Yearbook Advisers of Note: Meet Dow Tate
Written by Jim Jordan
By the time he reached high school, Dow Tate was already a contributor to his local newspaper. That’s how much he was meant to work in journalism.
Now adviser of a powerhouse award-winning journalism program at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas, Tate is this month’s Adviser of Note and will be an instructor at this summer’s Adviser Academy and Walsworth’s Elite Weekend in Anaheim this fall.
You can learn even more about Tate in his interview on the Yearbook Chat with Jim podcast. Find it at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, including iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify.
C. Dow Tate
Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kansas
High School Attended: Ferris High School, Ferris, Texas
College Attended: East Texas State University, Commerce, Texas
Did you participate in journalism in high school? I was a photographer for the yearbook and was a photographer and writer for the newspaper.
Did you participate in journalism in college? I was a staff writer, news editor and eventually editor of The East Texan.
Size of Your Book: 9
Number of Pages in Your 2018 Book: 552
Student Population: 1750
Number Sold in 2018: 1525
Awards for the 2018 book: CSPA Gold Crown and NSPA Pacemaker winner
Number of books you have advised at East (including the 2019): 17
Other schools you have taught and/or advised at: Student teaching was done with Judy Babb at Skyline High School, Dallas, Texas. Spent 14 years at Hillcrest High School in Dallas, where I advised 12 yearbooks before coming to Shawnee Mission East.
Other classes you teach: Journalism I, Editorial Leadership, Digital News Media Production
How did you first get involved with scholastic journalism?
I started selling The Ferris Wheel at the age of five and was producing my own page in the local newspaper by my freshman year in high school. I started submitting photos to yearbook and writing and shooting for high school paper.
How and why did you decide to go into teaching? Advising?
I think I’ve been teaching since Mrs. Wade put me with slower readers in first grade. But the people I enjoyed being around the most were teachers and coaches so I pursued an education degree and enjoyed student teaching even though I was a reporter for two years before I took the job at Hillcrest.
What was the most difficult part of your first year advising?
As a yearbook adviser, I helped an experienced adviser who didn’t share my level of expectations for the kids. Twelve years later when I was essentially a first-year adviser again at East, I’d say the challenge was getting students to listen to me – whether it was getting them to buy into my expectations of student publication ownership or simply my expectations of what looked good.
What made you want to come back for year two?
I had been advising newspapers for four years by that point, but as a second-year yearbook adviser, I was confident that my philosophy would pay off and that with a little patience it would take time but the students would be successful.
What advice would you give to a first-year adviser?
Have some patience. Don’t try to do everything yourself but let the students learn. Know that with some consistent teaching and patience that you can build a successful publication, but never a perfect publication. And that’s okay.
Over the years, what have you enjoyed most about advising a yearbook?
If it’s not delivery day watching the staff members enjoy the reaction to others enjoying their work, then I’d say it’s hearing from former students who come back to say how much what they did on the yearbook paid off for them in college and their professional life.
What has been your biggest challenge as an adviser?
Probably the biggest challenge is helping staffs manage through the marathon of the yearbook creation process while managing the drama that comes with varying attitudes, personalities and work ethics within a student-run system.
You advise three award-winning publications and have a family – a great wife and daughter. How do you stay balanced?
We travel to Disney a bunch. Okay that and I do let the students drive. Once deadline season starts, I know I have one late night a week but the other days I force myself out of the school doors, unlike my single days at Hillcrest when there were many late nights. When my daughter’s junior high musical conflicted with some deadlines, her performance took priority. I am lucky in that I know that I have some talented, driven editors with laptops who will make sure the yearbook gets done.
Tell me about something in your life as an adviser that has made you proud.
I think of days when I can see they show true ownership. I loved it when Libby the clubs photo editor came in with a slick, well-thought-through slideshow to teach the class the latest plan for turning in club photos.
I love the days when I know they live our mantra of “broaden your skillset.” I enjoy it when Janie and Addie want to join in the staff Photo Face-off Contest and come back with photos strong enough to win a round.
Tell a story about a moment in your career as adviser that you will never forget.
I remember the year the custodian mistook the box of senior ads for trash and tossed them. And I remember the year that the ads editor designed 40-plus ads and didn’t put them in the book. And how could I forget the year a co-editor decided the stress was too much and quit in December? Yes, those aren’t fun memories, but I can tell you in each and every case we all survived. There’s a lot to learn from all those times and they’re some of the first stories I tell to ad managers and editors alike.