Columbia Scholastic Press Association

CSPA is an international student press association, founded in 1925, whose goal is to unite student journalists and faculty advisers at schools and colleges through educational conferences, idea exchanges, textbooks, critiques and award programs.

2022 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year Announced



NEW YORK, N.Y. (APRIL 4, 2022) High school journalism faculty from across the country were invited to apply for the National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year for 2022. The program sponsored by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University and the Dow Jones News Fund are pleased to announce David Ragsdale is the 2022 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year.

Ragsdale, a journalism teacher-adviser of the hybrid newspaper (print plus website) as well as literary magazine at Clarke Central High School, Athens, GA, was selected from among 16 teachers nationally.

The Distinguished Advisers are Kathy Habiger, Mill Valley High School, Shawnee, KS; Sarah Kirksey, Ladue Horton Watkins High School, St. Louis, MO; Rebecca Potter, Texas High School, Texarkana, TX.

The Special Recognition Advisers are Diala Chaney, Oxford High School, Oxford, MS; Annette Deming, Don Antonio Lugo High School, Chino, CA; Shawn McDonald, Westfield High School, Westfield, NJ and Jeremy Stelzner, Montgomery Blair High School, Spring, MD.

The selection panel included 2021 Teacher of the Year Ray Westbrook from St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, TX; 1998 Teacher of the Year Kathleen Zwiebel, retired adviser of Pottsville Area High School, Pottsville, PA; and Edmund J. Sullivan, Executive Director, Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

The National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year Awards program is managed by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University.

As adviser to Odyssey / at Clarke Central High School in Athens, GA, he began with no formal training in journalism. He said his first year was about learning to tap into student talent and fundraising on the fly. Since then, he has worked to teach his students to think beyond just their peer groups and represent their entire school.

"He teaches and allows his students to be independent student journalists and gives them the confidence and ability to create the highest quality of work. I have watched him conduct staff meetins, teach alongside his students in sessions, and relate to his students on a personal level. For me, his ability to create a cohensive, strong relationship with his students and between the staff is the mark of a truly great adviser," said Leslie Dennis, Director of Scholastic Media, SIPA/SCSPA at the University of South Carolina.

Former Teacher of the Year Valerie Kibler said about Ragsdale, “Most impressive about his presentations has been his insistence on presenting in concert with his students. This proves to me he is truly the definition of an adviser, one who is there to guide his students while they learn life skills that place them among the top student journalists in the country. His formula is definitely one I wish all advisers would emulate because he’s producing well rounded, media literate students who will lead our country in the future.”

David Ragsdale has proven himself as an innovative teacher and dynamic adviser. He empowers his students to grow their leadership qualities, whether for their own personal expression or as a member of a team. This is the true essence of a National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year,” said Edmund J. Sullivan, CSPA Executive Director.

Ragsdale, believes the key of success goes back to the basics of education.

“As much as we can beat the drum for better reporting and ethical journalism, if our kids cannot or will not read, we are in trouble. I firmly believe packaging is a major way to combat the issue. 1) Digital storytelling using multimedia. Most young adults read on their phones. If the content doesn’t pop or provide an immersive experience, they won’t spend the time to digest and reflect upon the content. 2) For traditional print publications, advisers and student designers have to think of more compelling ways to package solid writing content. I would advocate for the study of contemporary design trends and the implementation of that design to publications – if it looks good, kids are more likely to engage. 3) Diversify storytelling – long-form journalism is increasingly difficult for high school readers to consume; student journalists could produce more Q&A packages, podcasts, infographics and 300-word stories to more concisely tell the stories of their schools and communities. 4) Ensuring the stories of underrepresented populations are told.”

Ragsdale will receive a plaque and be featured in an exclusive interview to be posted on CSPA's website. He will also receive four waived registrations to the CSPA Summer Workshop, available for either Mr. Ragsdale or students of his choice.



Distinguished Advisers will each receive two waived registrations to the CSPA Summer Workshop, available for either the adviser themselves or for the students of their choice. Distinguished Advisers will also receive a plaque to recognize their achievement.



Kathy Habiger teaches at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, KS where she advises the newspaper, yearbook and website. Habiger has worked to create an atmosphere where the students in publications are not a clique but are a true reflection of the school population.
I’ve seen my journalism staffs change from having mostly the top, most highly-motivated students in the school to having a greater variety of students with different goals than just getting all As or joining lots of activities to pad a resume. It’s taken more training and patience on my part but seeing students who may not have gotten much attention in school become stars in the journalism room is more than worth the effort. Developing strong middle school programs also needs to be a priority to help recruit students to high school programs. Obviously, getting students started early will help them stay on the journalism path in high school.”





Sarah Kirksey teaches newspaper, online news, the print literary magazine and the yearbook at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis, MO. Kirksey sees her role as adviser is to ensure her students understand ethical issues and potential intended or unintended consequences of publishing content.

“I think over the past few decades, and with an obvious spike in the last five years, societal trust in journalists has been called into question as technology has advanced and the need to be first has heightened to unhealthy levels. At the scholastic level, this stigma permeates the journalism courses and many students come into my classroom for the first time with preconceived notions as to what journalism is. They don’t understand the necessity of factual, transparent journalism and how without it, our government, the companies leading our society, and anyone with an ounce of power would go unchecked.”






Rebecca Potter teaches at Texas High School in Texarkana, TX where she advises newspaper and yearbook. She teaches her students to produce and edit responsibly.

I understand that an administrator’s responsibility is to look out for the school, and I ask that they understand that my responsibility is to be an advocate for my students’ rights. With multiple online outlets and social media sites, students don’t need our permission to publish anymore, so we should work together to make sure that the newspaper is a place where they can learn to produce journalistically sound and responsible reporting.”



Each Special Recognition Adviser will receive one waived registration to the CSPA Summer Workshop, available for either the adviser themself or for a student of their choice. Advisers will also receive a plaque to commemorate their achievement.





Diala Chaney teaches high school journalism as well as advises the newspaper, literary magazine, and yearbook at Oxford High School in Oxford, MS. Chaney works with her district's communications director as well as the local newspaper and local magazine to showcase and publish her students’ work. Along the way she learned the issues of prior review that her students experience.

“Before I became a teacher, I was a full-time lawyer. Taking on the role of a high school journalism teacher in a public high school in Mississippi was a far more daunting role than anything I'd ever faced before. I had a walking around knowledge of the law and free speech/press rights, but I never thought I'd have to put them to use in this job.”






Annette Deming teaches at Don Antonio Lugo High School in Chino, CA where she advises the online publication that includes podcasting, social media management and video broadcasting as well as advising the yearbook. Deming aims to prepare each staff member to become leaders in their roles on staff.
Scholastic journalism is a direct route to college. It is a program that prepares students to be active and civic-minded citizens. Scholastic journalism gives them the skills that will transfer across disciplines, and scholastic journalism with the right supports can provide students with a multitude of ways to help them down the path of college. At best, scholastic journalism gives students something to be part of and a positive way to give back to their school culture.”