Tate to receive Linda S. Puntney Teacher Inspiration Award

Tate to receive Linda S. Puntney Teacher Inspiration Award

By Louisa Avery, MJE, JEA awards chair

Journalism Education Association has named Becky Tate, journalism adviser at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas, as its 2024 Linda S. Puntney Teacher Inspiration Award recipient.

This award recognizes a teacher who, through the teaching and/or advising of journalism, inspired others to pursue journalism teaching as a career and who has made a positive difference in the teaching community.

Tate will be formally recognized July 15-18 at the JEA Advisers Institute in Providence, Rhode Island. 

Tate has advised newspaper and yearbook at Shawnee Mission North for more than 30 years. She received a Gold Key from CSPA in 2010, a Medal of Merit from JEA in 2008 and a Pioneer Award from NSPA in 2023. Tate was named the H.L. Hall National Yearbook Adviser of the Year in 2019.

Former student Tucker Love said he always has a purple pen within reach and regularly uses them as a publications adviser at Shawnee Mission South High School.

“Purple is a color that represents learning for me, starting nearly 15 years ago in the Shawnee Mission North journalism room,” Love said. “Becky Tate always used a purple pen on everything. Whether it was writing our names on a list for KSPA regionals contest or scribbling out to the side that the subhead we wrote was “ICK,” everything was always in purple. For four years, I learned from Tate’s loopy scribbled purple scrawl traveling across the margins of my designs and the double spaced lines of my stories. Her words helped me better understand how to tell people’s stories, what design could do with content and the value of critique.”

Amy Morgan, MJE, who advises publications at Shawnee Mission West High School, first met Tate when Morgan was a high school student as Tate was introduced as their new adviser after the school year started. 

“Little did I know I was meeting someone who would have a huge impact on my life,” Morgan said. “Teacher, mentor, colleague, friend … Becky Tate has been all of these things to me throughout the past 32 years. I was inspired by her as a student, and she is one of the reasons I became a teacher. I have been lucky enough to teach in the same district with her for the past 26 years, and she is still inspiring me to this day.”

Barbara Tholen, MJE, journalism adviser Lawrence High School, credits Tate for inspiring her to become a journalism teacher.

“As a student, I was struck by Becky’s focus on details and her exacting standards,” Tholen said. “On long work nights, I would traipse back and forth from the darkroom until she said I had finally printed pictures correctly. She watched every detail, and we learned with each mistake we fixed. She also empowered us to lead, and my confidence grew as I saw she trusted me. That’s probably why — even at age 18 — I contemplated a future career as a journalism teacher — a path I finally pursued after a 10-year career as a newspaper reporter. When I felt the tug to teach, one of the first people I called was Becky. Because while I’m sure she’s outworked most teachers, she’s also always made me think teaching looked like a place where I could make a difference and have fun.” 

Walsworth representative Jill Chittum also first learned journalism from Tate. Although Chittum was shy, Tate accepted her onto yearbook as the only freshman and offered her the position of mugs and index section editor.  

“With Becky’s encouragement and guiding hand over the next four years, I developed into a student journalist with a portfolio that was college- and career-ready,” Chittum said. “Then, as now, Becky actively searched for opportunities to extend her students’ learning and abilities, whether it’s internships with local media while still in high school, shadow days with professional journalists, or contests and awards opportunities.

“In my eight years as an adviser, I tried my best to emulate her ways. I have a few former students who have gone on to become advisers themselves, and I feel like Becky’s influence continues to move through them to their own students to this day.”

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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