Virginia Assocation of Journalism Teachers & Advisers



The Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisors is a professional organization of journalism teachers and advisers committed to the highest standards of journalism. Its purpose is to act as a continuing resource for beginning and experienced teachers/advisers, to provide information and training opportunities, to serve as a vehicle for communication between VAJTA and other groups, and to act as an advocate for scholastic journalism.

It all started with a need to get together.

Carol Lange began the organization in the spring of 1989 to provide for the better communication between advisers and a more direct link to professional organizations than was available through Virginia High School League. Surveys at that time indicated that many advisers did not remain involved with publications after four years and that many advisers felt isolated within their school environment. She presented the idea for such an organization to the VHSL Scholastic Publications Advisory Committee and received the support of the Committee, VHSL Programs Supervisor Ken Tilley and Col. Charles Savedge to pursue her interest in establishing such an organization.

In October, 1989, the first issue of VA Byline was published. Ky Tran-Tong and Tom Manderfield, two of Lange’s students, gained desktop publishing experience in producing the six-page issue. Dr. Patrick McCarthy at Lake Braddock Secondary School donated paper and printing. The issue was distributed through VHSL mailing to every public school in the state and at the October 28-29, VHSL Fall Publication Conference at Virginia Commonwealth University. From its inception, VA Byline has encouraged reader submission of articles so that it truly would be the place to find Virginia adviser bylines.

In February of 1990 the first meeting of the VAJTA Advisory Board was held in Charlottesville at the headquarters of Virginia High School League. Original members of the Advisory Board were Patricia Bernick (magazine), Virginia Beach; Ray Frantz (yearbook), Winchester; Flo Haynie (magazine), Virginia Beach; Carol Lange (magazine, yearbook), Fairfax; Bernard Leigg (magazine), Danville; J. Patrick McCarthy (newspaper), Fairfax; Roy Martin (newspaper), Roanoke; Linda Mercer (yearbook), Halifax; Bert Smith (administrator and voice-of-experience), Hampton; Kimber Tate (yearbook), Harrisonburg; Dott VanDervort (yearbook), Poquoson; and Mark VanDervort (newspaper), Poquoson.

Members of this original Advisory Board represented all three publications, size of school population and the geographic diversity of the state. From its inception, VAJTA defined its role to encourage and to assist new journalism teachers/publications advisers, to communicate with and to recognize experienced teachers/advisors, to educate and to promote scholastic journalism. Through regional workshops, articles in the VA Byline newsletter and sessions at the VHSL Fall Publications Workshop, the Board attempted to meet these goals.

Highlights of VAJTA History


Carol Lange establishes VAJTA in Spring; First VAJTA Advisory Board meeting in October; VA Byline, the newsletter of VAJTA, is established by first editor Carol Lange


VAJTA holds first Advisors –Only regional workshop at the Holiday Inn in Harrisonburg


VHSL establishes the Savedge award to honor Col. Charles “Chuck” Savedge who passed away in December, 1990 VAJTA votes to support this student scholarship.

VAJTA increases the JEA High School Journalist of the Year award savings bond from $50 to $100 for first place.

Advisers-Only East/West regional workshops held at Great Bridge High School with luncheon at The Locks Pointe restaurant and at the Holiday Inn in Harrisonburg.

Advisory Board begins discussion of Virginia journalism teachers and publications advisers.

VAJTA endorses the JEA Certified Journalism Educator and Master Journalism Educator recognition program and votes to publicize the availability of exams at the VHSL Fall Publications Workshop

Virginia Press Association, the Roanoke Times and Herff Jones offer meeting space for VAJTA Board meetings


Carol Lange presents draft suggested adviser recognition awards and criteria; Sally Miller agrees to refine the selection process and to research potential names for each award.

Advisory Board plans Fall 1992 VHSL strand for advisors; Roy Martin is liaison for April 1993 advisers retreat at Natural Bridge

Wendy LaRue becomes the second editor of VA Byline with the winter 1992 issue

Advisory Board agrees to lend its support to the JEA/NSPA Fall Convention to be held November 17-21, 1993, in Washington, D.C. and decides to cancel the Advisers-Only workshops in order to support the convention

VAJTA Adviser awards are established: The Douglas Southall Freeman Award, The Virginia Gazette Award, The Thomas Jefferson Award for Lifetime Achievement, and The VAJTA Award.

Advisers-Only Regional Workshop held at the new facilities of the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star.