November 29, 2018 / Podcasts

Yearbook Chat with Jim: Crystal Kazmierski

Written by Sarah Scott

Despite being turned away from her high school yearbook staff, Crystal Kazmierski went on to become a legendary yearbook adviser. In her 24 years advising the Wings yearbook at Arrowhead Christian Academy in Redlands, California, Kazmierski and her staff amassed 22 Pacemakers, one Pacemaker finalist, 19 CSPA Gold Crowns and 5 CSPA Silver Crowns.

In the latest episode of Yearbook Chat with Jim, host Jim Jordan discusses her career and the strong program she built from the ground up. You can listen at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts.

Her start in publications

Kazmierski didn’t get involved in publications until college, and even that wasn’t very journalistic. After graduation, she worked with the organization Campus Crusade for Christ. When the group found out she drew, Kazmierski was recruited onto their publications team. That led to a job as a commercial artist at a design house.

The skills she learned – along with her theater background – led to her first teaching position. It was in that role that Kazmierski created her first yearbook… sort of.

“[It]was really more of just a teacher putting together a memory book, so I don’t think of that as a yearbook by any means,” said Kazmierski.

Despite the limitations, Kazmierski managed to learn about the possibilities. A little blue book called Yearbook Fundamentals opened the eyes of Kazmierski and her staff.

Coming to Arrowhead Christian

After taking a few years off from teaching to raise her child, Kazmierski was eager to get back to teaching high school. Her old school no longer existed, but she found Arrowhead Christian Academy and was hired as an English teacher, then moved on to teaching yearbook and theater.

Kazmierski came to Arrowhead in the early days of desktop publishing, which she had to learn before teaching her students.

Kazmierski established a strong, renowned yearbook program. She made her yearbook room a place where students wanted to be, which allowed her staff to create groundbreaking yearbooks.

Storytelling

One of the hallmarks of Wings is strong storytelling and writing. Kazmierski credits her students who “wrote from their heads and their hearts.” She admits this is something that can’t really be taught. Instead, she found the students who had that skill – whether it was inherent or something they’d picked up from previous staffs.

“I wish I could teach that. I try,” she said. “I know how to recognize it and I know how to guide it. Once I’ve seen it written, I can tell a kid how to fix it and improve it. But to have that in you, it’s just something that’s there.”

Over the years, Kazmierski’s books showcased all kinds of stories, from heartfelt and gut-wrenching to silly.

Retirement

After 24 years advising Wings, Kazmierski retired after the 2017 school year. However, she’s still involved in publications at Arrowhead Christian Academy. She hasn’t left the yearbook world. Kazmierski still teaches at yearbook workshops. She tapped a former student, Michael Klein, to take over as the Wings yearbook adviser. She gives advice when needed, but has mostly kept her distance to allow him to shape the program his way.

You can hear from Klein about taking over a well-established program in Yearbook Chat with Jim season one, episode six, “Taking Over an Established Program.”

Listen In

Jordan’s interview with Kazmierski is now available at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts and on all the major listening platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Stitcher.

Please send any questions, comments or feedback to podcasts@walsworth.com, or rate and review within the app you use!

Sarah Scott
Sarah Scott

Sarah Scott is a content writer for Walsworth, specializing in blog posts, eBooks and case studies for the web. She’s been writing most of her life, and previously worked as a radio journalist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.