What’s new in year two?
Written by Sarah Scott
It’s hard to believe we’re now on season three of Yearbook Chat with Jim! Way back in season one, host Jim Jordan did two new-adviser focused episodes. In “That First Year: New Advisers Reflect,” Jordan interviewed yearbook advisers who had just wrapped up their first year. In his sixth episode, “Taking over an established yearbook program,” Jordan interviewed first-year advisers who took over well-established, award-winning yearbook programs.
For the start of season three, Jordan checked back in with those advisers as they prepare to begin their third year of advising yearbook. Five of the six original interviewees are still advising – and the sixth only left to take his dream job as a choir director at a large high school in southern California. They shared their reflections on year one now that they’re further removed, the struggles and successes of year two, and what they expect for their third year of advising.
You can find the new episode, along with all previously released episodes, at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.
Lori Davis, Charlotte Latin School, Charlotte, North Carolina
Lori Davis worked in marketing and management before becoming a teacher. She’d been teaching and advising a literary magazine for fifteen years when she took over the yearbook program in 2017. Davis and her yearbook staff butted heads that first year, but she eventually won them over.
“There was a lot of distrust there. They had no clue who I was. I was new to the school,” Davis said. She’d been an English teacher at Charlotte Latin the year before but didn’t know most of her staff in more than passing.
“They’d had the other teacher, some of them, for three years and they were buddies. I, on the other hand, am not a buddy to my students at all,” Davis said. She clarified that she is close to many of her students but doesn’t treat them like a peer.
Davis taught her yearbook staff essentials like design and using the software. They’d used templates in previous years, so “there was a lot of pushing and pulling” as Davis made the push for design.
Going into her second year, Davis made it clear that she was not the previous adviser. She also stopped some of the traditions that didn’t make sense for her classroom – like the tradition that anyone who stayed in the class four years automatically became an editor.
“I finally just figured if I’m going to make this work, I have to do what I know inherently is the right thing to do,” Davis said. She looked to other successful yearbook programs and modeled her program after those.
The second year was better than the first. Davis said her senior staffers had an unpleasant surprise when they realized that the underclassmen knew more than them. Davis attributes that to the younger staff members’ willingness to learn from a new teacher. That realization allowed the staff to make progress.
The staff members who’d been reluctant came around even more when their book started getting complements. The design was edgier than in prior years and received well by the rest of the school. They also won a 2019 Tar Heel Award from the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association.
Going into year three, Davis wants to work on meeting deadlines and fact-checking.
Hallie Lueken, Marmaton Valley Junior/Senior High School, Moran, Kansas
Halie Lueken is starting her third year at Marmaton Valley Junior/Senior High School in Moran, Kansas. This small school is the same one she graduated from. She didn’t originally intend to be a yearbook adviser, even though she’d been on the staff in high school, but it came with the job when she was hired at Marmaton Valley.
Her biggest yearbook struggle stems from her fall delivery – she had difficulty getting students, especially graduated seniors, to come back and finish the book once classes are out for the summer.
“My first year, I didn’t really anticipate that because it didn’t happen when I was in school. We wanted to finish it so we came back and we did the work,” Lueken said.
Her second year, Lueken didn’t assign her senior staff members any spreads for sports or events that last beyond the school year. Despite taking this precaution, she still had students leave for the summer or graduate without finishing their assignments. She got tougher with her grading that second year, failing two of the seven members of her yearbook class, but is still looking at ways to encourage students to come back and finish the book.
To ensure they have plenty of photos, Lueken uses photo points. Every event that a staff member attends and takes pictures at has a point value. They’re required to get a certain number of points during the semester.
In year three, Lueken is looking forward to seeing what her staff can do with design. She has 12 new computers in her classroom and hopes to increase her staff size to 12.
Her advice for fellow advisers at small, rural schools is universal: make sure everyone feels included and make sure the community supports what you do.
Bridgette Norris, Boone High School, Orlando, Florida
Bridgette Norris had hoped to one day be the yearbook adviser at Boone High School in Orlando, Florida. However, when she graduated from college, she learned that renowned adviser Renee Burke planned to move and thought she might never get another chance to advise yearbook at Boone. She got the job about a week out of university.
Norris went into her first year without many expectations because she didn’t know what to expect. She built a good relationship with her editors. During that first year, she learned the value of going home at a decent time. She posted the times she was available on her board, and when she tried to stay later, her students would remind her to go home.
When she saw her first book, she knew it was all worth it.
“That was the moment I was like ‘Oh my goodness.’ Everything we worked so hard for, all of the times I stayed at school until 11:00 [p.m.] on a Friday to make this deadline, it just felt like such a relief that it was here and it was done. And then I looked at all of [my staff], and they were so excited,” Norris said.
Her second year was more challenging than year one.
“I think with year one, you come in and you don’t know anything. At least that’s how I felt, personally,” Norris said. “So people don’t really have a lot of pressure on you.”
She felt a lot more pressure to create a great book. She also faced some unexpected challenges. Norris worked in more celebrations, parties and rewards for hard work. She also worked on having hard conversations with her staff, even when she didn’t want to do it.
Right now, Norris and her staff are working on their theme. She has a lot of newbies on staff and is working with her editors to form a plan that helps them succeed.
Her advice to fellow advisers is simple: “Be prepared for challenges to come up along the way.”
Peter Shahbazian, Del Campo High School, Fair Oaks, California
Peter Shahbazian took over the yearbook program at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, California, with some reluctance. The previous adviser had been there 35 years. That adviser also happened to be podcast host Jim Jordan.
He described year one as “the takeover year,” when the five editors who’d worked with Jordan taught Shahbazian the ropes of yearbook. Shahbazian had never done yearbook but enjoyed the experience.
“It’s just such a vastly different experience than just teaching high school English,” Shahbazian said.
He was pleased with the way his first book turned out – mostly because his editors were happy with it.
In year two, Shahbazian examined and updated some of the back end parts of the yearbook program, like file management and staff structure.
“A lot of the things that ate into the process the previous year,” Shahbazian said. He also set a goal of improving the staff’s photo-taking skills, which paid off for the yearbook program.
His advice to fellow advisers: “You can only do your best as far as trying to guide the students.”
Lindsey Valbuena, Mira Costa High School, Manhattan Beach, California
Lindsey Valbuena described her first year at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, California, as “a year of letting the kids lead.” She put trust in her editors and staff while she learned how yearbook works.
Because she came from an English, not yearbook, background, she had some adjustments to make. She didn’t even know what changes to make, so she let her students take the reins.
“Even if we were doing something horrendously wrong, I wouldn’t have known,” Valbuena joked.
She relied on her students and yearbook rep and reached out to Jordan to survive that first year. She wasn’t sure how to grade the class, so she had her class fill out time sheets and framed the conversation as “I want to give you points.”
Valbuena knew not to make too many changes to the program when she first came on. “You have to pick and choose your battles,” she said. She felt like she really won over her staff at their first deadline, when she used her editing skills to catch mistakes that would have caused problems down the line.
Heading into year two of advising, Valbuena knew she wanted to level up their yearbook. She looked into what it would take and proposed the idea to her staff, who agreed they wanted to do it. There was some concern that a more cohesive book would mean a loss of creativity for the staff, but everyone came around and voted that it was worth it to try to become an award-winning book.
For year three, Valbuena and her staff want to utilize more inspiration. She wants her designers to commit to drawing from places other than their own head.
“I kind of want them to see that there’s research to be done for them, too, in the form of finding inspiration photos, looking at magazines,” Valbuena said.
Her other goal for the year is to get the copy right.
“Copy, for some reason, is always the back-burner item and I hate that,” Valbuena said. She wants this year’s writing to reflect the age of her staff rather than the formal voice that doesn’t reflect the way students communicate.
You can hear more insights and reflections from these five advisers by listening to the “What’s New in Year Two?” episode of Yearbook Chat with Jim. You can find it at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or on the major podcast platforms, including iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher.