Story of Becoming a CJE: Southern Illinois yearbook adviser tells others to ‘be brave’

Trudy Hurd, far left, is recognized with one of her Cisne High School students who was made a member of the All-State Journalism Team, along with Sarah Doerner, IJEA president. Hurd became a Certified Journalism Educator in 2007.

Trudy Hurd, far left, is recognized with one of her Cisne High School students who was made a member of the All-State Journalism Team, along with Sarah Doerner, IJEA president. Hurd became a Certified Journalism Educator in 2007.

Trudy Hurd, CJE, Cisne High School yearbook adviser

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As I read back over my journal entries about when I was preparing for the CJE examination five years ago, my entries reminded me of how nervous I was.  I took the test in Nashville during a fall National Convention.  I had been working on the study guide questions from the NSPA/JEA site for the last couple of months. I was grateful for them. Also, I reviewed my notes from Dr. Tidwell’s classes: Advising HS Yearbooks and Advising HS Publications. I especially studied the legal cases and vocabulary. I had only worked on yearbooks, so my overall journalism knowledge was limited.

Why did I do it?  I think I wanted some proof for myself that I was qualified to be  a yearbook adviser. Most yearbook advisers are also English teachers or business teachers.  I was neither.  I was and still am a special education teacher.

My advice to succeed is to be brave.  Take a friend if you have to.  And prepare answers to the study guide questions provided on the JEA site. Then relax.  I prayed to be able to think clearly.

I had no idea what to expect when I went it to take the test.  I was challenged and excited at the same time. I looked around at the board room with the oversized table.  Ladies and gentlemen began to wander in slowly.  A few nods now and then, strangers whom I will never meet again. Questions left unanswered, “Who are they? Where are they from?” “Are they smarter than me?”

The pitfalls are of course fear, doubt and nervousness. These are natural feelings mostly because it is a lonesome adventure. Because most of the high schools in southern Illinois are small, there is usually only one journalism adviser in the district. Discussion and collaboration are nonexistent.

Being a yearbook adviser challenged me. Yet I was not satisfied with my leadership skills or the quality of the book. I wanted to do better. The bottom line is that I wanted to do a great job.

What I found at the conventions were other advisers to talk to, to listen to, to find solutions with. This opened up a whole new world to me. I had been a yearbook adviser for nine years and I had rarely talked with other advisers. These people actually wanted to talk about yearbooks and the challenges of being an adviser.  I felt like I had been let out of prison. I was not alone.

My school administration has noticed that the yearbook has improved drastically in the past five years. Yet, they are minimally aware of JEA or the certification process.

I proudly put the CJE designation by my name not so much because I passed the exam, but that inwardly I feel I am an expert in a specialized field. While most of my knowledge was learned from the many battles on the yearbook frontlines, these three letters indicate to other advisers that I am someone who understands what they are experiencing.

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