IJEA Blog: Reflections on winning the James A. Tidwell Award

The IJEA's annual James A. Tidwell Award recognizes our state's top journalism educators. With the March 1 deadline for 2017 nominations quickly approaching, we asked a recent Tidwell honoree, Mike Doyle, to discuss what winning the award has meant to him. "It means that every day I know I made a difference in the lives of so many students and that I was able to teach the values of fairness, ethics and integrity to so many of them," he writes.

February 21, 2017

It’s easy to remember the highest achieving students from my 15 years of experience as a scholastic journalism teacher.

For example, of the three top newspaper and yearbook editors who graduated in 2013, one is the news editor at the DePaulia newspaper at DePaul University, another will graduate from Harvard College in May, and the third graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater a year early and now works in public relations and has taken a leadership role in promoting business and entrepreneurship opportunities for women.

Then there are those who sat at the back of the class, students whose names you barely recall. Recently, I appeared on a local morning TV news program to promote my newest book, “The 1967 Belvidere Tornado,” which will be published by The History Press in March. The segment was posted to Facebook, and I heard from friends, relatives and many students, including kind remarks from those who seemingly just passed through my class.

And then there was this one:

“(I) don’t know if you remember me or not, because I was only in Intro to Journalism my senior year, but the one class I had with you left lifelong enjoyable memories from me. Thank you for letting me explore my creative side. I share the memories of that class with my wife from time to time.”

Receiving the IJEA James A. Tidwell Award for Excellence in Scholastic Media Education means that my years in classrooms — beginning when I made appearances while a local newspaper writer and continuing when I taught journalism and advised the student newspaper at Rock Valley College — were rewarding and impactful to so many students. It means that every day I know I made a difference in the lives of so many students and that I was able to teach the values of fairness, ethics and integrity to so many of them.  

I always told my students that whether or not they pursued journalism as a career, they would be able to use what they learned in my classroom in all aspects of their lives: writing skills, research methods, and fair and critical thinking that allowed them to look at both sides of an issue.

Recognizing that, and with my other accomplishments, the Illinois Journalism Education Association awarded me the Tidwell Award in 2014. Reading that young man’s comments and others I received make me more grateful today for the award than I had ever been.

It also means that I can be as proud of all the stars that passed through my classroom because they all burn bright.

Mike Doyle retired from Belvidere North High School in 2014. He is a JEA Certified Journalism Educator, a former IJEA board member, a National Board Certified Teacher and the 2014 recipient of the James Tidwell Illinois Journalism Educator of the Year Award.

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