitment to excellence and a strong work ethic, and she expects nothing less from her students,” said Kathy Schrier, MJE, Washington Journalism Education Association executive director. “They tackle tough topics like teens battling terminal illness; what it is like to be one of the few white students in an urban school; and the impact of gentrification on the school’s neighborhood. Her students are bold and unafraid to dig for the truth.”
Truth — no matter how difficult or uncomfortable — is the foundation of Scribner’s teaching, and she guides her students to the truth through conversation.
“Teresa has a gift to encourage the difficult conversations without making them difficult,” Hayman said. “She encourages the discussions and makes suggestions for what people can really do to make a difference and engage in more dialogue.”
Scribner is active with JEA’s diversity initiative and regularly leads the Outreach Academy at national conventions. She presents about diversity at the JEA Advisers Institute, and most recently, she led a roundtable discussion for journalism advisers that identify as people of color.
“Teresa Scribner is acutely aware that diversity is so much more than the color of her skin, and she wants to make sure her voice and face does not put too fine a point on the topic,” Hayman said. “She is not the voice of diversity in our state. She is leading us all to find our own diverse voices.”
Odyssey Media Group
The Odyssey Media Group and Iliad literary-art magazine, advised by David Ragsdale, CJE, practice honest reflection and an awareness of diversity in all of their decisions. Iliad Co-Editor-in-Chief Natalie Ripps recognized that the diversity of the Odyssey staff was not always reflected in the magazine itself, and they took steps to cover content more representative of the entire student body.
“We pushed boundaries to create a magazine that mirrored the environment we existed in,” Ripps said. “Odyssey was fostering these voices and promoting this change in our school.”
The focus on and awareness of diversity is reflected not only in their coverage but in their leadership practices.
“Being aware of the diversity around you is only the first step in creating inclusivity among a staff,” said Naomi Hendershot, co-editor-in-chief of Odyssey Media Group.
The staff participates in monthly leadership seminars, focuses on diversity in recruitment and engages in outreach to middle schools.
“The editorial board for the Odyssey, as well as the leadership team for the Iliad, work diligently to represent all facets of our school,” Ragsdale said. “They are encouraged to think beyond just their peer groups and neighborhoods and to consider our entire school and community when it comes to coverage, identifying stakeholders for stories and soliciting submission for the literary magazine. This is a foundational aspect of my students’ work.”
The Oracle staff of 2020-21, under the leadership of Editor-in-Chief Joshua Yang and managing editors Madison Nguyen and Nikki Suzani, dug into the big issues this year: the pandemic, the election and social justice.
In his letter from the editor in the first issue of the year, Yang said, “We’re dedicated to providing timely, insightful and thought-provoking coverage; we’re dedicated to sparking much-needed conversations and inspiring paradigm shifts. We’re dedicated to the truth.”
The staff’s election issue covered stories ranging from racism, redlining and gentrification, to voting rights, to social media activism.
“The reporting my students have done this year has encouraged them to grow as writers, reporters and editors,” adviser Kristy Blackburn, CJE, said. “They have taken up the challenge of engaging their peers with thoughtful articles around the difficult subject of racism, highlighting important issues of injustice in our community and connecting them to the national story — and doing what journalists often do best — providing a voice for the voiceless.”
Embracing and amplifying student voices is a responsibility The Oracle staff does not take lightly, as their work speaks to topics important to the entire school community.
“In many ways, I depend on The Oracle to expose me to ways in which the climate and culture of our school is more or less inclusive for various student groups,” Principal Wendy Stratton said. “In my own efforts to amplify the voices of all students and increase the racial consciousness of our school community, I expect to partner closely with this amazing group of courageous young journalists.”
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.