by Linda Barrington
Mentoring Committee, Wisconsin mentor
Three JEA mentees shared their experiences of working with their retired-teacher JEA mentors with an audience of new teachers who attended their session the JEA/NSPA convention in San Francisco in April. The mentees were quite convincing about the value of participating in the JEA Mentoring Program. Every one of the attendees signed up to request being selected to have a JEA mentor of their own.
Each of the three mentees had very different experiences with their mentors.
Rachel Rauch is a newspaper and yearbook adviser at Homestead High School in Mequon, Wis. I have been her mentor for two years now and am very proud to see how she has improved and expanded her journalism programs. When she started as the newspaper adviser last year, she was astounded to learn that none of the students knew how to do layout or use InDesign or Photoshop. The printer used to layout the pages for them.
Rachel explained how I came in to teach them the basics and get them started. In less than two months they were doing all their own layout and design and had published their first issue all on their own. By the end of the year, they had won $1,000 for first place in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest for High Schools. Rachel didn’t know at the time of this presentation, but just three hours later, her staff won 7th place Best of Show at the convention. She is so proud of her students.
Jane Brewer at Fort Atkinson High School in Wisconsin has just six students on her staff. They produce the yearbook and every month they also do an issue of the newspaper. Her mentor is Dave Wallner.
“We struggle with content — how to cover good news stories and save my job,” Jane said.
That’s what Dave helps her with. She shared the story of how one of the Fort Atkinson High School students was accused of rape, and the city newspaper ran a front-page story that included the accused student’s photo. Jane’s students ran a story in the school newspaper criticizing the irresponsible reporting of the city newspaper. It turned out that the girl dropped the charges against accused student.
“He [Dave] saves me a ton of time,” Jane said. “I only have to go to one resource.”
That is one of the beauties of the JEA Mentor Program. Each mentor tailors the mentoring experience to each mentee because different new advisers need different things and different amounts of assistance.
Tricia Constantino advises the newspaper at Galena High School in Reno, Nev. Her mentor is Bill Flechtner, who lives in Milwaukie, Ore. They are doing long-distance mentoring because there are no JEA mentors in Nevada. Tricia said she loves working with Bill.
“I have been able to email Bill with many questions, and Bill responds to my emails, detailing best practices and encouraging me to keep going,” Tricia said. “I put all of Bill’s emails in a folder on my computer. This way, I can re-read what he wrote multiple times. Bill’s at my fingertips. He helps me anticipate things I hadn’t thought about.”
Her class also Skyped with Bill. “That was great,” Tricia said, “because he was able to give the entire class a critique of our paper and to offer suggestions for class organization, such as submitting story ideas.”
As the session ended, one of the advisers attending the session said, “You’ve completely made my day. This is the best thing I’ve learned at this convention.”