May 27, 2009 / Spring 2009 / Teaching Moments

Staffs should remember the value of yearbooks

Written by Joy Wood

Yearbooks are important memory-keepers and increase in value each year. Joy Wood, yearbook adviser at Forney High School in Forney, Texas, not only understood this value, but provided examples in an article she wrote for the spring 2009 issue of Idea File magazine.

Wood, a yearbook adviser since 1963, died during the holidays after a brief illness. To honor her years of dedication to education and yearbook, here is her article for the Teaching Moment column titled, “The Value of Yearbooks.” Wood knew that the people and events captured in yearbooks live on, and that is why it is important “to freeze the year in pictures and words.”

Explaining to today’s youth the value “now” will have in their future.

Every year, yearbook advisers everywhere give the usual lecture about why yearbooks are important. We stress the historical aspect of our task, remind students that they are creating the memories that we will all look back on in 20 years and how important it is to freeze the year in picture and words.

Understanding the increase in value of yearbooks through the years, several years ago I used the idea of “Buy a Memory – buy a yearbook” as a sales tool. The kids laughed about it until I had several alumni from 10 to 20 years ago come and tell my class what the books meant to them as they got further away from the high school experience.

But I have more vivid examples of this lesson of the value of yearbooks.

My students got a real life lesson about the importance of what they do when a young man, probably in his 30s, showed up at my door one afternoon asking if I had any yearbooks from 1956-59. I did. He asked if he could look through them because his parents had divorced when he was very young and his mother had destroyed all of the photos she had that included his father. His father had passed away and he had never seen a picture of his father. He was hoping within the pages of those yearbooks that he could catch a glimpse of what his dad looked like.

We searched with the benefit of an index. In none of those years did his father have a class photo made. He did, however, show up in the group choir picture. It was the only photo he ever had of his father. He borrowed the yearbook, took it to Kinko’s and had it blown up and enhanced so he could see his father for the first time. That is when I knew that yearbooks make a difference and that each year we produce them, we are building memories and history for someone.

In another school, I found a box of old yearbooks, from 1905 to 1935. We decided to offer them for sale to boost our meager yearbook budget. The line outside my classroom was very long. Many adults came to purchase the yearbooks they could not afford when they were in school during the depths of the Great Depression. Many who did not buy them while they were in school felt they had lost a link to their past and a way to connect to their own children and grandchildren about their school days. It made quite an impression on my students who were involved in the sale. I think many of them realized that they were contributing to an important part of a student’s life that occurred after high school.

We, as advisers, must never lose sight of the role we play in other people’s lives. The books we produce are important links to the past for many people, for many reasons. We do, indeed, sell memories when we sell yearbooks.

Joy Wood