Written by Idea File Staff
Many stories about former JEA Yearbook Advisers of the Year tell a familiar tale of non-journalism majors who stumbled into yearbook advising by accident, with no experience or preparation, and discovered a lifelong passion.
This is not one of those stories.
While Kathy Craghead, adviser of the Mascot yearbook at Mexico High School, Mexico, Mo., definitely found a lifelong passion in teaching, it was no accident.
A teacher and newspaper/yearbook adviser for 28 years, Craghead said she has always wanted to teach.
“I have wanted to be a teacher since I was four, and I have never wavered in that decision,” she said.
She became enamored with journalism in high school.
“I came from an outstanding high school program,” she said. “So that sealed my decision about what I would teach.”
Craghead went on to become the editor of her high school and college yearbooks.
After earning her teaching degree in Journalism/English from Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State), Craghead obtained her master’s degree in curriculum with an emphasis on journalism education from the University of Missouri. She has earned a lifetime teaching certificate from the state of Missouri, and was among the first groups of Journalism Education Association members to obtain her C.J.E. and M.J.E. designations.
‘After I got my first teaching degree, I advised yearbook in the southeast part of Missouri for a few years. I then moved back to central Missouri specifically to get my master’s degree from MU,” Craghead said.
‘There was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to hang out at the School of Journalism!”
Since that time, Craghead has taken great pleasure in the accomplishments of her staffs and students. She feels her own life experiences give her a unique empathy some advisers may not have.
“My responsibilities as public information coordinator for the school district give me the chance to write press releases, take photos, design and edit,” she said.
“I have deadlines nearly every day, and I can easily sympathize with my struggling reporters after a frustrating morning of interviewing. My experiences help me stay calm and not tear the limbs off Dame Dora (our stress doll) when PageMaker suddenly becomes WhatPage,” Craghead joked.
Craghead said one of the things that makes the Mascot so successful is letting the students take the lead.
“I suspect our yearbook is one of the most student-led in the business,” she said. ‘One aspect of advising that never changes for me is my annual resolution to empower students more. While it is hard to step off the stage, because I firmly believe the best teachers are performers at heart, I do it.
“My editors are well prepared, and once I sit down after teaching most of the first quarter, and the editors step up, I rarely address the class.”
Clearly, Craghead’s approach is working. In 1996, the Mascot was the fourteenth yearbook in the country — and the first small-town school yearbook — to be inducted in to the National Yearbook Hall of Fame. In 1997, the yearbook, along with the adviser, received the North Central Missouri Community Literacy Award for outstanding promotion of teen literacy. Students from past staffs have earned Gold Key awards from Quill and Scroll, and examples from the Mascot are featured in various yearbook-related publications across the country.
It is said if you do something you love, success will follow, and Kathy Craghead and her Mascot staffs are no exception.
“Teaching is more than a career for me. Unlike many other children growing up over the past 50 years, I never wanted to be a nurse or a chef or a cowboy,” she stated.
“I guess my coffee mug says it best: Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, go into some less significant line of work.”