KSPA joins Kansas Collegiate Media (KCM) in congratulating the 2018 Jackie Engel Award winner, a journalism adviser at Salina Central High School.
J.D. Garber is this year’s recipient of the award, sponsored by KCM and named in honor of a former journalism teacher at McPherson High School. Engel helped bring national recognition to Kansas high school journalism and was the first recipient of the award in 1990. She died in 2005, but her legacy of excellence lives on in this award.
The award was created to honor the best high school journalism teacher in Kansas. Garber received a plaque and cash award at the KCM Awards Conference in Wichita on April 9. He will also be honored later at the KSPA State contest on May 5 in Lawrence.
“I’m thrilled to be nominated by a couple of colleagues I really respect,” Garber said. “Just to represent our organization is really awesome. I couldn’t be happier.”
For the last nine years, Garber has guided journalism students at the school, after helping to revive the newspaper. The publications there have won many state and national awards. He now guides a newsmagazine, The Pylon.
“The last nine years have been really exciting because I’m teaching something that I love, and every day when I show up it’s something new,” Garber said. “[The paper has] changed in size and shape and length and depth over the years. Just recently, I’ve been blessed with these three editors. The last four years, they’ve just made drastic changes — from getting us on the national scene to changing it to a newsmagazine and going in-depth on tough issues. The students are willing to dig deeper and think about what they can cover. It’s incredible. The critical thinking about the topics they cover and how to cover it is inspiring.”
Garber said the last two years have really opened his eyes to the power of print after his publication tackled some controversial topics such as racism and the novels in the school’s language arts curriculum.
“Along with [my student editors] Chloe and Annie, I’m also just very impressed with their generation and the voice they have and the power of media right now — even in student journalism — and how they’re willing to accept the challenge of tackling of controversial issues,” he said. “There was controversy just because it was a tough topic to talk about, but I think it was positive because it’s created a lot of really good things at our school. Our students have had opportunities to speak in the community and do things to make changes. That was the goal — to get the conversation started.”
Garber currently works alongside yearbook and broadcast adviser, Shelby Dinkel, who is one of his former students.
“We’re a lot alike in a lot of ways,” he said. “It’s cool to see a former student grow up. I’ve seen her go through things I went through as an adviser early on, and she’s doing a great job. I’d almost rather see her and her students get recognized before me. When her staff wins awards, that’s even more exciting than when I’m recognized.”
Garber, a KSPA board member, said his students have been inspired by KSPA’s recognition and competitions.
“Once we built the idea that we want to gain recognition for our work and be the best at what we’re doing, it’s been incredible ever since,” he said. “I was really impressed by how competitive everyone was, even the students you wouldn’t think would be. The amount of support you get from KSPA, the member advisers and their students, we just wouldn’t have made it through this without them.”
Here is a press release from Kansas Collegiate Media with more information about the 2018 Jackie Engel Award winner.