Leave Your Legacy: End of Year Staff Traditions

Yearbook Staff

Traditions are important, especially in a yearbook staff because we are like a family, bound together through this amazing class. If you have not started a few traditions of your own, it is never too late to start. We have recently started a particular tradition the past few years and so far, it’s become a staff favorite. While we do celebrate birthdays and deadlines with pizza parties and movies, we reserve a couple of activities for the end of the year.

Leave Your Legacy: End of Year Staff Traditions

In late May, we hang a piñata and I fill it with enough candy bars for each staff member, and I’m not talking about snack size bars or unknown brand candy. Whenever my grocery store has candy bars marked down, I take advantage and purchase Twix, Snickers, M&M’s, Hershey’s, Reese’s and anything else they would love. Each student has three chances to hit the piñata and when it busts open, they can only take one candy bar. Some years we do this outside, depending on the weather. If not, we hang it in the classroom.

After the piñata frenzy, we settle down to create our legacy art print. We all decide what type of artwork we want to create and one of my yearbook students makes a design with a sharpie. Students use an inkpad to impress his or her thumb to the design. After that, they sign their name on the artwork, thus leaving a permanent mark.

Leave Your Legacy: End of Year Staff Traditions

Whatever traditions you choose, make them memorable and meaningful. Your staff will feel they have left behind a part of themselves and a new staff will see that we are all in this together as a family.

“The art was really cool and I like that we leave it in the classroom so that later staffs can see who we were.”  – Kobey

“I liked the piñata and the candy was the best!” – Rachel

“Traditions are important because they bring the staff closer together and leave a mark in our classroom for future staffs to see and enjoy.” – Elizabeth.

We’re a Yearbook Staff… We Like to Celebrate!

We’re a Yearbook Staff… We Like to Celebrate!

Yerds put in a lot of work in a year. That’s why it’s important to celebrate their successes. And nothing says celebration more than food!

Every year, after my editors wrap up a deadline, we celebrate by having a Fat Friday. Fat Friday is the term that has come to life over the years as our student-provided food spreads have become larger and larger, our selections more interesting and delicious. Sometimes our lavish buffet will include mostly desserts, sometimes there’s a veggie tray thrown in and I even purchase pizza from time to time. Anything goes.

We’re a Yearbook Staff… We Like to Celebrate!

In the end, you have a day where you can sit down with your staff, learn more about them each personally and enjoy a much deserved break. We have even instituted Special Fat Fridays to celebrate staffers’ birthdays, special recognitions and even milestones. This Friday, for example, one of our teachers celebrates her one year anniversary of finishing chemotherapy and being cancer-free. Who doesn’t want to celebrate that? It also marks the completion of our senior magazine, so a token of appreciation is due, too.

Remember to take a breath from time to time and celebrate all that makes your staff amazing — hard work, deadline completions, special occasions, year end, or sometimes just because… you will love the time with them as much as they do. And we all deserve it!

The Art of Recycling: Using Covers to Cover Your Wall

The Art of Recycling: Using Covers to Cover Your Wall

Over the years, we have housed excess yearbooks, which eventually became a storage issue. There are many ways to utilize yearbooks and I lean more towards the side of showcasing them as wall art. I have moved yearbook rooms at least 10 times and each time I find ways to make it my own, but sometimes sharing a room with another teacher can be a challenge when it comes to making your space look like a yearbook room. One room housed a sitting nook with two blank walls. We cut the covers off the books, sometimes using the entire cover, front cover only, or end sheets and hot glued them to the wall. They were relatively easy to remove when we had to change locations.

The current room we are in has a long blank wall, which we painted flat black. I purchased three large canvases and my students used the salvaged yearbook covers and hot glued them to the surface. Now if we have to change rooms again we will take our art with us. Yearbook wall art could also be hung in other parts of the school for students and staff to see. Here’s how you can make your own!

Materials: art canvas, hot glue gun with plenty of glue sticks, box cutter, extra yearbooks


  1. Use a box cutter to cut off the covers.
  2. Place a cutting mat or piece of flat cardboard under the cover because it will cut into the table surface.
  3. Arrange your yearbook covers on the canvas first until you like the design. Try to keep the same colored covers away from each other for contrast.
  4. Depending on the number of canvases you have, you can use the same cover on the other canvases if you need some fillers.
  5. Place hot glue on the cover and press onto canvas. You may need to put your hand behind the canvas to make sure the cover completely adheres.
  6. It is okay if part of the cover edges extend off the canvas.
  7. Allow to completely dry before hanging.
  8. You can use frame wire or can directly hang canvas on two wall screws. Just make sure screws are aligned or your artwork will hang crookedly.

One Word to Describe How We Feel About Our Advisers

One Word to Describe How We Feel About Our Advisers

What does yearbook mean to you? In one word? Take a few minutes to think about how you would answer and see what a few other advisers, just like you, had to say when asked. Fulfilling. Chaos. Exhausting. Love. Comment below and let us know what that one word is to you!

We want to wish you all a very happy Teacher’s Appreciation Week! As yearbook advisers, you are hardworking powerhouses who shape the lives of the students in your staff rooms day after day, year after year. And those students in turn impact their communities and student body through the work they do to create amazing yearbooks.

During this special week, we have one word to describe how we feel toward our advisers — grateful.





Post Convention Thoughts

Post Convention Thoughts

It is chaos when my 41 classmates, my journalism and yearbook advisers and I prepare to board ourselves onto the light rail that will take all of us from the Washington State Convention Center to the Seattle Airport. My journalism adviser is quickly punching her credit card information into the ticket dispenser in order to print 43 tickets, while my yearbook adviser is shouting at us kids to stand out of the way of people trying to squeeze through what seems like an endless mass of teenagers. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, I find myself mentally taking a step back, and reminiscing about my experiences during the last few days of the JEA/NSPA spring convention in Seattle.

I’ve always been a huge fan of these journalism conventions. When I saw the itinerary for my first NorCal state journalism convention in Sacramento, three years ago, I was excited beyond belief. I could fill three whole days with yearbook lectures! I was able to hear from the advisers of the schools whose publications I idolized: Whitney High School, Smoky Hill High School, Palo Alto High School and at least a dozen more. Those one hour sessions widened my perspective of what a publication could become, and encouraged me to learn more and more about the world of yearbook.

The Seattle convention was no disappointment. I attended as many yearbook sessions as I possibly could on April 7 and 8. My goal was to absorb as much knowledge as I could about design, writing and photography, and then pitch what I learned to the rising editors of my school’s publication. And while I thoroughly enjoyed all the sessions I went to, I found myself realizing that listening to sessions wasn’t the only reason why the Seattle convention was such a memorable experience.

As cliche as it sounds, the people I met during the Seattle convention were what made the convention so special for me. All around me in the convention center were people who were just as eager as I was to learn more about yearbook. They asked the same questions I was asking about improving the quality of yearbooks. They got excited about three whole tables filled with yearbooks and free yearbook swag and accessories. They asked each other for social media information so they could stay in touch with each other and share ideas for each other’s yearbooks.

In my school, even within my yearbook staff, no one really has a burning passion to learn more about yearbooks. I felt like I was that one lonely yerd who didn’t have anyone to talk about yearbooks with, or talk about how we could make changes to it. No one seemed to understand that yearbook could be a passion just like art or music. All of the attendees at the Seattle JEA/NSPA convention reminded me that I wasn’t alone in my love for yearbook.

The Seattle convention was a place where I could refine my yearbook skills, but it was also a place where I could belong.

I pondered on these thoughts so deeply that I almost missed my yearbook adviser reminding us that we had to get off the next stop. So before the the light rail stopped at our final destination, before we all got up and rushed through ticket printing and security checkpoints, I took a moment to smile at the wonderful experience Seattle was, and to mentally thank everyone I met who made me love yearbook even more.

How Do You Feel About Being Editor of the Yearbook?

How Do You Feel About Being Editor of the Yearbook

It was mid-May Junior year. The school year was coming to an end and summer was quickly nearing. Just as I was able to take a deep breath, exhaling stress, along with the angst of AP testing and what to wear to Prom, I was approached with a formidable challenge.

“How do you feel about being the editor?” my yearbook adviser asked.

A nervous laugh was my initial reaction. How could I possibly fill that role? I had been a part of the yearbook committee for merely a year, initially joining the group in search of a new hobby. Certainly, I admire playing sports and working with children, but I longed for a change of routine. Suddenly, I was asked to bear the greatest responsibility the committee has to offer. Weren’t there people who begged for the job? Or at least who were more experienced than I was?

“We need you,” she simply said.

I decided to assume the position of yearbook Editor-in-Chief. I had my doubts, but I would approach this challenge as I would any new adventure, with an open mind and my full commitment. This was a chance to prove that I am capable of leading my peers while working collaboratively.

Within a few weeks, I discovered that being yearbook editor came naturally to me. I was able to create a vision and execute it with photos and text in order to capture the true spirit of my school and peers. With each turn of a page, I found myself becoming more confident.

Now, as a senior, I the process is simply second nature. As I delegate assignments to the staff, I seek a balance between giving my peers independence on their own pages and being prepared to step in to guide them. I went from editing my own 3-5 page papers to overseeing the 450 that chronicled the lives of all those who attend my high school.

Designing and editing the yearbook is not simply about photos and deadlines. It’s about the journey taken to create the final product. This position forced me to go out of my comfort zone, to channel my creativity and imagination and to push aside my shy nature to pursue a student who needs to be featured.

Becoming the Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook has truly been one of my highlights of high school.

A Letter to “Former” Yerds — Returning to Yearbook

A Letter to “Former” Yerds — Returning to Yearbook

In my second quarter of college, months after distributing my final yearbook and signing my final email as “Dougherty Valley Yearbook, Editor-in-Chief,” I took a leap of faith and sent a different email.

I missed yearbook deeply. And not just in the “good memories, best friends” way that I knew I would. This was something more. I missed the process. I missed the brainstorming sessions. I even missed the deadlines. I missed being part of something bigger than myself. I can’t stress how much four years of yearbook shaped me as a person. Like many others, my high school experience is divided into four years. Unlike most others, each year is themed and has a corresponding book sitting on my bookshelf:

A Letter to “Former” Yerds — Returning to Yearbook

  1. Picture This: intimidated and overwhelmed freshman staffer
  2. Filling in the Gaps: growing, up-and-coming “Baby” Assistant Editor
  3. Long Story Short: struggling and overwhelmed first-year Editor-in-Chief
  4. I Was Here: finally confident co-Editor-in-Chief with two of my closest friends

A Letter to “Former” Yerds — Returning to Yearbook

The email was sent to a high school just down the street from campus. I was welcomed openly into a program that had just concluded its first year with a new adviser. Now, just under a year later, I can be found there three days a week doing anything from checking senior quotes to helping with staff management to making some senior ads because how is that deadline already next week?!?

I’m trying to be the person that I had often wished would have been there for me: someone who had years of yearbook experience, someone who had problem-solved and hacked their way through spreads and deadlines, and even most importantly someone who would understand why I was willing to work for 20 hours over the course of two days for four weekends straight when I spent a good chunk of that time wondering why I signed up for this year after year.

Because there’s nothing like someone understanding your passion, and nothing like someone who has the experience to help you be better at it.

I’m trying to be the person I wish I had as an Editor. And maybe, deep, deep down, it’s me being selfish. Because every time I walk out of the room and have made the experience better for the staff, editors, and adviser, it’s the same intrinsic pride I had every distribution day, the thing that maybe I had been missing all along.

Yearbook doesn’t have to end when you graduate, if you don’t want it to. If this strikes a chord in you, write that email, dial that phone number, take that leap. Because, after all, once a yerd, always a yerd.

Make the Most of Your Journalism Convention

Make the Most of Your Journalism Convention

I have traveled with students to national conventions over 25 times and always have a great time. I have learned setting up specific goals and expectations as well as planning fun things for my students during down time is vital. My students and their parents are clear from the get-go that these excursions will certainly be fun and memorable, but first and foremost, they are business trips. The purpose of the trip is to gain knowledge, interact with other scholastic journalists and bring home great ideas for the publications at our school. And, yes… see some great cities all around the country.

One activity I have done with my students for about 15 years is a Scavenger Hunt. On Wednesday or Thursday evening after any convention activities have concluded and well before curfew, I divide my group into small teams. They are given a list of places/people to find around the convention hotel and take selfies to prove they found the item on the list.


Find the Exhibition Hall where registration/displays will be

Find the JEA Bookstore

Find a local convention committee member and tell them “Thanks!”

Find a yearbook staff from a school with fewer than 500 students

Find a publications staff that has never been to the national convention before

Find an adviser with 25+ years of experience.

Find anyone wearing St. Louis Cardinals swag who is NOT from Missouri

Find xxxxx Room (I have them find lots of different meeting rooms where sessions are being held)

They have one hour and I lecture them at length about appropriate behavior in a hotel — no running or screaming. They may not leave the hotel and they are strictly forbidden to accost regular hotel guests or the hotel employees. I instruct them to be basically invisible to regular human beings!

This is a great way to get them familiar with the convention area so they can easily find their sessions and also wears them out so they are exhausted and ready for lights out!


Another activity I have done on the first night is more of a BINGO game than a scavenger hunt. Put different descriptions on a grid and have the students find people that fit those descriptions and sign the paper.


Yearbook Photo Editor

Pacemaker Finalist

First-Time Convention Attendee

BONUS ACTIVITY: Have your students complete a “Humans of JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention.” They must find a great story about someone they met/interviewed at the convention. I assigned the project the first night we arrived and had it due on the first day we returned to school. I was really impressed with the results and it was a fun way to get them more involved with students/advisers from other schools.

A Staffer’s Testimony to the Power of Journalism

A Staffer’s Testimony to the Power of Journalism

Freshman year, I was told to sign up for Yearbook as my sister was successful in the journalism program. I remember being absolutely clueless about journalism for the majority of first semester, including the interview process. The journalism program at Parkway West High School has made it possible for me to carry out longer and deeper conversations than I have ever had. I, an introvert, chose not to speak whenever possible, but because of Yearbook I have been forced to talk to people.

Now, as a junior, the reward of taking journalism is in full force; my writing abilities have grown and have brought me from the bottom of the English program freshman year, to the Honors level currently and the AP level next year.

Because this was my third year in Journalism, I was offered the honors option. I was tasked with creating and facilitating a project. Initially, I struggled to produce ideas but with my teacher’s suggestions, I had an idea prepared.

I set up an event where I would bring Parkway Students into a nursing home to interview elders and upload the interviews to StoryCorps, eventually going to the library of congress.

Sunrise Senior Living, where my grandmother had lived for four years, was the last senior living home on my list to call. After a few weeks of persistence, I got a meeting with the activities director of Sunrise.

Besides my Eagle Project, I had never set up an event before. Having enough people show up was my biggest concern, yet everything worked out perfectly. Five Parkway West journalists, Mrs. Klevens, her daughter and myself were able to interview nine residents for StoryCorps.

A Staffer’s Testimony to the Power of Journalism

The two residents I interviewed were Warren Nelson and Jack Sale. Nelson was a navigator in the Pacific during WW2 for the Army Air Force, flying B-25 Mitchells. Mr. Nelson also dealt in commodities for the remainder of his career; I was shocked at what incredible life stories I was able to capture because of StoryCorps. When I asked Nelson about the hardest moment in his life he replied, not with a war story, but that it was watching his son die on 9/11. His eyes watered up, and I sat with him a bit longer. He told me his son had gone into commodities and predicted the outcome of crops and other goods on the market, just as Mr. Nelson had done. After the interview Warren Nelson handed me a book, and offered to let me read it. The book included his war diary as well as other life lessons he had learned.  

Another veteran of World War II, a Merchant Marine, Jack Sale spent his military career on liberty ships, in the Pacific. Liberty ships were armored cargo ships that were continuously being sunk by submarines. Miraculously Jack Sale’s part of the fleet was not lost, and Sale was able to be a Civil Engineer for the majority of his life. Sale was not considered a veteran until 1988, but Merchant Marines provided a crucial role in transporting food to feed Europe and supply military campaigns while leapfrogging, or island hopping, in the Pacific.

After both interviews had come to an end, I asked Warren Nelson and Jack Sale how they wish to be remembered. To my surprise, they both replied the same way — for loving their families and being good fathers.

My freshman year, I had not known the power of journalism. The secret to the interview process, I learned, was taking the time to really listen. Because of Sunrise Senior Living, I, and the group that attended, were able to hear the wisdom of our elders, a gift that seems to be overlooked. I encourage others to listen and truly hear our elders. It’s not only eye-opening, but rewarding as well.

Recruiting Your Rockstar Yearbook Staff

Recruiting Your Rockstar Yearbook Staff

Being an editor is the best, most stressful, wonderful, weirdest thing that has ever happened to me. It’s one of those jobs you will know nothing about until you are actually in the position. I manage a staff of 15 college students, including myself. It’s a lot of people to organize and it’s not always an easy thing. But, with some candy and determination, I make it work every day.

Finding a time for our staff to meet as an entire group can really be a challenge. And no matter how crazy my staff drives me to be, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. They are my best friends, my smile, my tears and overall, my teammates. They remind me to breathe. They remind me what yearbook is all about. They might be crazy, but that’s all part of the fun.

I could not have chosen better staff members to include on staff. Not just because they are extremely talented, but because they are overall great people. They get their work done, they have fun with it, they do their school work, they find time for friends and they always put a smile on my face. They are well rounded and I think our yearbook reflects that.

However, the hiring process is not always so fun for editors. Choosing students to be on staff can be challenging and sometimes downright irritating. Here is my advice for going about choosing the rockstar yearbook staff every editor wants and needs:

Interview everyone who turns in an application.

Giving everyone a chance is key to having a successful staff. People will surprise you.

Give everyone a chance.

No one should be turned down without a chance — even students who aren’t media/journalism majors, even people that have never picked up a camera in their lives, even someone that has no experience in yearbook. You never know who you will discover.

Don’t eliminate anyone because you heard things about them or have known them in the past.

There are staff members today who I never dreamed in a million years would work for me. Just because some says, “This person isn’t reliable” or “This person would not be good for you” does not mean it is true. When I was hiring, I had people telling me things and heard so much gossip. Stick to what you think is best. Your gut is usually right.

Do an in-person interview for everyone if possible.

This is the only way to tell if a student will be a good fit for you and your staff. Yearbook is about working as a team. You cannot tell who someone is from a phone conversation. Meet them in person if possible. This also shows that you care about them and it will make them feel valued when going through the interview process.

Have someone with you during the interview for a second opinion (managing editor or someone in a leadership role.)

Without my managing editor (Liz) there to help me with decisions, I may have made the wrong choices. It’s good to talk about candidates out loud and voice your opinions to someone else. It’s also good to have a second opinion to see if you misjudged someone or their potential.

Give yourself some time to process the interview.

Sleep on it. Trust me. After a few days, you will know if they are right for your staff. Once a few days go by and you are still thinking about someone, invite them on board.

Think about what they will provide for your staff.

Certain people work better together than others. Think about who you have already recruited and see if their personalities and work ethic would blend. It’s good to have variety on staff. We definitely do. We have Chemistry majors, dance team members, journalism students, pageant queens, art majors, nerds, sorority girls. And for the most part, we all work together as one yearbook-creating machine.

Show them you are serious about work, but also show your personality during an interview.

They need to see if they can work with you as well. It’s a two-sided experience. Be serious when asking them questions, but also complement them, ask them personal questions, crack a joke and just be yourself. Staff members will appreciate it when you show your true colors while being the boss. You set the example.

Always ask for samples of their work.

This is so important. It will show you what you are working with. It will give you an idea of what everyone is capable of. More than likely, you will be working with staff members on all different skill levels and that’s OK! It’s a learning experience.

Have fun!

This is a given when it comes to yearbook. But really, this is a fun time during the year. As an editor, you are in control. Create a fun, loving and optimistic environment right from the beginning. Trust me, it will be worth it.