December 9, 2014 / Fall 2014 / Middle School Moment

Back in the hands of a student staff

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

The opportunity for a clean slate to set the standard for the yearbook seldom arises. But that’s what the 2014 student staff at Blach Intermediate School in Los Altos, Calif., had before them as they created a yearbook for the first time in a number of years.

The book had been created by a parent committee for about 12 years, but was turned into an elective class for the 2014 school year. The book the staff created, with the theme “Frame by Frame,” was selected as a top middle school yearbook in Walsworth’s Possibilities idea book.

What was the formula for creating an outstanding 104-page book by these students? Tiffany Hickman, a seventh-grade English teacher and first-year adviser in 2014, listed what she believes were the top five things that led to the success of the students and their book.

1. Training. Hickman said attending Walsworth’s Adviser Academy in Kansas City was essential. The four-day workshop in July 2013 “really introduced me to the world of yearbooks and set me up for success.”

2. Amazing leadership. The staff contained that magical ingredient 
    – students who were invested in their product. Hickman described the staff 
in general as motivated and creative, but the three eighth-grade editors – 
Michael Byun, Katie Forde and Yvonne Lin – really took charge. They created the cover, developed the theme, set up overall design elements and helped 
edit spreads. “They took ownership and really cared 
    about making our book a success,” Hickman said.

3.  Team-building activities. Hickman tried to incorporate team-
building activities into the regular routine, especially in the beginning. 
    “It helped everyone relax and get to know each other and work as 
a team.”

4. More training. Using the original Yearbook Suite curriculum, the 
Blueprint workbook and articles from Idea File magazine, Hickman spent the first eight weeks or so on training.  She also waited quite 
awhile before getting her staff online to use Online Design.

“One of the trainers at the Adviser Academy told us that once you get the kids on the computers, it’s hard to get their attention back. So I taught 
them the fundamentals of yearbookphotojournalism and design with pen and paper first,” Hickman said.

5. Support. The principal and the PTA provided funds to buy equipment for the new class, including five new DSLR cameras and a new desktop 
computer with a larger monitor dedicated to yearbook.

Once completed, the book was the story of the year at a middle school, told “Frame by Frame” by students who lived it. The clean slate is now 
a good example for future yearbook staffs.

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Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Elizabeth Braden, CJE, is the former editor of Idea File magazine. Before retiring, she was a copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks for more than 15 years, writing articles for various marketing materials, and proofreading copy for the Yearbook and Commercial divisions. Her career included reporting and editing for United Press International and editing for Knight-Ridder Financial News. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Media News from the University of Tulsa.