Rock Canyon’s Kristi Rathbun named JEA Distinguished Adviser of the Year
HIGHLANDS RANCH – Rock Canyon High School’s yearbook adviser isn’t known for sugar coating her expectations. Undoubtedly it is this high standard that has pushed Kristi Rathbun's students to excellence and a reason she was named a Journalism Education Association (JEA) Distinguished Adviser of the Year.
“I always tease yearbook students. This is like the Army. It is the toughest job they will ever love,” Rathbun said.
Every day she takes pride in pushing students out of their comfort zones, encouraging them to write from a new perspective or shoot a different angle as they cover events at the home of the Jaguars. Rathbun says her students would expect nothing less.
“Our students are consumers of education and have high expectations. They know when they are not getting what they need,” Rathbun said. “They want to be pushed. They do not always like to be pushed, but that is what they get when they join yearbook.”
As her journalists canvas the school, she says they are building 21st Century skills that will serve them their entire lives.
“They are tasked with talking with people and finding out, ‘what is the story?’ ‘What is the angle?’ ‘Why is this going to matter and how is this going to impact other people?’” Rathbun said.
“It is quality student journalism,” she continued. “They are reporting, photographing, designing, and managing a budget. They are doing everything that our District is looking for when it comes to World Class Outcomes and 21st Century Skills.”
Before she began to work in education, including a stint at the yearbook company Jostens, Rathbun worked as a production assistant at a magazine.
“It was a baseball history magazine, so all these Hall of Fame baseball players would call. I would get to talk to Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle,” Rathbun said.
The changing nature of the yearbook and the student journalists who bring it together, have kept Rathbun excited, even after 20 years.
“I just love that I get to advise them and guide them to create something that is amazing,” Rathbun said. “They decide what goes in a book. They look at the skill set that they have in their staff at any given time and they determine content based on what they have. It changes every year. It is so dynamic.”
Additionally, technology is changing yearbooks. For several years, Rock Canyon has offered QR codes in their books, which unlock additional photos or videos.
“We try to incorporate Instagram and Twitter as part of the historical documentation of the book. We also try to find coverage that no one else has seen,” Rathbun said.
Even so, she believes the printed yearbook is here to stay.
“Students and adults love that yearbook. We go back to it at regular intervals throughout our lifetime. We love having that tangible piece to hold and read and look at,” Rathbun said.
Rathbun is one of two advisers who were selected for the recognition, and will be honored by JEA during the association’s conference in Denver. As part of the award, Rock Canyon will receive $500 to be used for equipment in the yearbook classroom, or to fund scholarships for students to attend summer workshops.