February 3, 2020 / Podcasts

Ask Mike: What are some cool things middle school yearbooks are doing?

Written by Evan Blackwell, CJE

Some of the work being done by middle school and junior high yearbook staffs is absolutely amazing. Ask Mike host Mike Taylor, CJE, sat down with two middle school yearbook staffs to discuss what they’re doing right, what they’re working on and what will happen when they move on to high school.

Carl Albert Middle School, Midwest City, Oklahoma

Taylor checked in with the staff of Carl Albert Middle School in January and asked them how the year was going.

“From the middle point to the end, it’s a lot of chaos, because you have to make sure everything is right and ready to be submitted,” said editor Caleb Nolan, who is currently in eighth grade. He said the most difficult part of yearbook is getting non-yearbookers to return their surveys or bring in pictures. One of the ways he combats this issue is having people fill out surveys in front of him – that way he doesn’t have to wait for them to turn it in.

Taylor asked the group about their finest moments.

“I love how we came up with our theme,” adviser Kim Butler said, explaining that they had one theme in mind, then found inspiration from the powder used in color runs. “We got caught up in that and it all just came together. We were on a different track, and then it’s almost like we gave birth to it.”

Even though in eighth grade, most of these students aren’t focused on college applications, Taylor encouraged them to keep with it because being on a publications staff will look good when that time comes.

“You’ve had to learn how to collaborate. You’ve had to learn how to think out problems. Your thinking skills are way above a typical high school kid,” he explained.

Cactus Canyon Junior High School, Apache Junction, Arizona

The next day, Taylor spoke to the Oro yearbook staff of Cactus Canyon Middle School, and adviser Jason Davis was happy to announce they were almost two months ahead compared to the previous year.

Editor Tiffany Hutcheson is on her third year doing yearbook.

“I knew it would be an elevated version of an elementary school yearbook, but I didn’t know it would be as much journalistic work as we put into it,” she explained.

It made sense for Hutcheson to join a journalistic pursuit. As kids, she and her siblings would put on pretend news broadcasts and she was always Anna Wintour, the longtime editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine.

The Cactus Canyon yearbook has come a long way in the last year. They decided they wanted to be great, so they did it. In fact, they are even an NSPA Pacemaker finalist this year – one of the highest honors a yearbook staff can receive. Taylor asked adviser Davis how he gives his staff the spark to do it.

“I think that it’s expectations. I have a lot of people that tell me middle school kids can’t do things at a high level. But I think you let them know what the expectation is and then help them get there,” he replied. He’ll sometimes send his students back for an interview two or three times, but once they get in the groove and operate at a high level, they seem to enjoy it.

“I have a lot of days where I’m pretty proud,” Davis said.

Listen In

Get inspired with the Ask Mike middle school podcast, “What are some cool things middle school yearbooks are doing?” You can find it at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or wherever you listen, including Apple podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.

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Evan Blackwell, CJE

Evan Blackwell, CJE, is the Marketing Automation Supervisor for Walsworth. He's been a writer, editor and web content specialist for Walsworth for the past 15+ years, and is the author of the Yearbook Suite's "The Art of the Interview" unit. Prior to joining Walsworth, Blackwell spent five years as an award-winning newspaper and magazine journalist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.