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Yearbook Hero Dr. John Finley Builds a Legacy

Yearbook Hero Dr. John Finley

TreeRing Yearbook Heroes is a monthly feature focusing on yearbook adviser tips and tricks.

Schools like Kate D Smith DAR High School of Grant, AL, build momentum by gathering motivated teachers and students to gather photos, draft content, and design spreads. Dr. John Finley is a business teacher for grades 9-12 at Kate D Smith DAR High School and also spearheads the creation of the yearbook with the assistance of his students. With his background in videography and photography, he inherited the role of yearbook sponsor and this is his second year leading the development of student journalists.

What’s unique about John’s role within yearbook is that he really lets the students run with creativity and he owns his role of adviser. This allows the students to take near-complete ownership of the book, learn how to utilize the TreeRing app, and motivates them to be confident in their abilities in the classroom.

John and part of his yearbook team were excited to share how they plan to develop the yearbook this year, which will include KDS DAR School’s 2021 Dedication Day, which occurs every October.

What’s something unique about the school’s yearbook team?

Last year, we started a mentoring program where the seniors who have experience with yearbook get to share their knowledge with junior and sophomore students. We realized that the students who were involved with yearbook were primarily juniors, so when they eventually graduated, we didn’t have students on board who could guide the underclassmen.

So now, all seniors and juniors involved with yearbook choose one younger student to teach everything they know about yearbook. And then when the seniors graduate, the younger students are prepared to take the reins. A lot of the “yearbook” training actually takes place at events when students are taking photos for the yearbook. It’s a great hands-on opportunity for upperclassmen to show and explain their process for securing content for the yearbook.

Senior Alex Aultam helps Kyliegh Owens and Talan Gurley with live sports photography by standing on the sidelines with them, detailing settings, and troubleshooting.

What stands out to you from last year’s book, which was created during the pandemic?

What stood out to me the most was the theme, A Year Like No Other. This really rang true to everyone at school be it teachers, students or administrative staff. The yearbook team took the approach that they were writing the first history book of the pandemic for our entire community. The book was dedicated to the memory of those we lost and the families that were affected.

What was nice about using the TreeRing app, especially during this time, was that it gave us the ability to share photos right into the folder in an easy way. Because we weren’t able to be together in person, we were able to get a variety of photos from at-home learning. We’re currently back in the classroom this year, but a lot of lessons were learned last year—some heartbreaking—that were beautifully expressed in the book.

What’s something unique your school adds to the yearbook?

Dedication Day is a two-day event set to take place October 21-22 that only takes place in our community and is something we always take time to cover in the yearbook because of how much it means to all of us at the school. This will be the 97th year the school celebrates the patriotic education made possible by the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR). During the Dedication Day celebration, DAR chapters from across the U.S. travel to Grant, AL, and pledge funds for school projects.

In the yearbook this year, for example, we’ll capture photos of the two-day event highlighting student musical performances, speakers and the overall history of the DAR and how they began their mission in 1922 to build schools in remote areas of the U.S. KDS DAR School, which sits atop Gunter Mountain in Grant, was selected based on the will and dedication of the Daughters of the Revolution to give the people in this area a path to education.

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