INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana High School Press Association has named Heather Klopfenstein, Lawrence North High School student media adviser and journalism educator, the 2020 winner of the Ella Sengenberger Award.
IHSPA annually recognizes an adviser who has made outstanding contributions to scholastic journalism both in their own classroom and across the state. The award honors the memory of Ella Sengenberger, a nationally recognized adviser at Indianapolis Arsenal Technical High School and one of IHSPA’s founding members. Therefore, each recipient must possess the qualities of an outstanding secondary educator and exhibit commitment, leadership and sound ethical practices while supporting their students and community.
Klopfenstein has shown such exemplary dedication and guidance to student journalists throughout her career, and her compassion has made those who have entered her classroom immediately feel at home.
“When I walked into Heather Klopfenstein’s room 141 at Lawrence North High School for the first time, I didn’t know it was going to change my life,” said Jared Rigdon, former North Star editor-in-chief. “Not only did I fall in love with the art of journalism, but I found a lifelong mentor, friend and supporter in Mrs. Klopfenstein.”
Rigdon, who is currently studying journalism and history at Indiana University in Bloomington, said in his recommendation letter that Klopfenstein is an educator who is a guiding force both in and out of the classroom.
“Mrs. Klopfenstein became like a second mother to me. She was always there to make sure I attended class or drove my sisters home,” he said. “But what makes her the best adviser in the state isn’t the comments on our rough drafts or the firm reminders to attend English class. It was her heart.”
Lawrence North yearbook adviser Sarah Jamerson has witnessed this extraordinary effort as Klopfenstein’s student teacher and now as her peer. Jamerson described her fellow journalism educator as someone who truly wants what is best for every student she teaches.
“She genuinely cares for her students and constantly demands their best work while guiding them through every step of the process,” Jamerson said. “She is always willing to put in the extra hours to help her students achieve that very goal.”
And it’s not just students who have excelled from Klopfenstein’s presence. Jamerson said she too has benefitted from her colleague’s compassion and expertise.
“Lately, I have been worried about this year and how can I ever make a maternity leave work with all the new schedules and policies my staff deals with because of COVID-19 and still ensure my kids are able to produce a quality yearbook,” Jamerson said. “When I have expressed these worries, Heather is the first to jump in and say, ‘I’ve got you.'”
“Even now, when I consider myself a veteran teacher, I find Heather is still the best resource I have.”
Current North Star Editor-in-Chief Natalie Rowland echoed the admiration for her newspaper adviser’s leadership and integrity, and she said her four years with Klopfenstein can be described with one word – joy.
“She is constantly spreading this joy toward those around her,” Rowland said. “Her little dances and jokes, fun activities and crazy songs never fail to make me smile. Her joy is what makes Newspaper so fun, and it helps keep the staff motivated even when things get difficult.”
Rowland said her adviser’s passion for journalism has inspired the students of Lawrence North to continue producing important content for their community and themselves. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unforeseen obstacles in that mission, Klopfenstein has ensured the journalists at her school continue to have a voice.
“(Klopfenstein) has helped reimagine our class to engage those students that are all virtual and allow them to still participate in creating content for our publication, so they can experience the joy of journalism,” Rowland said. “She truly believes that journalism is an important aspect of society, and she wants to make sure it remains that way.”
PORTIONS OF RECOMMENDATION LETTERS
FOR HEATHER KLOPFENSTEIN:
Sarah Jamerson, Lawrence North High School yearbook adviser and journalism teacher
“Heather is the type of teacher/adviser any student would be lucky to have. She is constantly coming up with innovative ideas for how we can improve our curriculum and teach our journalism students. She is always willing to lend a helping hand whether it is to brainstorm new ideas or fix existing problems, she is always trying to help both her staff and mine be the best they can be.”
Jared Rigdon, 2017-2018 North Star editor-in-chief
“When I needed her most, she was there to talk with me about life. She never questioned why I was there at 7:30 in the morning or 5:30 at night. Even when I just needed someone to keep me company when I was most alone, she was there. It didn’t matter if she spoke to me about life or kept silent, being in her presence meant my day was already ten times better. For that, I owe her everything in the world.”
Natalie Rowland, 2020-2021 North Star editor-in-chief
“One of the things I admire most about Mrs. K is her desire to uphold journalistic integrity. She encourages us to write about pieces that we find important and things we are passionate about, even if it is a subject that can cause conflict. She teaches us to write unbiased pieces and to tell the full story. She teaches us to seek out people and their stories because ‘everyone has a story to tell, you just have to look for it.’ Most importantly, she is willing to fight for her students even if it negatively impacts her. She will challenge people when they have negative comments about our publication and will combat conflict so that her students can continue to publish things they are passionate about.”
Sam Hanley, Southport High School yearbook adviser and English department co-chair
“Her caring attitude and superior knowledge of the subject make her an outstanding teacher and role model with students at all levels of ability. She is especially diligent in developing leaders within her program, so that they will not only effectively lead the journalism staff, but also inspire students building-wide through their writing and their actions. As with any teacher, the most important measure of their success is the continuing accomplishments of former students. Heather’s former students have gone on to careers in design, sports broadcasting, photography and writing. Her students have written for the Indiana Daily Student and designed the front page of the Wall Street Journal. In short, her contributions to the state of journalism are significant.”