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Walking Alongside Your Yearbook Staff

Updated: Jun 28, 2023


A school administrator stands at the forefront of the image smiling while students stand in the background smiling.

Greetings to Our Administration Yearbook Friends!


In this second blog of a series of three dedicated to administrators, we share thoughts and information, offering tangible support to yearbook staff and advisers at your school. We have a deep appreciation for the complex and varied layers administrators face in the day-to-day operations of a school. Our desire is that the next few paragraphs will present real solutions to concerns you may have about yearbooks and the process of creating one.


Purposes of a Yearbook

The average person’s experience with yearbooks is as a record of people and shared experiences or events from a specific time through a distinct point of view. Succinctly, it is a memory book created by students for students about a school year. As such, yearbooks are potential instruments of student empowerment.


In addition, yearbooks also play an essential role in documenting the continued history of a school. They function as a reliable reference for who attended, who was employed by the school, and during which years. Yearbooks, as both historical documents and reference sources, cannot be undervalued.


Furthermore, yearbooks are a reflection of a community’s pride in its school and the hard work the students, teachers, and administrators put toward the goal of graduation. Communities welcome well-educated graduates into the workforce, post-secondary vocational training, or further educational pursuits. Yearbooks reflect the communities’ values for strongly educated citizens and are highly valued curators of goodwill in public relations.


However, the heart of a yearbook is found in the purpose it gives the staff and adviser: empowering students to use their voices and learn through their challenges and efforts (at times in the extreme). The yearbook educational experience is one of the most direct, real world ventures students will have on your campus. Putting a yearbook in the hands of a peer at the end of a year is the very definition of the culmination of Bloom’s Taxonomy.


Preparing for potential challenges is the most important way administrators can assist advisers and yearbook staff.


Empowering Student Voice

To empower students to use their voices respectfully is not without uncertainties. The staff and the adviser have differing points of view when crafting the yearbook. Partner with the adviser to determine the "gray" areas or topics that will come up, as well as meet with the student staff to create an action plan for handling those topics. The students are designing and writing the yearbook around the interests and events important to them. As an administrator, you want to allow them that creative outlet but with defined guidelines. The guidelines will give them latitude and encourage empowerment.


United Yearbook is cognizant of the uniquenesses of each school board and district. Each sets policies and limitations per student publications. Your visit to the classroom reveals your belief in the value of their work, and the importance of what they are doing. Help prepare the yearbook adviser and staff to meet the district policies by talking to them about transparency in reporting, sensitivity to controversy, the power of using multiple viewpoints, and civic engagement. Your information will provide everyone with a common frame of reference!


The Journalism Education Association, the National Scholastic Press Association, the Student Press Law Center, and the Quill & Scroll Principal's Guide to Scholastic Journalism are resources that may prove valuable when determining how best to support the journalistic integrity of your students. Your students will appreciate the candor when you engage them regarding policies and procedures.


Read a letter of gratitude here from the SPLC to a principal and superintendent in Missouri for their rigorous support of their students’ voices published in their 2023 yearbook.


Putting A Yearbook In the Hands of Every Student

A second way to offer tangible support for the yearbook staff and their work is to source financial avenues to make sure every student receives a yearbook. This is not a marketing ploy. This is a legitimate request to look at the purposes of a yearbook and one of those purposes is for students to know they belong no matter their economic status. An increased sense of belonging will boost the likelihood that students will stay in school and graduate. The yearbook is a physical record that every student is significant. United Yearbook, in its online Curriculum & Resources No. 6, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, recommends developing a growth mindset around diversity and inclusivity as strengths. In addition to the traditional on-campus photo shoots like team and club photos, United Yearbook suggests meeting students not normally seen in these types of photo shoots. Meet them where they are at the mall, at the skateboard park, the movie theater, the auto shop, their favorite restaurants, or at their work. In fact, photo shoots at someone’s workspace (with approval) may evolve into PR ads for the yearbook, an additional bonus! With mindfulness and intentionality, the yearbook can reflect ALL the students at the school. Supporting that intention with a focus on getting a book in every student’s hands lends credibility to the belief that all students matter and are valued.


Here is an example of a principal-approved plan to get a book in every Senior’s hands.


Encouraging Professional Development

It is inevitable as an administrator that faculty or assignments changes already happened this past school year, or are expected to occur in the upcoming year. A result of those changes may present a faulty yearbook adviser in need of additional training to best teach the class. Professional development opportunities are both affirming and confidence-building. Professional memberships in JEA and NSPA capture quality curriculum as well as professional development.


United Yearbook also provides mentorship and professional development. Our mission is “to provide innovative resources and walk alongside you to bring your creative ideas to life.” United Yearbook developed a comprehensive curriculum for the adviser to use as a support for their own classroom lesson planning. We mentor advisers with one-on-one sessions, troubleshooting and problem-solving for more effective class time. We also customize workshops for their yearbook staff, either online, or directly in the classroom. United Yearbook designs and tailors Master Classes bringing students from local high schools together to learn and practice skills, like professional photography. And we offer a range of online seminars such as the Adobe Software & Digital Art series launching this September.


Encouraging yearbook advisers to take advantage of any and all opportunities for professional growth will deliver a quality return on this investment in your faculty member.


These 3 areas of support–empowering student voice, putting a yearbook in the hands of every student, and encouraging professional development–are foundational to the educational experience yearbook staffers encounter while they create the yearbook. Your part in this process is fundamental to the success of their educational experience.


Thank you.


Former yearbook advisor, Lucy McHugh

Contributor: Lucy McHugh comes to United Yearbook Printing from a 39-year career in public and private school education. She was a former visual art teacher and yearbook adviser. She received a Bachelors of Science in Art from Columbia College in Columbia, SC, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska in 2000, and in 2014 earned a Certificate in Catholic School Leadership from Loyola Marymount University. Lucy enjoys her family, making art and gardening.


Editor, Donna Ladner

Editor: Donna Ladner obtained a B.A. in Education and a minor in English from California Baptist University, and a M.S. in ESL from USC, Los Angeles. After she married Daniel, their family moved to Indonesia with a non-profit organization and lived cross-culturally for 15 years before returning to the U.S in 2012. Donna has been working as an editor and proofreader for TSE Worldwide Press and its subsidiary, United Yearbook since 2015.


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