May 2, 2013 / Spotlight

Westfield Middle School yearbook makes history with NSPA Best of Show win

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

An NSPA Best of Show award is a big deal, especially when you produce a middle school yearbook that comes in eighth against other high school yearbooks in the competition.

That’s what happened to the 2012 Scrapbook from Westfield Middle School in Westfield, Ind., at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in San Francisco.

Allison Staub, Westfield’s yearbook adviser, entered the book in the Junior High Yearbook category of the Best of Show awards on her registration, but it came in eighth in the 224 or Fewer Pages category of the high school books.

Grace Christiansen, NSPA contest/critique coordinator, said it is unlikely that a middle school or junior high school yearbook has ever placed with the Best of Show high school yearbooks before – making this a historic moment. She said it was human error that put it in the wrong category, but since the judges looked at it and made their selections, the eighth place showing stands.

At the awards ceremony on April 27, Staub said her book’s name was not called among the winners in the Junior High category. So she went to pick up the book she had dropped off for judging as the awards announcements continued.

Staub said there was much confusion around the table, and she was told her book was not there. As she waited for it to be found, the continuing awards presentation caught her attention.

“I hear ‘Westfield Middle School,’ and I look up and our name’s on the screen,” Staub said.

She said the NSPA people could not figure out what the situation was, and Staub even wondered if they confused her book with another Westfield school. But once she got her book back, she looked at the information sheet provided by the awards committee and there it was – the Scrapbook at eighth place in the High School Yearbook, 224 or Fewer Pages category.

Staub said Christiansen called her after the convention to say while there was a mix up, and the judges’ rankings still stand.

The 2012 Scrapbook, with the theme, “Stand Out,” was Staub’s second book as an adviser. An art teacher, she created the 2011 book with a club of students, and the 2012 book with the first yearbook class of eighth graders. Staub said she knew nothing about yearbook journalism when she became adviser and studied up on the subject.

The 2012 book was the first book Westfield book entered into competition, and it did very well. It was included in Walsworth’s most recent issue of the Possibilities idea book, published in fall 2012. It earned a CSPA Gold Crown in March. And, the title page photo earned second place for Sara Jarvis and Jordan Loeser in NSPA’s 2012 Picture of the Year contest, Junior High/Middle School category.

Staub does not like to hear people refer to publications by students this age as “just middle school yearbooks.”

“The kids have so much potential,” Staub said. “They are almost high schoolers. We underestimate them.

“If you teach them well, and give them that responsibility, they can accomplish anything,” she said.

“We just strive to create the best book possible for our school, our community, and for contests. I think that makes the book better,” Staub said.

Staub contacted members of the 2012 staff, who are now freshmen at the high school, to let them know of the win. She is planning a celebration soon with the 2012 and 2013 staff, but is worried the 2013 staff might find it a little overwhelming to see all of the accolades bestowed on the previous staff.

“I kept telling them they could do it, too,” she said.

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Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Elizabeth Braden, CJE, is the former editor of Idea File magazine. Before retiring, she was a copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks for more than 15 years, writing articles for various marketing materials, and proofreading copy for the Yearbook and Commercial divisions. Her career included reporting and editing for United Press International and editing for Knight-Ridder Financial News. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Media News from the University of Tulsa.