Yearbook Chat with Jim Interviews JEA Rising Stars
Written by Sarah Scott
Walsworth is proud to work with so many talented, dedicated yearbook advisers. It makes us especially happy when they receive recognition from other organizations. This year, six of our yearbook advisers were named JEA Rising Stars. Jim Jordan, host of Yearbook Chat with Jim and the 1996 JEA Yearbook Adviser of the Year, interviewed each of them about their yearbook journey.
The interviews can be found on the Walsworth Yearbooks Podcast Network in two episodes, “Rising Stars Part 1: Leigh Rogers, Angie Wolfe and Dan Sidwell” and “Rising Stars Part 2: Vanessa Martinez, Samantha Lasarow and Bridgette Norris.” Find them on our website or wherever you get your podcasts.
Leigh Rogers, Hermann High School, Hermann, Missouri
Rogers is advising her sixth yearbook in 2020. She took one year of yearbook while attending high school in Fulton, Missouri, but really fell in love with journalism when she joined her college publications department at William Woods University. Inspired by teachers who made a difference in her life, she decided to follow in their footsteps for her careers.
“I want to be what all of these people have been for me,” she told her mom.
Hermann, Missouri, is a small, rural community. When she joined the school as yearbook adviser, the program was $6,000 in debt. Under Rogers’ guidance, her staff kicked up marketing and ad sales. They now operate in the black.
“Our book is pretty small,” Rogers explained. “It’s funny, because we always look at these huge books for our examples, and my kids ask why we can’t do that. And I’m like, ‘Because we can’t afford this, guys. They have 6,000 kids at their high school!’”
The size of their book creates challenges for Rogers and her staff, like making sure each student at their school has at least three meaningful appearances in the book.
Rogers is a person who strives for continual growth and improvement, which she credits for her desire to return to yearbook every school year. Her advice to new advisers struggling to find their feet: find people you can ask for help and build your community.
“Two of the biggest assets you have, especially being a client with Walsworth, is your yearbook rep and your local professional organizations,” she shared. She has mentors through the Missouri Interscholastic Press Association and JEA.
Angie Wolfe, Burke High School, Omaha, Nebraska
Wolfe was part of her high school’s journalism program in Topeka, Kansas, but struggled her senior year. She missed some deadlines and wasn’t setting a good example in her leadership role as an editor, so the adviser removed her from the staff.
“That’s something that really stuck with me, about holding people accountable,” Wolfe said. “You have to follow through on what you say you’ll do, and time management and stuff like that. Journalism’s been teaching me lots of lessons my whole life, pretty much.”
Now advising her fifth yearbook, she understands when kids have to pare down the number of activities they’re involved in. Sometimes that’s yearbook, sometimes her students have to cut something else to make room for yearbook.
She was terrified to do a yearbook her first year, but eventually found success. She sets high expectations, and her students have learned how to meet them. Wolfe’s been able to grow the yearbook staff at Burke from 17 students to about 30.
She recommended new advisers have patience during these tough deadline months.
“Don’t judge yearbook on December through February. Those are really bad months to judge how the yearbook is going,” she said. Wolfe also suggested finding people who will help. “Don’t put yourself on an island.”
Dan Sidwell, Freedom High School, Tampa, Florida
Sidwell has been the yearbook adviser at Freedom High School for five years. He took a roundabout path to where he is today. He graduated with a communications degree, but didn’t pursue journalism. He worked for a feed store, then at a machine shop and metal foundry. His wife taught at Freedom and encouraged him to apply.
In his second year, the principal approached Sidwell about becoming the school’s journalism adviser.
“The first year was interesting. I inherited a really good staff,” he said. “I just kind of sat back and let them roll, which was good. It was helpful.”
His district’s journalism day was especially helpful because Sidwell was able to meet fellow journalism advisers at other schools in his district. That’s where he met Joe Humphries, from Hillsbourogh, who he reached out to with questions.
“He could always give me a good, experienced response,” said Sidwell. “You need that, I feel like, teaching journalism. Even now, there’s 130-ish teachers at Freedom and nobody else is teaching journalism.”
The journalism teachers in his district are in frequent contact. It’s not unusual to send an email to every journalism adviser in the district and receive a response within minutes. He appreciates his community and his proud of the kids in the program he’s helped build.
Vanessa Martinez, El Dorado High School, El Paso, Texas
Martinez became a yearbook adviser after working as a journalist.
“I’ve always been someone who loves school and enjoyed learning,” she said. However, learning to teach took some trial and error, but she worked to figure out how to teach and do work. She knows the value of a checklist and a grading rubric.
Martinez worked hard to become CTE certified. Career and Technical Education programs emphasize the real-world skills students learn in class. Having this certification opened up additional funding options and has allowed Martinez to purchase new equipment for her staff, which serves double-duty as a recruiting tool.
“A lot of times when we have our recruitment fairs, or when we go and speak to eighth grade classes, we will take out the big guns. Bring our 70 to 200 millimeters, bring our fancy fisheye lenses, let’s bring out the nice cameras,” Martinez shared. The prospect of working with professional-level equipment, including their new Mac lab, helps draw and retain students.
She welcomes any journalism teachers pursuing the same path to reach out to her at email@example.com.
She gushed about the journalism community in El Paso.
“I think El Paso is really special because the journalism teachers in this community are so close. We’re helpful to each other; we’re legitimate friends,” she said. “We actually make it a point in our yearbook community to meet, usually around the holidays and to meet at the end of the year to celebrate each other.”
Samantha Lasarow, El Camino Real Charter School, Woodland Hills, California
Lasarow was planning to go to medical school and become a doctor when she became a yearbook adviser instead. After graduating from Stanford University with, she found a job working in a lab. Her goal was to become a doctor. When she became a TA, she realized that she liked teaching.
“It was kind of an eye-opener for me, in terms of where my interests really were,” Lasarow said. She realized she wanted to teach, and specifically was interested in teaching newspaper. She got her teaching credential in one year and joined her school as the yearbook adviser.
“I completely fell in love with yearbook. I’m so glad that’s what I got,” she said. She built a strong yearbook community in her first year of advising, which helped her grow and develop the skill set she needed.
She was honored to be named a JEA Rising Star.
“When educators can get any sort of recognition, I think that’s so important. And I wish that we could have more opportunities for more of our amazing educators and advisors to have the recognition that they’ve been working hard, and that they’re working hard for their students,” Lasarow said. “Having that opportunity to be recognized means a lot to me, but I also think it’s really wonderful that they were able to recognize so many of us this cycle.”
Bridgette Norris, Boone High School, Orlando, Florida
Norris took over the Boone yearbook program from Renee Burke when she was freshly graduated. In her three years as an adviser, she said one of her favorite moments was watching an editor win Florida Journalist of the Year.
“We seriously fell to the ground and were so excited,” Norris said. The editor worked hard for the honor, and was able to use the resume boost to get a paid internship.
Norris admitted that yearbook is hard work, but said that distribution day keeps her coming back every year. Being named a JEA Rising Star provided a boost of confidence.
“It’s nice to have someone or an organization be like ‘I think you’re on the right track, doing what you’re doing.’ It’s really encouraging,” she said.