Top Three Tips for New Advisers

Get Your YEARbook Started

Drive-Thru Distribution Success Stories

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Jessica Salas // George Jenkins HS, Lakeland, FL

Get staffers involved in promotion:

The drive-thru distribution was truly a different way to distribute books. I was extremely nervous about how it would work and also upset that my staff wouldn’t be able to be involved (district policy), so I had to come up with a way to still have them involved and yet adhere to CDC guidelines. I had each yearbook member come up with a way to promote the new yearbook distribution method and chose the ideas that I thought were feasible. The first step was to start promoting yearbook distribution day once we knew that the books were shipped, so two weeks before, I had each member start posting the date and times on their social media and then again a week before. My staffers received their books about three days before the rest of the school, so I posted pictures of my seniors with their senior gifts and books to help promote the book and hopefully get the school excited, while also using the chance to thank the seniors for all of their hard work the past four years.

Make plenty of signs and banners:

We planned for distribution day to be divided between classes. Juniors and seniors were from 8:30-10, and then sophomores and freshman were from 10-11:30. One of the ideas from a staff member was to have a banner made for the seniors. I had a large banner made that congratulated the seniors, thanked them for buying a book, and listed each of their names. The seniors seemed to enjoy it as I saw them taking pictures of the banner from their cars.

Add fun with DIY Snapchat filters:

We created a Snapchat filter that was active once the students drove on campus, and they were able to use it while in line to get their books. I had yard signs made that I posted along the drive-thru route that told them about the Snapchat filter. The filter was created by one of my students and was fun for the students. This is something that I will do again.

A final thought:

Overall, this method of distributing books was a hit. At a normal distribution day party, I usually distribute about 50 to 60 percent of the books. But with this new method, I distributed about 90 percent of the books.

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Shelley Hunsucker // Riverview HS, Riverview, FL

I was so nervous about the drive-thru distribution, for so many reasons — not having my yearbook kids, distributing 700 books, what if it rained? — there were so many variables and so many what-ifs. It basically came down to this: we have to do it, so how are we going to do this in the most efficient way but still enjoy the process? Here are a few things we came up with that helped with the efficient process:

First things first:

Get a good group of people to help you! Choose people who are enthusiastic and want to see the kids. It’s helpful if they also understand the yearbook distribution process is about making memories.

Pre-prep EVERYTHING! With so many books, I could not put every kid’s name on each individual book (that’s insanity), so instead, I printed three copies of the distribution list and put them on clipboards, made car signs, inventoried my supplements, organized my name plates, ordered distribution banners from HJ, made sure admin knew I needed a table, tent, cones, etc. I ordered lunch for my volunteers and got the word out (all text, all call, social media).

The process:

  • We did seniors in the morning and underclass in the afternoon. We decided we’d rather get it done in one day since we were already out there and set up. We planned an hour break for ourselves to have lunch and to get a reprieve from the sun.
  • We set up a car line. Three volunteers had the distribution lists and went down the car line checking IDs and double-checking what items were bought. We had instructed students/parents to write their name on a piece of paper and place on the dashboard. Once the ID was checked, the volunteers placed a slip of paper that had a pre-printed product type on the windshield (YBK ONLY, YBK+NP, YBK+ALL) and the car moved to the tent. (NP = name plate)
  • At the tent, all product was ready for distribution. On a table, we had a large stack of books, World Yearbooks, autograph supplements and name plates (that had been organized and placed on a sticky note with names on the top and put in a box). The car moved forward, we took the car sign off the windshield and gave them the items noted. If they ordered a name plate, we knew what to look for because their name was displayed on their dash.
  • Later that night, I combined the lists into one so I could see who had not picked up their book and to verify numbers.

What went well:

The process itself went so well! Even when there was a longer line, it moved quickly and efficiently. Everyone seemed happy and got one-on-one time with the teacher/volunteers. If there was a question or an issue, the car could pull farther up not blocking the rest of the line so I could deal with whatever was going on and the line could continue. We got almost all 700 books distributed in that one day!

What I would have fixed:

The volunteers, who I was (and am) so thankful for, don’t know the product and process like our kids do! They don’t seem to understand the stress of numbers as well as our kids do (probably because our staff works on that book all year!) I would have liked to had more time to really explain the importance of accurately checking the lists. I also would stress the importance of having a computer and your receipt book to double-check sales. As always, people will show up and say they purchased but there is no record. Finally, administrative support was critically important.

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Madeline Stone // Durant HS, Plant City, FL


First things first:

I have two big tips for distribution. First, a simple list format. Some advisers print so much extra when a simple list of names, grades and orders is all they really need. Secondly, I made a little graphic for my principal to explain (via email) how our distribution would work. A little extra, but visuals help.

Divide and Conquer:

Think of a fast food restaurant’s drive-thru. The most successful ones have multiple areas to distribute food. It allows those who want fresh fries to wait out of the way, while others who are just getting a drink to move on quickly with their day. Now apply it to a yearbook: break up your extra accessories and book distribution. I had two tables dedicated to just books. Parents/students would drive up, give their name and ID number, and my teacher helper would pass off the book and sign that it was received. If a student only had a book, they would drive happily off into the sunset.

If the student had any extras, they would be told what accessories they were and to drive up to the accessory table. We invested in yard signs (thank you, Amazon Prime) and clearly labeled each of our tables. Our accessory table helper not only had the name plates sorted alphabetically in front of them and books already wrapped in dust jackets, they also had a list of the students receiving extras to mark off that they were picked up. This could work with name-stamped books as well — keep those sorted alphabetically and away from the traffic of books without accessories.

Pro tip: Be sure to double check your personalizations before the big day. When a student ordered “Princess Pancake,” that’s cute, but if your helper doesn’t know who that student is, it can get frustrating. Write out the student’s full name on a sticky note and tape it to the name plate.


Thanks to our principal and a nifty program our district invests in, we can communicate with all students and parents directly. This system allows our administration to send out messages via email, text and phone by just using a student ID number. Before the big day, I sent my principal my eBusiness Excel document of buyers, and he sent out a message to those students and their parents about distribution.

After distribution day one, I sat down and deleted the students who picked up their books, and I sent him a new file with the remaining students. He sent out another message that day.

Don’t have a fancy system? Yes, you do. Use the Send and Sell feature in eDesign. Just make sure to change the header to “We’re in this Together” and write your message to include distribution details. In the recipient’s section, select to send to only those who bought a book. Done.

Final thoughts:

I think the only problem that I’ve had with distribution so far is not having an official cut-off date. I still have about 42 books that parents/students haven’t claimed. If I had an absolute last day from the beginning, I think it would have motivated people to come out earlier. Live and learn. (NOTE: Some schools also list a cut-off date from the start and reserve the right to sell books not picked up by the stated date. Other advisers may provide guidance for picking up books at the start of the next school year.)

New Adviser?

You’re not alone

All across the country, there are teachers in their first and second — and third — years as advisers who get to the end of the day and think, how in the world? It gets easier, but until then, here’s some advice.


Conquer the workload by planning and charting out mini-deadlines for your students. Whether you decide to team them up or assign work individually, make sure they know that deadlines are safety nets. Without deadlines, the work keeps piling up.


Chances are, you’re the only yearbook adviser in your school and no one else quite “gets you.” Look for another adviser in your district or area. Perhaps your rep can help you find others who would be willing to take a text or phone call when you need a lifeline.


Reward staffers for all the little (thankless) jobs with weekly grades. Updating scoreboards with Friday night’s game, checking in with the Spanish Club sponsor, recording the marching band’s latest awards — it’s easy to gather incrementally, but tough to hunt down later. And, pics or it didn’t happen.


There are lots of ways to yearbook, and we have loads of resources to help you find the way that works for you. Look for our weekly emails or go to to see them all.


The Human Experience

Embracing this concept will naturally improve your storytelling — and your readership

All right, here’s the secret: We care about people, not things. That’s it.

When it comes to yearbook copy, we want to remember how we felt about the year, not just the dates on which events happened and what their outcomes were.

Sure, it’s nice to know the football team won state, but what we really want to read about is how the senior quarterback overcame a broken leg to throw the game-winning touchdown pass.

Or how his mother ran out onto the field afterward to hug him while both cried. That’s so much more compelling than simply telling the readers the team won and the school was happy with their accomplishments.

So, how do we get these stories? Well, it’s all about the interview. If you ask the interviewee about winning the game, he’ll tell you it felt great. But then ask “Why?” Follow that with “What was the hardest thing about this year?” Or “What was the biggest surprise the team had this year?”

Those open-ended questions allow the interviewee to reminisce on the event and tell the human side of the story in addition to the outcome. We want to know how he felt about the win — and the season — and what led up to that. That’s something to which we can all relate.
Sometimes it’s even as easy as asking, “What was the dominant emotion for you this year?” And then you follow that up with the best question of all: “Why?”

When you capture the human experience, the copy in your yearbook is much more interesting, and it records what it felt like to be a student at your school this year. The cast of characters and the circumstances will make the story unique.

The stories of the year need to be told by your student body, so fill your copy with copious quotes. Let them tell the year’s story, not the writers’ words; the staff just sets the stage.

Remember, humans really do care most about people and their emotions during experiences — not things. We can all relate to how someone feels, and those feelings are what bring the stories to life.

Christ Presbyterian Academy • Nashville, TN


Photo by Preston Roten

AFTER ADMIRING THE GOLDEN TROPHY and celebrating their state football title came interviews with the yearbook staff. Adding quotes from several members of the team in the caption allowed the staff to capture more emotion and detail.


DISCUSSING THEIR EXCITEMENT and nervousness, both the copy and captions included quotes and anecdotes about the kindergartners’ preparation for the school program.


AN ENVIRONMENTAL PORTRAIT accompanies the profile of one of the youngest teachers on campus. His voice plus those of others make the story more interesting.


THE CONNECTION between the dominant photo, the headline and the copy is reinforced when a senior runner reflects on the season and her career.

Cause and Effect


At Chantilly High School Abby Lee, Vietthao Ho, Mary Kay Downes, Nicole Re and Nia Hoq review the cover proof for the 2019 Odyssey. Photo by Kimberly Lee

Adviser Mary Kay Downes’ knowledge of and passion for yearbook earns her the coveted teacher inspiration award

Mary Kay Downes, MJE, prides herself on being in the know.
She’s advised the Chantilly High School yearbook for more than 30 years.
She is the district mentor for journalism teachers in Fairfax County, Virginia. It seems she knows everyone in scholastic journalism, so she’s often among the first to hear any scholastic journalism news.
But this surprised her.
“It was a work day, and I was in another teacher’s classroom, working on some curriculum, when my phone started blowing up,” Downes said.
She found out she was being honored with JEA’s Linda S. Puntney Teacher Inspiration Award, an honor for motivating a pursuit of journalism education as well as longevity and achievement of other advisers.
Nobody else was surprised by the news.

“First, [on the phone] was Leslie Dennis from [the Southern Interscholastic Press Association]. I was shocked, overwhelmed and I got emotional,” Downes said. “The teacher I was working with was concerned. She asked if I needed help — and I just laughed and let her know it was all good, in a crazy way. I had no idea.”


Advisers with whom she’s worked cite her as a generous expert, a guru of foundational skills and a coach for advisers and editors alike. She already has a list of awards a mile long. Among those, CSPA’s Gold Key, NSPA’s Pioneer Award, JEA’s Medal of Merit and National Yearbook Adviser of the Year honors, as well as an array of state and regional nods.
After falling in love with pubs as a college creative, she taught for years before returning to yearbook in 1987. Since 1995, the Odyssey yearbook has won 17 awards in NSPA’s Pacemaker competition and 12 Crown honors from CSPA. In addition, the book has earned four consecutive Col. Charles E. Savedge awards.
Nominated for the honor by a former editor, Katie Eklund Frazier, CJE, who now advises in Texas, and Val Kibler, MJE, JEA’s vice president, who also advises in Virginia, Downes’ nomination included letters from students and peers she has inspired.
Honored at the spring JEA/NSPA convention, Downes will also address attendees at the annual JEA Advisers’ Institute in July.
“I was humbled by the comments and compliments,” she said. “Ours is a world filled with many great teachers who could be honored in this way.”

Mind the GutterMore from the queen
Learn about years of yearbooking from the legendary MKD on the season two premiere of our podcast, Mind the Gutter podcast.


Read about more amazing advisers in the Folio magazine story, Theme’s So True.

Summer’s Not Over Just Yet

Summer's Not Over Just Yet

After 180 days of school, summer is an anticipated “holiday” that everyone looks forward to and — while it’s not part of the school year per se — the people and things they do are still worthy of coverage in your yearbook the following school year.

If you’re not a seasoned adviser, you may be asking yourself and/or your staff, “How in the world are we going to cover all of the interesting things that students, faculty and staff did over the summer?”

Probably the quickest and easiest way to get pictures from summer activities is to let your student body know that you’re interested in how they spent their summers. Ask them to use the Herff Jones eShare app which can be downloaded for free in the App Store and Google Play to submit photos of themselves on vacation or at work.

You might also want to ask your staff to review their friends’ social media accounts to see things that they did and, if they see something cool, ask them to contact him/her to request additional information and photos.

And, as with anything else, planning is really the key to success so although you might be behind this year, the best way to ensure that you have stellar summer coverage is to make sure your students know that you’ll be covering it before they leave for summer break so they can share pictures as the summer progresses instead of you and your staff playing catch up.

You may also want to plan times to meet with your staff over the summer so you can collectively decide who has time to visit people at their jobs or to go to a local event and take pictures.  

For more great ideas on getting summer covered, check out this previous blog post.


Yearbook Has Its Own Special Language

Yearbook Has Its Own Special Language

Many of us have attempted to learn a foreign language at some time or another and if you’re like me, you’ve done absolutely nothing with it so you’ve lost most if not all of what you knew.

Students who join the yearbook staff are often surprised that they need to learn so many alternative meanings for such common words. For example, in yearbook terminology, a  “ghost” isn’t really scary and a “ladder” isn’t used to reach tall places. A “widow” isn’t a woman who lost her husband, a “slug” isn’t a slimy creature and a “signature” isn’t your name written in pretty cursive.

All of the terms mentioned above and a whole bunch more are actually very important to understanding everything involved in putting a yearbook together so you should plan to spend some time at the beginning of the year reviewing the terms and their meanings. You could even make it a game.

How do you go about teaching yearbook terminology to your staff? Tell us in the comments below.

Creating Order from Chaos

Creating order from chaos

Anyone who has ever visited a publications staff room knows that there is a lot of activity happening all at once; the fact that the chaos doesn’t seem to affect anyone present is the sign of a well organized staff and classroom.

Two of your highest priorities when you begin the year will be assigning staff positions and providing job descriptions to everyone on staff and organizing the room so that tools are easily found and put away after use.

Let’s start with the room itself. A quick trip to Pinterest and searching “organizing the yearbook room” or “organizing the classroom” will yield some very creative and affordable ideas like this and this just to get you started. If you’re like me and you want some additional more costly items like comfortable seating or a mini fridge to store drinks for late nights, you may want to make a big WISH LIST and post it prominently in your room for parents to see on back-to-school night. You never know when someone has an extra something that they’d be willing to donate or when someone who is really handy would be willing to build you something. My portable mail center was awesome thanks to one of my staff member’s fathers who was a carpenter.

Your staff room will become a home away from home for you and your staff so you’ll want it to be an inviting, comfortable space that functions like a productive office. Brainstorm with your staff during the first few days about things they would like to have in the room to make it just perfect.

Once you’ve got your room in order, you’ll want to provide your staff with an easy-to-use but comprehensive manual that they can reference BEFORE they come to you with a question about fonts, photography check-out instructions, design or type styles, etc. Having a good staff manual will keep you from having to answer the same question 36 times and allow the staff to be more self sufficient.

Providing direction to your staff and in your room will help control the inevitable chaos that makes a yearbook staff room come alive and allow you to maintain control over the process.

Organizing your Staff and Classroom

Organizing your Staff and Classroom

The start of the year is a perfect time to create systems to make life easier. Taking the time now to organize will pay off in months to come when everything has a place and efficiency comes second nature. Here are 10 ways you can control the process of yearbook instead of the craziness and chaos controlling you:


Put together a binder with dividers so the entire staff can easily find important information. Sections of the binder should include:

  • Contact information (phone numbers and addresses for your reps, the plant, staff members, etc.)
  • Deadlines (easy-to-read list of deadlines)
  • Print-outs of style guidelines for each section of the book
  • Calendar (all deadlines and yearbook-related events should be marked on the calendar in this section)
  • Budget updates
  • Activities (this section can include projects and assignments for rare moments of “down time”)
  • Plant correspondence


Color-code each deadline on your ladder so that the entire staff can keep track of dates on which pages are due. Color-coding also helps the students see when events must be covered in order to meet deadlines. HJ Planner and Planner Assistant make building your ladder and creating consistent page templates easier than ever.


Whether you use folders, envelopes or binders for each section/spread/kind of content, there should be some system used to file physical content. If notes are left on the table and need to be put away or scoreboard info is delivered by a coach, anyone on staff should be able to put it in the right place. At the end of each week, ask staffers to print out the current version of their work. The envelopes/folders/binders never leave the classroom. This enables you to check the progress of the book and to see if students are meeting deadlines. (This is also useful in grading—try assigning points for each item on the spread and assign a grade value based on the total number of points earned for each grading period.)


Since you’ll have thousands of photo images, your photo leaders and team need an easy systems for archiving and retrieving photos. In addition, the system you use should allow for somehow marking images once they have been used and for accurately crediting the photographers for their work.


The materials most yearbook staffs use today are very different than in the past. While mailing boxes, copy shipment forms and page envelopes are used in fewer schools each year, pens, highlighters, tape, photo assignment forms, page planning sheets and more should have established locations on shelves or in cabinets with easy access for all.


Make individual mail cubbies for everyone on the staff. This gives you, other staff members, and people on campus a place to “mail” information to specific staff members. The cubbies can be made from shoe boxes or even large envelopes tacked to the wall.


If you can give the editor a personal work space, he/she will be more productive. Remember the editor is ultimately responsible for putting the book together. Assign jobs for everyone on staff. Make a detailed chart of all the positions. The editors are the only people that report directly to you. Don’t be afraid to delegate.


You should maintain a printed copy of your yearbook. Whether you self-proof pages before you submit or receive proofs from the plant, you want to have a binder which includes the final version of each page submitted to the plant in numerical order.


Make staff badges or press passes with students’ names and photos. This badge may allow students into otherwise restricted areas or athletic events and will identify them as yearbook staff. T-shirts are another way to make your staff feel special. It’s fun to design the shirts to go with your cover or theme.


Assign a student to each of the following tasks:

  • Tracking, organizing and promoting book sales
  • Shooting photos of before-school and first-week events and activities
  • Keeping materials organized and in stock
  • Maintaining computers by rebuilding the desktop when needed; backing up yearbook files once a week; creating templates and organizing electronic proofs
  • Tracking ad sales, acting as liaison between parents and businesses, making sure ads (including links, fonts, graphics, etc.) are received in time
  • Keeping the room organized and clean
  • Acting as the staff social coordinator to celebrate staff members’ birthdays, deadline completion and to keep the staff motivated.