The Journeys in Journalism's student photography exhibit Through Our Eyes: Midtown and Beyond at The Studio@620. Photo courtesy of Christopher Wessel from Spartan News Network.

Where do you get those cameras? Lakewood High teacher speaks on k-12 journalism program

The Journeys in Journalism (JIJ) program is a K-12 multimedia journalism program comprised of Melrose Elementary, John Hopkins Middle and Lakewood High. The program offers students the ability to learn about the process of journalistic writing, reporting and photojournalism.

The Journeys in Journalism's student photography exhibit Through Our Eyes: Midtown and Beyond at The Studio@620. Photo courtesy of Christopher Wessel from Spartan News Network.

The Journeys in Journalism’s student photography exhibit Through Our Eyes: Midtown and Beyond at The Studio@620. Photo courtesy of Christopher Wessel from Spartan News Network.

In January 2019, the Journeys in Journalism program held its 14th annual student work exhibit featuring student photography. The students, their families and teachers attended the exhibit to see the results of what the students had learned in the program and were now capable of.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Superintendent of Pinellas County Schools Michael Grego both attended the exhibit on the night of its opening reception. A group of young JIJ students from Melrose Elementary took pictures of Grego while he read letters they had written to him and were posted to one of the walls of the studio.

“Where do you get those cameras?” Grego asked.

Other students from John Hopkins Middle and Lakewood High had their own cameras to take photos with. Even on a Friday night, the students were taking photos and notes.

Clearly, the students of JIJ work very hard in their program, and their teachers are no different. But who taught those kids how to use those cameras? The Lakewood High photojournalism teacher, Jade Shiver, has been kind enough to allow for an interview via email regarding her experience working with the students and the program.

How many years have you been teaching at Lakewood? In general?

This is my second year teaching at Lakewood High School. I also taught English in Spain in 2016. If you count that, I have been teaching for about 3 years.

What, in your words, is the Journeys in Journalism program?

Journeys in Journalism is a program that teaches kids about the field of journalism as well as writing and photography skills. There is a large emphasis on independent work and critical thinking. Students must come up with an idea for a story and then think about how to get it done. Who do they have to talk to? What should they ask? Are they representing all sides of an opinion? We also heavily emphasize news literacy, or spotting fake news, and keeping up with current events. We read and discuss the newspaper every day.

How is it going? What are the challenges you’ve faced?

I feel extremely fortunate to have this position at Lakewood. It is a unique, and many times challenging, position. Namely, there are the struggles every educator faces: classroom management and a large workload. I would say the most demanding aspect to the job is the many, many deadlines we have. Not only do we have to run a classroom, we run a school news website, publish four print issues of Spartan News Network (SNN) a year and create a yearbook. Stress is the biggest challenge for me.

Are there any challenges the students face?

I think the two biggest struggles I see from them are working independently to meet deadline and coming out of their shells. Deadlines are stressful for everyone, students included. As well, many students are intimidated by the idea of asking questions to administrators or their peers. I’ve noticed too that students can feel uncomfortable with the attention they get when they are taking photos. I think it’s challenging for them to have so much freedom. I think they are often unsure what to do with it.

It also is not uncommon for students to get backlash for writing a story. Students may be upset about a story or opinion they feel reflects poorly on their school, team or peers. Though it can be unpleasant, I know the kids are stronger for it. It is a reality of life and of working in the news.

How have you seen the Journeys in Journalism program affect students?

The program affects different students in different ways. I’ve met students who plan to make writing or photography their lives. Some find their passion, others just find a place to belong. Our students are with us every year until they graduate, so they tend to make a lot of friends in class. While not everyone who is in our program will become a journalist, I believe many of them leave with a solid knowledge of how the press works and how to be a critical and informed consumer of news.

What do your students seem to think about the program?

I can’t speak for my students, but I think they enjoy the freedom of the class. They don’t spend all period in a classroom, they are out working in the hallways and tracking down people to write stories and take photos. They are also afforded a lot of unique opportunities; they attend field trips or sporting events to cover the events for the paper.

How do parents of the students seem to feel about the JIJ program in general? Are they supportive, skeptical, mixed or something else?

Most parents see the class as a unique opportunity for their students. Many of them are very proud of their kids’ work and love to see it in print. However, when it comes down to it, we are a news outlet. Some parents of the school have expressed disapproval of stories we have run in the paper or online but that’s just part of being in news.

How did you feel about Through Our Eyes: Midtown and Beyond at The Studio@620? Was it a lot of preparation?

The exhibit takes so much preparation! However, it is a team effort between the schools, and some very supportive patrons, volunteers and county employees. I thought the turn out was great. We tried something new this year as well. We conducted a photo workshop where my students helped teach other students about photography. The exhibit has been a success.

Do you have any interesting stories that you can tell of your experience working with students in the program?

I have plenty of stories, but the one that comes to mind is an unexpected trip to New York City last year with four of the paper’s top editors. We went to receive an award from Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Association. Taking four teens to New York was not what I expected my first year of teaching at Lakewood. It was amazing.

More information about the program can be found here:

Melrose Elementary School

John Hopkins Middle School

Lakewood High School

Lakewood High’s Spartan News Network


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