Yearbook Advisers of Note: Meet Alyssa Boehringer
Written by Jim Jordan
Alyssa Boehringer, of McKinney High School in McKinney, Texas, is currently advising her third yearbook, but she’s already no stranger to awards. Boehringer was one of four educators to receive the 2018 Medal of Merit from the Journalism Education Association (JEA).
She has taught broadcast at McKinney since 2005, but didn’t take over the yearbook program until the 2017 school year. Despite being under the supervision of a new adviser, The Lion won a Silver Crown from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA).
Boehringer is our latest Adviser of Note. She was also featured on the Yearbook Chat with Jim podcasts. You can find her interview at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or your preferred podcast listening platform.
During the interview, Boehringer went into the details of her magnificent 2018 yearbook. Because it is a conversation that works best with a visual companion, we’ve shared that portion of their conversation here and shared images below and in our 2018 Theme Gallery, as well as promotional yearbook videos the McKinney students created under Boehringer’s guidance. Take a listen!
McKinney High School, McKinney Texas
College attended: University of Texas at Austin
High School attended–-in what state and city: McKinney High School, McKinney, Texas
Did you participate in journalism in high school – what publication and your role: Editor of The Lion Yearbook (2000 and 2001), Opinions Editor for Mane Events Newspaper
Size of Your Book: 9
Number of Pages in Your Book in 2018: 352
Student Population: 3,000
Number Sold in 2018: 1,000
Other Classes You Teach: Video Production and Journalism I
Number of Books You Have Advised at McKinney? 2
Other schools you have taught at? None
I know you were a yearbook kid in high school. What memories do you have of your high school yearbook experience?
I remember late nights at the Gloria Shields Workshop, cutting up magazines and putting together a theme packet to try and impress Judi Coolidge. ILPC, SIPA and JEA/NSPA Conventions with Ms. Oglesbee – wearing Krispy Kreme donut hats for some reason and pranking people on the bus. That stuff is all yearbook-related, right?
How did you decide to go into teaching? Advising?
I always said I wouldn’t want to be a teacher, but it was my experience working with Jeanne Acton as her intern at UIL that led me to that decision. She was an incredible mentor, involving me in planning the ILPC workshop and the convention. I knew high school journalism had a big impact on me, but working at ILPC showed me how important journalism education was on a larger scale.
I started teaching broadcasting at McKinney High School right out of college and then 12 years later I went back to working on the good ol’ Lion.
What was the most difficult part of your first year?
Since I didn’t have a lot of time to mentally prepare to be a yearbook adviser, the toughest part of my first year was learning how yearbooks are made now. It had been 16 years since I had to submit pages, for example. A lot had changed.
Luckily, I inherited the best team of editors any adviser could ask for – Nicole Oesterreicher, Anne Penprase and Nicole Stuessy. And I think we had such a great relationship because we had all been taught by the same person, but all of a sudden, we found ourselves without that person. So we were all navigating that together emotionally and at the same time it was exciting because we were able to take what we all knew and we put together a yearbook with a new set of rules and a new perspective.
To this day, that is objectively one of my favorite yearbooks ever and that’s a testament to that unbelievable team of editors and, of course, to our adviser.
What made you want to come back for year two?
That’s an easy question to answer. The kids. Seeing them get so excited about a magazine design or a story idea for the next year. Being with the kids when they see the product. It was pretty clear after those books came in that I would not be able to give that up.
What advice would you give to a first-year adviser?
Grab every opportunity to learn outside the classroom with your kids. Summer workshops, Elite Weekends (or whatever your company calls them), conventions. We are continually inspired by the expertise other advisers and professionals are willing to share. Take advantage of that.
What have you enjoyed most about advising a yearbook?
I love the kids’ reactions to their own success. Small things like then a design doesn’t work and then they make some changes and then it clicks. Winning HQ Trivia together. We try to celebrate things like that.
What has been the most difficult part of advising for you?
It’s been a challenge going from being a full-time broadcast adviser to a broadcast and yearbook and website adviser. My broadcast kids were so supportive and helpful with my decision. They had to be a bit more independent that first year than what they were used to, but the whole department has really grown into a more cohesive unit. I have a former student, Curtis Christian, teaching a section of broadcasting now and helping coach my yearbook photographers. So now in year three, I feel a lot better equipped to handle it all.
What keeps you coming back each year?
The kids and my commitment to maintaining a strong journalism program at McKinney High School keep me coming back. My school community is incredibly important to me and those kids deserve a decent yearbook.
Tell me about something in your adviser life that has made you proud.
I’m proud when my students tell stories that matter. Last year, one of our copy editors write a story about a girl who was born in the United States, but was raised by her Mexican family in Mexico. They sent her to McKinney alone on a bus when she was in high school to live and complete her education here. Luisa ended up in multiple AP classes with almost $100,000 in scholarships by the time she hit graduation.
Our readers know about Homecoming. They know about athletic events and dances and all the high school junk we all love that happens at every other high school on the planet. But I’m most proud when my students shine a light on things they would never know about otherwise. I love stories like Luisa’s that remind our readers that anything is possible. These are the stories that make school a better place. And that’s our ultimate goal.
What goals have you set personally and for your program?
We want to sell more books, now that I have a handle on how to make one. I’ve been trying to channel my inner Kathy Beers.
As a wife, mother, teacher, adviser how do you keep your life in balance?
Some days yearbook occupies my brain. Some days MHS1 occupies my brain. Some days I don’t get to put my daughter to bed because I’m with my students. But I try to set aside extra time when I have it for my family.
For example, I have Elite Weekend this coming weekend, TAJE Fall Fiesta the weekend after that, Homecoming the weekend after that and JEA/NSPA Chicago the weekend after that.
So last weekend, I took off Friday to take Raynes to the State Fair. Then My husband and I went on a date Friday night. Saturday morning, we went to a pumpkin patch complete with a hayride and feeding the goats, sheep and cows. Then Saturday night, my husband took me to the David Byrne concert. Then Sunday I did art and built Legos with my daughter and her grandmother and made us a fancy dinner and baked a homemade chocolate meringue pie. That was a month’s worth of quality time crammed into one weekend, but we needed that.
Tell a story that is indicative of your life as an adviser.
I love seeing the world with my students. Space Needle. The 9/11 Memorial. Alcatraz. I visited all these places for the first time with students.
I remember getting off the bus at the Grand Canyon. I had never seen it before. The oranges and reds were so beautiful against the blue sky and river. On the way back to Phoenix for the JEA/NSPA Convention the next day, the bus pulled into a McDonalds with smoke billowing out the front. It wouldn’t start.
The bus was full of convention kids who filed out the doors to grab a cheeseburger and then sit and wait for help. We waited for a while before one of my students started a game of red rover with the rest of the McKinney staff. It wasn’t too long before my kids had the entire busload singing and dancing and playing games. Duck Duck Goose is somehow more fun with like 50 strangers. When another tour bus finally showed up to pick up a part of our group, I overheard one kid say, “No! I want to stay with the McKinney kids!”
We weren’t at all sad to be stuck there together. No one was, thanks to my kids. That day taught me the impact a positive attitude can have and how meaningful the role of the student leader is.
One of those kids teaches with me now – Curtis.
You recently were named a JEA Medal of Merit recipient. How were you selected? How did you react to the news?
I was nominated by Cindy Todd, which makes the honor all the more significant for me. Cindy wasn’t just one of the greatest yearbook advisers of all time, but she has also been such a great mentor and an influence in my life, going back to when she taught me in the yearbook editors class at the ILPC workshop back in 2000. She does so much for Texas journalism behind the scenes as executive director of TAJE and her work goes largely unrecognized. The Medal of Merit meant so much to me, knowing that Cindy thought I deserved it. I’m so thankful to her and to JEA and all the other journalism teachers out there making contributions to our community.