Ask Mike: What Happens when Five of NSPA’s Top 10 All-time Pacemaker Winners Sit Down to Talk?
Written by Sarah Scott
“Every book that has ever been done at Northwest, if you’ll go look at it, you’ll find the fingerprints, the thumbprints, of everyone on this podcast,” yearbook adviser Susan Massy shared early on in the latest episode of the Ask Mike podcast, explaining the importance of having a yearbook family. Massy is the yearbook adviser at Shawnee Mission Northwest and their yearbook, Lair, holds the number one spot on NSPA’s list of top 100 Pacemaker award winners.
When the National Scholastic Press Association announced The Pacemaker 100, which includes yearbooks, newspapers and literary magazines, several familiar names popped up. When the announcer started counting down the top 10 Pacemaker winners in the organization’s 100-year history, five of the top 10 were Walsworth Yearbooks schools. They all know and support each other’s yearbook programs. These five sat down with Ask Mike host Mike Taylor, CJE, to talk about everything yearbook.
Dow Tate is the adviser of the Hauberk yearbook at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas. Their program tied for ninth with 15 Pacemakers and five Pacemaker finalists.
Becky Tate, CJE, is the yearbook adviser at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas. Their program came in fourth in the Pacemaker Top 10, with a total win of 18 Pacemakers and four Pacemaker finalists.
Crystal Kazmierski retired from her position as the adviser of Wings at Arrowhead Christian Academy in Redlands, California, after the 2017 school year. Their yearbook program placed third, with 22 Pacemakers and two Pacemaker finalists.
Jim Jordan was the adviser behind 35 volumes of the Decamhian yearbook at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, California. You may also know him as the host of the Yearbook Chat with Jim podcast and a special consultant for Walsworth. The Del Campo yearbook program was named second, with 20 Pacemakers and seven Pacemaker finalists.
In first place in the Pacemaker Top 10 is the Lair yearbook program at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School in Shawnee, Kansas. Susan Massy has been the adviser for the last 36 yearbooks. In the program’s history, they have won an impressive total of 23 Pacemakers and three Pacemaker finalists.
What’s one thing all these advisers have in common? “You always have your students thinking a lot,” Taylor said. There are some things they disagree on, like whether awards are a good motivator for yearbook staffs.
“As long as [the yearbook staff] tried their best, we’re going to call it a good day,” Becky Tate said. “I think I’ve learned that over the years. Maybe I would have said that differently when I was in my first five years of advising.”
Dow Tate savors what he calls “moments of creativity” in his students. Kazmierski reflected on learning to push yearbook boundaries with her staffs. “I think people need to realize that there’s the spirit of the law and the letter of the law, so to speak. If you are respecting the spirit of what makes a good yearbook but can do it in a unique and different way and justify that, then it’s good to take risks, I think,” she said.
“We all motivate in a different way, but we all motivate in a special way to get the most out of our kids. And that’s why, I think, this group is so amazing is that each one of us does it totally differently, but we’re all still driving and pushing and demanding more all the time,” Jordan said.
However, one thing they all agree on is the importance of building a yearbook support system, like this group did. These five are friends, three of them even teach in the same school district and two are married to each other. They all reach out to help each other as needed.
“Find a tribe of people, like we have found, that make this more than just a job,” Jordan advised.
You don’t want to miss this episode of Ask Mike! You can listen at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or search for Ask Mike wherever you listen to podcasts.