Yearbook Hero Lauren Casteen Focuses on Equity

Yearbook hero lauren casteen

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

Yearbook Hero Lauren Casteen decided in kindergarten if she were a teacher, she could go to school every day. Her passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion transformed her approach to teaching yearbook class: instead of recruiting the top 20 students to create a book about their friends, she built a team that reflects the students whose stories they tell. In 2022, Lauren earned an M.Ed. in Urban Education with a certificate in Anti-Racism. Her pedagogical approach is to lead the yearbook class as a public history course where the goal is to accurately and thoughtfully record the history of Northern High School

Why should someone buy a yearbook in 2022?

As a historian, I like knowing that there is an artifact. Our yearbook students are telling future generations, “We were here!” It is something future scholars will study. Furthermore, our yearbook students have written and published something. It matters.

So much of our memory-keeping has become digital. I have 500 pictures on my Instagram, but it doesn’t compare to having something to physically go through. Digital doesn’t create a reverence for your memories. 

As a first-year adviser, Lauren sold prior years’ yearbooks from the “yearbook closet” for $20 to purchase cameras, staff t-shirts, and yearbooks for students.

How do you address issues of equity with the yearbook?

When I inherited the yearbook program, it required a written application with teacher references. It limited the type of students who could apply. Now, any student can sign up regardless of grade or ability level. I run a discipline report prior to scheduling anyone in my class and have one-off conversations with students [e.g. history of truancy] as needed.

With yearbook, there are many places where different kinds of students can be successful, and I want a committed staff that is representative of the student body. We are a majority non-white, Title 1, semi-urban school. Students of all educational abilities and language backgrounds roam the halls. The yearbook class should reflect that. 

The graphics editor who created this divider found short-form writing for yearbook helps with English; his ESL teacher recommended him. The previous lengthy written application would have acted as a barrier to his inclusion on staff.

And you sold out three times.

Yes! I had to do a second order and had to open up sales to with the ship-to-home option

What made the Knights want the yearbook?

The yearbook staff evaluated last year’s yearbook: we found out it covered mainly the juniors and seniors. It was also very white, when the school is very diverse. We resolved to make it look like our school. 

As a school that is committed to equity, we can’t do that if we don’t know who is in the book. Since the yearbook is a historical document in the most faithful way possible, our team tagged and tracked coverage. And since my staff cannot be everywhere all the time, it is important for other people to send us things.

When the lacrosse team played out of town, they submitted photos of their match to the Polaris team.

How did you crowdsource content?

I started with the teachers. I recorded a tutorial and emailed it, asking them to send us photos for the yearbook. The chorus and outdoor ed faculty were early adopters. I even taught the lacrosse team how to share photos via the app when they were headed to Wilmington for a game.

On our yearbook Instagram, we post sneak peeks. Someone commented that the outdoor ed page looked good. We responded, giving credit to the teacher. This created a buzz and now some teachers have a student classroom photographer to put ownership and responsibility on the kids. It also makes them want to join the yearbook staff.

Students like that the app talks to their Instagram; teachers like that it connects to their Drive.

What does the fall look like for the team at Northern?

I have 70 students signed up for the yearbook class for the 2022-23 school year. We are excited about this year’s book, as it will be the last book we’ll produce in our current building—we’re moving to a new home next year!

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