When editors planned their 2018 book, they had no idea their adviser would win so big

We may be a small school, but we think big, win big and live big. We’re a Little Big,” reads the cover of the Pleasant Grove High School Hawk yearbook.

Little did they know, that theme would have a much bigger meaning later.

On Dec. 11, in a surprise presentation during a typical school board meeting, Hawk adviser Charla Harris, CJE, was honored as JEA’s 2018 H.L. Hall National Yearbook Adviser of the Year.

“It was a little overwhelming,” she said. “That night there were all these messages. The next day, it was more of that, plus visitors and treats. And it’s continued since. I just keep smiling.”

Harris’ impact has created a Texas-sized reputation for the Hawk. The 240-page volume earns state and national nods galore. With 24 straight Star awards from Interscholastic League Press Conference in the Lone Star State, and another 25 CSPA Crown and NSPA Pacemaker awards in the last 13 years, there are few books so honored.

She has made school publications a big deal in her 33 years in Texarkana. Each year, more than 10 percent of the 670 students have been involved.

Her room’s always abuzz with people working on the newspaper, its online edition, broadcast and the yearbook — simultaneously.

More than anything, Harris says she likes working with high schoolers.

“I love helping them take on this huge project and seeing how they grow and change while they put it all together.”

Looking back, “We’re a Little Big” fit the year better than the editors could have hoped.

As Harris’ award was announced, past and present editors were elated. Phone calls and celebrations with Harris ensued.

“Audrey Murphy and I worked so hard as editors. We wanted to make Mrs. Harris proud,” 2018 co-editor Brynn Blain said. “We hoped we could help continue the streak, and we wanted the book to really represent PG.”

Volume 41 closing copy sums it up, “We grew up here together and we’ll always be drawn back, supporting the next group of Hawks and their big ideas, big wins and big moments.”

Reigning yearbook adviser of the Year Brenda Field, MJE, presents Charla Harris, CJE, with the 2018 honor as superintendent Dr. Jason Smith applauds.

Surrounded by staffers, newly crowned Yearbook Adviser of the Year Charla Harris, CJE, poses for photos.

In a state of shock, Harris stands with superintendent Dr. Jason Smith.

Harris and seven others — two named Distinguished Advisers and five Special Recognition Advisers — were recognized in JEA’s 2018 H.L. Hall National Adviser of the Year awards program and will be honored at the Herff Jones–sponsored luncheon during the Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Anaheim. The five Herff Jones advisers have compiled more than 100 years of advising experience.

Leslie Shipp

“I love the moment in class when you realize everyone on staff has the same vision and they are equipped to follow through and make it real. This is when staffers realize they are part of something important and permanent.

When you’re an adviser, everything has a purpose. It’s not just you — the teacher— reading the work. The entire school community will read those stories.

We often share our successes by projecting them in class so others can see how powerful it is when everything works together as planned.”

Leslie Shipp, MJE

Johnston HS, Iowa

Distinguished Adviser | 31 years advising

Annie Gorenstein Falkenberg

“I love advising yearbook because of the moments when my students push themselves out of their comfort zones. Early in my advising career, I would get nervous about the things that my students might do, but over time I have learned that giving my staff the space to chase after the stories they are passionate about leads to their best work.”

Annie Gorenstein Falkenberg, CJE

Longmont HS, Colorado

Special Recognition Adviser | 9 years advising

Carrie Hendrix

“For me, advising is all about the relationships. You get to know the kids in such a different way.

Hands down, it’s the relationships that develop as we all work together on a book created for the entire school — and for forever.

It’s a joy to watch them discover they are great at something they never expected and to see them connecting with other students they probably would not have gotten to know otherwise.”

Carrie Hendrix, CJE

Lewis-Palmer HS, Colorado

Special Recognition Adviser | 16 years advising

Debra Klevens

“I have been blessed to teach some of the most incredible journalists. What I enjoy most is seeing them take the skills they learned and applying them to their lives beyond yearbook.

The best part of advising is watching the light bulb go off for students. Their excitement becomes my excitement. Those moments when I see my students connect with the curriculum and truly understand and apply the skills I have been teaching are the moments I relish.

I love having the opportunity to help young people find their passions.”

Debra Klevens, CJE

Parkway West HS, Missouri

Special Recognition Adviser | 20 years advising