Tag Archives: Cecelia Whitehouse

End of the School Year Has Me Bringing Out My Old Yearbooks

11 May

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With the end of the school year coming, I have an urge to look at old yearbooks.  I have every yearbook from high school through college, as well as ones I mentored as a teacher, and now ones from the school where I work in a non-teaching role.

It is strange to see me as I age from 14 to now.  But one thing stays consistent, I was on the newspaper and yearbook staffs of high school, college and my year studying overseas.

It is strange when I look back and see where I began my interest in journalism and writing, to where I am now.   When I first started working on my high school newspaper, “Paw Prints,” and yearbook, Prelude,” at North Bergen High School, I never intended to go into journalism.  I wanted to be a psychologist.   I just enjoyed being on the school newspaper and yearbook, moving up to become one of the editors, but never vying to be editor in chief.  Just happy in the role I had.  It was fun, but not my main interest.

In college, at Drew University, I had the same view.   College was a bit disjointed and strange for me.   I spent my sophomore year in Israel doing a year abroad.  Most people go during their junior year, after they have made an impression on their friends and professors.

I went a year early, because a friend of my parents was on the board of the Hebrew University’s Overseas Program.  As a college professor, he thought being gone junior year was a mistake, and pressed my parents to send me a year earlier.  In 1974, it was unusual for students to go overseas to study at all.  For my parents to even let me go, and to go a year earlier, I think they were brave.

In any case, I lost a year of making a name for myself at the school and connecting with friends.  When I got back, it was a bit awkward, as I had to reacquaint myself with everyone and sort of start again in the school atmosphere.  Also, I was changed by my year in Israel, arriving there less than a year after the Yom Kippur War.  The me who left Drew in 1974 was extremely different than the me who returned in 1975.  I was resolute, braver and knew myself!

While I was in Israel, I actually worked on the Hebrew University’s Overseas Program yearbook. I am listed as one of the eight students on the editorial board. I have vague memories of working on it.  Being in Israel at that time was so amazing, I honestly feel as if a different person was there, each memory more of a dream then a reality.

When I came back, I had to decide what to do next.  I had to declare a major.   I now knew that psychology was not for me.  I had taken a neuropsychology class at Hebrew University where we went to look at brains and studied brain damage and its impact on a person’s personality.  The professor and I clashed. He believed left handed people were left handed because of underlying brain damage.  I am left handed.  I still remember him stating: “Ten percent of the population has brain damage, ten percent are left handed.”  I told him his logic was totally off!  No matter, it left a bad taste in my mind for psychologists.

I came back to Drew and decided to become an English major, with a minor in political science.  Now I was really busy.  I had to take many of the sophomore English classes, as well as upper level courses, so I could graduate in time.  I was taking 18 credits a semester.  I guess I should say, in time, for me meant early.  I wanted out of college.  I set a plan of action to graduate in 3.5 years.  I had spent three semesters learning in Israel.  The entire summer I had studied at the Ulpan learning Hebrew. That provided me with 12 credits.  I decided that by graduating early, I could save my parents some money…which I did.

Upon my return, I joined the newspaper staff, “The Acorn,” and the yearbook staff, “Oak Leaves.”  I wrote stories, worked on layout, and made new friends.  I was busy with all my course work…lots of reading and writing… and I also became a research assistant for Professor Chapman. (See link to earlier blog below.)

I was on a roll.  Although I still did not have journalism on my mind.

In my senior year I became one of the layout editors for the yearbook.  I let them know in advance that I would be gone second semester. But all went well…for a while.  I still remember my first indignant protest as a woman.   I was out of town for the weekend when the editor in chief wanted my layout pages.  Why he needed them, I don’t know. But he got my RA to let him into my dorm room and search it till he found them.

I was incensed.  The invasion of privacy was outrageous.  I when to the Dean of Student Life, Elynor Erickson.  I had an earlier issue with her my junior year, so we knew each other.  I told her what had happened and how furious I was about someone going through my things when I was not there.  She agreed. The RA got in trouble.  As did the editor in chief at the time. It was so wrong!  It still bothers me. But I had to stand up for my rights!

In any case, I do not have an official photo in the yearbook. I think he got his revenge.  Although I am in a photo of the yearbook staff and I am still listed among the editors.  Of course, it could be that I just was not there during the time the official photos were taken.  I have to be honest.

During that fall semester I was trying to decide what to do next.  My Dad would joke that he had paid for an expensive finishing school with my degree in English literature.  Also,  I really did not have a career in mind.  But I thought about journalism, and when I applied to graduate school, I included a master’s in journalism on my list.  I still was not officially going into journalism as a career.

However, at Drew, there was a January-term program.  You could take a one-month class over winter break. That year there was a class in journalism, and I decided to take it. I loved it. I excelled at it.  This class marked the start of my career path.

I had applied to three graduate schools: Columbia University and University of Missouri-Columbia for journalism, and Hebrew University for a degree in Jewish American Literature.  I got accepted to all three. So now I had a great decision to make.

Professor Joan Steiner, my advisor, as well as Professor Jacqueline Berke, who was my independent study advisor, seemed to think journalism was the best for me.   It also kept me in the country. They were routing for Columbia University. (Especially Professor Berke, as she was a Columbia graduate.) On another aside, I still have my independent study paper I wrote for my personal class with Professor Berke, “Alienation In th Novels of Saul Bellow.”  Originally I wanted to do Bernard Malamud as well, but that would have been a master’s thesis.

But I had another source of advice, Cecelia Whitehouse, my high school English and journalism teacher. (see link below.) She and I had kept in touch all through college. She was the one who had told me about the University of Missouri in the first place.  She thought getting out of the NYC area would be an eye-opening experience for me.  She was right!

The University of Missouri won out. I accepted their acceptance.

Eventually I taught high school journalism for a few years.  During those years, it was me who was the newspaper and yearbook teacher.  I often thought of Cecelia Whitehouse during those years.  I would think about how she handled issues with students. And I modeled my teaching on her.

I kept in touch with her and my college professor, Joan Steiner, for many years.  They both were positive and important role models!

My life was forever changed.  It started with school yearbooks and newspapers.

 

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/19/my-days-in-the-english-department-office-at-nbhs/

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/12/remembering-my-college-during-graduation-season/