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

Serving others for 40+ years, Jane Blystone continues to inspire

Carl Towley winner Jane Blystone, MJE, celebrates at the Fall 2022 adviser luncheon with longtime friends Bonnie Blackman and Rick Brooks.

Grape Pickers as a mascot might make you think more of Napa Valley than the shores of Lake Erie, but the 12,000 acres of vineyards near North East, Pennsylvania, inspired not only the high school mascot, but also the name for 2022 Carl Towley winner Jane Blystone’s blog and her after-retirement sewing and fabric art business, Vineyard Musings.

Blystone’s husband grew up in the area, and she said once she moved there, she was fascinated by the vineyards and grape agriculture.

That fascination explains Vineyard and the Musings part of the name reflects Blystone’s lifelong love of writing. That is what led her to journalism as a high school student, but she said the best part of being on the newspaper staff was that it put her in leadership positions.

“I had to make decisions, because no one else was making them,” she said. “I went from reporter to front-page editor to editor-in-chief in like six weeks. Apparently my adviser trusted me.”

Another important lesson from high school and college journalism that stuck with Blystone was the power of telling the truth.

“I learned you don’t fabricate or embellish, but just tell the truth. That has been my mantra all along as a journalist, and it continues today as a school board member,” Blystone said.

“People want someone to make a decision for them, but that’s not your job. You have to give them the truth, and then they have to decide.”

Blystone started teaching in 1973, joined JEA in 1982 and attended her first national convention in Denver in 1992. She said it took a while to convince the school board to let students go to a writing-based conference.

“As a young journalism teacher, I needed all of the professional mentoring I could get,” she said. “My friend, and journalism teacher on the other side of my state, Kathy Zwiebel, told me to join JEA because it would be such a great way to make connections to build my program.”

Blystone said she knew she wanted to be part of the leadership in JEA after that first convention.

“My first leadership opportunity came when H.L. Hall appointed me as the Pennsylvania state director,” she said. “The rest is history.”

That history includes 34 years teaching high school, nine years in higher education, a CJE, MJE, Ph.D., and post-retirement service on her local school board along with a stint as JEA Mentoring Program chair. She’s also been on the PSPA board for 43 years; its Student Journalist of the Year award is named for her.

Blystone still says her best advice for new teachers is to get a mentor.

“That is one reason I agreed to chair the JEA Mentoring Program when Sarah Nichols called me,” Blystone said. “I remembered those early days as a young journalism teacher and wanted to help new or inexperienced advisers get up to speed faster than I was able to do. We need to continue to reach out to professionals to help all advisers give their students BIG opportunities.”

When it comes to teachers who have been at it for a while, Blystone’s advice for avoiding burnout is to be invested in professional development within your area of expertise.

I’ve been part of the Literacy Association of Greater Erie along with JEA and other organizations,” Blystone said. “I get outside of my local environment. I never had burnout in 50 years in education. In my opinion, a reason people have burnout is they have no connection with people in the outside world as a part of their wider profession. You can prevent burnout by connecting and networking with wider professional groups.

“Because we have so much connection with our kids, we need connections with adults outside of our school. It helps you stay energized and avoid getting stagnant.”

While professional connections are important, connections with students can be especially memorable.

“I think my favorite moment as a JEA member and publications adviser happened in 2003 at the Dallas convention,” Blystone said.”It was the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. I remember the day he was shot; my staffers had no idea. Knowing that, I took my staffers to visit the Dallas Book Depository, and we all got to meet Bob Schiefer, the young reporter who took the call at his newspaper from Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother. They had watched Schiefer on CBS all of their young lives, so they thought it was cool to hear him speak in person.

“Schiefer was so personable, and all five of my staffers got to shake his hand. They still speak of that time today 21 years later. That would never have happened for my five small-town girls except for JEA reaching out to get the best professionals to share with our student journalists.”

Even though she has made meaningful connections with generations of students and in numerous professional organizations, Blystone said JEA is now her professional family.

“When I go to conventions, I feel like I’m home.”

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