This content copyright © Indiana University School of Journalism 2013

Photo by Ben Wiggins

HSJI instructor Tony Willis, seated, and students listened as professor of practice Tom French talked about teaching narrative storytelling. Though experienced teachers, some HSJI attendees have little or no journalism background. 

High school teachers on campus this week are working much like their teenaged students as they attend classes, complete projects and meet deadlines.

But the five attending the 67th High School Journalism Institute’s teacher workshops say the purpose of these tasks is to learn new teaching strategies and apply them in their own classrooms.

“Overall, I’m hearing what I know in my bones to be true, that good journalism is telling stories,” said first-time attendee Amanda Van Mil of Little Miami High School near Cincinnati. “This experience draws on what I already know but brings new perspectives about applying that to journalism.”

This week’s session is J525 Methods of Teaching Journalistic Writing, for which teachers may earn master’s degree or certification credit. While they say they are well-versed in teaching writing skills, many of the teachers who come to HSJI have no journalism training.

“Many of us fell into our positions without education or experience in journalism,” Van Mil said during the group’s lunch break Wednesday in the Ernie Pyle Hall lounge. “These workshops draw on what we already know about teaching writing and good storytelling. For me, it has been good to have confirmation that what I believe about teaching writing skills is what others think, too.”

Michael Armbruster, newspaper adviser at Brebeuf Jesuit High School in Indianapolis, said his only journalism background before taking the advising job last year was regularly reading a newspaper. An English teacher with master’s degrees in Russian literature and English, he said he’s hoping to shape the newspaper into something “beyond a printed Facebook page.”

Photo by Ben Wiggins

Longtime high school teacher and adviser, Tony Willis is celebrating 30 years as an HSJI instructor.

“I want to teach students that journalism tells good stories,” he said. “In English classes, we write in an analytic way, but journalism uses more natural writing. I’m here to learn ways to convey that type of writing to students and to help them interact with their readers.”

HSJI instructor Tony Willis is leading the class. He has taught teachers and students at HSJI for 30 years, and has been an award-winning high school journalism teacher and publications adviser for three decades. He now is adviser and teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.

“He reinforces my ideas of teaching in the context of journalism,” said Kristi Monesmith, Bremen High School adviser who is attending HSJI for the second time. “I’m already teaching writing through my English classes, but what I learn here gives me permission to use the same techniques in journalism.”

Van Mil said she likes Willis’ presentation of material, which is much like what she uses in her classes: read, discuss, write. But Willis’ emphasis on journalism instruction provides a good model to follow, she said.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and School of Journalism professor of practice Tom French also is sharing his knowledge and love of journalistic storytelling with the HSJI attendees. Drawing on his own work as well as that of others he admires, French led a Wednesday morning session that focused on narrative storytelling. In Ernie Pyle Hall 214, attendees clustered around French, who told or read stories aloud, then discussed strategies and techniques to put such tales in writing.

“He was telling us not how to write, but how to help students get their stories out and on paper,” said attendee Elizabeth Treblin, newspaper adviser at Seymour High School. “We need ways to remove roadblocks for our students so that they can tell their stories.”

Nikki Davis, yearbook adviser at Westfield High School, appreciated French’s methodology.

“He hooked us with a story he wrote, then went through the writing process step-by-step,” said Davis, who took notes on how to use that methodology with the yearbook staff. “In this morning’s session, he left off the endings to three of the stories he told, so we’re all anxious to hear how those turned out.”

Photo by Ben Wiggins

Professor of practice Tom French and HSJI attendee Kristi Monesmith continued their discussion during lunch in the Ernie Pyle Hall lounge. Monesmith, a second year attendee, is a teacher and adviser at Bremen High School.

HSJI attendees are practicing what they are learning. So far, they have written profiles of one another and columns based on their visit to the IU Lilly Library, where they examined some of the rare book library’s treasures.

“We had two hours to write, edit and post the column to the HSJI website,” Monesmith said. “I’m thinking of using this short schedule with students to get them to write quickly, to focus on the writing.”

Other activities for the week include a session with IU art curator Sherry Rouse, for which students will write interview stories and columns; critiques of work; and a look at how to apply common core standards to the week’s lessons.

Soon, some of these attendees’ students will arrive on campus as the HSJI student workshops get under way. Numerous workshops, led by experienced advisers from around the state, are set for July 8-18.

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