Karla Sprague – A Hero for Arkansas Journalism
Written by Jenica Hallman, CJE
We know advisers are dedicated journalism advocates, but they don’t always receive the credit they deserve. That’s why it’s so rewarding to see our advisers recognized publicly – advisers like Karla Sprague, CJE, of Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas, who was recently named the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association’s (ASPA) Adviser of the Year.
ASPA’s Adviser of the Year is a peer-, student- and/or rep-nominated award recognizing exceptional journalism instructors who teach students to consistently produce high-quality publications in the state of Arkansas. While presenting her with the award, Woodland Junior High School yearbook adviser and 2018 ASPA Adviser of the Year Andrew Young, CJE, had nothing but praise for Sprague.
“Not only does she push her students to create excellent publications, but she has also hosted and taught numerous workshops in our area,” Young said. “She is instrumental in the leadership of [the ASPA] organization, and this adviser’s willingness to help does not only benefit her students. They have welcomed new yearbook advisers in the area, sending them encouraging emails and answering questions from the rookies. I can tell you how helpful those are and how reassuring those emails can be because I was one of those rookies who got those emails.”
Young shared how Sprague took her students to Little Rock to testify in front of the House Education Committee on the importance of scholastic journalism in Arkansas. He said she inspires him to be a better adviser.
“The story of her and her students’ commitment to journalism helped bring light to a new bill that recently passed the Arkansas Legislator and was signed by Governor Hutchinson last week, improving the 1995 Arkansas Student Publications Act,” Young said during the award ceremony.
Young’s sentiments rang true for many, including her Walsworth yearbook rep, Jenny Olson. Olson agreed, saying Sprague inspires her students to use their voices and their journalism skills.
“Year after year, Karla has encouraged her kids to make their book better than the last one,” Olson said. “She stresses the importance of journalism, the value of a yearbook and the significance of teamwork. Yearbook is not just a class at Har-Ber High School, it’s an experience. It’s a tight-knit family that works together like a well-oiled machine. Karla Sprague is an educator. She believes in journalism.”
Sprague is one of many exceptional advisers but is distinctive in her relentless dedication and expertise.
“Karla’s knowledge of Adobe InDesign and expertise in journalism set her apart from the rest, but what really makes her special is she teaches by example, then lets the staff create and build the yearbook by themselves,” Olson said. “Her encouraging attitude and feedback makes her an absolute joy to work with. She makes yearbook fun, exciting and important. The yearbook program at Har-Ber High School is one of the best in northwest Arkansas.”
It’s not just northwest Arkansas noticing Sprague. She and The Wildcat Har-Ber yearbook staff received an All-American with four marks of distinction from the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) last year in addition to several ASPA awards. Their yearbook is a yearly Walsworth Gallery of Excellence Award recipient and frequently seen in the Possibilities showcase book.
“Karla is more than just a great adviser,” Mike Taylor, CJE, Walsworth’s journalism specialist said. “She has so much heart and passion and leads her staffs with that passion, teaching them to research, interview and write. Karla is my hero.”