May 13, 2015
We work with many incredible yearbook advisors to create award-winning books. It is through these relationships that we continue to learn and grow together.
One of these incredible advisors is Chris Dorey at St. Paul Catholic High School in Ottawa,ON. His yearbook teams have won numerous awards for innovative designs and themes, including the American Scholastic Press Association (ASPA) and the Canadian Yearbook Review (CYR) awards.
We asked Chris to answer the following questions regarding his most recent award-winning book:
What was your favorite part about working on this book?
My favorite part of working on this book, like many of the yearbooks that I have worked on in my 25 years of advising, are the students involved in the process itself. Their unique personalities and perspectives are what influence any one theme or idea and its their originality and creativity that dictates the final outcome, be it a failure or a success.
What was the most challenging aspect of working on this book?
Organizing and delegating is the most challenging aspect of producing this book. Photography in particular becomes an issue at our school because we start classes early and finish the day early. This causes problems because most sports don’t start until 4 pm and we are done at 2:05 pm. Asking students to stay after school for up to 3 hours becomes a hassle as many seniors have to work to afford to go to Colleges and Universities while still completing their home work. Our only solution was to find student photographers who live close by, who can come back, and who aren’t working on game day. This year we only had one photographer who fit that description and they couldn’t of course go to every game which impacted the quality of our sports pages.
In what ways did you see yourself and the students grow while working on this book?
Many of my students became better group leaders when they were assigned to be in charge of a particular area of the book. While dealing with other staff members assigned to work with them they became more aware of the importance of the chain of command. The process for page submission was to: complete the page and have it checked by another student in their section, followed by a section editor review with corrections, and then it was finally submitted to an editor for proofing. The next stop was for an English teacher to check for grammar and spelling, and then finally myself as advisor for the final design check and any last minute polishing before it was uploaded. This process helped eliminate errors and created greater freedom so that I could deal with problems that arose.
What was one thing that became a routine while working on this book?
Theme maintenance. It was important to make sure that every student was tying their pages into the main theme without losing creativity or becoming repetitive.
What piece of advice would you give to a new advisor if they seek to build an award winning yearbook program?
Put a real effort into creating a page ladder and posting the books progress on a class-by-class basis. Deadlines should also be emphasized on the ladder and praise students who meet their deadlines (set your deadline at least a week before the actual deadline). Students who consistently meet their deadline while also creating interesting, creative, and effective pages should be promoted to leadership positions (such as group leaders) and be recommended as ‘go to’ students for page layout consultations and reviews by other students within your yearbook group. This is to be considered as directed praise and points out effective students within a work environment and helps eliminate charges of favoritism as your statement is based on work done.
How do you and your team stay motivated?
Once you have built your program up you will find that motivation becomes easy. In our school we have past awards prominently displayed in the school hallways. We also have photographs of the last 20 years of editors posted along with the awards. Within our school it has become an honor to be posted on that wall and a direct challenge for each staff to compete with past awards. We have 20 years of awards and each editor(s) takes it as a challenge to continue the tradition. The biggest challenge for a new advisor is to always show the students that creating a good yearbook is important to them; this should rub off on the students in time. Speak to any other staff member who diminishes the importance of yearbook. They probably don’t understand how many different courses within your school are necessary to creating an effective yearbook staff member. English for all written aspects of the yearbook, Art for creativity and graphic design, Photography as it is a photo journalistic endeavor, Marketing and Math for advertisements and marketing your book, and communication and broadcasting courses, to name a few.
What is one key thing you have learned as a yearbook advisor?
Every book is different, every yearbook staff member is different, vary your approach with each staff, but do not change your priority which is to produce a book that students will enjoy for years to come.