Adviser Advice: Keep, Change, Stop

Four yearbook adviser s talk about what they would keep, change, and stop in their yearbook programs

If starting the year with a yearbook debrief wasn’t possible or 3rd period publications popped up on your schedule the day before school started, start here. Keep, change, stop is a conversation to have as a team. Thumb through the yearbook, project some spreads on the wall, and complete a matrix. What aspects of your program are proverbial home runs and should be keepers? What needs to be changed? (Remain proactive and brainstorm solutions.) What needs to be stopped? At TRL 23, we sat down with four advisers to learn their takes.

Watch the full interview on Treering’s Facebook page.

Katie Thomas, Elk Grove, CA

We first met Katie Thomas when she became the yearbook coordinator for her daughters’ K-8 school midway through the year. As the lone parent volunteer, she sold 60 yearbooks in a week and now oversees the middle school club.

For Thomas, cover contests are a keeper. She said each year the school has a theme and she loves how the yearbook club chooses to “intertwine” it with the theme they select.

Moving forward, she’s going to change up the interview process for students in favor of more journalistic writing. “We want to make sure that there are more voices heard,” she said. “This is a student-produced yearbook.” 

This year she stopped having multiple editors share a spread. “I learned the hard way,” she said about having students edit each other’s work without a formative peer editing process. 

Janet Yieh, San Francisco, CA

Like Thomas, Janet Yieh began as a parent volunteer. Now, she’s transitioned the club from an after school activity to a school day program with 19 middle schoolers. 

For the foreseeable future, Yieh will keep giving away yearbooks. Last year it was 100. “We are in San Francisco, and it’s an urban environment. We have many families who qualify for free and reduced lunch,” she said. To ensure all eighth graders leave with a yearbook, she adds a small fundraiser to the cost of each book and pushes Treering’s early discount. Since many families take advantage of the sale, Yieh “buys into every single fundraising dollar.” To distribute the books, she creates a contest to win a yearbook so no one is singled out.

She is going to change up the class structure by inviting more experts to share with the club and creating some lesson plans for her students. Last year Yieh piloted this idea with her boss who went to design school. This year, an English teacher will guest teach on writing. “I’m a mom. I’m not a teacher,” said Yieh. “I’m trying to personally create curriculum for them to follow each week.”

While Yieh’s students led the design concept, she’s stopping their theme-less tradition. “If we create a foundation, it will be much easier when it’s time to actually pop the photos into their pages.” 

Chris Frost, Hemet, CA

“I was a student editor on this exact book, which I’m super proud of,” Christ Frost said. Because he knows the value of ownership, he keeps the tradition of a student-led yearbook program. “Our students decide everything. They pick our theme. They pick and design our layouts by hand because they like to struggle and fight with what a design should look like.” He and co-adviser Billy Valenzuela advise by keeping students on track towards their deadline.

The big change is how Frost’s students will increase representation in their yearbook. Historically, the team at West Valley High covers 80% of students beyond their school photo. That’s not enough. In repose, they created a B.O.L.O. (be on the lookout) wall with “ASB’s Most Wanted” using their coverage tracker. “It’s also going to help us see who are those people that are hiding in the shadows that are in that background,” Frost said.

“This is their memory. This is their keepsake. This is a historical document. This is something that 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, they’re gonna pull out and show family and there’s nothing worse than opening that book up and your kid going, but where are you?”

Chris Frost

He stopped the way students received page assignments: instead of individual assignments, they are now in teams. Each team of five, led by one editor, works on five spreads at a time. Frost said, “They can delegate amongst each other… so it gives kind of a broader range on the pages.”

Beth Stacy, Huber Heights, OH

As a class adviser, Beth Stacy knows how much work her students do to identify each featured person in a photo, write body copy and captions, and place it beautifully in an effectively designed layout

Without hesitation, she would keep grading spreads. “Every grade or every spread is graded on pass/fail,” Stacy said. The end goal of having all spreads submitted to Stacy print-ready means students are in control of their grades. 

Stacy said, “Probably 95 to 98% of our book is taken by one parent who has kids in a bunch of activities, one teacher who is an amateur photographer, and then our professional photographer.” The yearbook culture change is student photography. She’s motivated by the fresh energy the younger team in her class brings. 

Stopping the blend of chronological and traditional coverage is top of her list. After trying it for their 75th anniversary book, she said, “It got messy and didn’t work very well.” Focusing on the traditional sections such as people, student life, and sports will help returning students train new ones and also balance the load for the few dedicated computers they share. 

For more from these advisers, including their tips for getting started, favorite Treering hack, and application processes, watch the full video on Facebook.

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