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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

How To Authenticate Your Yearbook Design
Sharon Pettey-Taylor

Ms. Michelle Brohm-Soto of Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, NY has spearheaded with the support of her students, colleagues and administration—school yearbooks of outstanding quality and design, to be treasured indefinitely. My request for a second interview with Ms .Brohm-Soto (now the proud mother of a baby girl), was graciously received, despite her demanding schedule of never-ending creativity. This is how it went:

SPT: First of all, congratulations on the originality and authenticity of the yearbook design for both 2009 and 2010. Each of these yearbooks reflect life as art, inside and outside the walls of our school’s classrooms: specifically, the cover and theme of 2009: displaying a powerful image of Michael Jackson, and of 2010: acknowledging the pride of our nation’s first African-American President, Barack Obama. I am again reminded of the Professional Teaching Standard, “Engaging Students,” which relates to “helping students connect classroom learning to their life experiences and cultural understanding.”(PTS, p.4) As you have previously mentioned, your graphic arts, design and photography classes contributed heavily in making this project a success. Do you feel your graduating students appreciate and welcome the opportunity to take a leadership role in the process of selection, as they format the pages of their yearbook design?
MBS: Thank you very much for your kind words. I’m really proud of the 2009 yearbook. The students did an amazing job and I’m anticipating an equally special, if not even better, 2010 yearbook. As for the students assisting in the selection process, they absolutely appreciate and welcome the opportunity. Students are excited to say that they designed a page in the book that includes pictures of events that all their friends attended. Creative leaders have the incentive of a free yearbook in addition to the privilege of saying they designed the “memory book.” It is an engaging and entertaining group process to construct the themes, page titles, arrangement of photos and chapters in the book.
SPT: I also noticed that one of our colleagues, who is well-known for her artistic talents, Ms. Therese Wright (a science instructor), has voluntarily worked by your side in “[creating] the opportunity to collaborate and become a visible and valued member of the school community.” (PTS, p. 9) Did you find this partnership an asset in moving things forward as you “engaged in thoughtful dialogue and reflection?” (PTS, p. 9)
MBS: This year, more than ever, Ms. Wright was vital to the creation of the book! I took maternity leave for two crucial months while she was on her own with the entire project. I think we make a great team. She is incredibly organized and imaginative. She contributed a lot of great design ideas, and inspired the students. I hope I get a chance to work with her again next year.
SPT: Can you share your thoughts on how important it is to connect on and off -campus events, which truly make a difference in the lives of our students?
MBS: We send a yearbook student to each campus and off-campus event in order to capture the photographs that best represent Boys and Girls High School, as well as the surrounding community. When students leave the school grounds with assignments, they know what it is really like to be a professional photographer, and they have a sense of accomplishment when they are published in the yearbook. Our students participate in an abundance of events, and contribute immensely to the area as a whole. Some of the events captured this year, as well as last year, were: the sickle cell Walk, senior citizens breakfast & dinner, the breast cancer Walk and the blood drive. It is important for students to represent the school during community events, representing “the pride and joy of Bed-Stuy.” We can’t just limit student involvement to what goes on inside the building. This connection shows the empowerment of students beyond the campus grounds. They should all be very proud of these endeavors, and I encourage them to continue as often as they can. It not only enhances the greatness of the yearbook but I’m certain it enhances their lives and the lives of others as well.  
SPT: There are so many original theme pages that reflect the uniqueness of the school community that caught my eye. For example, ”Because of You . . . “ (a tribute to certain members of the staff); “Wacky-Tacky – I Love the ‘80s;” “Let’s Aim To Keep in Touch – Senior E-Mails” (all listed by every senior) and “Twin Day” (so amazing). Those portions of the yearbook exemplify so much “authenticity.” I believe this is the secret to success for designing a memorable yearbook. Do you agree?
MBS: I completely agree. The themed pages definitely helped to pull the book together; these little details are what make the yearbook entertaining. This year we had a tribute to Michael Jackson with page titles like: “Remember The Time” and “Pretty Young Thing.” We felt it was an important part of history for remembrance of this year. In order to be authentic and original, we have to come up with catchy and amusing tributes. They seem to be everyone’s favorite part of the book and that puts some pressure on making sure they are the most interesting part. Personally, it’s my favorite part as well.

SPT:   On a more serious note, a memorial tribute to Dr. Frank Mickens, the beloved Principal of Boys and Girls High School from 1986 to 2004 is also a very important inclusion in the 2010 yearbook. The entire school community will now have a permanent visual manifestation of their love and respect for his dedicated and devoted service, well-known throughout the arena of educational leadership. Can you elaborate on how the students participated in making this heartfelt commitment to their yearbook a priority?

MBS:  Students and teachers were asked to contribute their personal stories about Dr. Mickens. Senior Andy Millien, who is one of our talented graphic design yearbook students, created the final artwork selected. There was an abundance of letters and photographs that we combined, and the graphic design class created one-page works or art that represented those great memories.
SPT: Many thanks, again, Ms. Brohm-Soto, for giving me another opportunity to share your thoughts, talents and gifts that mean so much to our school campus and to all graduating classes, who seek to define their “authenticity” in the ageless, expression of yearbook design. 

MBS: Thank you!

SPT: Do you think I can get a complimentary copy of this yearbook’s DVD?

MBS: Sure, wait until you see it!

SPT: I‘ll be back again next year. The class of 2011 has a hard act to follow!

MBS: Great, we’ll be ready. 



Engaging and Supporting Students in Learning. Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments for Student Learning. Developing as a Professional . The Professional Teaching Standards. New Teacher Center at The University of California, Santa Cruz, 2004.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Many thanks to the students, staff and administration of:
Boys and Girls High School, Brooklyn, NY
Bernard Gassaway, Principal
Christopher Smith, AP Organization
Entertainment, Visual Arts and Design Technology Academy
Ms. Catrina Williams, Assistant Principal, Supervision
Ms. Victoria Bozeman, Academy Director

Do you have a comment, question, or suggestion about this article? E-mail Sharon.



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