Yearbook Advisers of Note: Meet Leland Mallett
Written by Jim Jordan
When his dream of building a waterbed didn’t come true, Leland Mallett, CJE, turned to scholastic journalism. It was a fortunate turn of events, and eventually led to a powerhouse scholastic journalism program at Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas.
Mallett has advised The Arena yearbook since its inception when the school was founded in 2007. The book has won numerous awards, and Mallett was named a JEA Distinguished Yearbook Adviser in 2017.
Mallett was also featured on episode six of Yearbook Chat with Jim podcast. You can find the episode at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts.
Legacy High School, Mansfield, Texas
Number of students in your school: 2,100
Size of Your Book: 9
Number of Pages in Your Book in 2018: 320
Number Sold in 2018: 1,000
Number of Books Advised at Legacy: 11
Number of books advised at other schools: 7
Other Classes Taught: Newspaper, photo, journalism I.
College Attended: Lubbock Christian University
High School Attended: Artesia, New Mexico
Did you do journalism in high school?
I was a newspaper editor and yearbook staffer.
How did you first get involved with publications?
The adventure started when I was in seventh grade and didn’t get into woodworking. (I really wanted to build a waterbed.) Because the instructor knew me and knew I couldn’t be trusted around power tools, my counselor filled my schedule with another class, newspaper. When I saw the boxy little Macintosh, it was love at first sight. I was at the right place, at exactly the right time when three technologies came together: the Macintosh computer and LaserWriter printer and Aldus’ page makeup program PageMaker. I continued with newspaper in high school and opted to take yearbook over Physics my senior year.
Were you involved in journalism in college?
After graduation, I attended college as a communications major. Because of my high school journalism experience, I was recruited to work on the college yearbook – on a nice scholarship. I realized how much I enjoyed the process: planning, gathering, organizing, writing and bringing it together in a book. I knew I wanted to continue working in journalism and sharing the love of the story-telling process with students. I changed my major to education with an emphasis in communications and journalism.
What was another benefit you got from doing yearbook in college?
During this time, in addition to becoming increasingly involved with the first iMac, I fell in love with a beautiful girl who happened to work on the yearbook staff during her four years of high school. Because she worked with a journalism legend in Hooker, Oklahoma, we shared an interest in yearbook. I got my first job in Big Spring, Texas.
What were the challenges of those first years advising in west Texas?
I began teaching in Big Spring, Texas, a small rural community in west Texas, replacing a retired adviser. As a first-year teacher, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited to move into my classroom. However, the only thing welcoming me in the desk drawer was a Sam’s Club-size bottle of Tums. I asked my wife to talk me into another career if it ever got that bad.
Unfortunately, the two of us struggled to build a journalism program because of unsupportive administrators, lack of funds and low expectations. We didn’t fit in with a school and community that were ok with being just ok. After seven years, I took on a new challenge and started the journalism program at a new school in Mansfield, Texas where I have been ever since. After 28 years, I’m glad the woodworking teacher didn’t want me around power tools. (But I still want a waterbed.)
What was it like opening a new school in Mansfield, Texas?
I thought it’d be fun to start at a new school. I quickly learned that “fun” actually meant “a lot of work.” A first-time principal and a new school in Mansfield, Texas offered me a chance to start traditions, name a yearbook and build a journalism program. It was like my first year teaching again. Fortunately, I began with talented students from other district high schools. The fresh start paid off when the second volume of the Legacy yearbook won a CSPA Crown and was a NSPA Pacemaker finalist. It was the first national award for me and for Legacy.
What have you enjoyed most about advising a yearbook?
The relationships with students and keeping in touch with them after leaving the high school journalism room.
What has been the most difficult part of advising for you?
What advice would you give to a first-year adviser?
Survive three years. Pick one thing to improve on each year. Don’t conquer everything in one year.
What made you want to come back for year two?
To get better. And it was fun.
What keeps you coming back each year?
The students. Their excitement. Laughing with them. Traveling with them.
What goals have you set personally and for your program?
Teach skills that every student will use in life after yearbook or newspaper – even if they aren’t in a journalism profession. And to teach them to think for themselves and be creative.
Tell a story about a moment in your career as adviser that you will never forget.
The trips! There are so many great and funny stories when you travel with students. I love taking students to places they’ve never been before and enjoy the thrill of traveling through their eyes.