Start Shaping Tomorrow’s Leaders Today


Start empowering next year’s leaders now

One of the most rewarding parts of advising is fostering leadership in young adults. It’s even better when you can convert a student who doesn’t see themself as a leader into a force of good in your yearbook space.

As your deadlines come and go, you are probably seeing some of those students move to the front of the pack and start to shine. Some of them will simply show you that they are organized and can keep cool under pressure. Another may raise her hand and tell you she is interested in a leadership position. So, take a minute and look around the room. And, while it’s your job to inspire and empower, your current leadership should also take on this noble calling. What a great set of leadership skills for them to learn, as well.



How do you make this happen? Here are some ideas:

1. Have your current, returning staffers fill out applications for the positions they want. You can use the resources in our curriculum in the Welcome section, including the Staff Interview Form and Job Application.

2. Plan interview appointments with every member of your staff. Start with returners and talk to them about their potential for advancement in their yearbook careers. For seniors and non-returners, treat them as exit interviews, where they have the opportunity to give you feedback on every aspect of the program. This is such an important career-readiness skill.

3. Treat the process of advancement as a business manager would. As homework, consider the EIC video series as a starting point for reflection — as deadline assignments ebb, these are a great way to get a grade in the gradebook.

4. Once new positions are chosen, make the training process part of your graded assignments. Mentorship sessions between outgoing and incoming leaders are an easy way to build relationships and teams.

Communication is key

This week’s Editors in Convo video features Madge Lister, a former editor from Casady School in Oklahoma City. She provides some great insight on maintaining open lines of communication on the yearbook staff. We can all take notes on Casady’s class organization and workflow, too.

Give it a few minutes.

It’s a Small World

The magic of yearbook lives on.

We all know the traditional functions of a yearbook. Of course, it’s a memory book, a history book and the year’s consummate photo album. Without a doubt, it serves as a record and a reference tool, too.

We’ve asked, “If it’s not in the book, did it even really happen?” so often that students begin to echo as soon as we begin speaking.

But one of the lesser-discussed YBK impacts is perhaps the most amazing. It’s not uncommon to hear an adviser say a yearbook is magic.

A long-time guru said it best with this:

“If you’re covering the year right,” Col. Charles Savedge would say, “the yearbook is as magical as Mickey’s kingdom. There — no matter whether you’re 4 or 24 or 64 — you’re always a child. Yearbook is just the same,” he’d continue. “When you open that book, you’re right back on campus in the coverage year… if you’re doing it right.”

So true. But there’s another aspect of the magic that’s less obvious and so much more mind-boggling.

Yearbook — not the book itself but the culture — actually makes the world smaller every day.

I recently experienced this (again!) myself. In a completely non-work situation, I mentioned my work with Herff Jones and yearbook staffs from coast to coast. “No way,” gushed the woman across the table. “I am the original yearbook girl.”

And while the others looked on, puzzled, she launched into her YBK history. Suddenly, we were connected and had lots to discuss. You can find Patricia’s story on page 23, alongside stories of other former editors.

It’s common at college media conventions to meet former high school staffers who fondly recall their experiences. Many times, the conversations begin when our booth swag causes flashbacks to previous events or workshops. Often, those visits end with a text to a former adviser or rep with greetings and “thanks for all you taught me.”

A few weeks back, a friend called with another world-shrinking-via-yearbook story. While at a wedding in Tampa, he’d been introduced to the groom’s cousin, a high school volleyball coach from North Carolina. His litany of questions about her school made her ask how he knew about so many schools in so many places. He explained he’d worked with yearbook staffs for years. Guess what? Jill was on yearbook in high school. Where, he asked? Colorado. What school? Overland. Imagine her surprise when he said, “I know Kathy Daly, too.”

The fact that another wedding guest knew Daly, a long-time HJ adviser and special consultant, was surprising to the former yearbook editor’s mother.

No surprise: Yearbook constantly removes degrees of separation.

And I love that. It makes me smile that yearbook and yearbookers matter — even years later.

Ann Akers, MJE

A yearbook marketing, sales and people-person, Akers believes that yearbookers everywhere can eliminate degrees of separation if they ask the right questions.

Top 10 Reasons to Join the Yearbook Staff

Recruiting Your Rockstar Yearbook Staff

Top 10 Reasons to Join the Yearbook Staff

Joining the team that puts together your school’s yearbook is more than just a great way to get involved with your school. It’s also is great way to learn all sorts of valuable skills.

#10 It gets you involved

Yearbook is a great way to get involved with every aspect of your school. Yearbook touches on EVERYTHING that goes on in your school and community. From attending all kinds of different events to mingling with your student body, yearbook gives you a great excuse to stay connected with your school at all levels.

#9 Camaraderie

With yearbook, the staffers work together as a team to put out a book that the entire school wants a part of. It has to be a team effort or everything comes off the rails.

#8 Free events

As a member of the yearbook staff, when you get sent to cover a sporting event, or any other event, you get in free. Yes, you’re there to cover the event and you can’t just goof around, but by covering it, you’re probably more involved in the action than most spectators, which makes it even more fun.

#7 Learn life skills

Ever sat in class thinking, “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” You won’t get that with yearbook. With yearbook you learn how to communicate better, how to solve problems, how to grow as a leader how to manage your time and, most importantly, how to hit a deadline.

#6 Boost your journalism skills

If you’re interested in journalism, this is the place where you’ll get hands-on experience with the whole enchilada. From writing and photography to research, design, layout, editing and even media law (what journalists can and can’t do).

#5 Learn business skills

Yearbook’s not just a class, it’s a business. You’re making a product and you’ve got to get the kids in school to want to buy that product — which is why you’ll learn valuable business skills such as budgeting, promotion, advertising, marketing, customer service and market research.

#4 You’ll hone your social media skills

You’re probably already a social media expert when it comes to your personal life. Why not also learn how to take advantage of this valuable tool when it comes to business communication? By being part of yearbook, you’ll learn about storytelling, creating and organizing content, engaging your audience, online research and brand management.

#3 Looks great in your portfolio

Whether you’re trying to get an internship or sending out applications for college, you’re showing the world you are an active member of a hard-working team who can handle multitasking, socializing, deadline management and everything in between.

#2 Work with the latest technology

Yearbook gives you the chance to get your hands on the kind of technology you’ll be working with later on in life. That means design, photo-editing, business and production management software.

#1 It’s fun!

Last but not least, yearbook is just plain fun. You’ll learn a ton, but you’ll do it in a fun and interesting way. Plus, the end result is a keepsake that captures all of your work – and memories – into a book you’ll keep forever. How many other classes or clubs can promise you something like that?

Countdown Craftiness

Countdown Craftiness

‘Tis the season to take a step back from the computer.

That’s right. Put down the spreads. Take one step back. Now another. Now a deep breath.

You can keep editing until every word loses meaning, or you can take Alicia Luttrell’s advice.

The yearbook adviser and librarian from Maryville Junior High in Maryville, TN, knows we all get antsy before the big holiday break.

“There’s a time when we all have to buckle down and work on yearbooks,” she said, “but there’s a time to have fun and get creative.”

Last year, Luttrell put her creativity to work.

“I had an old tabletop tree and decided to give it a new home in the yearbook room. I also had four small Herff Jones ornaments to display and wanted to create more to take home.”

Luttrell’s staff was thrilled, she said, to see art supplies.

“My students were excited when they walked in and saw glue, tinsel, clear ornaments, yearbook pages and paint brushes on the table. I love to get them working on something different. To get them away from the everyday activities of looking at spreads. Things get a little messy, and that’s okay with me.”

They made mini paper chains and decoupage ornaments from old yearbook spreads as well as “swirly” and tinsel ornaments to add color and sparkle to the tree.

She suggests, “When ornaments are ready, tie a piece of jute or other string on the cap loop and include a cute tag with students’ names. This is a way to remember students who created these ornaments.”

Take on the Christmas ornaments or make an activity of your own. It might just spark the creativity you’ve been hoping to find in the void of the computer screen.

The Future Starts Here

One professional designer has three JEA/NSPA conventions to thank for his career. So, take note fall convention attendees in Dallas. You never know which students will find their callings, their careers and their tribes through high school publications. The industry’s next designers, writers and creative directors are probably attending this convention.

On Nov. 8 just after lunch, Kyle Lewis hopped out of his chair and left his office. He returned a minute later carrying a tattered, white cardboard box.

“My mom’s packing up a bunch of my old stuff and gave me these,” he said as he pulled out three yearbooks and three black and white student-made booklets.

A new graphic designer in Herff Jones’ Indianapolis headquarters, his co-workers were of course drawn to the yearbooks, picking on Lewis’ portraits and remarking at how fashion, design and the world changed in 10 years. They took note of how he had served as design editor of his senior book, a post which launched his career.

The books garnered the initial attention, but the soft-cover booklets incited a frenzy of coincidences. They were publications, reports even, of Lewis’ staff’s trips to three consecutive JEA/NSPA conventions.

“To attend the conventions, we raised money for months,” he said. “But the only way the school board would approve the trip was if we made a review of the convention, showing what we had learned. Everyone was responsible for creating content. Some focused on the cities, some on the conventions and some on the competitions.”

As he told the story of the black and white booklets, Lewis’ co-workers realized, excitedly, he enters the Hyatt Regency exhibition hall today returning to the convention as a corporate employee working in the yearbook industry after having attended three consecutive conventions a decade ago as a student.

That dutiful little teenage designer would be shocked, he said, to know instead of working to recap convention goings-on for his principal, his work would be a part of a booth. (Those yellow-tipped banners and photo illustrations are his handiwork, by the way.)

None of this was part of his plan, he said.

“I took journalism my freshman year on accident. I misread the class listing and thought it was a journaling class.”

His co-workers giggled, too.

“At my high school, you took Journalism 101 freshman year, which is one semester of writing and one semester of design and photography. After, we worked on the publications, and I chose newspaper. But we didn’t get a chance to learn new techniques.”

He said JEA/NSPA conventions were worth the fundraising and the additional labor because, “we could learn from professionals and pick up other schools’ books and papers to get inspiration.”

After three years on newspaper staff, Lewis joined the yearbook staff to get more experience. He attended the 2006 convention as design editor of both publications.

“I like working on both,” he said. “With newspapers, you have a daily or weekly publication. With a yearbook or a magazine, you get something that lives beyond that week.”

With a degree from Ball State and a decade of working in the newspaper industry, he’s found his way home.

“I always thought I would work for a newspaper, but always had interest in working for a magazine. Working for Herff Jones is more like that.”

Will you be the next Kyle Lewis?

Open your eyes to possibilities, your mind to interests and make the best of both.

Who knows where you’ll be in 2027?

Getting to Know Your Team

Getting to Know Your Team

A well trained yearbook staff is a finely tuned machine where everyone chips in to help so that deadlines are met and the book is the best it can be. Done well, it is a true testament to the power of working together as a team. Unfortunately, most yearbook staffs don’t start their year with a complete group of seasoned members — and while some do — they still have new staff members who will need to become contributing members very quickly. It’s not uncommon for staffers who have been together for a while to have their share of inside jokes or to know each other’s favorite Starbucks order, which can be unsettling. How can you, as the adviser,  help your newbies become acclimated and accepted more easily and level the playing field? Enter the team building icebreaker.

Used properly, these icebreakers can serve several purposes: introducing everyone, seeing quickly who takes the lead and who prefers to follow and, during the assessment/discussion time, you can share how that activity relates to being on staff.

Team building icebreakers like these can also be used to alleviate stress during deadlines. Allowing staff members to blow off steam will help to keep things moving along productively instead of grinding to a halt because of negativity and frustration.

How are you using icebreakers and team building activities in your classroom? What are some of your favorites? We’d love to hear from you especially if you’re interested in sharing them for a future blog post. Please comment below.

Planning the Best Day Ever

Planning the Best Day Ever

So, we finished the book. There’s no more copy to correct, people to identify, photos to edit or designs to review. Submitting the last few pages to the plant, I, like many advisers, finally breathe a sigh of relief and take some much needed downtime to catch up on sleep and slowly lower my caffeine intake. It’s not until a few days later when my staff, bored out of their minds, (did they forget how much work we just did?) starts asking me what’s next. Although we create a few slideshows and start organizing next year’s book, distribution is really the last ‘task’ on our radar. There’s no better feeling in the world than handing that freshly pressed book over, but let’s get real for a minute. Sometimes the monotony of handing book, after book, after book out can take its toll. Yerds need to feel the love and appreciation from their student body. They need a chance to celebrate their accomplishment and be recognized before they hand over ‘the baby.’ As an adviser, it’s been my goal from the beginning to make distribution not only a party, but a community event.

So we go all out. I made an investment in my first year and bought some décor pieces straight out of Pinterest that I knew were versatile and would last us a long time. We bought linen tablecloths, sequin tablecloths, gold chalkboards, banners, and dollar store frames. We custom designed everything to match the theme of the book making sure that every detail, no matter how small, was planned out. We even wrapped old yearbooks in gold wrapping paper to create stands for our signs.

Planning the Best Day Ever

Our goal was to involve the community as much as possible so my staff reached out to several clubs and organizations for support. We asked a group of choir kids to perform a selection of songs while people mingled and socialized. The ProStart food classes were generous enough to create a sampling of appetizers, serving up strawberry shortcake kabobs, teriyaki meatballs and mini-turkey wraps. A parent hooked us up with a cheap photo booth so we designed Instagram inspired frames out of cardboard (to match our theme, of course) and included a logo design on the photo strip. I purchased over 50 lbs of assorted candy in our school’s colors and bought a bunch of cheap glass bowls at Goodwill to create a candy bar. One of the yearbook students had a popcorn maker, so we loaded up on seasonings, paper cups, and oil. We printed about 200 photos at Costco and hung them in the commons for students to grab and take home (this was a huge draw for students). I ordered stickers, pens, and swag from Herff Jones to adorn our signing tables. We created an exclusive slideshow with a glimpse of photos only seen in the book, and performed a tech demo showcasing the Aurasma videos, which we were introducing for the first time. My design crew even had enough consideration to design a Snapchat geofilter for the event so that students could share video and photos from the party.

Being that this was our first time hosting a distribution party, we wanted to make sure the word got out and everyone felt included. My design team created a postcard that we mailed out to the school board members, superintendent, CTE director and the yearbook staff parents. The students recruited for next year’s staff were excused from their last two class periods to help us decorate and serve food. You would not believe the morale boosting effect this had on students who had not even made a book yet. They practically soared on the energy my staff members gave off, lifted by their excitement and joy. I even contacted the middle school yearbook adviser and invited the entire middle school yearbook staff to join us, with the hopes of planting the seed of interest before they entered high school. All told, it took us about a month to design, organize and plan the party.

Planning the Best Day Ever

If you’re an adviser, I know what you’re thinking… Is all this work really worth it for a two-hour party? And the answer is yes…Heck. Yes. My staff was overwhelmed with support, love, enthusiasm and pride. They experienced a sense of accomplishment, and acknowledgement similar to the feeling athletes get when they win a state title – but this time they weren’t the ones photographing that joy for someone else.

We all know the wild rollercoaster ride we sit on has many turns and pitches. It’s not easy staying motivated throughout the year when you can’t see or feel that book in your hand until the very end. Giving my students something more than the book felt needed, if not necessary. Pulling the student body and community into our little Yerd world for even the briefest of moments left a huge impact on my staff. We were able to hold onto that excitement as we coasted straight into our summer camps, ready to conquer the next book, knowing that our finish line had a much bigger crowd waiting for us at the end.

Here’s a breakdown of some easy projects for your staff to consider:

  1. Framed Signs – We bought 11×14 wooden frames and 8×10 standing acrylic frames from the dollar store which we used for our signing tables, food stations and distribution tables. Make sure you design them to match your book’s theme!
  2. Photobooth Props – Make your own props for students to use in a photo booth. My staff used recycled cardboard; cut it out in the shape of an Instagram photo frame and spray painted them white. We also added funny superlatives like, ‘Most likely to be voted off a reality TV show,’ and, ‘Most likely to take more than one free sample.’ We added gold cardboard triangles to each frame to match our book’s cover and tie into our theme.
  3. Photo Prints – My school goes absolutely bananas for free pictures! I get so many requests from students throughout the year to get copies of photos that this solution is the best way to attract their attention and get them to show up at the party. We tape them all over the commons areas. Last year I spent $50 at Costco for 250 prints.
  4. Slideshow + Aurasma Videos – Whether your yearbook staff does Aurasma or not, videos and photo slideshows are always a huge hit. While we make a big assembly slideshow at the end of the year for the entire school to enjoy, students have learned that the best photos are displayed at our party. We only use photos from the book in the distribution party slideshow and mix our Aurasma videos intermittently between photos. Slap some awesome to it and you can bet students will be captivated. My staff loves doing a tech demo and showing students which videos appear in the book and where.

There’s nothing quite like the moments spent celebrating all your staff’s hard work during distribution!