Editor’s note: Martha Rockwell, a Journalism Education Association mentor in North Carolina, shared this story of Leah Baisden, who is one of her mentees. Baisden is the newspaper adviser at South Iredell High School in Troutman, N.C.

by Martha Rockwell
North Carolina mentor

Last year as I sat in Leah Baisden’s classroom for the end of the year party, the class of eight students bickered about each other; they even bickered about the newspaper. The year ended with hopes for a better year the next year. Something was missing from the party.

South Wind newspaper staff members with adviser Leah Baisden (on right) celebrate the end of a successful year with a pizza lunch. They discussed their accomplishments from this year as well as plans for next year. Photo by Martha Rothwell

This year, however, the end of the year party was a celebration. The staff laughed as they told wonderful stories of their journalism experience. The atmosphere in the room reflected pride in a job well done. The smiles they shared with each other and with Leah said more than any statistic or award. The staff was experiencing on of the greatest joys of journalism, the sense of being part of a valuable team.

One student shared that a reader said to her that the SouthWind actually “looks like a newspaper now.” The students and faculty are now recognizing the SouthWind as a reputable publication.

As they recounted the production of the newspaper over the last year, they all agreed that each issue improved on the last. The emphasis on detail made the difference.

Another staff member who was in his first year of public school thanked the class for making his transition from home school a positive move. He has proven to be among the strongest writers in the group and plans to continue in the field of journalism.

Leah Baisden

The graduating editor announced that she has been accepted to be on the 2011-12 newspaper staff at her college. She was so excited. The journalism class helped her to find her career path as it also made her feel good about herself as a leader.

Leah has knit the staff into a committed team. The positive reinforcement she gave each student at the celebration reflected the relationship she has created with each of them. She said, “This has been the best year ever in my ten years of teaching.” Leah now finds the journalism class to be the highlight of her day.

The end-of-the-year celebration closed with tears and laughter.

Editor’s note: Mentoring Monday is a feature on the JEA Mentoring blog. We  feature photos and short stories about the JEA mentors, their mentees and the high school journalism students. Please send your photos, captions and stories to 2jdodd (at) gmail (dot) com.