Emily Smith, from Pittsburg High School, has been named the 2021 winner of the Jackie Engel Award, which recognizes Kansas high school teachers for the excellence in advising publications.
Smith’s outstanding work in advising the yearbook and publication at Pittsburg High School has gained her the Jackie Engel Award for a second time. She previously won in 2015. Smith has advised the student media programs in Pittsburg for over a decade.
“It was completely unexpected, and I was shocked because I had no idea I was nominated. I feel guilty winning twice because Kansas has so many talented advisers, but I am honored the committee selected me,” said Smith.
Smith has gained respect and trust from her students and fellow teachers over the years. In her nomination letter, many individuals provided their testimonials on what it is like working with Smith.
“I have never seen a person so devoted to guiding the voices of high school journalism…. I owe my success to her in great part, and will forever admire her dedication, selflessness and ambition that she continues to put toward her students…. When I wake up in the morning, I am beyond excited to go to Smith’s class,” wrote one student.
Students aren’t the only ones who have felt Smith’s passion. Fellow teachers have witnessed her dedication, too.
“Over the years I have witnessed Pitt media grow from a print-only newspaper and yearbook program to a robust multimedia platform. They now have a strong online presence in story writing, photojournalism, video production and social media…. Both failures and successes are celebrated,” wrote a colleague of Smith’s.
Smith has been a long-time journalism advocate, but her students are what make her so passionate about her job.
“I am lucky to work with great students who are curious, creative and courageous. I look forward to school every day because of the opportunity to work with my kids,” said Smith.
The Jackie Engel Award, sponsored by Kansas Collegiate Media, was created to honor the best high school journalism teachers in Kansas. It is the highest statewide honor a Kansas journalism adviser can receive. The award was named after a former journalism teacher at McPherson High School who helped bring national recognition to Kansas high school journalism. She was the first recipient of the award in 1990. She passed in 2005, but her legacy remains.
The Kansas Collegiate Media and KSPA Board congratulate Smith, the 2021 Jackie Engel Award Winner.