IJEA Blog: Don’t stay on your island alone — help us get ready for JEA/NSPA Chicago ’18

Hall of Famer Brenda Field is the local chair for the JEA/NSPA's 2018 Fall Convention. It's not too late to get involved, she says — and your efforts will pay dividends throughout your career.

October 24, 2017

No man is an island, but it can often feel that way as a publications adviser.

If we’re lucky, someone else in our school gets it. Maybe it’s someone who advises another publication, or it’s an administrator who’s observed our classes.

Many of us, however, aren’t quite so lucky. The schedule, the challenges, the victories, the classroom dynamics — the differences between a publications environment and a typical classroom — can make advising feel isolating.

It can take courage to seek out resources, but I promise it’s worth it. There’s a community out there who gets what you do.

Those of us involved in the scholastic journalism community each have a story — stories of someone who reached out to build a bridge.

My bridge-builder was Susan Hathaway Tantillo.

I met Susan in 2004 when I volunteered to serve on the local committee for the 2005 JEA/NSPA convention. I’d attended a national convention every year since I began advising in 1996, but I hadn’t yet found a way to get more involved in scholastic journalism organizations. I needed a push.

That push came in the form of a letter from Susan — the local chair — inviting me to serve on the 2005 committee. It’s odd, but I distinctly remember receiving that letter. It was friendly and encouraging, thoughtful and supportive. In hindsight, I realize it represented everything that Susan is.

Joining the 2005 committee marked the beginning of my involvement beyond the journalism classroom. I nervously found myself in charge of local exhibitors for the convention trade show. The profits from these exhibitors would go directly to our local organization.

Although we hadn’t known each other long, Susan trusted me to solicit these vendors. Now that I understand more fully how the local organization benefits financially from conventions, I appreciate that trust even more. Susan never doubted me. And even after the convention was over, her unwavering support continued: She sent a letter to my principal informing him of what she saw as integral work on the committee.

GETTING READY FOR CHICAGO ’18: The Chicago local committee for the 2018 JEA/NSPA Fall Convention met on Oct. 15 with JEA and NSPA officials to go over convention responsibilities.


It all began with that letter. Since joining the 2005 committee, I’ve joined the board of the Northern Illinois School Press Association and the Illinois Journalism Education Association board of directors. I’ve also become a regular presenter at JEA/NSPA conventions.

Through these experiences, I’ve met friends and colleagues who have challenged me to be a better adviser, and who have become part of a support network I need when the going gets tough. They help remind me that I’m not alone, and they help me keep improving.

I now find myself in the position Susan Hathaway Tantillo was in 2004. I’m the local chair for the Chicago 2018 convention.
I’m excited by the possibilities, and I’m hopeful Chicago 2018 represents the kind of opportunity Chicago 2005 was for me.

We’ve assembled a local team, and we’ve had our first meeting, but it’s not too late join our effort. What you put in now will pay dividends throughout your career. No matter your experience level, you have something to contribute.

Consider this my letter to you. Don’t stay on your island alone.


Brenda Field, MJE, advises the national award-winning Etruscan yearbook at Glenbrook South High School. She is the Journalism Education Association’s Illinois state director.

NOTE: The Chicago ’18 convention logo displayed on our home page was designed by Sophia Di Iorio, graphics and in-depth editor of the Omega newspaper at Downers Grove North High School.

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    Susan Hathaway TantilloOct 25, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Thank you, Brenda, for such kind words. Looking back, I never regretted one moment — well, maybe one — of getting involved in scholastic journalism beyond my classroom. Your committee is filled with amazing advisers, and I hope this blog post yields even more. The idiom “Many hands make light work” definitely applies to managing a national convention from the local angle. Wishing you all the best convention experience yet!