October 19, 2009 / Staff Management

Free guidance for more yearbook advisers

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Few things are available for free, but new journalism teachers in more states can get assistance for free from the Journalism Education Association’s Mentor Program.

The program began in five states, and now, in its third year, 13 states are participating. Funding comes from the state scholastic and professional journalism associations, the Newspaper Association of America Foundation and the Yellow Chair Foundation. The Yellow Chair Foundation also has pledged $40,000 a year to the program, and JEA has pledged the same annual amount with a commitment to 2013, said Linda Barrington, co-chair of the program.

JEA has never funded any program with this magnitude of financial support, Barrington said.

The program is free to the mentees. The money is used to train mentors – retired journalism teachers who want to take up the program’s three goals: keeping journalism teachers in the classroom and committed to journalism; supporting teachers so they become knowledgeable and dedicated; and helping those teachers build a quality program in their school.

“You build a good program when you have the same good person (in charge),” Barrington said. “Schools don’t get a new football coach each year.”

the-mentorEach state organization that joins in the program supplies the funding for two mentors, and the mentors then must go find the mentees. Although free, it has been difficult to find mentees, and when found, some have decided to decline the program, fearing it will take up too much of their time.

Tracy Brogelman is a busy teacher and yearbook adviser at Grafton High School in Grafton, Wis., but she still accepted the assistance.

“When the opportunity was presented to me I figured, who couldn’t use extra support and guidance?” said Brogelman, who is mentored by Sandy Jacoby, retired yearbook adviser from G.N. Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wis.

“My mentor serves as a plethora of information. She has helped me with writing, design, rubrics and grading, a staff manual, and team building. I can ask her for handouts, advice about management of students, help with a tricky situation, and she always offers me extra support if I need it,” Brogelman said.

“The best part of the program is knowing that someone with experience and expertise is just an email away. She not only helps with yearbook, but gives me encouragement about balancing yearbook, teaching, and being a mom. It’s like having a personal cheerleader!” Brogelman said.

Brogelman’s recent efforts earned her one of two 2008 Adviser of the Year awards from the Kettle Moraine Press Association (KEMPA).

“KEMPA’s committee chose her based on the principal citing the improved journalism and accuracy for students and parents for which Tracy was responsible, eliminating many parent and student complaints about the yearbook,” Jacoby said.

As KEMPA’s fall conference director and her JEA mentor, Jacoby made sure Brogelman and her staff attended the conference for the surprise announcement, and presented the award.

“Tracy is a very committed adviser and very open to growth and support to improve her program,” said Jacoby, who also is the JEA State Director for Wisconsin and is on KEMPA’s board of directors.

The Mentor Program is helping JEA learn more about why advisers quit. Within the program, only one has quit because she decided journalism was not for her. One quit because it was an after-school program and they did not have time to devote to it. In one school, the principal reassigned journalism to another teacher, and another principal stopped the program for two teachers over censorship issues.

There are 29 active mentors. They agree to a two-year commitment, and only one original mentor has decided not to continue. Sixty mentees have gone through or are in the program.

For more information, go to http://www.jea.org/resources/mentorprogram/index.html.

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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.