Journalism adviser Kathy Habiger started the award-winning program
The journalism program has won five state titles and other regional and national awards
February 10, 2015
In school history, only two programs have earned the title of state champions. One of these programs is the five-time champion journalism program.The brains behind the program, including yearbook, newspaper, and the Mill Valley News website is Journalism adviser Kathy Habiger.
Habiger first decided to come here after teaching for three years at De Soto High School because of the exhilaration factor at a brand new school.
“There was something exciting about wanting to open a new school and being able to start your new traditions, and I think that was a huge draw,” Habiger said. “Nobody gets to start with the first yearbook and the first everything, and that was exciting … that’s why I chose to come here.”
While hundreds of students have been taught by Habiger over her 15 years, she said they have not changed much, as they have always been wonderful kids.
“They’ve been fantastic students, we’ve had really supportive parents,” Habiger said. “Everything about being in this program makes it really easy for me to teach because of the support we have and the kinds of students we have … they are awesome.”
Habiger and her yearbook and newspaper staff have won many awards through the 15 years. In 2011, the JAG yearbook was inducted into the National Scholastic Press Association Hall of Fame, which recognizes long-term excellence for publications. The journalism staffs have earned 28 Kansas Scholastic Press Association All-Kansas ratings, given annually to the top publications in the state. The journalism staffs have also earned 21 National Scholastic Press Association All-American ratings for both publications. Habiger was the 2010 KSPA Kansas Journalism Adviser of the Year. Habiger was also named a Distinguished Yearbook Adviser by the Journalism Education Association in 2007. The program has won five KSPA journalism state titles since 2004.
“It didn’t take us but 11 years [to get inducted into the National Scholastic Press Association Hall of Fame] and I think that was really neat to be recognized,” Habiger said.
English teacher Kristen Crosbie has known Habiger for a very long time. Crosbie first met Habiger when she was a long-term sub for Habiger when she had her daughter back in 2004. Crosbie’s daughter was also on the JAG yearbook staff for two years. Crosbie is supportive of Habiger’s students and their accomplishments.
“Because I teach AP English I have a lot of journalism students, and I was a former journalism student and I support them,” Crosbie said.
Habiger’s job takes a lot of time and effort out of her and her students, which can be tough for her sometimes.
“It seems like there are a lot of demands placed on my students and me,” Habiger said. “I think it’s great that they get those learning opportunities, it beats nobody caring about what you are doing. But the time makes it hard, you have a family, you have things you want to do outside of school.”
Even though the pressure can be challenging at times, Habiger said the best part of her job is watching students grow from taking her classes.
“All the things that the students learn from doing this, obviously you learn how to write and edit and take pictures and do all those journalism things, but you also learn how to become a better person,” Habiger said. “[You learn] how to get along in the world, I don’t care if any of my kids ever went on to do journalism but I do know they are going to leave here with the skills they need to be successful later on and that’s really just the neatest part of my job.”
Crosbie said Habiger is a great teacher and is a very hard worker.
“I think she works very hard, you can tell by the awards that she does a really good job,” Crosbie said.
Technology is one of the basis of the journalism department, and it has changed a lot these past 15 years.
“At one point in this room we had 10 [windows PC’s],” Habiger said. “We shared; it wasn’t a one-on-one situation. As the classes grew we got more machines, so the district had more commitment, where every kid [now] has their own machine. We finally decided we need to put money into [Apple’s Mac computers] these are what they’re using in the real world.”
The Mill Valley News website started being updated frequently in 2013. Before that, the website was just updated once a month with stories from the newspaper. Now the website is updated daily with sporting events, school events and many more activities.
“I really feel you can’t not have [a website.] That’s where the world is and I have to give my kids that opportunity,” Habiger said.
Out of everything she teaches, Habiger wants her students to know that this is a family and her classroom is a safe place.
“I hope they see this as a family,” Habiger said. “You can just be yourself and that’s OK, we love you however you are and we will love you just the same.”