Blog | A Closer Look: Alex Selarque

June 13, 2016

A Closer Look: Alex Selarque

We work with many incredible yearbook advisors to create award winning yearbooks. It is through these relationships that we continue to learn and grow together.

Alex Selarque from Punahou School in Hawaii is one of our most decorated advisors. His books have won countless awards including many from the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA), and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA). Punahou and Friesens also share three Certificates of Merit and one Award of Recognition from the Printing Industries of America (PIA).

We asked Alex to answer the following questions regarding his most recent award-winning book:

What was your favourite part about working on this book?
On this particular book, we had many seniors who had been on staff since their freshman or sophomore year. It was special to see them mature and refine their skills that culminated in their final high school yearbook.

What was the most challenging aspect of working on this book?
Every year, one of the greatest challenges as an advisor is to get students that are independently competitive in their academic classes to work and think collaboratively as a team in an extra-curricular setting.

In what ways did you see yourself and the students grow while working on this book?
Every year, growth ideally happens on many levels that include technical skills, communication, time management, collaboration, and creativity. And every year, the students producing the book are different and bring different assets and liabilities dynamically to the team. Many years the process and results will start off well, but fall apart as the grind and stress of the magnitude of production demands. Last year’s growth was that the reverse happened where the process became more efficient and rewarding in time.

What was one thing that became a routine while working on this book?
Our greatest routine is a habit of method where all aspects of the book from art & design, copy, and photography, are proofed, refined, and improved by multiple talents and minds. Friesens not only has their preflight software, but has been instrumental in helping us develop our own individualized proofing flow chart that is a significant part of our routine to eliminate errors and improve on what may be acceptable, but is only mediocre.

What piece of advice would you give to a new advisor if they seek to build an award winning yearbook program?
Know that an award-winning program does not happen in one or two years. A good advisor must first be organized, communicate well, and have the respect of the editors and all that entails. The editors must believe and know that it is their yearbook, but that the advisor will expect them to meet a high standard. Like a good coach, the advisor needs to manage the individuals so they work best as a team, but once they are in production, to let go and allow them to succeed or make mistakes, as long as they learn and improve from their initial blunders. We do not submit our yearbook to win awards although they do help to motivate and set our standards higher. We submit our yearbook to national associations for the critiques, and use most of that feedback to make improvements every year.

How do you and your team stay motivated?
Because our yearbook is an extra-curricular activity, to me as an educator, it reflects a perfect environment for student learning. No grades; completely voluntary so participants are self-motivated. Product-project based learning; what they are doing is not theoretical but will be manifested in a document that every student (at our school) will receive and keep for many years, if not a lifetime. Ethics & responsibility; the challenge of creating a factual historical document that is accurate but captivating to a target teen audience.

What is one key thing you have learned as a yearbook advisor?
There are no perfect yearbook editors or staffs, school photographers, or publishers; the technology is flawed; no one outside of the process can comprehend the effort and complexity of the process. Given this, I have learned that instead of seeing it as stress and a burden, that it is a challenge that changes every year. Although no editor, photographer, advisor, or publisher is perfect, the best are humble enough to recognize their shortcomings, and with a constructive and positive attitude, never cease to give effort in improving.