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.

Westbrook Named 2021 National High School Journalism Teacher Year

NEW YORK, N.Y. (MARCH 12, 2021) — The Columbia Scholastic Press Association is pleased to announce Ray Westbrook is the 2021 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year.

Westbrook, a journalism teacher adviser of the newspaper and yearbook at St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, TX, was selected from among 17 teachers who were national finalists.

The Distinguished Advisers are Tracy Anderson, Community High School, Ann Arbor, MI; Lindsay Benedict, McLean High School, McLean, VA; Abrianna Nelson, Washington-Liberty High School, Arlington, VA and Alana Van Der Sluys, Kinnelon High School, Kinnelon, NJ.

The Special Recognition Advisers are Steven Denlinger, Stafford High School, Fredericksburg, VA; Steve Hanf, First Flight High School, Kill Devil Hills, NC; Tamra McCarthy, James Enochs High School, Modesto, CA and Kathleen Mills, Bloomington High School South High School, Bloomington, IN.

The selection panel included 2020 Teacher of the Year Erinn Harris, 2020 Teacher of the Year from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Mark Goodman, Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent (Ohio) State University; Linda Shockley, former 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.

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 Poynter Institute for Media Studies and The Wall Street Journal.
As adviser to The ReMarker student newspaper, The Marksmen yearbook and Focus, a special interest magazine, Westbrook is a master teacher who excels at drawing the best achievement from his students.

Kathleen Zwiebel, a past NHS Journalism Teacher of the Year herself, said, “Ray celebrates his students’ creativity while making sure they adhere to journalistic principles. He helps his writers to find their voice and to learn the duty of the craft. Ray’s lessons about commitment, teamwork and self-motivation will follow them the rest of their lives.”

Gary Lundgren, associate executive director of the National Scholastic Press Association, describes typical coverage in The ReMarker newspaper. “From exploring depression to examining recruiting at private schools and colleges, every issue of The ReMarker features robust, substantial and localized coverage of contemporary concerns. The ReMarker clearly makes an impact.”

Bobby Hawthorne, formerly Director of the Interscholastic League Press Conference at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote “Of course, some would argue that Ray’s success is the natural product of a rich environment. I vigorously and categorically reject that opinion. I have worked with many, many schools with resources as great or greater than St. Marks and few, if any, have come close to achieving what his students accomplish issue after issue, edition by edition, year after year after year. His publications are entirely student produced. Anyone who has ever worked with Ray and his boys will testify under oath to that.”

Edmund J. Sullivan, executive director of the CSPA, summarized his perception of the program that Westbrook has advised for 20 years. “His journalism program at St. Mark’s School in Dallas, TX has developed a national reputation for in-depth reporting, top notch writing and editing as well as mastery of storytelling. They successfully tackle a wide range of topics, many considered taboo in other schools, with sensitivity and professionalism.”

Westbrook will receive a plaque and be featured in an exclusive interview during the CSPA Convention Showcase March 19. He will also receive a one-year subscription to The Wall Street Journal as well as access to webinars from The Poynter Institute. One of his 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. Also, they will be sent a plaque and featured on a special panel that will be part of a special CSPA Adviser Awards Showcase in April.

Tracy Anderson is a teacher and media adviser at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She advises The Communicator (newsmagazine, website and social media), The Midnight Sun (yearbook) and VOICE (art and literary journal) and teaches three journalism courses and one creative writing course. Anderson is the Digital Media Chair, Michigan Interscholastic Press Association (MIPA).

Lindsay Benedict of McLean High School in McLean, Virginia is in her 10th year of teaching journalism and broadcast news. She also advises newsmagazine, broadcast news show, literary magazine and website. Benedict also is the associate director of Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers & Advisers.

Abrianna Nelson teaches and advises newspaper/website, yearbook, weekly broadcast show, literary magazine and occasionally a podcasting club at Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington, Virginia. She was awarded a Rising Star Award by the Journalism Education Association in 2019. Nelson believes that her students should make all content, editorial and entrepreneurial decisions and her role is to assist them to grow as journalists who make good decisions.

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.



Each Special Recognition Adviser will be sent a plaque and featured on a special panel that will be part of a special CSPA Adviser Awards Showcase in April.

Steven Denlinger been teaching newspaper journalism and advising for 22 years, 14 of those advising newspapers. He currently teaches and advises The Smoke Signal at Stafford High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Denlinger assisted in creating a handbook for his staff that sets position responsibilities, staff policies, and staff code of conduct.

Steve Hanf teaches journalism and advises the News Hawk newsmagazine and Shorelines yearbook at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills, NC.
Prior to teaching, he was a sports writer at The High Point Enterprise and The Salisbury (N.C.) Post.

Tamra McCarthy teaches at James Enochs High School in Modesto, CA. She is in her 16th year of teaching and advising journalism. Currently, she advises Wingspan yearbook. Student freedom of expression is important to her and she advises students who set the deadlines and decide on content. Media Literacy is a big issue that McCarthy believes  must be taught to all of her students.

Kathleen Mills has taught journalism and advised the student newspaper, The Optimist since 2001 at Bloomington High School South in Bloomington, IN. She was an adjunct lecturer at Indiana University who taught basic investigative techniques Prior to teaching Mills was a reporter at the Herald-Times in Bloomington, IN. Mills is also part of the New York Teaching Fellowship where teachers and librarians across the country work to develop curriculum materials for other teachers using the NYT’s Learning Network.

Founded in 1925, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association unites student editors and faculty advisers working with them who produce student newspapers, magazines, yearbooks and online media. Students come from public, private and church-related schools and colleges throughout the United States and from overseas schools following an American plan of education. The Association is owned and operated by Columbia University and managed by its School of Professional Studies.

Contact: E. Sullivan at [email protected] for further information.
March 12, 2021