IJEA Blog: Becoming a CJE is well worth the effort

A decade ago, Trudy Hurd put in the hard work to pass JEA's Certified Journalism Educator exam. In this latest entry in the IJEA Blog, the now-retired yearbook adviser explains why being a CJE has meant so much to her — and why all advisers should embark on the journey to becoming certified.

October 10, 2016

As I read back over my journal entries about when I was preparing for JEA’s Certified Journalism Educator examination a decade ago, my entries remind me of how nervous I was.

I took the test in Ntrudy-photoashville during the 2006 Fall National Convention. I had been working on the study guide questions from the JEA site for the last couple of months. I was grateful for them.

Also, I reviewed my notes from the Eastern Illinois University classes I had taken from Prof. James Tidwell: Advising High School Yearbooks and Advising High School Publications.

As I was preparing for the test, I especially studied the legal cases and vocabulary. I had only worked on yearbooks, so my overall journalism knowledge was limited.

Why did I do it? Why did I spend time studying for an exam that I wasn’t required to take, for a credential I wasn’t required to have?

I think I wanted some proof for myself that I was qualified to be a yearbook adviser.

Most yearbook advisers are also English teachers or business teachers. I was neither. I was and remained until my recent retirement a special education teacher.

In the end I passed the exam and proudly became a Certified Journalism Educator.

So what advice do I have for succeeding on the CJE exam? Be brave. Take a friend if you have to. And prepare answers to the study guide questions provided on the JEA site. Then relax. I prayed to be able to think clearly.

I had no idea what to expect when I went in to take the test. I was challenged and excited at the same time.

I looked around at the board room with the oversized table. Ladies and gentlemen began to wander in slowly. A few nods now and then, strangers whom I will never meet again. Questions left unanswered: “Who are they?” “Where are they from?” “Are they smarter than me?”

The pitfalls are, of course, fear, doubt and nervousness. These are natural feelings because preparing for the exam is a lonesome adventure — a feeling compounded by the isolation so many journalism educators experience in their daily professional lives. I taught at Cisne High School in Southern Illinois. Because most of the high schools in that part of the state are small, there is usually only one journalism adviser in the district. Discussion and collaboration are nonexistent.

Being a yearbook adviser challenged me. Yet I was not satisfied with my leadership skills or the quality of the book. I wanted to do better. The bottom line is that I wanted to do a great job. That led me to attending journalism conventions and, eventually, to taking the CJE exam.

What I found at the conventions were other advisers to talk to, to listen to, to find solutions with. This opened up a whole new world to me. I had been a yearbook adviser for nine years, and I had rarely talked with other advisers. These people actually wanted to talk about yearbooks and the challenges of being an adviser. I felt like I had been let out of prison. I was not alone.

Another benefit to all the work I put into becoming a Certified Journalism Educator was that my school administration noticed that the yearbook was improving drastically. Yet, they were minimally aware of JEA or the certification process.

Ever since I became a CJE, I have proudly put that designation by my name. I have done so not simply because I passed an exam, but because I believe I genuinely became an expert in a specialized field.

While most of my knowledge was learned from the many battles on the yearbook frontlines, these three letters indicate to other advisers that I am someone who understands what they are experiencing.

I invite you to embark on the same journey of certification I did. You won’t regret it.

Trudy Hurd recently retired after a distinguished career as yearbook adviser and special education teacher at Cisne High School. She is a member of the IJEA Board of Directors.

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