Click on the video above to see why Mitch Ziegler is deserving of this recognition.
Here is a story by JEA Awards Chair Erinn Harris that was published on JEA.org in January when the award recipient was announced.
In his 31 years as a yearbook adviser, Ziegler has become a legend in the field. Student press rights advocate, photography guru, local committee chair, writing coach, contest judge: there isn’t one area of yearbook that isn’t in Ziegler’s wheelhouse.
In his own words, “Jeez, I love this.”
Even for those with a deep love of yearbook, COVID-19 presented significant obstacles in production schedules. However, the pandemic was yet another opportunity for yearbook students — and their advisers — to demonstrate the value of yearbook and 21st Century Skills.
“March 16, 2020, was emblematic of the ways journalistic yearbooks epitomize 21st Century Skills for students in college and their careers,” Ziegler said. “That day was the last day my students stepped foot on the Redondo campus for the year, and that day represents how they utilized creativity, critical thinking, flexibility and social skills to complete one of the best yearbooks in Redondo history.”
Creativity, critical thinking, flexibility and social skills are all characteristics typical of Ziegler’s students, before, during and after the pandemic.
“Though the three of us are currently working in vastly different fields,” Ziegler’s 2017 Editors-in-Chief Lauryn Alejo, Alysa Kataoka and Matthew Yonemura said in a recommendation letter, “the lesson and skills Ziegler has imparted upon us have significantly shaped our work ethic and outlook outside of the classroom. Despite the differences in our career goals, the leadership skills that Ziegler taught us have naturally translated to our respective pursuits. Ziegler set up his students for their futures beyond yearbook.”
In order to advise yearbooks that consistently produce at the level of Ziegler’s staffs, one must be a lifelong learner, and Ziegler loves to learn.
“In years teaching workshops to advisers at various locales across the country, I’ve never seen anyone as giddy about learning as Mitch Ziegler,” Bradley Wilson, Ph.D., MJE, said. “He just really enjoys getting out and trying new things, looking at things from a new point of view and having new experiences.”
Anything Ziegler learns, he is ready and willing to share. A frequent presenter, podcast guest and volunteer, he has been a mentor to advisers and students around the country.
“Thankfully, I met Mitch Ziegler during the summer of 2017, and in him, not only did I find an encyclopedia worth of knowledge, experience and wisdom, but my students and I also discovered an educator, guide and willing mentor,” Orange County School of the Arts adviser Courtney Harper said.
Year after year, advisers around the country look at The Pilot yearbook and wonder, “How does he do it?”
Antelope High School adviser Pete LeBlanc, CJE, has the answer: “He is doing everything right. He empowers his students to run their own program, create their own book and execute their own vision. As an adviser, he points and prods in the right direction, giving them the space to take full ownership of their product. The power of the educational experience for Mitch’s students is among the best in the country, just like, and more importantly, than the actual yearbook.”
Ziegler was recognized formally this spring during the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention alongside the following Distinguished and Special Recognition Yearbook Advisers. Here is a video where Mitch delivered a speech. (Forward to 9 minutes into the video to see Mitch and other distinguished yearbook advisers were also recognized at this ceremony.)