I have always – always – written, and the idea I could make my living with words first occurred to me when I joined the staff of the Ottawa Hills High School student newspaper (shout-out to Mrs. McCormick and Mr. Shalhoup!). Early on, my enthusiasm sometimes overshadowed my attention to detail: somewhere in Grand Rapids, a publisher or magazine editor has one of my first, typewriter-created cover letters, framed and hanging on his or her office wall, the misspelled word “proofreader” highlighted in yellow. But on I pressed.
My first beat as a freelance reporter at The Grand Rapids Press was Kent City Community Schools, just in time to explain to the public the bond issue the district hoped to pass. Over the years, I covered other districts, and the “trial by fire” method of learning how schools work was used often: by having to explain edu-concepts to an audience of tens of thousands, often mere hours after having first heard the term “sinking fund” or “outcomes-based learning.”
These are the issues that are crucial to be able to put into words that non-educators like myself can comprehend. As an education reporter for The Press, I was proud to be part of the team who worked every day to write about remarkable teachers and the ways they make their classrooms places of true discovery, and the amazing students whose resumes are, at 15 or 16, far longer than mine is in my early 50s. I also was proud to help make those often difficult-to-understand issues clearer for those whose taxes go to fund our schools. We must remember that a public that feels included tends to be engaged, and if they are engaged, they tend to be supportive.
SNN is something my journalism colleagues and I never would have dreamed of when our local metropolitan newspaper all but ceased covering schools. The void SNN has filled and has even begun to over-fill means those stories, for so long not told, are being shared again. All have the potential now to be shared around the world – and that’s huge. I’m really honored to be a part of it.