Top Honors

Written by Linda Puntney

After 32 years in the classroom H.L. Hall is still “alive, awake, alert, and enthusiastic.” In fact, he’s downright spunky.

It is his spunk and energy that inspire literally thousands of journalism students and advisers across the country each year. That, coupled with a sizable amount of knowledge, has also earned him the title “Mr. Yearbook” from his colleagues and those he teaches.

In fact, Hall, yearbook adviser at Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo., was selected in December as the first Yearbook Adviser of the Year by the Journalism Education Association. Modeled after the Journalism Teacher of the Year competition sponsored by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, this honor was instituted to specifically honor yearbook advisers. As a result of Hall’s award, one of his yearbook students will receive a scholarship.

His enthusiasm for his job and for the work of his students has resulted in recognition for the publications he advises. The Pioneer, which he has advised since 1973, has received the National Scholastic Press Association’s All-American award every year since 1976. His books have been awarded NSPA’s highest award, the Pacemaker, 13 times. In addition, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association has awarded his books six Gold Crowns, their highest award. Add to the list a host of state awards and individual student awards and you have more plaques and trophies than a normal classroom can hold.

Hall has received his share of personal recognition, too – Missouri Journalism Teacher of the Year, 1974; Journalism Education Association’s Medal of Merit, 1975; Dow Jones Newspaper Fund’s Journalism Teacher of the Year, 1982; CSPA’s Gold Key award, 1982; and JEA’s Carl Towley Award, 1991.

“This is the most meaningful personal award (Yearbook Adviser of the Year) I have received,” Hall said. “Over the years I’ve been more involved in yearbooks than in newspapers, and the Pioneer has set nationwide trends. This award recognizes this. The fact that I’m the first winner means a lot to me. It’s the first time I’ve ever been the first winner of an award.”

But Hall is quick to downplay awards for awards’ sake.

“If your student body likes the book. If the staff likes the book. If it’s sound journalistically, then awards are nice but they certainly aren’t the final end,” Hall said. “Awards are great but they are not the most important thing about producing a yearbook.”

For Hall, the most important reward of advising comes in the hugs he receives from students and in seeing them succeed.

“I really push the students. I’m always telling them to stretch their minds. It’s just wonderful to see the glint in a student’s eye when I finally say ‘Good job’ and mark their paper with an A and a squiggly,” Hall said. “It’s the best when kids are pleased with their work, and when they achieve more than they thought they could.”

Forty-eight advisers from 26 states entered the 1995 National High School Yearbook Adviser of the Year contest. In addition to Hall’s selection as Adviser of the Year, four advisers were named Distinguished Advisers and four as Special Recognition advisers.

Distinguished Advisers include Sam Effinger, Putnam City High School, Putnam City, Okla.; Paul Schwieger (deceased), Shaler Area High School, Pittsburgh, Penn.; Terry Nelson, Central High School, Muncie, Ind.; and Paul Ender, Independence High School, San Jose, Calif.

Special Recognition Advisers are Becky Lucas, Shawnee Mission North High School, Overland Park, Kan.; Dave Cosgrove, Salpointe Catholic High School, Tucson, Ariz.; Kathleen Swiebel, Pottsville Area High School, Pottsville, Penn.; and Brenda Gorsuch, West Henderson High School, Arden, N.C.

Linda Puntney