January 16, 2020 / Spotlight

Hanks lends an online helping hand to other yearbook advisers, staffs

Written by Evan Blackwell, CJE

For many teachers, summer is a time to rest, reflect and recharge for the upcoming school year. For yearbook advisers, there’s typically less time to rest and plenty of time working to get the new staff organized.

For Courtney Hanks, MJE, yearbook adviser at University High School in Orange City, Florida, the past two summers have been spent building up an ambitious online pool of yearbook resources at her website, hankssaid.com.

The website houses a little bit of everything from Hanks’ yearbook teaching portfolio – handouts, presentations that she has made at conventions, videos and blog posts on a variety of topics.

“I know how hard it is those first few years, being an educator and being an adviser,” said Hanks. “Being able to give back the knowledge that I’ve gained through experience, hopefully I can help some people skip the mis-steps.”

According to Hanks, the hankssaid.com website came about simply because she’s “one of those people who always has to be moving and learning and challenging myself.” So the summer was the time to be acquiring knowledge and studying for the JEA’s Certified Journalism Educator (CJE) certification exam, which Hanks earned a couple years ago.

Just last year, the website became the perfect place for Hanks to host the final project for her Master Journalism Educator (MJE) certification from JEA. The project, “30 Days of Instagram,” is a guideline for student publications to get started on the popular social media channel.

“I just wanted a place online where even my kids could go and learn,” said Hanks. “It became a resource, not just for other educators which was always my goal, but also for other kids.”

Getting the site built and getting all the start-up links and resources on the page took awhile, but now Hanks just adds a blog post from time to time when a worthy topic comes up. Which is good, because she stays plenty busy with the day-to-day work of being adviser at University.

When Hanks took the job of yearbook adviser at University High five years ago, she didn’t really envision the program becoming an award-winning trendsetter. And she didn’t see herself becoming a yearbook community leader. At least, not quite this fast. But that’s what has happened.

A college English major and former English teacher, Hanks has not only earned the CJE and MJE certifications in her first five years, she’s also been named a Rising Star award winner by JEA.

And the Odyssey, University’s yearbook, has become a national award winner, earning a CSPA Silver Crown and back-to-back NSPA Pacemaker Finalist prizes, for their 2018 and 2019 books.

“We used to say, ‘Boone wasn’t built in a day.’ We had a huge sign on the door,” Hanks said, of nearby rival Boone High School from Orlando, a national award-winning yearbook program. “Step by step, we just picked one or two things we wanted to improve on. Over time, we got better and better.”

And if they ever need to reference any of their adviser’s wisdom, they know where to go online to find it.

To check out Courtney Hanks’ presentations, visit the section on her website.


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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.