Yearbook Advisers of Note: Meet Emily Arnold
Written by Sarah Scott
We are honored to introduce you to our November 2020 Adviser of Note: Emily Pyeatt Arnold, the caring and inspiring yearbook adviser from Aledo High School in Aledo, Texas. If you would like to know more about her, be sure to listen to her interview on the Yearbook Chat With Jim podcast.
Emily Pyeatt Arnold, Aledo High School, Aledo, Texas
High school attended: Crowley High School, Crowley, Texas
College attended: University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE (undergrad) and Texas Christian University, Ft. Worth, TX (masters)
Did you participate in journalism in high school? – Yes, I took broadcasting classes and photography, but did not serve on a publication staff. I really wanted to become a sports broadcaster and work for ESPN, so I took all the speech and broadcast classes I could.
Did you participate in journalism in college? Yes, I worked as a staff writer for the arts and entertainment section of The Daily Nebraskan.
What were you doing before you became a teacher and a yearbook adviser?
I worked in the education department of the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta for a year or so after college. When I moved back to Texas, I started teaching English and humanities. I also coached the academic decathlon team, prose interp. and co-directed theatre productions those first years. I moved abroad to England briefly, then to Portland, Oregon where I worked at a bookstore and I taught English and reading in Vancouver, Washington. Once back in Texas, I started teaching English and reading at Haltom High School. After my first year, my department head asked me if I would want to take on yearbook. I didn’t have a clue, but I said yes.
Size of your book: 9
Number of pages in your book in 2020: 432
Projected number of pages in your book in 2021: 432
Student Population: around 1500
Number sold in 2020: 1200
Awards for the 2019 book: CSPA Silver Crown
Recognition for the 2020 book: NSPA First Class Rating
We keep track of our awards on our site, http://ledoianyearbook.mystrikingly.com/.
Number of books you have advised at Aledo including the 2021? 3
Other schools you have taught and/or advised at: Haltom High School, Haltom City, Texas
Other classes you teach at Aledo: News Production, Journalism, Photojournalism
What other activities are you involved in and outside of your role as teacher and adviser?
In addition to my teaching role at school, I also enjoy teaching workshops and working with other schools and students. At my own school, we are trying to start a literary magazine this year since that was put on hold last spring.
Outside of school, I love to read, garden, camp, cook and spend time with friends and family. My new side “jam” is making serrano jelly. I also enjoy other crafty things like needle felting and creating mixed-media collages. I’m looking forward to traveling and live music again, too!
How and why did you decide to go into teaching? advising?
I loved playing school as a kid and thought I might become a professor once I realized sports reporting wasn’t my strength. (I liked watching games much more than reporting on them.) I have a passion for all forms of storytelling and consider myself a life-long learner, so teaching made sense at the time. I still feel like a work-in-progress and always want to challenge myself to grow.
How and why did you first get involved with scholastic journalism
My rep when I first started advising believed in me and encouraged me to reach out to others and get involved in the community. Once I learned of the organizations I could join and conventions and workshops available, I wanted to be more involved in scholastic journalism for the experiences it could provide for my students.
What was the most difficult part of your first year advising?
I am sure there were a lot of challenges, but the only thing that stands out was that the previous adviser selected the editor prior to leaving. However, she had a schedule conflict and couldn’t take the yearbook class. That didn’t work, but leaders emerged once I got to know the other kids.
What made you want to come back for year two?
The yearbook staff! We were all still learning how to yearbook together, but the kids who returned and the ones I recruited from my English class were (and still are) really amazing humans.
What advice would you give to a first-year adviser? It’s the same advice I try to remind myself. Remember your people need to come first, not the product. Take time to take care of yourself and make time to have fun with your students.
What were some of the factors that have led your success as an adviser? I don’t know that I feel successful as an adviser so much as I see my students developing their skills and voice to become more successful in the stories they are telling. It feels gratifying to witness their growth across the years I get the privilege of having them in class. I feel their growth can be attributed to providing them experiences and opportunities to learn from the people who mentored me. I want them to learn from the best, and my job as an adviser is to facilitate those opportunities for them.
What has been your biggest challenge as an adviser? Last spring. Not seeing my kids in person put me on the struggle bus in addition to all the other anxieties about the status of the world. I really missed the human connection and interaction, and I worried about them constantly. I still do! Online learning is not my strength and Zoom fatigue is a real thing, y’all!
Finishing the book under Corona quarantine
What was your biggest challenge in completing your 2020 book?
Proof corrections! We created a massive spreadsheet where editors made notations of errors, but we only had two laptops with remote server access. What would have taken a work night or two, took a couple of weeks. The other challenge was ensuring our book addressed the events of the spring. We opted out of a spring supplement, but needed to make changes to completed spreads to reflect the events of the spring.
What positives came out of the process of finishing the book?
The spring revealed students’ resilience, and I was impressed by their ability to keep things in perspective. There is nothing like a global pandemic to put things in perspective. It seems so trivial to worry about the little things that might have stressed me before.
I am also thankful for all of the resources: virtual workshops, sessions, conventions, etc. that became available from this situation in the spring and continue to emerge.
Starting the 2021 book
What has your 20-21 school schedule been? Did you start online or in person or a hybrid? Have there been any changes?
We started with a split-alpha hybrid schedule for students who chose in-person learning and also had students who chose remote-only instruction. I think that might have been the most challenging three weeks of all. I felt “teacher-tired” like never before! All in-person learners returned to campus after that period, but some remained online only. Students could opt to switch at the end of the nine-week grading period, and students not successful in remote learning will be coming back to campus now.
How did you and your staff prepare to start the year?
The editors participated in the Gloria Shields Media Workshop and the Walsworth Workshop to plan for the year. They made the major decisions about the book, their roles and job descriptions prior to school starting. During the hybrid period, we had every other computer marked off with orange or black streamers I would switch each afternoon. At least now we are all back together.
At this point
How has your yearbook year been going so far?
So far, so good. I am trying to stay positive.
The staffers are encouraged to take more photos than ever before, and we are focused on gathering coverage of the events that are happening more than anything else right now.
It has taken a while to get our technology and workflow figured out with Google Filestream, but we are slowly getting things up and running.
How has Covid-19 directly affected you and your staff?
My major concern is their well-being. I try to touch base with everyone much more frequently. Because we can’t socially distance ourselves in my classroom when everyone is present, we remain diligent about wearing masks and cleaning supplies and areas. I have some editors who chose remote-only instruction, but they attend the yearbook class period to work with the staff. We use Slack to touch base when students are out for quarantine. However, we have put off some of our essential mini lessons editors typically do at the beginning of the year. We may not be as structured as in the past, but are taking each day as it comes.
What are you covering? What stories are coming together?
Honestly, we are trying to cover everything we normally would, but adding what is different about those things. Even though there might not be a traditional fall play, there are still student actors who have stories to tell, so staffers are seeking out those stories and alternative ways to cover those topics. The editors also chose to organize the book chronologically for the first time to allow us to cover things as they occur.
How are you utilizing crowd sourcing for photos and content? Has your community been helpful?
We sent out a Google Form through English classes for students to complete on picture day to gather information on a variety of topics. The editors wanted to know if any current students had family members who graduated from Aledo because this is an anniversary book and they thought that information would help them make relevant connections. They asked about hobbies, jobs, hidden talents as well as school involvement. We also did a drawing for a free yearbook to encourage participation and asked people if they had photos from the summer they were willing to share or if they would be interested in taking photos for us. The staffers have been using those responses to reach out to people directly to follow up. It is super helpful to have those responses now in one sheet they can sort to find students outside of their friend group. As students are covered, they are highlighting them on the sheet to increase coverage.
What have been your biggest challenges and how are you solving them?
Adjusting to how time is spent now has been a challenge for me personally. I wish I could spend more time working on publication tasks before or after school with my staff, but with in-person and remote learners plus the demands of this year, it is just not possible right now. We “yearbook” hard-core during our class time each day, but everyone has so much else going on, that we are all allocating our time differently. I don’t think that is a bad thing because we still need our personal time to take care of ourselves and manage the other aspects of our lives. I hope we will get to the point to have work nights again, but right now this is our “new normal.”
What words of encouragement can you offer to advisers around the country?
You are not alone! You might be the only person doing your job at your campus, but there is a community of teachers like you, dealing with the same stress and struggles as you. We are lucky to have such a dynamic, talented and caring community of scholastic journalism educators. The best PLC I’ve found is collaborating with teachers at other schools. Reach out to your teacher friends when you need help. My yearbook bestie is in another state, but if I ever need to vent or need help, I know she has my back.
Tell me a story that is indicative of your life as an adviser.
So many of my favorite memories come from traveling to conventions like taking kids on their first plane ride, showing them which side to stand on escalators or teaching them how to tip. However, the relationships we build working together matter most of all. I don’t remember all the themes of the books I’ve advised, but I remember and love the kids on the 12 staffs I’ve advised. Hearing from them years later brings me joy. Just recently I shared a time-hop photo from my old classroom when we all dressed alike for twin day. For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to use eyeliner to write YERD on our cheeks. One of my staffers wrote, “My favorite place in the whole school with my favorite people– Oh, I miss it.” Providing an environment where students feel that way is what it is all about for me.