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Daniel Sidwell transformed what a school yearbook means for his school and students. “Over the last four years, my students have shifted the yearbook from a picture-style book to a journalistic publication,” Sidwell said. “Each spread has a story, every picture has a caption that follows a consistent format. That was something that never happened previously. My students actually do interviews and write stories.”
Sidwell’s push to change how the book was created, however, goes far beyond the desire to teach journalism skills for the students. “I believe that we are teaching more than journalism in my classroom,” he said. “We’re building leaders. I want students to have a voice and be confident both inside and outside of the classroom, now and when they move on to college and the ‘real world.’”
This belief has pushed Sidwell’s students in more ways than just creating a good product. Currently, “Dan’s top editor is active in a small but growing countywide effort to help change some of our Hazelwood policies,” said Joe Humphrey, MJE, of Hillsborough High School.
Sidwell’s students aren’t the only ones becoming more active. “Dan has already coordinated our district journalism in-service meetings,” Humphrey said, “and he is about to become way more active in our state association and the local team for the 2020 national convention.”
Matthew Smith, Freedom High School’s Assistant Principal of Curriculum, has seen first-hand how the journalism program has thrived under Sidwell’s leadership.
“He expanded the journalism program to include national conferences and advanced trainings,” Smith said. “His program has grown where the school has dedicated two classrooms, one being used as a layout/work room and the other for instruction. Our students have won many awards due to the hard work his students put forth. “
The Freedom yearbook earned a Gold rating (26/30) at the 2019 Florida Scholastic Press Association (FSPA)—one point shy of the elusive All-Florida rating.
In addition to attending the FSPA Convention, Sidwell's journalism students traveled to Chicago to attend the 2018 JEA National Convention, were participants on the Ask Mike podcast, and have received journalism experiences from Feld entertainment, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the University of South Florida.
Rising Star trophies are given to advisers who are in their first five years of advising a media program and have shown great dedication to scholastic journalism and have had success advising at least one media program.
JEA will present each winner with a trophy at the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention November 23 in Washington, D.C.
Story from jea.org