Maui Whaley carefully arranged photos on a software program, consulting with other classmates as she worked. The Mt. Pleasant Community High School senior is currently one of two yearbook editors that are put in charge of assembling a 186 page book every year.
Yearbooks and the classes associated with them have changed greatly over the years. Some schools still have a dedicated yearbook class while others have opted for after school clubs or combining yearbook with another class in order to keep it viable.
Mt. Pleasant Community High School (MPCHS) has taken that last step. Ronnie Waggoner, industrial technology and yearbook teacher, said the journalism class and yearbook class are one in the same.
The class used to be categorized under the English department, he said, but in the last few years since he has taken over, it has become a digital art class with an emphasis on design. Time is equally split between writing for the school newspaper, the Maroon Echoes, and creating the book.
This used to be the case at Washington High School (WHS) but due to budget cuts, there is no newspaper and yearbook is only a semester long class, said Ben Obermann, WHS English and yearbook teacher.
“Based on the number of teachers we had in the English department, we had to focus on other areas,” Obermann said. “When we had early retirement a couple years ago and we ended up not replacing the entire staff so we’re down a teacher from three years ago and we didn’t have enough teachers to fill all the classes.” he said.
Last year students only had one term made up of nine weeks to put together the yearbook. Having an entire semester, which is 18 weeks, is a big improvement, he said.
Junior Cara Linnenkamp agreed.
“It’s so much easier and so much more relaxed,” she said.
“There are activities this time of year that we can actually get to so we have more pictures,” said senior Lucas Ellis.
In the MPCHS yearbook class, a separate group of volunteers is in charge of taking the photos.
“Before I actually had a class for yearbook, I had an extra curricular club and they are responsible for the photos,” Waggoner said.
Known as the video team, these students meet on Monday’s to map out which events they will be able to attend.
“They are a separate but very important piece of this,” Waggoner said.
Back in the classroom, the seven students enrolled have jobs varying from editor to sales manager. Each student also takes on the role of designer.
At Fairfield Community High School, Jessica Garchik is the Library Media Specialist and yearbook sponsor. The class is not built into the schedule, she said, and is instead tacked on at the end of the day.
Students in the district have an extra 30 minutes at the end of each school day to participate in an activity of their choice, she said. Although 11 students are enrolled they are not required to attend each day.
Because the extra time is for students to participate in clubs or other classes, the entire class does not get to meet everyday. Garchik said because she is also the “touch point” person for technology, if a student comes into the library and needs assistance, she has to walk away from her yearbook students.
“It’s really hard to teach a class when you have 15 other kids who have problems you need to solve,” she said.
For this reason adding the class to next school year’s roster is her goal, she said.
Photojournalism and teaching students to “catch things as they are” is one of the primary areas of focus, she said. Students are encouraged to attend as many events as possible to capture photos and work on design and layout during class time.
In Mt. Pleasant, once the video team turns in photos, yearbook students set to work designing the pages. The yearbook is split into sections according to each season, Waggoner said.
Linnenkamp said in Washington, students take on about four pages each to have completed by May.
Elizabeth Bender, art and yearbook teacher at Pekin Community High School, said her class consists of seven students. They are in charge of taking photos, designing the pages and selling advertisements.
This is the first year for the class to have one class dedicated to yearbook. Last year there were two.
Bender said an online program is used for layout and design and students work together to create the book.
Photos are taken throughout the day, she said, in addition to after school. The goal is to get each student into the yearbook a minimum of three times.
Whaley, the co-editor of the MPCHS yearbook, said this is her first year being involved. After taking a web development class last year, she was motivated to try something new.
Deadlines are the hardest part, she said, because although they are a small staff they have a big responsibility to get the book out on time. Liam Halawith, a junior and co-editor along with Whaley, said these are established at the beginning of the year.
“When the summer season is over, we start working on that part of the yearbook. Our goal is to have it done by the end of the fall season, so when the fall season is over we can start working on the winter season,” he said.
Before summer rolls around, Halawith marks out events that need to be covered and students volunteer to cover the different events.
“We have a fall publication so we work throughout the year and by the middle of June is when we will have it done. Then it will print and be ready by homecoming that year,” he said.
Garchik said her students work together to develop a schedule of who is available to cover events in the summer and she steps in only if needed. However, this is rarely the case because the students are committed to creating a quality product.
WHS seniors Jadon Crawford and Lucas Ellis said the commitment is big, yet worth it, because of the satisfaction it grants when they get to see the final product.
“I like that we get to create something and publish our own work,” Crawford said.
“Everyone’s looking at the yearbook and they don’t know you made the page, but you made the page,” Ellis said.
Along with a sense of accomplishment, Halawith said he felt his time working on the MPCHS yearbook taught him liability and teamwork.
“For yearbook it’s not only about the graphic design, it’s about the responsibility. It’s something that gives you an adult responsibility as a high schooler and (because) it’s something that people pay for we really have to get (it) done on time so people can get what they expect,” he said.
Halawith said he feels employers will see this as an asset because students with a higher skill set tend to be valuable in the workplace.
“I think part of it is they are learning to work as a group and they also learn self-motivation. They have a definite goal and they want it to be something they’re proud of,” she said.
Balancing strengths and learning to work together to create the finished product boosts the moral and opens new doors for them, she said.
Another aspect of yearbook is the selling of advertisements.
Pekin, MPCHS and WHS students go to local businesses and sell ad space to help defer the cost of the yearbook. Obermann said students are broken up into pairs and travel to various businesses in town.
“That’s a great skill for them to learn; how to communicate with business people,” he said.