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Teacher of the year

The deadline is fast approaching for the 2007 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year Awards program. Download a nomination form by clicking here. All nominations and materials must be postmarked by July 2, 2007.

The 2006 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year is Alan Weintraut of Annandale High School, Annandale, Virginia. Scroll down for excerpts of his acceptance remarks at the National Scholastic Press Association/Journalism Education Association Convention in Nashville, November 11, 2006.

About the National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year Program

The Newspaper Fund will select one dynamic, visionary and exemplary teacher as the 2007 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year. Could it be you?
Application Postmark Deadline: July 2.

Four Distinguished Advisers and several Special Recognition Advisers will be chosen based on their fine work during the current school year in this annual competition.

The winning teacher delivers keynote addresses to the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, American Society of Newspaper Editors, and college journalism educators.

The winning teacher will receive: a state-of-the art laptop computer, travel and lodging expenses, a per diem for substitute teacher fees and a stipend to write a quarterly column for the Fund's newsletter, Adviser Update.

A senior student at the winning teacher's school will receive a $1,000 college scholarship to major in news-editorial journalism based on his or her performance in a writing contest held at their school. A student of each of the Distinguished Advisers will receive a $500 college scholarship.

How to Apply
The purpose of the program is to identify outstanding high school journalism teachers with at least three years' experience who have done exemplary work in the 2006-2007 academic year. The nomination form is available by clicking here and in the Forms section of this site. You will need Acrobat Reader to download the form.

While others (including students) can nominate a teacher, the application form must be completed by the teacher. Teachers are asked to confine their responses to a total of five typed pages. No more than three letters of support may be submitted along with the application, in addition to an updated résumé, a 35mm headshot of the teacher and six copies of two editions of newspapers or newsmagazines or printouts of Web-only editions published during the current school year.

Application materials must be postmarked no later than July 2.

Selection Process
An advisory panel made up of a newspaper editor, the current Teacher of the Year, leaders of scholastic journalism organizations, the chair of the scholastic journalism division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the senior projects director for the American Society of Newspaper Editors and Fund staff confers to select the honored teachers. They weigh each teacher's service in journalism organizations, personal and publication awards, quality of their students and of the school newspaper or newsmagazine or online publication, their philosophy and approach to student press rights and ethics.

The teacher with the highest score is selected Teacher of the Year, the four teachers with the next highest scores are named Distinguished Advisers. Special Recognition Advisers are chosen for their good showing against the criteria.

All applicants are notified of their status in the competition in September.

Winning teachers are guests of the Fund at the Advisers' Luncheon at the JEA/NSPA convention each November. They also attend the AEJMC and ASNE conventions.

The Teacher of the Year program is co-sponsored by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and The Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition.

Journalism Teachers Rise to Challenges Beyond the Information Age

By Alan Weintraut

I recently had a discussion with a producer from the Discovery Channel who came to my classroom to talk about the future of journalism. We addressed several topics of concern. He asked me how I felt about the industry to which we are preparing our youth, especially it has had a broad dose of bad news in the last five to 10 years.

Newspapers around the country are either being bought up by corporate interests, or they are on the auction block to the highest bidder. The reasons chiefly being that their profit margins are only 20% and not 30% percent that Wall Street has grown accustomed to. Those of you from the Los Angeles area know this fact very well.

Layoffs in the corporate newsrooms today are common, and too often community newspapers reprint wire stories found in big cities far away. Readers are sometimes disenfranchised by the very product that is supposed to unite a community and help shape and define the local culture.

According to a recent Pew poll, today, only 40 percent of American adults say they read the newspaper yesterday, down from 71% in 1965. And a recent Carnegie study showed that teenagers barely read the newspaper at all.

Whether our students look to the Internet, print or broadcast or Podcasts, there aren’t many models for them to follow these days. The Jayson Blairs and Stephen Glasses and unconscious plagiarists in our profession have sullied a once proud and noble calling. The Cronkites, Murrows and Koppels have been replaced by the Coopers, Courics and other focus-group tested beauties.

Questions and calls about censorship to the Student Press Law Center have been on a steady incline, and in too many cases administrators feel our public relations function eclipses all other independent thought or creative expression students should possess.

This producer from the Discovery Channel had raised some important issues with me that day in my office.

There are three reasons we choose to rise to the challenges of our day.

First, we become the chief stakeholders in our school communities. If you have been a media adviser for just a few years, and you have built a successful program of telling stories that matter the most to your readers, viewers and listeners, you know how identifiable and important your programs become to your school culture. We can measure that in yearbook sales, newspaper subscriptions and Internet story hits, but the best way for us is to listen for the sounds of silence. For 15 minutes every three weeks when the newspaper is published and hits the hallways, kids and adults stop to read about the news that is closest to where they live. At end-of-the-year yearbook signing parties and magazine distributions, kids exchange fond promises of forever lasting friendships, and they linger for hours, earnestly scribbling words that we all periodically reflect upon years after we’ve left high school.

Second, no one in our schools recognizes the transformative quality of media and its impact on youth as well as we do. We tap the constructive potential of media and increase media literacy. We recognize that the “new media” is the only media that matters to teenagers.

The recent Carnegie report citing the youth abandonment of newspapers is not news to us. Clearly, teenagers do not rely on the morning paper on their doorstep or the nightly newscast for up-to-date information; in fact, they—as well as we—want their news on demand. We are the vanguards for implementing new technology in our schools.

Close to home back in Washington, D.C., when Virginia Senator George Allen called a Democratic volunteer of Indian descent a “macaca,” students viewed and reviewed that moment on YouTube. It is still one of the most watched clips today. Many credit that media moment for Allen’s loss for reelection. And when Steve Irwin, died in September, I first heard about it through a text message from a student.

Students want to be connected to the news that impacts their lives, but sometimes they need our help to be steered away from Sodoku and similar distractions.

We can handle the tsunami of new technology that comes out ever year. The advancements in just the last five years have revolutionized how we help students improve journalism and tell stories in their schools, and we have been first-hand participants in that process.

• the iPod just turned five years old, and many of us are already on the Podcasting bandwagon.
• Google did not exist as a noun until 1998, and then a verb just four years ago when AOL declared Google “the reigning champ of online search.” Our students’ reporting has never been so factually based as it is today.
• Myspace signs up 230,000 users on a typical day—roughly the population of Scottsdale. A year ago it passed Google, and now MySpace ranks second to Yahoo in page views, with one billion daily, according to Fortune magazine.

We help them derive meaning from their media-saturated world. They chronicle their lives with music, movies and photos of every achievement, and sometimes they want to put it up on the Web for immediate feedback, to re-resonate meaning.

Somewhere we all have a box of photos from high school or our youth that number no greater than 100 pictures, and that might reflect our entire life from infancy to 18 or 21.

When we take students to conventions today, and they have 300 pictures—just from the one trip—and they are up on Flicker, Web Shots or sometimes on their own self-created Web pages. I guarantee you there will be students at this convention today who will post photos and blogs before they ever get home.

Though technology has changed rapidly in recent years, one thing has stayed the same with teenagers that is on our side: they are still delightfully narcissistic. It’s still all about them. Like the person yelling from the mountaintop to see if their voice is heard, they want that media validation, or at least the resonance of their own echo. They stake their claim on their Myspace, Facebook, Friendster and YouTube to give themselves their own personal proclamation of identity.

Although we are not early adopters, and many of use cannot write HTML code, we have iPods, we provide wireless access and take-home laptops and Blackboard user groups to help them stay connected with each other. We provide them with the electronic umbilicals to the news world.

Third, we create converging communities that change the world.

By partnering with local professional media who come into the classroom, enlisting the support of the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation and the American Society of Newspaper Editors, we find new audiences and new technologically-based ways to circumvent censorship and use it to our advantage.

Our publications labs and newsrooms are an oasis for kids who get dragged down by the high pressure testing culture our schools have become.

All 50 states have standardized tests that are barriers to graduation. We reward kids for a sameness or oneness in thought. We want everyone to bubble in the right answer, and we reward convergence in thought. In journalism, we converge our media so we teach kids how to produce stories for the web, print, radio and broadcast, but we always inspire divergent paths of thinking in editorials, commentary and coverage decisions.

Our publications become magnets that draw students to a world where their geekiness has value, and sometimes it can be the students’ first opportunity to discover who they are. We are also inclusive of the broader world, and our nerd herds have kids from all faiths, all walks of life and all nationalities. Unlike other electives, publications staffs need all types of kids to be successful. Non-Caucasian students are coming into the fold more, and that one elusive minority demographic can be seen in greater numbers on yearbook staffs: guys.

In summary, to answer the concerns of the Discovery Channel producer, I told him that we aren’t trying to make every student into a journalist. But we keep kids engaged in the civic process, we bring them to real-world learning experiences, and they make publications and products that will stay with them forever.

I know, because 20 years ago, I was in that nerd herd, and I found a way to develop my talents. I was a newspaper geek in my formative years in the mid ’80s in Davenport, Iowa, under the tutelage of Steven Lyle at West High School, and then Dick Johns at the University of Iowa.

I forgot to tell you, the Discovery Channel producer came to my office that day, not because he was doing a piece on scholastic journalism, he came looking for a job. Approaching his mid-40s, he was looking for a soul-satisfying job, and I said, welcome to our world.

Considering all of the resources available to us and the potential for impact on the lives of young people, there has never been a better time to be a media adviser.

Mr. Weintraut's complete remarks appear in the Winter 2007 issue of Adviser Update in print and online. To subscribe, send your postal mailing address to newsfund@wsj.dowjones.com with "Adviser Update" in the subject line.

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