JEA names Field as 2017 Yearbook Adviser of the Year

“With Brenda, it’s always about the kids.” ~ Mitch Eden, MJE, of Kirkwood (Missouri) High School


Brenda Field, MJE, is celebrated by her yearbook staff after receiving the news that she was named the 2017 JEA Yearbook Adviser of the Year. (Photo by Kelly Glasscock)

The article originally appeared on the Journalism Education Association website.

The Journalism Education Association has selected Brenda Field, MJE, of Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois, as its 2017 H.L. Hall National Yearbook Adviser of the Year.

Field, who has been advising yearbook staffs for 21 years, was pursuing a future in broadcast journalism at the University of Iowa when she decided teaching and advising was the career path for her.

Field’s contributions to journalism and yearbook, though, go far beyond the classroom. She has served 10 years as yearbook contest coordinator for the Northern Illinois Scholastic Press Association, she JEA’s Illinois state director, she has been on the board of directors for Illinois JEA for the past six years, and she is the local chair for the 2018 JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention in Chicago.

“I’ve learned so much from other advisers over the years so I’ve tried to give back to scholastic journalism in as many ways as I can,” Field said. “One of my most meaningful experiences serving scholastic journalism was in 2016. With the support from the SPLC (Student Press Law Center), Stan Zoller, former JEA director at large, and I led the IJEA arm of the legislative effort that returned Illinois to the Tinker standard.”

The program Field has developed over the years has gained many accolades, and her yearbook staffs have become well known by their consistent high achievements. They have earned NSPA Pacemakers, CSPA Gold and Silver Crowns, and numerous individual student awards, and much of that she attributes to the way her program is run.

“Journalism programs, in general, are models of 21st century learning. There are few places in a school that provide opportunities to learn collaboration, creativity, problem solving, civic and information literacy skills in the way that publications courses do,” she said.

Field’s three yearbook classes are designed to do all those things in a student-led environment, something she believes is not unique to her program, but essential to all journalism students having the best opportunities.

However, Field knows that those opportunities don’t always exist due to limited budgets, administrator perspectives or state laws, which is why she continues to fight for strong scholastic journalism programs outside of her own school.

“The New Voices movement is gaining momentum, and we need to keep working. We need to help lawmakers and administrators see that scholastic journalism is participatory civics,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether our students pursue careers in journalism; students who learn to use their voices in high school become civically engaged adults.”

The work she has done in Illinois and for scholastic journalism in general hasn’t gone unnoticed, and her nominators know it goes back to one consistent element: her passion for helping the students.

“With Brenda, it’s always about the kids,” said Mitch Eden, MJE, of Kirkwood (Missouri) High School. “Brenda simply creates an environment where students are given every opportunity to express themselves, to lead their community, and to feel comfortable and supported, no matter how tough the coverage may be or how sensitive the issue.”

The National High School Yearbook Adviser of the Year program is designed to honor outstanding high school advisers and their exemplary work from the previous year, as well as throughout their careers.

The program, named for H.L. Hall, a JEA past president and the first National Yearbook Adviser of the Year, is underwritten by Balfour Yearbooks, Herff Jones Inc., Jostens Printing and Publishing and Walsworth Yearbooks.

The honorees will be formally recognized April 14 at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in San Francisco.

Accolades for Field from an Adviser Colleague

Thrilled to see Brenda get this award; no one deserves it more. The more years I do this, the more I come to appreciate advisers who are what I call “rock stars,” the elite advisers who turn out amazing publications year after year, have strong, consistent programs, and really make a difference in the lives of their students.

That’s Brenda Field, no doubt about it. When I advised yearbook, I would see her books year after year and ask myself “How does she do this?” I just knew as an adviser she was on a different planet than a mere mortal like me.

In addition, Brenda spends her free time working to improve journalism throughout the state of Illinois. As a member of the Northern Illinois School Press Association board, she’s run our yearbook contest for years. As state director of the IJEA, Brenda runs a tight ship, overseeing activities throughout the year including our fall conference, yearbook and newspaper contests, and the Illinois Journalist of the Year/all-state journalism team awards.

On Saturday, I attended the latest meeting of the CHICAGO FALL 2018 JEA/NSPA High School Journalism Convention Planning Committee Meeting…Brenda‘s in charge of that too.

Because she doesn’t do enough, you know?

On top of that Brenda, along with Stan Zoller, led the effort to get Illinois’ New Voices legislation passed in 2016, guaranteeing free speech rights to journalism students throughout the state. The hours of time she and Stan spent getting that done…amazing.

And she does all of this while being the nicest, most unassuming person I know. Some advisers with this resume could have a bit of an ego, but not Brenda…she’ll help you when you need it, listen when you need to talk, whatever, Brenda is just THERE, you know?

A sincere congratulations to Illinois’ “Rock Star” adviser; no one, and I mean NO ONE, deserves it more.

Dennis Brown
Journalism Adviser, Huntley HS