Art Class Existence



IgniteU, is a week-long journalism camp held at Pepperdine University.  Many different schools attend and begin their yearbooks for the upcoming school year.  Usually schools bring a few students from their yearbook staff and begin planning their pages and designing their spreads.  There were also a few students and advisors who came solo to get ideas and experience with creating yearbooks in order to take back tips and tricks to make their production go smoother throughout the year.

I traveled to IgniteU with two other advisors, Amy and Matt, along with one student Zoe, thanks to our awesome representative Jeanne Unger.  We immediately hit it off and all became good friends! Amy is a communications director in Middleton MD, Matt is a first year teacher in Baltimore City MD, and Zoe is a sophomore at a school in Washington D.C..

Pepperdine University is in Malibu, California…one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.  The university is gorgeous, nestled in the valley of mountains right on the coast line.  Every morning it was a little chilly and breezy but by the afternoon the sun was directly ahead and shining so nicely on us.

Our sessions started on Monday after an exciting general session.  We played team building games and were able to network with other schools from all over the country.  We were the group from the furthest away. One of the games was a scavenger hunt which gave us a chance to really explore the campus!

After the general session, we were able to choose break-out sessions to attend which would benefit us the most.  I went to many Theme track sessions as I wasn’t yet sure what our theme was going to be. We have a lot of things happening new at our school this year, and I wanted something to cover each of them!  It was exciting to see schools with large groups of students working hard on beginning their yearbooks.  I was able to listen in and even get feedback from them in order to help find a great theme for our book.

Most of the schools there were high schools, I wished there were more middle schools that attend because it is different as you get into high school.  The books become more journalistic and less picture book style.  I am excited to bring back a few things to really step up our yearbooks game this year.  Make it a little more sophisticated and have more opportunities for the students to really build a book they will cherish forever.

The camp registration included a session with a cover artist to begin working on ideas for the cover.  We even created a final rough draft of a cover design.  Here is the one we came up with:

16-28208 Ridgely Middle School-01

The theme I choose was “Our Journey…” since this year we have a new principal, a new digital initiative (all 6th graders in our school will have devices to use) , as well as a new logo and mission statement.  We are really on a whole new adventure and we must journey through it all together in order to come out on top.

I had the opportunity to create a few layout spreads which will really assist me in teaching my students how to use the software Balfour Studioworks. We will really be focusing on taking our own candid and organizational photos and adding names to all of our images.  This is an exciting change, which will be more student centered rather than having Lifetouch come in and photograph for us. Students will also learn a little more about photography and how to take captivating photos instead of the just simple snapshots. I learned a new term called “iphonography” which is the use of your iPhone to take quality photos.

Pepperdine University did a wonderful job hosting us! A wide variety of choices were served for breakfast, lunch and dinner were delicious.  We stayed in the dorm rooms, which had no air conditioning, however the breeze from the ocean was more than enough to keep us cool all day and night.

Overall my experience was very rewarding and I am able to go back to school with new insight, plans, tips, and excitement for the upcoming school year and our new book.




Last weekend I was fortunate to represent Maryland and our school district in Dallas Texas at Balfour Advisor Academy. I am the yearbook club advisor for my school, and we currently work with the company Balfour to produce our yearbooks.

Representing Maryland at the Balfour Advisor Academy in Dallas Texas

Previously we worked with Herff Jones, however, the yearbook representative that I had when I started advising left Herff Jones after my second year working with her.  I stayed with the company for 2 more years through multiple representatives and issues with the quality of personal relations from them. None of them could even begin to measure up to her ability and willingness to always “make it work” (as Tim Gunn would say).  She was by far the best representative I have ever had the chance to work with. So when I found out she was working with Balfour I just had to change companies! I needed to have her back!  The representative really makes or breaks the experience of creating a yearbook, as it does with any business relationship.

Last year was our first year working with Balfour,  but I knew it would be a non issue since I had my dear Jeanne back. I picked up the technical aspects of the new yearbook creating software fairly quickly, its pretty much like photoshop.  Jeanne helped me through it by coming to our club meetings every Friday, bringing me my favorite drink from starbucks, and working with the students to help them become more proficient with the software.  Her willingness to be there whenever I needed her reminded me why I missed her so much and why I was so grateful to have her back!

We completed the yearbook and awaited its arrival. The day it was due to arrive at school, we found out that there was an issue with the delivery which caused it to arrive the second to last day of school. Jeanne came to school and helped me organize and deliver all the yearbooks in order to get them out as smoothly as possible. Without her I wouldn’t have made it out alive. Thank you Jeanne!

Jeanne and I at my 4th of July Firework painting party!

Not only was she always there, she provided me opportunity to attend the Balfour Advisor Academy in Dallas Texas, as well as the Ignite Journalism University, Balfour’s summer yearbook workshop, July 27-July 31, at Pepperdine University in Malibu California!

The Advisor Academy was an amazing experience! I learned so much about developing a yearbook, and was able to network with so many amazing people.  I am looking forward to using my new knowledge to step up our yearbook this coming year.  Being that the yearbook is created in a club, it’s a lot different from an actually yearbook class. I met with a few other middle school yearbook club advisors and discussed ways to make the yearbook development more student centered and still keep the same level of greatness we’ve had in the past few years.