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USC Annenberg trains teachers in journalism

USC Annenberg Trains Teachers in Journalism
Journalism professor Willa Seidenberg, right, teaches interviewing skills to Los Angeles Unified School District teachers.

The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism partnered with the nonprofit Student Voice Project to host journalism training for teachers at Los Angeles high schools.

The Scholastic Journalism Institute, which ran July 11-22, showed 10 teachers how to integrate journalistic principles into their teaching, as well as how to equip would-be journalism advisers with the tools they need to start journalism programs at their respective high schools. It aimed to enhance student literacy, critical thinking and personal empowerment.

“It is not hyperbole to say that education reform, particularly in our highest-need schools, is not just a national economic priority, it is a matter of civil rights,” said Johnny Duda, Student Voice Project co-founder and executive director. “In order to bring equity of educational opportunity to our schools, teachers are the key. The Summer Journalism Institute attempted to explore new models of teacher training focused on developing and
expanding supportive professional networks for teachers working with our highest-need students.”

Four USC Annenberg journalism professors volunteered to lecture or lead workshops, including Laura Castañeda, Judy Muller, Willa Seidenberg and School of Journalism director Geneva Overholser. There also wrote instruction sessions designed to help teachers improve their own writing, which the institute organized in partnership with the UCLA Writing Project.

“We’re really committed to supporting the growth of high school journalism – for both the students and the instructors,” said Castañeda, who led a workshop on narrative writing. “Everybody at USC Annenberg believes in journalism and its mission. High school journalism has been hurting, so we’re happy to support it however we can.”

Seidenberg, who also serves as the director of USC Annenberg Radio News, led a workshop in which the local teachers practiced interviewing her in the radio booth.

“We talk a lot in the School of Journalism about fostering future journalists and how we’re going to participate,” she said. “This gave us a chance to do just that. We have to keep making sure students and teachers know journalism is a rewarding field to go into.”

Arturo Navarro, a teacher at Gertz-Ressler High School, said he and his peers learned practical skills that they can pass onto their students.

“I liked how the instructors all have a professional background,” Navarro said. “I know what they’re saying is true because they’ve lived it and done it.”

Curt Hartman, who teaches English at The Academy of Music at Hamilton High School, was appreciative that the program tried to integrate journalism into school curriculums.

“They’re giving students a voice by having them write about issues they care about,” said Hartman, a 25-year veteran of the Los Angeles Unified School District. “A lot of times high school students feel like people don’t listen to them. This was a great way to make people listen.”

Duda said the project was about empowering students: “It gave them a platform for self-expression and critical thinking.”

But how do we make it sustainable?

“By tying it to student outcomes,” he said. “It’s no surprise that when you let students write about the issues they care about for an authentic audience of their peers, they are more engaged – and students who are more engaged in school, stay in school and do better.”

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