Since taking over Westfield Middle School’s yearbook, Allie Staub and her staffs have been raking in the awards
As seventh- and eighth-grade students collaborate around computer screens and cameras, Westfield Middle School teacher Allie Staub watches like a proud mother from her desk.
“This class is designed where students become leaders,” said Staub, 29. “I tell them, ‘It’s not going to be easy but it’s worth it. It’s your name on it, be proud of what you do.’”
Staub is a second-generation Westfield Washington Schools teacher. Her mother, Bev, is the art teacher at Washington Woods Elementary.
“I grew up in the art room,” she said.
After her freshman year of studying interior architecture, Staub said she contemplated working in interior design without a degree because she didn’t enjoy the program at Indiana University. That summer she sat in her mother’s art class and it changed her life.
“I thought, “Maybe I want to try this.’ People always told me to be a teacher,” she said.
Staub student taught at WMS when the school planned to hire a second art teacher for the next year.
“I was hired before I graduated,” she said, adding she is now in her eighth year teaching full time. “I feel like I’ve been here forever.”
Staub took over the yearbook when it was still an after school club in 2010.
“I thought it might be fun. I wanted to coach something but there isn’t a sport I specialize in,” she said. “We met after school three days a week every week almost to spring break.”
After proposing and proving journalism’s impact on students, the club became a class in Staub’s second year of leading it. Staub said her journalism background was two years in high school selling ads for the yearbook.
“I used the most awful fonts known to me,” she said. “I taught myself pretty much everything like design backgrounds and photography. I researched everything. I had to build the program from the ground up because there are no textbooks.”
On Jan. 27, Staub was informed she won the Journalism Education Association’s Rising Stars Award.
“I wasn’t sure how they would look at someone without a journalism background or degree,” she said. “Is this for journalists or people who are teaching journalism style classes like yearbook?”
The past three years Staub has taught the yearbook class, students have won a number of national awards and recognitions including being a Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Crown winner. Staub said the crown award is the highest honor given to a student publication for overall excellence. WMS was one of eight middle schools to receive a gold crown in 2013 and 2014.
“I never expected to win every year,” Staub said. “Judging is subjective. It’s like figure skating judges – whatever way the wind blows that day.”
The staff that also won had photos placed in the National Scholastic Press Association picture of the year contest in 2012 and 2013. It won first place Best of Show out of more than 500 entries (Junior High/Middle School) in the Fall 2013 JEA/NSPA Boston Convention and was second place Best of Show (Junior High/Middle School) at the Spring 2014 JEA/NSPA San Diego Convention.
“I was wondering if I was doing it right,” she said. “I feel like now I really know what I’m doing. Being a good artist and being a good art teacher are two different things … Me and the kids are figuring it out.”
That learning as you go process has assisted Staub to translate with her students.
“She’s been in our shoes, not knowing what to do and going the right path,” eighth grader Grace Bieghler said.
Bieghler was a part of last year’s staff and has a unique perspective from her classmates.
“I know what it feels like when everyone gets their yearbook and understand what it takes (to put it together).”
The current class had 95 applicants for 24 staff positions. Staub said it takes two teacher recommendations and a strong writing foundation just to be considered for the second round, which includes group interaction and interviews with current student staff members.
“To get in you had to be good,” Staub said. “It’s not a class for everyone. I expect a lot from them.”
Staub said the class is project-based learning and pushes students’ creativity.
“She doesn’t hold your hand,” eighth grader Michaela Krawczyk said. “We run things here like a business. She expects more of us but it helps us be better.”
Meet Allie Staub
Birthplace: Highland Park, Ill. but grew up in Syracuse, N.Y.
Teaches: Studio art and digital design (yearbook)
Number of years teaching: Eight
Hobbies: I do freelance Graphic Design work outside of school, traveling, cooking, shopping, wasting time on Pinterest, watching movies, and spending time with friends and family.
Education: Jamesville-DeWitt High School, DeWitt, N.Y.; bachelor’s in visual arts education, Indiana University; and master’s in curriculum and technology education, Ball State University.
What’s something others might not know about you? I was very involved in show choir, voice and musical theater in middle and high school. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I started taking art again and ended up finding my passion for it.
Allie Staub is one of 11 scholastic journalism advisers named the Journalism Education Association’s Rising Stars as teachers with five or fewer years of experience already establishing themselves in the field. Staub was one of two middle school teachers.
Since the award’s inception in 2006, 76 educators have received this award from JEA, the largest national association of scholastic journalism teachers and student media advisers. Many past honorees have gone on to become leaders in the field, guiding award-winning student media staffs and garnering professional honors as well. The awards committee evaluates nominees on involvement at the state and national level, growth in nominees’ advising programs, and quality of the student media they advise.
The 2015 Rising Stars will be honored April 18 at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Denver.