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HSJ Headline News

Teacher to introduce new journalism program, reactivate newspaper club at Saratoga Springs High School

Suzanna Lourie
The Saratogian
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

August 13, 2011

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs High School teacher Jill Cowburn recently completed the highly competitive 2011 Reynolds High School Journalism Institute program hosted by Kent State University in Ohio in July.

Using the skills acquired at the intensive 12-day program, Cowburn, a former New York Times television company documentary-maker and producer, is preparing to introduce a new journalism program at the high school.

“When I used to do student teaching at Shenendehowa, my mentor was the newspaper adviser and she told me about the Reynolds conference,” Cowburn said. “That had been a goal of mine, so I applied and in the essay component wrote about what I hope to do as a journalism teacher and newspaper adviser at Saratoga Springs High School.”

This fall, Cowburn will teach three sections of Introduction to Journalism to the 63 pre-registered juniors and seniors who expressed an interest in the course. In addition, she will reactivate the school newspaper as the club’s new adviser.

“We’ve had a student newspaper in the past, but there’s been a bit of a gap in the last few years,” Cowburn said.

The newspaper club will be open to all students and will, at least at first, only create an online product due to high printing costs.

During the rigorous 12-day program at Kent State, Cowburn brushed up on her critical reading, writing and reporting skills by attending daily classes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and then had to complete that night’s load of homework.

“We wrote stories every night — went out to the community, saw a performance and wrote a review. We did some of the work the students have to do, so we really refined our work in that way,” Cowburn said.

Since its inception in 2001, 1,768 high school teachers have graduated from the Reynolds Journalism Institute. This year was the institute’s most competitive year to date; Cowburn was one of 165 teachers selected from a pool of 443 applicants.

The Reynolds Institute works closely with the American Society of News Editors Foundation to educate teachers and students in order to grow a more informed citizenry familiar with multi-media journalism and able to discern quality news.

“There was quite a lot for me to learn — I haven’t taught journalism or advised a paper, so it was an opportunity for me to transition some of the skills I acquired working in TV over to the classroom,” Cowburn said. “There’s a lot of inspirational things in the First Amendment, and I’m excited to help give students a voice and the chance to engage in their community.”

Teaching career-specific courses like journalism in high school is rare, but after completing the Reynolds training, Cowburn feels confident there is something all students can gain from journalism’s core critical, creative and analytical skills.

“Most won’t go on to be journalists, but regardless, they will be more informed consumers of media, and I’m really excited to get started,” she said. “This is a very strong new start for journalism at Saratoga High School.”

Copyright 2011, The Saratogian. Reprinted with permission

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