With my focus on Leah
Reason to retire: Leah Arenz.
Reason not to retire: Leah Arenz.
The 2012-2013 school year was a personal struggle. Many teachers in my school resigned. I qualified, and I spent part of the year weighing the pros and cons – particularly with the financial incentive. Those who retired that year received $100 for every sick day they hadn’t used. For me it meant more than $20,000.
This year the school district cut that incentive in half.
But my heart was not in leaving last year, and I wasn’t sure it would feel like leaving for quite some time.
But then I thought about Leah and I wondered if I shouldn’t go so she could have a better journalism experience with a more technology-savvy teacher. The realization was frightening, to be sure, but it weighed heavily on my mind.
I’d been teaching journalism and advising the student newspaper at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis since the fall of 1989, when I left a daily newspaper to return to teaching. The Cub Reporter had built a solid reputation in those 24 years, witnessed by a host of honors – Hoosier Stars, National Scholastic Press Association Pacemakers, Quill and Scroll Gallups, Columbia Scholastic Press Association Crowns, ….
All based on the print edition.
LC, an urban minority high school of 2,500 students in Indianapolis’ northeast corner, loved its Cub Reporter. Almost every Friday I’d hear, “Is the Cub coming out today?” The speakers meant the print edition. LC was definitely not ready to abolish that print commitment, but we were well into the 21st Century and … well … technology was calling me to up my game.
Which brought me back to Leah.
Leah was a sophomore – not only intelligent but also inquisitive, energetic, talented, dependable, ethical and always wanting to learn more. Many times that year she spearheaded efforts to create an effective, up-to-the-minute online version of our paper.
She was not successful. And I knew I needed help in learning how to help her, along with the rest of the staff. I did not want to give the Cub Reporter to a more technology-savvy teacher. I wanted to become that teacher.
So I asked ASNE/Reynolds for help.
Last June I spent two phenomenal weeks at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in Phoenix. I applied to be in the program because I wanted to provide more tech-savvy opportunities to my student journalists. I had no idea I’d come away with so many ideas to make so much of my teaching and advising better.
It was an intense two weeks with plenty of homework under the pressure of deadlines. We were led by a Cronkite School professor who is a former Associated Press editor, along with his assistant, the 2006 Dow Jones News Fund National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year. We also were addressed by guest speakers from the Cronkite School and from the American Society of News Editors, First Amendment Center, Student Press Law Center, Society of American Business Editors and Writers, Arizona Republic and Arizona Daily Star.
Even though most people would call me a seasoned journalism teacher, there were firsts for me that included taking and editing video, and blogging. But I learned a great deal about many print improvements, too, from typography to design to an expanded number of story angles.
Most exciting, however, was the encouragement I felt to accompany the training I had. Being there for an extended period of time, with no school or home distractions, was a remarkable gift. Even more so was the new-found courage to leap into technology, first with my fellow advisers at ASU and then with my students at LC.
In the fall the Cub Reporter jumped headlong into the use of social media, regularly tweeting breaking news as well as sports game coverage, and posting photos via Instagram and flickr. We scooped the professional media with news that the school superintendent would retire early and that LC’s quarterback was out for the season with a foot injury. We were the ones to make public the names of our football homecoming court. And then, when a new superintendent was chosen, we were ahead of the professionals again in posting the news.
It is so much fun! And I thank ASNE/Reynolds daily for helping make it happen.