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.

Update your Tech with NEW Wallpapers!

Update your Tech with NEW Wallpapers!

Happy Scholastic Journalism Week! We hope your staff is having lots of fun celebrating (while working towards those deadlines!) We’d love to see some of those celebrations, so tag us and use the hashtag #SJW2017 in your posts.

Do Not Disturb I'm Yearbooking

Here’s another way to make the week extra special. Download our exclusive NEW yerd backgrounds for your tablets, smartphones and computers. If you’re an adviser, send them along to your staffers to enjoy, too.

Deadlines On My Mind

You can even print them to deck the staff room. Enjoy!

A Yearbook is a Love Letter

Pat Conroy once said, “A yearbook is a love letter a school writes to itself.” How is a yearbook a love letter, you might ask? The better question is: how is a yearbook not a love letter? A quick web search tells me that a “love letter” is a way to express feelings of love in written form. The letter may be anything from a short and simple message of love to a lengthy explanation of feelings. Love letters may move through the widest range of emotions — devotion, disappointment, grief and indignation, self confidence, ambition, etc.

The yearbook captures all of these emotions and more through storytelling, one-on-one interviews and emotion-packed photos that in turn, stir the readers’s emotions and make them feel. When a staff works to get each and every student in the book, it’s a love letter addressed to all of them — one they will open again and again to relive the moments of the year; to share those moments with their children and spouses one day; to laugh with high school friends and their kids one day. What an amazing thing your staff is creating!

Celebrate the love today and going forward. We hope this video and Pat Conroy’s words remind you time and time again that this project is massively important, incredibly meaningful and will last forever. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. The stress level in your staff room might be high today, but the payoff is on its way! Stay motivated and remember that you’ll soon get to relish in all your hard work. How priceless will it be to look back on the memories that you worked to capture for the students in your school and in the community?

The yearbook truly is a love letter… don’t forget that.


Yearbook is a Love Letter lesson plan

Full video transcript

Valentine’s Day Treat Ideas

Valentine’s Day Treat Ideas

Valentine’s Day is next week and it’s also the perfect opportunity to spread some love and appreciation to your staffers, advisers or even those faculty members in your school who are constantly understanding of the yearbook staff’s schedule. (Because you know how staff time restraints and needs can be difficult for other teachers.) Plan now and get creative to surprise them with just a small token of appreciation on this international day of love.

Start by browsing the extra punny list of Valentine’s Day messages below and choosing one that can be attached to your valentine’s favorite snack. A pack of almonds or peanuts, chewing gum, a bottled coffee, candy bar or pizza (if you’re really trying to score some brownie points.) Kidding… that’s not the point here! Grab some pretty paper, handwrite the fun message or design and print it, and attach it to the appropriate goodie — and, voila, you’re done! (Click the image below to download the six that are already made and ready to print! )
For more fun printables 
click here.

Valentine’s Day Treat Ideas

It’s such a small gesture, but a guaranteed meaningful one that will warm hearts and make that special someone feel appreciated. It always feels nice when someone remembers to think about you. (And work fast — February 14 is next Tuesday!) Enjoy!

Punny Messages:

  • I’m NUTS about yearbook!
    Almonds, peanuts, Nutter Butter® cookies, PayDay® candy bar
  • I find your creativity very aPEELing
    Banana, orange
  • I appreciate you a latte
    Starbucks® coffee giftcard or bottled/canned coffee
  • I DONUT know what I’d do without you!
    Donuts (This message would be perfect for an Editor-in-Chief, a principal or administrator or a teacher in your school who continually helps out the staff.)
  • I CHEWS you!
    Chewing gum
  • Your design has stolen a PIZZA my heart
    Pizza, obviously
  • Your upbeat attitude is a JOY in my life
    Almond Joy® candy bar
  • Will you oFISHally be my Valentine?
    Goldfish® crackers
  • Your leadership skills are outta this world!
    Orbit® gum
  • I appreciate everything you DEW for our yearbook staff!
    Mountain Dew
  • You are kind of a big DILL!
    Pickles, pickle chips
  • We would be MUFFIN without you!
  • I’m so glad you’re a part of my SCHOOL!
    Swedish Fish® candy/Goldfish® crackers

Plan Now to Celebrate Scholastic Journalism Week — a Few Ideas

Plan Now to Celebrate Scholastic Journalism Week — a Few Ideas

These ideas on how to celebrate Scholastic Journalism Week are truly timeless — so much so, that they could be implemented any other time of the year, too. Several years ago I had the joy to chair JEA’s Scholastic Journalism Week activities. Here’s a list I shared with advisers to help you put a little fun in the week! Scholastic Journalism Week is Feb.19-25, so it’s time to get on it. I’m almost certain you’ll have deadlines looming, but perhaps for just a day or two, you can set those aside and celebrate the week dedicated to you.

  1. Guest speakers. Invite a local pro or a yearbook alumni who is working in journalism to come and speak to your classes. A former yearbook editor might also be a great choice. A panel is a cool idea, too.
  1. Party. During class or after school, have a party to celebrate the week. Everyone loves a party, so make this one special. Do something during SJW you won’t repeat until the last week in February comes around again in 2018.
  1. No work worknight. Like a party. Plan to stay after school for fun only, no deadlines. Heck, isn’t that how most work nights end up anyway?
  1. PR. Send nice notes to faculty who help you out a lot. Leave them candy or snacks in the lounge. This helps staff members learn the art of writing a thank you note and spread goodwill throughout the school.
  1. Hang out with other area schools. Invite them to your party or challenge them to some kind of competition.
  1. Write letters to the editor. Have students write letters to the local paper detailing their love of scholastic journalism. Contact local television stations. Find ways to spread the message.
  1. Have a press conference. Have a local politician, athlete or school administrator come to class and let students ask questions.
  1. Exchangeapalooza. Send your publications to other schools or spend time looking through the ones you get for fresh ideas. Celebrate others.
  1. Try something new. Live it up. Break from the norm. Do something cool you hear other schools always talk about.
  1. Clean. It is almost spring… But at least work in donuts with cleaning.
  1. Participate in SPLC Penny War. Raise money for a good cause! If you have multiple periods, provide a reward for the winning class. Just one class? Split it in half!
  1. Clip stories/ideas/designs. Create a visual library or mood board from your favorite publications. Use notebooks or even a wall to showcase great ideas.
  1. Visit feeder schools. Get to know the middle schoolers who will one day take over. Have mini-workshops to teach them some skills to get them excited about your program.
  1. Take over the cafeteria. Publicize your program during lunch periods by passing out treats.
  1. Decorate. Make sure people know it is SJW by decorating your hallway area and classroom.

Every school and staff is different, so do what best fits your situation. However, one way or the other, celebrate the week and do something special.

How to Nurture a True Colors Staff

How to Nurture a True Colors Staff

Last week I briefly detailed a process to recruit your next diverse yearbook staff using the True Colors personality technique. This process allows you to categorize potential and existing yearbookers into four color groups that describe how each one works, how they process information, their wants and needs and overall personality traits. A good mix of all four True Color students is sure to make for an amazing, tight-knit and hardworking yearbook staff. Once you’ve gotten that far, it’s important to know how to teach and nurture each type of student.


BLUE STUDENTS  need acceptance, caring and support. They enjoy group interaction and cooperation over competition. Blue students need recognition and are extremely sensitive to rejection. They focus more on people than on the abstract, and therefore always learn best through face-to-face interactions. They tend to express themselves creatively and don’t fare well with structured routines. Overall, these students aim to please (and not disappoint!) favored teachers.

value responsibility, dependability and obedience. They typically prefer a structured classroom, so it’s no surprise they enjoy and even need organization, a schedule and the discipline of authority. They perform well with workbooks, and are firm believers that work comes before play. They highly respect and expect a teacher who “Rules and Teaches,” while the students “Follow and Learn.” It is their goal to work to achieve the established “best” standard.

are interested in principles and logic, and enjoy developing their own ideas. These students often understand sophisticated concepts quickly and become frustrated when others in the class don’t. They become impatient with drill and routine, and finds technology appealing. They love to be constantly challenged, and dislike the dullness of daily routines. They’re always raising standards for themselves and others.

are often entertainers, free spirits and resourceful. They may have a short attention span, but deal well with immediacy and spontaneity. Their needs include physical involvement and activity, as well as visual verbal stimulation. They learn best when there is a hands-on element to the lesson, and in some cases, may not be good team players. They find “regular” classroom settings and daily routines boring.


You can probably categorize yourself and a few existing staffers immediately after reading these details. We’re all different and we all live and thrive in a different ways. An outstanding yearbook staff is no different. Provide the right environment and nurture your incoming staff according to their true colors, and you’ll have a dedicated, bright and excited group.