Yearbook Adviser of Note: Meet Brit Taylor
Written by Jim Jordan
Brit Taylor, CJE, a star of Florida scholastic journalism with 30 years of experience at Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida. Brit is a passionate educator, dedicated to helping high school students grow and thrive in the world of publications.
High school attended – Winter Park High School, Winter Park, Florida
College attended + degrees and majors – University of Florida
Did you participate in journalism in high school?
I did junior high and high school newspaper and was editor in my senior year. I was burned out and swore I would never do journalism again. I also said I would never live in Florida. 0 for 2…
Did you participate in journalism in college?
No. Avoided it like the plague.
What jobs did you hold after college before you became a teacher and a yearbook adviser?
None. Started teaching at age 22. One year of middle school then I ran screaming to the high school and volume 1 of the Pine Ridge Prowler.
Size of your book: 9
Number of pages in your book in 2022: 328
Number of pages in your book in 2023: 336
Number sold in 2023: 1000
Awards for 2023 and previous books
- 2023 – FSPA All Florida, NSPA All American, NSPA Finalist for Theme Package and Yearbook Spread and Sports Action Photo (our first!)
- Pacemakers in 2014, 2015, 2021, 2022. Finalist a few other times
- Silver Crowns only (it’s our ‘gold’ ceiling), but six? of them: 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022
- #1 Theme Package in 2022
- Lots of other FSPA state awards, CSPA Gold Circle Awards, NSPA Individual Finalist Awards.
How many books have you advised at Hagerty High School including the 2024 book?
Thirty (I’m coming for you, Jim Jordan).
Other schools you have taught and/or advised at? What years? Awards at previous school?
Deland Middle – one year, no advising
Pine Ridge High – 11 years of yearbook and newspaper (no awards – we were not involved with anyone or anything. We were poor!)
Hagerty High – 19 years of yearbook, 14 years of newspaper
Any other classes you teach at Hagerty?
Currently, Journalism I, Newspaper, Digital Design 1-4
Any other publications you advise?
- com news site
- The BluePrint newspaper
- Graphite Literary magazine (in year 3)
Where were you born and raised?
Melbourne, Florida (7 years) to Orlando, Florida (through college).
What were you involved in during high school? How would you describe high school Brit?
An easy-going, friendly nerd who did a whole lot of newspaper.
Where did you attend college? Were you involved in publications?
University of Florida. No publications.
How and why did you decide to go into teaching?
I was in the College of Business earning my highest GPA ever, and my roommate, who was a semester ahead of me, saw my accounting homework and said, “That is what I did all summer for my summer job.” That was the end of the Business degree.
Fast forward to summer working at the Florida Sherriff’s Youth Camp, restraining non-adjudicated teens (read: one step from juvenile detention center). After a week of wrestling with a particularly tough group, one kid told me his grandma was going to beat me up at the pick-up. I met Grandma, and the kid said, “Grandma, this is Mr. Taylor. We had the best week!!” It was awesome. Working with kids… nothing like it.
How and why did you first get involved with scholastic journalism?
My eighth-grade speech teacher said I should join newspaper, and I was like, “Okay.” So, in ninth grade (last year of junior high), I was named editor… apparently everyone was new. The power coursed through my veins like a superhero origin story. Then, I was the only sophomore (90s equivalent of freshman) to get onto high school newspaper staff at Winter Park High (the WiPaHiSc), and through nepotism and seniority, I became editor in my senior year.
What were the circumstances around you becoming an adviser?
I started teaching when I was 22. It was middle school, and my discipline was terrible, plus it was the year Kurt Cobain died, so everyone was wearing flannel and crying all the time. I had to get out, and a new high school was opening. I was so young that I had to put high school things on my resume, and the high school principal saw the newspaper experience and asked if I would sponsor the newspaper. I probably would have been the janitor to escape middle school, and so I was hired. Several weeks later, the school still didn’t have a yearbook sponsor, and I thought, “Well, it will be good for me to have the whole journalism program, and how hard can it be?” so I walked right off that cliff. And here I am, 30 yearbooks later.
What was the most difficult part of your first year advising?
Not that I’ve mastered it yet, but you don’t realize how valuable the beginning of the year is for training and content gathering. In my second year of teaching, and first year of high school, my other classes took a lot of prep time (it was all new), and yearbook, in my mind, started as the “fun” class. You always curse yourself in February and March… “Why didn’t we do ___________ earlier?” But that was especially true in year one.
What made you want to come back for year two?
I love the real product aspect of journalism. I’ve taught a lot of English and writing, but I do better, and my students do better when we know it’s for real. If students don’t understand a poem in English class or botch a writing assignment, teachers can just move on. Nobody really notices. That’s Not true in yearbook, and it turns out I’m a much better teacher with the looming threat that everything we do is going to be published.
What advice would you give to a first-year adviser?
Find yearbook friends. You are going to have a thousand questions, and you don’t have any idea what they are yet, but there are plenty of advisers out there who can give you answers or just listen to you complain about the parent who says you ruined their kid’s life. Even as an ancient adviser, I’m always learning new things by talking to other advisers, whether they’ve been doing it 30 years or 30 days.
What were some of the factors that led to your success as an adviser over the years?
Great people (see above). Walsworth reps and gurus, connections from the Florida Scholastic Press Association, people I repeatedly see at national conventions, neighbor advisers at county journalism meetings… the more we get together, the more I learn/steal. That overlaps with getting involved in scholastic journalism organizations—the basic idea that exposure to good journalism and best practices rubs off. And that leads to contests… My students and I love awards (they might get it from me), and when you win things, it’s not the end-all-be-all, but it’s generally a sign that you are doing some things right.
At my first school, I lived in isolation, and the book wasn’t bad, but without peers, conventions and contests, there was much less room for growth. At my second school, we got much more involved, and the program had more energy, more quality… and a few more awards.
What has been or continues to be your biggest challenge as an adviser?
Honestly, it seems to change every year. To keep pushing the envelope and maintaining energy for yearbook number 30 is not easy. The older I get, there are certain things I lose patience with more easily. “I’M DOING MY 29th BOOK. WHY AM I HERE ON A SUNDAY?”
Currently on my list is politics. Everything is so politicized, and scholastic journalism is under the microscope far too often. My program has been under fire at school board meetings. I’ve had a group of students sign a petition to have our newspaper censored. I’ve had not only parents (of course) but teachers question our content… and the list goes on. It’s part of the job but defending your content from all sides is frustrating. And the older you get, you’re more willing to fight about little things you probably would have let go a few years back.
Tell me about something in your life as an adviser that has made you proud, or something that keeps you going when things get tough and frustrating.
I love the students. They crack me up. When they’re in my class, I shake my fist about their breakups and cheer their college acceptance letters. When they do something cool, it’s like you get to experience it for the first time; someone really nails a photo or wins an award, or even talks to a mean teacher without crying. I don’t think most jobs let you ride the roller coaster like that. Most of the time, it’s fun.
And when they graduate, you still keep in touch with a lot of them. I’ve been to weddings where two of my editors got married, and I work with teachers who used to be my students. In the end, it’s not the journalism that you or they remember. It’s the relationships and growth.
Tell a story that is indicative of your life as an adviser, or a moment in your career as an adviser that you will never forget.
I had the great fortune to teach my daughter for four years, and that’s a separate chapter, but in her first year, we were (shockingly) behind on a deadline and had to finish pages on the last day by the custodial/school alarm deadline of 10 p.m. The senior editors and a couple of Maggie’s freshman staff buddies were there to upload the last pages at 9:58, and we jumped around, screamed and high-fived like we had won the lottery. We’ve had plenty of late nights and lots of beating the clock, but that moment, for several reasons, is the classic ‘we made it’ moment that we all get to experience…. Hopefully a lot in this job.
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