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Cause and Effect

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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.
 

Yearbook is for Life

Hear it from Ann

While the language varies, it’s no surprise so many people in the yearbook world share common sentiments. There’s a nearly universal dread as deadlines somehow become more difficult at the end. Everyone is busy and tired — maybe overwhelmed.

Complicated by unpredictable weather and sources who don’t share our sense of urgency, there are days when the end cannot come soon enough.

Even once the book is completed, there are few days off to celebrate, recoup and regroup before the staff is ready to go again — working to sell out before books arrive, planning for supplement coverage, scheming a distribution event, taking care of contest/critique and end-of-year details, and thinking ahead to the next volume.

 
There’s always a sense of anticipation in the air.
 

Once the books arrive, celebrations take on a new feel and another reality sets in — some staffers will move on as others prepare to take the reins and begin the process anew. But the joy of holding a new yearbook — of the first sniff, the first view, the first read — is a memory etched into the minds of all who made it happen.

It doesn’t end there. In the decades that follow, there will be times when a lesson learned, a memory from a workshop, convention or deadline creeps back in.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I first read one of my favorite descriptions of how yearbook grows on you. It’s what Invictus adviser Cortney Weisman’s first co-editors, Samantha Baer and Jana Hirsch, said in 2006. It became the opening to Weisman’s start-of-year speech at Ward Melville High.

 

“First, you become a part of yearbook. Then, it becomes a part of you.”

 

Both Baer, now an attorney, and Hirsch, a research professor, stay in contact with their former adviser. Simply more proof they were correct.

For years, Chantilly adviser Mary Kay Downes has signed off “YB4L.” Guess who taught the editors’ section at Gettysburg Yearbook Experience (GYE) when both Baer and Hirsch attended to prepare to be leaders?

 
MKD. That’s who inspired them to raise the bar.
 

Some conventions bring out “once a yearbooker, always a yearbooker” T-shirts and a new flock of creatives clamoring for flair with messages proclaiming their passion. When it’s workshop time, some brag they can wear different yearbook garb each day for weeks. Traditions stick with those who know special yearbook birthday songs and chants they’ll never forget.

Through the years, the phrase “Yearbook is my life” has adorned merch. For the Yearbook Tech workshoppers in San Diego, it was also the official camp cheer. Workshop director Steve Bailey and his assistants began “YEARBOOK is my life” and followed it with “Yearbook IS my life” to emphasize a commitment to the whole project. With each ensuing repetition, the volume increased. Most recently, the chant was the perfect finale to a presentation honoring the life of the late Bailey, long-time rep and former adviser who inspired thousands in his decades with Herff Jones.

Advisers remember these times when former staffers return to campus.

There’s nothing like hearing how yearbook continues to influence students. Whether it’s an annual event, a random trip home or a note, professional and personal achievements are often presented with connections to lessons learned in the yearbook room.

Others might not understand how it could have such impact on so many lives. But it tends to work its way into conversations for years to come.

More proof, I guess, that yearbook is for life.

 

Mind the GutterHear her journey
It’s her yearbook world. We’re just living in it.
Hear more from Ann Akers on our Mind the Gutter podcast.

 
 
 

Love Letter

FloridaChristianHS Spread

Anniversary years are often yearbook traps. Administrators want a history book, but that could lead staffers to overlook students and faculty members currently walking their halls.

In the case from a Square OneTM pilot staff in Florida, leaders not only decided to celebrate the bond students share, but to do so in a format they had never tried.

They embraced a blended approach to content, meaning modules with clear separation space fill spreads as they fit together physically, but without unifying topics. Coverage and topics blend together to mirror the lives and schedules of students.

 

“I wanted to do blended coverage because I am always open to change. Why not be different?” Editor Taylor San Miguel said.

 

“In the past, we didn’t get to cover certain programs as much as we’d like. Using modular design with Square OneTM and following a blended approach opened up so much in the book. We were able to cover everything.

Like everything, everything.

When you’re a new staffer, doing full spreads on a single topic is just so much. How are you going to fill the spread and put something new and interesting there when sometimes there isn’t something new and interesting?

This way, we develop a mod around a dominant story to give it more space of its own. The reader goes there first, then naturally it goes along eyelines and separators to see the other packages or mods. If the coverage you have planned doesn’t work out — you don’t get great photos or the story doesn’t turn out to be interesting — you can just change that coverage out with another mod about another topic.

A group of seniors sat in the hall crying when they saw the book for the first time. Those seniors cried enough for the whole school. Seeing the book — it was so different than before — people liked that this way of doing the spreads gave more attention to more people. And, it looks more modern.

 

 

Everyone should be equally represented because the first thing everyone does is look for their names, and when they are featured on more than two pages, it’s a great gift.

Even the teachers loved the coverage. A coach originally said her team wasn’t covered enough because she was expecting to see a spread devoted to the team, like our old yearbooks. But I showed her all the mods scattered throughout. She was impressed!

That’s the goal of blended coverage. You have to look through the whole book to find yourself and, in the process, appreciate the whole school. It takes some getting used to. But, you notice kids are paying attention to coverage they never noticed before. Because chemistry may be on the same spread as soccer.

Blended coverage makes the process so much easier. You can make spreads multiply.

Just flip one in each direction. Then, you have many different looks to start with. Readers won’t notice the templates are flipped because you won’t put those spreads next to each other on the ladder. They notice the pretty pictures and clever headlines, and that’s it. And, of course, they notice all the coverage.

 

“Yearbook is an art.
It’s journalistic in style, writing, photography, design. You’re not going to please everybody. That’s just how life is.”

 

Dream Big

Dream Big Hear it from Ann

It’s always fun to study the new releases, noting what staffs are doing well and how trends are shifting. Whatever time I allot to reviewing books, I always wish I had more.

During summer planning, it’s easy to imagine ambitious additions.

Gatefolds galore? That’d be cool.

Theme-related coverage strategies you know would be a lot of extra work?  Might be a challenge you could accept.

Personalizing each book? Wow! They’d love that.

But then, as production begins, reality sets in and those workshop dreams can get hazy. If you plan from the start to make those special extras happen — and commit to making them important — the impact can be as significant as imagined. If your kids are excited and willing, you have the power to make those dreams come true.

If the plan involves adding pages, foldouts, special-order papers or inks, cover and endsheet upgrades, work with your rep to manage your budget. Then, your business team can determine how to offset those expenses.

Set reasonable dates for progressive goals to ensure you’re working to stay on budget. Not meeting those sales goals may mean you won’t be able to afford the extras.

If your ambitious idea does not become someone’s assigned responsibility, there’s a greater chance it will fade into the hustle of production.

Make the project a priority, and watch it flourish.

I know you face the challenge of serving many audiences. You want the students to love your book when it arrives and to cherish it more as the years pass. It’s also important for parents and the greater school community to see you’ve created a comprehensive and accurate record of the year.

You can make sure that happens by dreaming big as you plan for your next masterpiece, putting plans in place to ensure success and following through to delight your readers.

Your efforts will be remembered every time those readers grab their yearbooks — whether it’s over the summer, in five years or 50. And your staff will be remembered, not just for preserving the memories of the year, but for the extra efforts you made to create a book that stands out.

 

Texas High School

 

Texas High School Tiger

Texarkana, Texas

Even though its first century as a school was ending, staffers focused on the future with the theme “To be continued.” Each of the 10 sections open with a fold-out divider introducing a student profile on the following spread. In the middle of the book, a short-trimmed magazine of school history shows all 100 book covers and provides news from each year. Coverage of this book continues in Take Note.

 

Toby Johnson Middle School

 

Toby Johnson Middle School Jamboree

 Elk Grove, California

The coverage spanning the bottom margin was perfect for the theme “Eventually everything connects.” Staff members linked students to one another with attributes like “who lives on the same block as,” “whose favorite place in the world is Italy like” or “who has braces like” until the final entry, that linked back to the first name in the opening. With six students per spread, nearly 400 became part of the theme development.

 

Westfield Middle School

 

Westfield Middle SchoolThe Scrapbook

Westfield, Indiana

Themed “It’s ours and it’s everything,” this book included a personalized tri-fold tipped onto a theme-driven spread inside. Completing almost 750 individualized tip-ins meant every early buyer had a one-of-a-kind book. With several full-color images, a quote from a friend, a six-word memoir the students shared (not knowing how it would be used), the special feature pleased students and parents alike. Those who were waitlisted received a similar tip-in with spaces and instructions on how to personalize so their books had extra coverage as well.

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

Erinn Harris had everything figured out. She ran the well-oiled machine that was the yearbook program at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. And, she had a system in place.

“Tell them what needs to happen, print at 100%, conference, and everything will get done. Because it always gets done,” the Alexandria, Virginia adviser said.

It was like magic.

That was the plan for five years. And it was the plan at the beginning of the year. But then, she said, 2018 became the year of, “Oh So Real.”

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

“My class was comprised of two sophomores, two juniors and two seniors,” she said. “Even though I knew only two of these six had a year of class experience under their belts, this is how I started the year. And as of December, we were behind by 49 pages and more proofs than I’d like to admit.”

It was winter break and she needed to start over. The plan from the past five years was not going to cut it anymore. So, she changed.

“The key to adapting to the circumstances of your year is to know yourself and know your kids and figure out what they need to be successful, understanding success may just look different year to year,” the master journalism educator said.

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

This year, she said, the staff needed structure. In January, she created it.

“At the end of every class period, my students fill out a Google form exit ticket. On it, they tell me, among other things, three items they want to accomplish before the next class period, something they are worried about and something they are celebrating.”

Download an example of the form here.

The form dictated how the class ran. Each day, she used responses to create individual goals. Then, in class they followed a new agenda. They shared celebrations, moved to a short lesson, spent 30 minutes on goal work, then 30 minutes planning for upcoming deadlines. To finish the period, staffers filled out their exit tickets.

When the Struggle is Real, Adapt

No longer a, “Here’s what needs to get done, now do it,” adviser, Harris focused on celebrations.

“When you’re having a rough year, that’s what’s going to get you through,” she said. “The knowledge that the experiences we’re going through are so thoroughly relatable. All you have to do is find a way to adapt to what life throws at you.”

 


Erinn Harris has advised student publications for 12 years, three at Lee High School in Springfield,Virginia and nine at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Recently earning the Virginia High School League Savedge Award for Continued Excellence, these staffs have earned NSPA Pacemaker awards and CSPA Crowns.

 


OUR PORTFOLIO IS INCOMPLETE WITHOUT YOU

Submit your 2018 yearbook.

It’s Time for the Talk

It’s Time for the Talk

At the close of the year, distribution day sounds like the light at the end of the tunnel. But, it’s not for the faint of heart. Or for the unprepared.

Justin Daigle has lived through a few distribution days as the adviser at Brighton High School in Brighton, Colorado, and he knows how to prepare his staff for the challenging moments. He knows when it’s time for “the talk.”

He begins with how they communicate with each other. Negativity comes from all directions, but should never come from the staff, he said.

“Let’s face it, each time we open the book, we find some new type of error: A misspelled name or word, a graphic in the wrong place, or a bar that’s blue instead of red. First, we have to accept the book is printed and we did the best we could,” the certified journalism educator said.

As Daigle reminds his staffers to leave behind their critical eyes once the ink has dried, he tells them to stay out of the comments section.

It’s Time for the Talk

“If a student sees a negative social media post about the yearbook, I want them to be the bigger person and let it go. No staff member should post anything negative or passive aggressive about any incidents or feedback from the book,” he said.

Repeat: Do. Not. Engage. The. Haters.

And Daigle leads the charge. When those inevitable parent phone calls start, and when students post hateful comments about a page, he lets it go.

He teaches how to combat negativity by being proactive.

“I send an email to the school employees revealing the theme and the details about yearbook distribution. I ask them to squelch any negative comments they may hear in the halls or in their classrooms and redirect them to how fantastic the book is.”

Another tactic is to include a policy in each book. Staffers put them inside the front endsheet as they hand out books so buyers see they are there.

It’s Time for the Talk

The policy sheet directs students to check the book for damages, apologizes in advance for typos and mistakes, and includes a statement about yearbook being the only class where work is published for all to see so proceed with complaints accordingly, as well as the staff’s policy against refunds.

There are, of course, legitimate issues, such as name misspellings or direct quote discrepancies. Daigle has a process for those as well.

“First, take a time out. Rather than getting defensive or angry, do your research, and if a mistake was made, own it and apologize,” he said.

Distribution day should be one of the greatest celebrations of the year, and if staffers are prepared for what they will experience, it can be.

It’s Time for the Talk

“We spend hours upon hours upon hours working on our yearbooks until the final proofs are sent,” Daigle said, “so we become very close to it. We should prepare to celebrate the positive feedback while also putting systems in place to work through any negative criticism. The staff works too hard all year to let any negativity ruin anything we accomplished.”

Download a sample distribution policy here, and if you have your own, send it to us. We love to learn and to see what advisers everywhere are doing.

 


Justin DaigleJustin Daigle, CJE, has advised the Reflections yearbook at Brighton High School in Colorado for 12 years. His students’ publications have earned state and national awards including CSPA Crowns and NSPA Pacemaker honors. Daigle was the 2009 Colorado Student Media Association (CSMA) Teacher of the Year as well as JEA Rising Star in 2010 and Special Recognition (2014) and Distinguished (2016) Yearbook Adviser of the Year.

 


OUR PORTFOLIO IS INCOMPLETE WITHOUT YOU

Submit your 2018 yearbook.

Book Sales Efforts Way Beyond Posters

Book Sales Efforts Way Beyond Posters; Yearbook Angels and Pursuing Non-Buyers

It’s spring. You still have books to sell. Something has to happen.

This is when Lisa Sherman kicks off her annual telethon.

“We run a non-buyers list report in eBusiness, which tells us who hasn’t ordered and provides contact information for their guardian,” the 16-year adviser from Edwardsburg, Michigan, said. “Then, each of my staff members takes a section of the list and makes personal phone calls to each individual.”

The cold calling adds another practical skill to the class. She posts a script on the whiteboard reminding students how to introduce themselves, talk about the yearbook and give ordering instructions.

“Week one, we call all non-buyers with the last names starting with A–L. In week two, we contact the remaining non-buyers with last names M–Z. Week three is for going back through all the lists and emailing parents who have still not purchased, even after the phone contacts.”

Book Sales Efforts Way Beyond Posters; Yearbook Angels and Pursuing Non-Buyers

The last week of the month, staffers send out a final reminder to the students’ email accounts. At that point, the guardians had heard directly from the staff twice and the student heard once. In one month.

An extra bonus: the staffers gained skills and confidence in business communications.

Each staffer has a goal of selling 10 more books by the end of the month. And that adds up. Sherman has seen a dramatic increase in sales through the telethon. Maybe this is the last-minute sales push you need.

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

Advisers Jim Govreau and Morgan Miltner both submitted their final yearbooks March 9. But, they still have a book to complete.

Govreau, of Newsome High School, and Miltner, Strawberry Crest High School, both in Hillsborough County, Florida, and their staffs teamed up to do the impossible — create an entire book in two weeks for a neighboring school in need.

With no cover, no pages submitted and an adviser who started in the second semester with no yearbook experience, the Tampa area staff was about to finish the year without a yearbook.

“Morris Pate, my rep, talked to me about the situation early in the school year, and I visited the school in December,” Govreau said. “The computers weren’t great, there were about four or five students on staff, and nothing was completed.”

By mid-March, the staff had some photos from the school photographer on CDs, but that was it. Pate brought the story back to Miltner’s and Govreau’s attention.

They knew they needed to stage a rescue.

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

“My first thought was to throw my students at it,” Miltner said. “I have 66 on staff, why not send them to help. That was late Tuesday night. I talked to everyone and asked what they thought. At first the kids thought I was crazy, but then they said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’”

Ten of Miltner’s staffers and four of Govreau’s took a field trip on March 29 to remedy the situation. The advisers worked on eDesign from their respective schools while staffers traveled to the school to gather content and put the book together.

“I was watching eDesign and I texted them at one point and I said, ‘Stop writing.’ We can’t spend any more time writing. We need to get photos in there now,” Miltner said. “We have so many rules and requirements for every spread, every caption, everything has to be done journalistically. It was hard for them to stop doing what they are used to so the work would be done quickly. It was amazing to see them making game-time decisions on how things would be covered and how the spreads would take shape.”

Both Govreau and Miltner teach journalism curricula and produce what we know as data-driven yearbooks. Staffs monitor and measure coverage by comparing student rosters to sources included. They also determine topics and structure using real-time student preferences. So, there’s a process.

“This is much more than a basic ‘picture book,’” Herff Jones Hall of Fame member Pate said. “These kids’ pride wouldn’t allow them to do that.”

Pate said his advisers also know students today demand new plot lines. They and their students follow Herff Jones’ “Zero/Zeros” practice and Square One™ design approach, ensuring as many students as possible are included. They believe every student has a story and both say they feel the responsibility to tell those stories.

Because of this training, photographer and first-year Newsome staffer Elliot Morgan volunteered right away.

“I said I wouldn’t mind going and helping these people out,” the senior said. “I know our staff is capable, great writers and overall great people. And I know from going to events with Strawberry Crest, they are the same. I knew we could put this together and make something lasting for the school.”

On March 27, the now-combined yearbook staffs uploaded portrait pages. By lunchtime, two days later, they had submitted 72 pages. Give them a couple more days, and the book will be completely done.

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

“When we saw all of the spreads were empty, we were shocked something like that could even happen,” Newsome editor Ashley Arndt said. “Mr. Govreau asked if we were willing to help, if there was anything we thought we could do. At first, I thought one day wouldn’t be enough. Once we started breaking it down though, it became a lot more manageable.”

Miltner said the students were nervous to go into a school where they did not know anyone and roam the halls, pulling students out of class for interviews and photos. But as they got to work, they started having fun.

“Students would come in the classroom throughout the day and look at the computer, and I would ask if they were affiliated with the sport I was working on,” Arndt said. “Even if they weren’t, they would give me the phone number of someone who was. So, I have random people’s phone numbers from the school now from asking for interviews.”

The community took note.

“They arranged the yearbook dream team,” Pate said. “They fought through nightmarish, rush hour Tampa traffic, organized themselves, took photos, conducted interviews, wrote stories, headlines and captions, assembled pages, dazzled the administration, faculty and students, and by about 4:00 p.m. had pretty much completed a yearbook.”

It sounds like a lot to ask from high schoolers, but these aren’t just high schoolers. They are yearbookers.

“We have a culture in the program,” Miltner said. “You are part of something bigger.”

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.