Monday, August 9, 2010

Grant Helps Teacher Launch Student Newspaper

By David Staudacher, PR Manager, Rio Salado College

Rio Salado College’s online classes allow students to attend classes wherever they are located and when it fits into their schedule. This flexibility leaves a lot extra time for students to take on extracurricular activities. 

For student Ingrid Benson, who teaches Junior English and News Production at Copper Canyon High School in Glendale, the extra time allowed her to revive a lost tradition – a student-run newspaper.

“Rio Salado’s classes couldn’t be any more convenient,” said Benson, who recently completed Tempe-based college’s Teacher-in-Residence program. “I walked to the testing center for all of the tests I took. It was very convenient for me. I also took advantage of flexible start days. I timed it to start classes when I was off work, like during Christmas break. I would spend my two weeks off advancing as far as I could go in the class.”

With the time Benson saved, she worked with a colleague to put together a plan to start a new school newspaper. While some people may raise an eyebrow to the idea of starting a newspaper, Benson believes it will be one of the most important classes in the students’ high school career and benefit the entire school.

“When you think about the whole high school experience, [the newspaper] is something students remember, and some students will keep copies of the paper,” said Benson. “I just think this is part of the high school experience.”

While Benson believes the general students will enjoy the paper, she said the students producing the paper will benefit the most.

“There are many professional skills that the students can learn from this newspaper,” said Benson. “First of all, the students will be learning proper English. There will be a lot of creative students using Photoshop and InDesign to do the advertising and design. I want these kids to take something away from this that will give them a skill for when they go out into the workforce. I want to give them something hands-on to do, not just something they read in a book. They will have published clips to bring to an interview, and that’s a big deal.”

According to Benson, the students will gain additional skills as they will be assigned deadlines and have to learn time management. They also will have to learn to work as a team.

“In this class, they will be learning a skill and be able to go out into the world and be a productive person. This is what school is all about,” said Benson. 

While most students go online to find information, Benson has been pleasantly surprised with more than 80 students expressing interest in the newspaper. And the students are not the only people who support the school newspaper.

“Budgets are tight at the school and a lot of programs are seeing cutbacks,” said Benson. “What really made this possible is a $6,000 technology grant from the Arizona Republic.”