Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Ann Akers: a story of passion, surprises, and paying it forward


Ann Akers is a legend! She has won scores of well-deserved accolades for her outstanding contributions to journalism, including the JEA 2005 Carl Towley award. Ann has an encyclopedic knowledge of yearbook programs and opportunities nationwide and shares them widely. If you want to know which programs have been continually recognized over the decades, just ask Ann. Which advisers have been celebrated? Ditto. More importantly which up and coming young advisers need encouragement so you can reach out to them to assist in their development. Again, Ann.

Ann is intelligent, kind, creative, selfless, and always willing to reach out to help others. I doubt that our yearbook program at Chantilly HS (VA) would have been such a success without her generosity and influence. A master teacher, adviser, yearbook representative, former NSPA official, and currently the education guru for a major yearbook publishing company, Ann is one who always puts the needs of others and their programs paramount.

Yet I wonder if her legions of admirers know details about her that make her unique among her peers and point to her kindness?

Her presentations at national conventions were a “must attend” mandate for my staffs. Often she would co-present with such stellar figures as the legendary Paul Ender. My students were often amazed that when they went up to introduce themselves to her after the sessions, she knew Odyssey, and they would be thrilled if a slide featuring their work was included.

I doubt I would be as active in JEA had it not been for Ann. For over 30 years she encouraged my participation at national conventions, entry into awards competitions, judging for press associations and writing for journalism publications.

Here are a few personal examples of how Ann influenced me and my program over the years.

Once at the CSPA convention in NYC in the early 1990’s before I knew her well, I developed a raging toothache. I heard a rap on my door in the Wellington Hotel around 11 p.m. There was Ann with two extra strength Excedrin. She heard of my woe and came to the rescue.

Flash forward a to 2013 when Ann invited me to come to Charlotte to help with a project in early January. We took a break for a barbeque lunch, and on the way back to her office, I thought our driver had taken the wrong route, when suddenly I saw a road sign for West Hendersonville. I said, “Isn’t this where Brenda Gorsuch teaches?” Then the big reveal. We were headed to my dear friend Brenda’s school where she received the HL Hall Yearbook Adviser of the Year award in a surprise ceremony.

Ann is famous for surprises. When I attended the 2018 JEAai in Las Vegas to witness Brenda receive the Linda S. Puntney Teacher Inspiration Award, Ann invited us to lunch at a nearby hotel. Peeking out from behind a pillar was my former long-time yearbook rep and mutual friend, Vicky Wolfe! Ann arranged another such surprise the following year when I was in NOLA to receive the same recognition. We arrived at a cooking school and once again, there was Vicky standing behind some cookware.

You see, Ann has a network of YERD friends nationwide whom she can call on and they leap to assist her in any way possible. When my phone tells me Ann is calling, I pick up immediately and gear up for action. Ann encourages us to write, to present, to mentor young advisers, in other words, to pay it forward in a profession that we all love and treasure.

And how about Flair? Ann is famous for having her team create round disk pins which are a fan favorite at convention booths. Did you know that Ann also creates personalized flair? My absolute favorite one she made for me makes me laugh each time I see it! Sorry – can’t be shared! Ann has an encyclopedic memory for detail and her Flair is a reminder that she absorbs tidbits of knowledge of what people have said or done which provides raw material to be preserved forever in Flair.

I am so proud to count myself as a FOAA – Friend of Ann Akers. Hey, what an idea for a custom-made piece of Flair for us to wear at the April JEA/NSPA Convention!

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