Cedar Rapids teacher earns national kudos

Journalism Education Association names Washington High School teacher 'Rising Star'

Published: March 25 2014 | 10:15 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:08 am in

Kyle Phillips wants his students to know: Journalism isn’t dead.

Here at The Gazette, we’re obviously on board with that. So we’re glad to hear a Cedar Rapids Washington High School teacher repeating the message.

The Journalism Education Association apparently also liked that message, along with the rest of Phillip’s teaching. The association named him one of 14 national Rising Star award winners for 2014. Natalie Niemeyer of East High School in Des Moines also will receive the award.

The award recognizes teachers with less than five years of journalism teaching or advising experience who demonstrate a commitment to journalism education and show promise as up-and-coming advisers.

“I just think journalism is one of the best activities students can be involved in to be prepared for the 21st century workforce,” Phillips said. “I tell parents, even if students don’t go into journalism, just having been on the paper they’re going to be more successful in whatever they go into.”

Phillips credited Cedar Rapids administrators for supporting school journalism programs. He said he wants administrators everywhere, in an era of budget cuts, to understand that teaching journalism hits many of the things being emphasized on the Common Core standards — things like non-fiction reading and comprehension and 21st century skills centered around technology.

“It’s not only writing skills, but reading, keeping up with the news and knowing the importance of being an informed citizen in a democracy,” he said.

The Washington High School newspaper, The Surveyor, comes out monthly as a news magazine. Students also run a website, www.crwashsurveyor.com. The online version launched when Phillips started the job four years ago, and he paid for it out of pocket. Students have won a number of awards through the Iowa High School Press Association. He hopes in the future they also will be recognized in national competitions.

“My goals are for the students to continue improving every year, which I feel has been done,” he said. “That is more a testament to the students than to me. I enjoy working with students who are energetic. It keeps me energetic.”

Phillips, 28, has a background firmly rooted in the Corridor — he got his start in journalism in high school on the Iowa City High School Little Hawk newspaper before attending Kirkwood Community College and the University of Iowa, where he got his education degree. Beyond student teaching and subbing in the Iowa City area, the Washington job is his first teaching gig. He said he plans to stay in Cedar Rapids for the foreseeable future.

The Rising Star awards will be presented April 12 during the Journalism Education Association Spring National High School Journalism Convention in San Diego.

Comments: (319) 398-8434; alison.gowans@sourcemedia.net

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