It’ll be something students can hold in their hands.

An actual newspaper.

With paper and ink.

No scrolling involved.

“It’s going to be so exciting to hand them out and be like, ‘We did this,’” Upperman High School’s Stephanie Maxwell said.

The senior student-journalist isn’t alone in her excitement.

Teacher Renee Craig said she’s thrilled that Upperman will soon be printing its own newspaper.

“I get goosebumps thinking about it,” she said.

While Upperman had an online newspaper last year, it’s been several years since students have had printed copies to keep.

“Online versions are good, but just seeing it in print makes a big difference,” Craig said.

“I think there are kids in this school who have never held a newspaper in their hands. They’re so used to looking at everything on social media. So this is a way to get them looking at something in print instead of on Facebook or Twitter.”

That in itself — Facebook verses Twitter — is a topic Maxwell hopes to address in a future story in the school paper, which is expected to print four times a year around the end of each nine-week grading period.

“I feel like that’s a debate in our school,” she said. “It’s pretty close — like, half and half.”

Other issues await.

“I feel like we don’t know what goes on in the school,” Maxwell said. “The students are clueless, and the newspaper will give us more insight. I’m anxious to get our first paper out there and see if people like it.”

It’s the kind of enthusiasm Joy McCaleb — Upperman’s new Journalism in Education Association mentor — likes to hear.

“I think every high school should have a newspaper,” she said. “It’s a voice for the school.”

McCaleb said she’s anxious to get started in her new role. At this time, she’s the only Journalism In Education mentor in Tennessee.

“I am available this school year to assist any new journalism advisor in establishing professional goals and developing a working knowledge of state journalism standards,” she said.

“I hope to be an advocate for journalism teachers but also be a voice of the press to our young future journalists. I want to demonstrate freedom of press as well as responsible journalism and the real world of publishing.”

Right now, McCaleb is working with Upperman High School and Centennial High School in Williamson County.

“I will visit several times a year and be available to assist with layout, stories, advertising and more,” she said.

Craig said she welcomes McCaleb’s guidance and is eager to develop a top-notch, award-winning newspaper with her students.

“I’m just thrilled to death,” she said. “We have a great principal this year, Billy Stepp, who really wants us to bring the community and school closer together. I think the newspaper is a great way to do that.”

Craig has already been talking to her students about the five W’s of journalism — the questions of who, what, when, where and why — as well as the difference between fact and opinion.

This week, she’ll be assigning editorial roles and beats — that is, particular coverage areas students will focus on — and working with them to come up with a name for their paper. They’ll also be going over design concepts, advertising and the art of writing ledes — journalism jargon for the introductory part of a story that is intended to entice readers to keep reading.

“I think once we get the newspaper going, it’ll bring back some school spirit and get kids more excited and proud to be an Upperman Bee,” Craig said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”

McCaleb couldn’t be more pleased to be part of the process; after all, for her, the job is like coming home.

“I was the newspaper, literary magazine and broadcast news advisor at Upperman for more than 20 years,” she said. “I also taught English, speech and theater.”

She caught the journalism bug as a high school student in Kentucky and even wrote a column for her local newspaper. She went on to work with the Herald-Citizen for nearly 10 years before going into teaching.

“My life has come full circle,” she said.

Her excitement continues to grow.

“Even though these kids may not go into the journalism field, they are learning to interview and work together as a team, which are all essential skills in life.”


Reprinted with permission from the Herald-Citizen newspaper from Cookeville, Tenn.