Illinois JEA

IJEA James A. Tidwell Award

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Honoring Great Journalism Educators

Online Nomination Form

March 15 Submission Deadline


Before 2014, IJEA’s highest honor for journalism teachers and advisers was known as the Illinois Scholastic Journalism Educator of the Year Award. It was renamed in memory of Prof. James A. Tidwell, longtime Eastern Illinois University journalism professor, media law expert, attorney and IJEA co-founder, who died April 12, 2014, at age 65 after battling pancreatic cancer. The full name is the IJEA James A. Tidwell Award for Excellence in Scholastic Media Education.

Tidwell was a friend and adviser to IJEA members for more than a quarter century. An Oklahoma native, he joined the journalism faculty at Eastern Illinois University in 1987 and helped found IJEA in 1988. He served as IJEA’s executive director until 2005, when he became chair of the EIU journalism department.

During his varied and accomplished career, Tidwell was a newspaper reporter and editor, a licensed attorney, an expert in media law and the First Amendment, a book author, a professor, and a tireless advocate for student press freedom and excellence in scholastic journalism.

In selecting the annual award winner, IJEA seeks to honor a single outstanding high school media educator who has done exemplary work during this and the previous academic year.

In making its selection, the committee considers the following:

• Minimum of three years of advising experience, including this academic year.
• Candidate’s resume.
• Candidate’s response to five questions.
• Samples of student work advised by the candidate during this and/or the previous academic year.

The recipient is honored during the Illinois High School Association journalism tournament state series. The award includes an honorarium in memory of Diana Peckham, IJEA co-founder and past president.

Annual Deadline: March 15

The James A. Tidwell Award is given annually at the Advisers Breakfast at the IHSA journalism state finals in the spring. The winner is asked to give an acceptance speech, which is recorded and uploaded to IJEA’s YouTube channel.

How to Nominate a Candidate

You may nominate a candidate by using our online nomination form below. Please note that we no longer use PDF forms for award nominations.

Online Form

Click here to access the online nomination form for this award.

James A. Tidwell Award Winners


Dennis Brown, newspaper & digital news adviser, Huntley High School (Huntley, McHenry County)
Biographical information to be posted
NOTE: Watch Dennis’ acceptance speech here.


Rodney Lowe, former newspaper adviser, Evanston Township High School (Evanston, Cook County)
 Adviser at Evanston Township High School for 31 years
Career total of 36 years of advising
Evanstonian was selected as one of 50 best papers in the nation by the National Scholastic Press Association in 2008 and 2012
• NOTE: Watch Rodney’s acceptance speech here.


Brenda Field, yearbook adviser, Glenbrook South High School (Glenview, Cook County)
 Adviser at Glenbrook South High School
• State Director for Illinois with the Journalism Education Association
• Leader for Speech Rights of Student Journalists law, passed in Illinois in July 2016
• Master Journalism Educator (certified by national JEA)
• NOTE: Watch Brenda’s acceptance speech here.


Cathy Wall, newspaper adviser, Harrisburg High School (Harrisburg, Saline County)
• Longtime adviser at Harrisburg High School
• Champion for Speech Rights of Student Journalists law, passed in Illinois in July 2016
• Master Journalism Educator (certified by national JEA)
• Longtime IJEA Board member
• Director of the Southern Illinois Press Association
• NOTE: Watch Cathy’s acceptance speech here.


Janet Levin, newspaper adviser, John Hersey High School (Arlington Heights, Cook County)
• Longtime adviser at John Hersey High School
• Champion of student editorial freedom and empowerment
• Master Journalism Educator (certified by national JEA)
• 2009 JEA Medal of Merit recipient
• 2009 JEA Teacher Inspiration Award recipient
• NOTE: Watch Janet’s acceptance speech here.


Mike Doyle, newspaper and yearbook adviser, North Belvidere High School (Belvidere, Boone County)
• Longtime adviser at Belivdere High School and Belvidere North High School
• Champion of student editorial freedom and empowerment
• IJEA board officer
• Longtime professional journalist
• Kettle Moraine Press Association Hall of Fame inductee
• Certified Journalism Educator (certified by national JEA)
• 2014 JEA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient
NOTE: Watch Mike’s acceptance speech here.

Illinois Scholastic Journalism Educator of the Year


Laurie Bielong, newspaper adviser at Belleville West High School (Belleville, St. Clair County)
• Longtime adviser, Belleville West High School
• Champion of student editorial freedom and empowerment
• IJEA board member
• Southern Illinois School Press Association executive director
• Illinois High School Association Journalism Advisory Committee member
NOTE: Watch Laurie’s acceptance speech here.


Official site: Illinois Journalism Education Association, 900 Community Drive, Springfield, IL 62703
IJEA James A. Tidwell Award