Virginia Assocation of Journalism Teachers & Advisers

Board Members Inducted into VHSL Hall of Fame

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On October 15, two board members, Mary Kay Downes and Linda Mercer, were inducted into the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame.

From the VHSL Press Release:

For over 40 years, Mary Kay Downes has taught journalism, while producing award winning yearbooks for Chantilly High School. Her award winning yearbook, “Odyssey” has earned 18 VHSL Trophy Class distinctions; 18 NSPA Pacemakers and 10 CSPA crown awards. In addition, “Odyssey” has earned four Charles E. Savedge Awards for Sustained Excellence in Scholastic Journalism – Yearbook Category. She is founder and past-president of AFPE, a professional educators organization; past-president of CSPAA and current Chair of the Honors Committee; judges yearbooks for NSPA, CSPA and SIPA; provides on-spot critiques at CSPA and JEA National Conventions. In addition, Downes presents and takes students to four journalism conventions each year; authored articles printed in state and national journalism publications and mentored seven new publication advisers in the Fairfax County Public Schools.

Her numerous awards include: VAJTA Freeman Award; Thomas Jefferson Award; CSPA Gold Key; NSPA Pioneer Award; Herndon Dulles Educator of the Year Award; JEA Distinguished Yearbook Adviser; JEA National Yearbook Adviser of the Year; JEA Medal of Merit and SIPA Elizabeth Dickey Service Award.

A native of Albany, N.Y., she earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., in 1964 where she was editor-in-chief of her college yearbook. She earned a master’s degree in English Literature from Duquesne University in 1965. Downes resides in Centreville.

Linda Mercer began advising the student newspaper and started the yearbook at the newly created Halifax County Junior High in 1970. She continued to advise both publications until 1988 when she transferred to Halifax County High School teaching journalism and advising both the yearbook and newspaper. Until her retirement in 2004, she taught at VHSL fall and spring workshops; Columbia Scholastic Press Association and other journalism workshops.

Mercer is a founding member of the Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers (VAJTA). When the VAJTA began its mentor initiative, Mercer was among the first group of volunteers. She has mentored journalism teachers at both Halifax County middle and high schools. Her involvement in the VHSL includes judging the VHSL’s Creative Writing contests since its inception and teaching sessions at VHSL workshops as well as VAJTA teacher training and national conventions. She continues to judge yearbooks for Columbia Scholastic Press Association and National Scholastic Press Association. Her other honors and achievements include: Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Key; Lifetime Achievement for Advising from the Oklahoma Interscholastic Press Association; VAJTA Thomas Jefferson Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Education and the JEA Lifetime Achievement Award.

A native of Holyoke, Mass., she graduated from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., in 1969. She has taken post-graduate courses in journalism at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Virginia, VCU, Ohio University and the University of Iowa. She resides in Halifax.

Congratulations again to Mary Kay and Linda!

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