May 1, 2020 / Advisers of Note

Yearbook Advisers of Note: Meet Kathy Beers

Written by Jim Jordan

Kathy Beers didn’t start out planning to be a yearbook adviser, but her original ambition to go into advertising has certainly served her well! She is known for her many ideas – many of her yearbook marketing tactics have been borrowed by advisers at schools across the country.

You can hear more of her story and ideas in the latest episode of the Yearbook Chat with Jim podcast.

Profile

Kathy Beers
Timber Creek High School, Fort Worth, Texas

High school attended: L.D. Bell High School, Hurst, Texas

College attended: Baylor University, Waco, Texas; Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree (BFA) in studio art with teaching certification

Did you participate in journalism in high school? I did not. I was a full time choir kid.

Did you participate in journalism in college? I did not. I was an art major.

What were you doing before you became a teacher and a yearbook adviser? After graduating from college, I went right into teaching art at a middle school in Keller ISD. As the district grew, I transferred and opened a new middle school in Keller ISD, still teaching art with the occasional 7th grade English Literature class thrown in. In 2002, I took over as the student council adviser and it was tradition back then that StuCo also made the yearbook. After a year, I talked them into splitting those into two different activities, and a yearbook adviser was born.

Size of your book: 9
Number of pages in your book in 2019: 416
Number of pages in your book in 2020: 416
Number of students on yearbook staff: 16
Number of students in the school: 3300
Number sold in 2019: 1550
Awards for the 2019 book: CSPA Four Gold Circle awards including two first

Number of books you have advised at Timber Creek including the 2020? 11

Other schools you have taught and/or advised at: Keller Middle School & Indian Springs Middle School. Advised at ISMS for eight years.

Other Classes You Teach at Timber Creek: Photojournalism and Contemporary Media

What other activities are you involved in and outside of your role as teacher and adviser? I’m a band mom and fan, so I get drafted to create lots of designs and graphics for the marching band, color guard and drumline. It can be a lot of work, but I really do love it.

Q&A

How and why did you first get involved with scholastic journalism? The first yearbook I advised was based on my own junior high yearbook. I remember them saying they won a bunch of awards back in the mid-eighties, so I figured they knew what they were doing. I even found the old editor on Facebook and thanked her for all the hard work she did in junior high and high school. I didn’t appreciate it as much then as I do now. After a year or two of just doing my best, my yearbook rep invited me to a summer workshop with my staff. I had no idea they existed or that there was a network of people or resources available to yearbook advisers. And there were awards! Who knew?

What was the most difficult part of your first year advising? The year before I took over, the yearbook was a scrapbook. No stories. No captions. A literal photo book. I knew that wasn’t right. I didn’t know there were resources or any kind of plans on how to yearbook. You really feel like you’re out there by yourself.

What advice would you give to a first-year adviser? 

  1. You are not alone. Even though no one else on your campus understands what you do, SOMEONE does. Reach out to others in your district or state who have a comparable school and start looking for a few little ways to improve every year.
  2. Your rep is your yearbook BFF. They can tackle any problem you can throw at them. If they don’t have the answer, they can find someone who does.
  3. Traditions are important. Whether it’s Secret Santa, toasting yearbook delivery with sparkling grape juice, or what goes on the last page. Kids pick up on those traditions and as soon as you try to change one, watch out! I think every staff needs to establish some fun traditions and stick with them. That’s what keeps the kids coming back and feeling like they are part of something bigger than themselves.
  4. You can learn new things. I did not own a computer in college, yet here I am with my certifications in Photoshop and InDesign and working with confidence on a computer every day. Whatever you don’t know how to do, there’s a YouTube video for that. Don’t let lack of experience or age be a factor in what you believe you can accomplish.

What were some of the factors that have led your success as an adviser? Learning from others and asking a lot of questions. No need to reinvent the wheel. Whatever problems you are having, someone else has probably had them, too.

What has been your biggest challenge as an adviser? My biggest challenge is letting go and letting the kids take more control, not just of the book, but of the classroom. I get a little better about that every year and the kids get better at taking more on every year. I don’t have to worry as much about who is showing up to shoot an event. By the time I ask about it, the kids already have it figured out and organized. I need to let them figure things out more often. I’m learning…

Marketing

One of the areas you have become “yearbook famous” for is marketing your program and your book. What are some of your key ideas and tips for increasing yearbook sales? There’s some sort of study out there that says a product must be in front of a customer like six times before they even consider buying it. We try to get in front of people as often as possible so we know everyone has seen us AT LEAST six times.

There are a few things that need to stay the same every year. Like a table at open house, a form at schedule pick-up, or a price deadline date (ours is always October 31.) Parents like routine and reliability. But we also have to get their attention with out-of-the-box ideas. A giant camera costume, yard signs, or a beautiful photo of their kid on our Facebook page will help to drive up our exposure. Let social media work for you. When we post something new, I’m always surprised at how fast it gets shared on the parent, senior, band and neighborhood media. Use those accounts to get information out and let your fans help you spread the word.

Corona quarantine and finishing the book

When was your last day of school? What did you still have to do to finish the book? We were on spring break when we got the word we would not be returning. We had sent in all of our pages, but some were far from finished. I’m afraid our proofing was not going to be just checking for typos. Some pages would need major overhauls and a few were missing spring content. And the index was last year’s as a placeholder. Yikes.

How has your staff managed to finish the book from home? My amazing co-worker and partner in crime, Greg Janda, is the broadcast and news teacher. He is very tech savvy and has all the student media set up on servers. He was able to access all the yearbook files and download them onto a google drive. We gave permissions to the editors and they started sharing out pages to be fixed and finished.

Kids downloaded free seven-day trials of Photoshop and InDesign, but files had to be converted since the school computers still use 2019 versions. More than once, two people accidentally had the same page open and edits had to be done and redone, and redone once more. But these kids are resilient. They worked long into the nights, when their neighborhood Wi-Fi would get faster. They reminded each other to eat and were really forgiving with each other and me when we made mistakes.

We got the book completely reproofed in just over a week. It feels SO GOOD to be done.

What new coverage did they create to finish the book? We really had very little room left. We had a March, April, May calendar page that we were going to finish off with a few photos referencing spring activities. We used half that spread to talk about how those events were cancelled or postponed. Then we cut the index a few spreads short and used the Corona spreads that Walsworth created. I think it will be important to have that information for generations to come.

When did they finish? March 21, 2020

How are you planning to distribute the book? Administration is still working on that. Likely a simple drive through.

Tell me about something in your life as an adviser that has made you proud.

There was a time, at my school, when the yearbook and newspaper did not get along. It was not a give and take relationship or really any relationship at all.

Things are so different now. The media department is now the poster child for teamwork and project based learning. We have liaisons between publications. We work smarter, not harder. We hype each other up and share the responsibility in telling the stories of our school and community. This change is all due to our broadcast and news teacher, Greg Janda. When he arrived, he brought new ideas with him that forced me to look at the dueling publications and rethink the way things had “always been done.” Every day is better because of our new system and I no longer feel alone in my teaching world.

I love sharing. Stories (sorry kids), knowledge, ideas, how-to’s. I think the more we all share, the easier life gets. I’ve learned so much from others who were kind enough to take a moment and pass along their wisdom. I hope, in some way, I’m able to pay it back or pay if forward 10x over.

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Jim Jordan
Jim Jordan

Jim Jordan is a Special Consultant for Walsworth Yearbooks and the host of the Yearbook Chat with Jim podcast. He is former yearbook adviser at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, California. Jim was the 1996 JEA Yearbook Adviser of the Year, and shares his expertise with students and advisers at workshops and conventions across the country. Jim is the lead mentor for Walsworth's Adviser Mentor Program.