Columbia Scholastic Press Association
Phone: (212) 854-9400
CSPA is affiliated with the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in the City of New York.
The road to advising
I recently received a letter from Gainesville, Florida. It was from Danielle Ellis, a junior at the University of Florida:
“I hope you won’t be disappointed in me,” she began, ”I’ve decided to become an English teacher instead of a journalist.”
Disappointed? I was delighted and hopeful she would eventually put her journalism skills to work and sign on as a publication adviser.
Administrators cajole, flatter, promise the latest in technology and often offer extra pay to entice new teachers to take on publications. They also recognize that teachers who bring journalism experience to the classroom are their best publication advisers.
During my first year of teaching, when I took over as adviser, my principal promised me I could use the mimeograph machine to duplicate the newspaper any time I wanted.
I was thrilled, thinking I had a special place of importance. Ellis is now yearbook adviser at the same school and her students get the latest in computer technology.
Now in her eighth year, Ellis says she never regretted her decision.
“For me, it’s something new everyday and a break in my regular routine. I love the classroom,” said Ellis.
Advising is rewarding no matter to what generation an adviser belongs. The excitement is contagious as we watch students tell compelling stories about their schools through words and pictures.
“Advising keeps me young," says veteran Judy Cowan. “Some students have that special spark and writing and journalism empowers them. And seeing that is very satisfying.”
Lizette Boateng, now a yearbook adviser herself, credits Cowan with changing her life.
“Our school in Homestead, Florida has kids in the lower socio-economic areas. Mrs. Cowan encouraged us to apply to college and she gave me the faith to believe in myself,” says Boateng. ”I do what Mrs. Cowan did for me. I tell my students: it’s not where you come from, but what you do with it.”
These advisers agree that publications do more for students than most classes. Publication courses teach responsibility and develop trust between students and advisers. Young journalists learn the value of teamwork, working under stress, meeting deadlines and using computers.
Boateng admits she faces challenges from colleagues and administrators.
“I tell my staff that the yearbook is a powerful tool. We may be criticized, but we are making history. People who have lost their yearbooks are always calling our office asking for copies,” she says.
For Jodi Tobin, covering controversial issues in the newsroom at Miami Palmetto Senior High School in Miami carried over when she became the yearbook adviser at Southridge High School, also in Miami.
“I was hesitant when the principal asked me. But I loved it and I changed things—the yearbook became a truly student-run publication.” Tobin said, “We covered everything from gay rights to teen pregnancy.”
Prevents layout breakage if no content
CSPA is an international student press association, founded in 1925, whose goal is to unite student journalists and faculty advisers at schools and colleges through educational conferences, idea exchanges, textbooks, critiques and award programs.