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.

Erinn Harris is named 2020 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Feb. 11, 2020) — The Columbia Scholastic Press Association is pleased to announce Erinn Harris as the 2020 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year.

Harris, a journalism teacher and faculty adviser of student media at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology at Alexandria, VA, was selected from among a national pool of candidates.

In addition, the CSPA named four additional teachers as Distinguished Advisers, and four more teachers as Special Recognition Advisers.

The Distinguished Advisers are J.D. Garber, Salina (KS) High School; Kim Isbell, Humboldt (KS) High School; Kristin Taylor, The Archer School for Girls, Los Angeles, CA and Carolyn Wagner, Lake Zurich (IL) High School.

The Special Recognition Advisers are Delbert Ellerton, Henry W. Grady High School, Atlanta, GA; Anne Hayman, Arlington High School, Granite Falls, WA; Sarah Lerner, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL and Alana Van Der Sluys, Kinnelon (NJ) High School.

The National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year Awards program is managed by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and co-sponsored by Dow Jones News Fund, with additional support from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and The Wall Street Journal.

The selection panel for the awards included: 2019 Teacher of the Year Melissa Falkowski of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL; Mark Goodman, professor and Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent (Ohio) State University; Linda Shockley, managing director, Dow Jones News Fund; Edmund J. Sullivan, executive director, Columbia Scholastic Press Association and Laura Widmer, executive director of National Scholastic Press Association

Edmund J. Sullivan, executive director of the CSPA, said “Erinn Harris brings a dynamic approach to teaching high energy students in a STEM-oriented magnet high school. She has built out an innovative curriculum that attracts and trains students in working with a newsmagazine, website, yearbook and broadcast publishing. She continues to challenge both herself and her students in pursuing excellence with a strong emphasis on free expression.”

The awards will be presented at the CSPA annual Spring Convention in New York on March 19 at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library.

ERINN HARRIS          


Harris is a strong supporter of New Voices legislation, as she believes students have become too likely to be self-censors. She said, “If a student is afraid that someone in the community might deem an important topic offensive, will the student avoid writing about it for fear that they will get in trouble?”

As tjTODAY and Techniques adviser, Harris believes students can empower their writing through research, “As part of my new opinion training structure, students have to prove they’ve done the research first, before they even begin writing. The legacy of Hazelwood has created a generation of students who are simply afraid to speak out. In my opinion, this is even more dangerous than external censorship.“

Former student Christine Zhao, 2018 National Journalist of the Year and former tjToday editor-in-chief for investigations says, “It is an understatement to say that Ms. Harris is a fighter. She fiercely champions her writers and consistently raises the standard for tjTODAY. It is so obvious to everyone around her how much she lives and breathes newspaper and yearbook.”

Casey Nichols from Rocklin (CA) High School added, "What also impresses me in all media is that Erinn empowers her students and they are not afraid to innovate, but keep their students’ readers in focus at all times. Her approach reflects her view that good journalism is not defined nor limited by platform.”

Harris will receive a plaque and be featured in an exclusive interview at the Awards Luncheon on March 19. She will also receive a one year subscription to The Wall Street Journal as well as access to webinars from The Poynter Institute. One of her students will be chosen for a $1,000 college scholarship for journalism study.



Each Distinguished Adviser will receive a plaque as well as a one year subscription to The Wall Street Journal and access to webinars from the Poynter Institute. A $500 scholarship will be presented to one of their students who plan to major in journalism in college.



J.D. Garber is a teacher and media adviser at Salina Central High School in Salina, Kansas. He has advised the Pylon newsmagazine and website for 11 years following stints as editor in both high school and in college.

Garber is currently the Kansas Scholastic Press Association President Elect.



Kim Isbell of Humboldt High School in Humboldt, Kansas is in her 19th year of teaching. She advises the print and online Cub Tracks newspaper, Cub yearbook, photography program, introductory course, and video productions

Isbell is a regional representative for the Kansas Scholastic Press Association where she also judges and teaches at their events.



Kristin Taylor teaches and advises The Oracle news and Hestia’s Flame yearbook at The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles. She has worked to increase both the staffs’ diversity and encourage diversity in their coverage.

While the journalism program in Taylor’s school is currently active only for the upper grades, her next goal is to start a journalism program for the students in the middle school grades.



Carolyn Wagner been teaching journalism and advising for 20 years at Lake Zurich High School at Lake Zurich, IL. She advises the quarterly magazine, daily news website and guides a regular social media presence.

Wagner teaches at the Kettle Moraine Press Association (KEMPA) and the Northern Illinois Scholastic Press Association's student conferences as well as at the KEMPA summer journalism workshop.

Wagner is a past president of KEMPA and now serves as a board member.



Each Special Recognition Adviser will be presented with a plaque at the CSPA annual Spring Convention.


Delbert Ellerton has taught high school journalism for 12 years at two schools. Currently he teaches and advises The Southerner newspaper, Nexus magazine and the accompanying websites for both publications at Henry W. Grady High School at Atlanta, GA.

Prior to teaching, he had 10 years of professional experience in journalism at publications such as the Macon Telegraph, Newport News Daily Press, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Bloomberg.

Ellerton is a past Georgia Scholastic Press Association Teacher of the Year and has presented sessions at their convention.


Anne Hayman teaches at Arlington High School in Arlington, WA. She is in her 22nd of teaching and advising journalism. Currently, she advises The Eagle newspaper and The Stillaguamish Trail yearbook. One of her major goals is getting the Washington Journalism Education Association recognized as a Career & Technical Student Organization (CTSO).

Hayman has served as treasurer of Washington Journalism Education Association and currently serves as its president.



Sarah Lerner teaches Journalism 1 and advises the Aerie yearbook at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She has been teaching since 2002 and advising since 2006. Lerner received the 2019 Gold Key from CSPA and Aerie is a three-time CSPA Crown Award winner.

She is the author of “Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories.”

Lerner serves on the Florida Scholastic Press Association Executive Board as well as the 2020 JEA/NSPA Orlando State Committee. She was named 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year for her district of FSPA. She was previously awarded the Sun-Sentinel High School Journalism Teacher of the Year in 2014. 



Alana Van Der Sluys is a journalism teacher and newspaper adviser of Colt Chronicle at Kinnelon High School in Oak Ridge, NJ. Prior to teaching, she was a freelance journalist. She speaks at national and local conventions. She is on the board of the Garden State Scholastic Press Association and was the 2018 recipient of GSSPA's Golden Quill Award. In 2016, she appeared on the cover of New Jersey Education Association's Review magazine for her feature article on scholastic journalism.