Virginia Assocation of Journalism Teachers & Advisers

Celebrate with Your Staff

Mary Kay Downes

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Let’s face it. Often yearbook is drudgery. Deadlines, missing pictures, proofs arriving at the worst time, memory cards misplaced, WOE! So we have found that silly and meaningful celebrations keep the FUN into yearbook, and not just when the book delivers.

Odyssey Yearbook relishes and practices CELEBRATION. We even have a Social Media/Party/Dinner coordinator. This person keeps a record of all birthdays, holds birthday parties, coordinates our holiday lunches, arranges the Secret Santa exchange and maintains our Twitter feed and Facebook page.

For birthdays, our party editor brings in a cake, announces the event by blowing a horn and waving a clacker and then we all sing Happy Birthday. Our class meets each day during the two hour lunch block. Thus, having a bite of cake is an appetizer before the Vera Bradley lunch bags are opened or the pick trays from the cafeteria make their way into 229. Sometimes when a number of birthdays occur with the same two week period, we combine the events and bring in a larger cake. We also have our very own Pin the Tail on the Donkey game to play.

Feasts are common and often holidays fall around deadline submissions so the luncheons serve a dual purpose. For Thanksgiving we have turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, casseroles and all the requisite trimmings. Each person brings something and often moms deliver hot food. Must admit that the “turkey” is often the Costco Rotisserie Chicken, but no one seems to mind. We seem to have the same menu for Christmas and Halloween and I think that is because the kids are addicted to mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. Boy can they eat!

At the end of the year we celebrate delivery in two ways: we unload our truck at 5:30 a.m. and then eat bagels as we look though our baby. Then we have a formal dinner at a local restaurant when we give paper plate awards and enjoy the company of our seniors for the last time. The girls dress to the nines for this event and Mama Downes sees them as young women, out to conquer the world.

Some might ask about funding. The students bring the food for the dinners in class, and we pay for the end of year dinner from our Back to School bake-sale haul. I also bring the Turkey – AKA chickens!

Mary Kay Downes, MJE, advises Odyssey at Chantilly H.S, VA.  The book has won a boatload of awards, as has Downes who was named JEA YAOTY in 2007 and inducted to the Virginia High School Hall of Fame in 2014. Downes teaches and judges for NSPA, CSPA, regional and state press organizations. She is Past-President of CSPAA. She displays a YERD’s passion for yearbook – YB4L!

Mary Kay Downes, MJE, advises Odyssey at Chantilly H.S, VA.  The book has won a boatload of awards, as has Downes who was named JEA YAOTY in 2007 and inducted to the Virginia High School Hall of Fame in 2014. Downes teaches and judges for NSPA, CSPA, regional and state press organizations. She is Past-President of CSPAA. She displays a YERD’s passion for yearbook – YB4L!

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