Brenda Field receives 2017 James A. Tidwell Award for Excellence in Scholastic Media Education

Glenbrook South High School yearbook adviser and state director for the IJEA encourages advisers to “Fly the J” as a reference to her beloved Cubs and scholastic press freedom in Illinois


Brenda Field, Glenbrook South High School yearbook adviser and state director for the Illinois JEA, presents a “Fly the J” rally towel to each adviser at the IHSA State Journalism competition at Eastern Illinois University. Field’s allegory on the improbable 2016 win for the Cubs was linked with the passage of New Voices legislation in Illinois, for which she thanked and encouraged advisers.

Glenbrook South High School yearbook adviser and Illinois JEA State Director Brenda Field couldn’t help but reference the Chicago Cubs as she accepted the 2017 James A. Tidwell Award for Excellence in Scholastic Media Education. Part of her allusion was to honor the team’s World Series run, which, according to Field, was just as electrifying and improbable as the 2016 passage of the Speech Rights of Student Journalists law in Illinois.

However, it was the nascent moments of that New Voices legislation that most intertwined with the narrative of the Cubs, as Field related a hurried phone conversation in late July with Stan Zoller, IJEA board member and her partner in spearheading the passage of the bill.

“Stan, hi, it’s Brenda. Can you believe it? I’m so excited that I don’t know what to say!”

“I know! They’re winning by 12!”


“The Cubs! Aren’t you talking about the Cubs?”

“No! Didn’t you see? Rauner signed the bill!”

On July 29, Illinois became a New Voices state, and later that year, the Cubs were World Series Champions. For Field, these two moments made 2016 one to remember.

In Field, the judge wrote that the “IJEA honors an educator whose influence beyond her classroom has expanded exponentially over the past academic year with her vital role in the successful advocacy for New Voices legislation, the new Illinois high school press rights law.”

However, it wasn’t only for her tireless work on scholastic media legislation that Field received the Tidwell Award. Her work as adviser of the award-winning Glenbrook South High School yearbook played a large role as well.

It was during the hundreds of hours she and Zoller collaborated on strategies, met with lawmakers, and traveled to the state capitol, that Field continued to concentrate on her role as yearbook adviser for a perennial Pacemaker book, full of end sheets, covers, theme development and colophons.

Her friends, colleagues and students said she is deserving as an honoree because The Etruscan, “has become synonymous with excellence,” as according to one colleague, “the book they produce each year exceeds standards in concept, coverage, writing, design and photography and is a national trendsetter others only attempt to imitate.”

Beyond the actual publication, a colleague from the Journalism Education Association spoke about Field’s ability to empower students by providing “an atmosphere in which students learn and grow every day as they take complete ownership for their publication.”

A former Etruscan editor’s words support that: “Mrs. Field inspires me because she took a program that produced a basic log of the year and made it into one that tells the stories of the year.” Field, she said, is the “Etruscan’s greatest asset.”

But, in the end, Field returned to the Cubs, as she admonished her fellow advisers to “keep fighting the good fight” — providing them with a tangible way to remember with “Fly the J” rally towels for each adviser.