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Looking for Love at Sandpoint High School?

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Looking for Love at Sandpoint High School?

You'll find him behind door E-8 as Will Love takes over as the advisor to the Cedar Post.

You might say that Sandpoint High School’s Cedar Post, the school newspaper, has found true love. That’s because when the doors opened for the 2009-2010 school year, Will Love was sitting at the teacher’s desk in classroom E-8, where he’ll spend the next year instructing students in the art of journalism. Of course, the CP has seen Love before—Will’s mom, Marianne, advised the program for seven years, from 1990-1997, and Will himself, an SHS graduate (class of ’95). spent two years as a CP staffer, mostly writing about sports when he wasn’t playing them. But don’t look for a re-run of what’s gone on before—journalism has entered a new era and it’s one that Will is well-prepared to teach.

Graduating from Boise State University with a degree in English literature, Will immediately went to work in the familiar field of newspapers, writing for the Newport Miner. He went on to become the sports writer, and eventually assistant sports editor, at the Idaho Press Tribune in Canyon County. His newspaper career has encompassed a changing media world that repeatedly predicts the demise of newspapers as people turn more and more to the Internet for news and information.

“We’re going to delve into all aspects of ‘new’ journalism,” Will said, as he worked to prepare his classroom for the arrival of students. “Newspapers have changed in how they’re presented. There’s the Internet, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter… when I worked (at the Tribune) I had a blog. These are all new tools in journalism, and I want to teach my students how they can use the technology they’re learning in other aspects of their lives.”

This is on top of the traditional instruction high school journalists are exposed to—learning the difference between news and opinion, hewing to a code of ethics in writing, and understanding (and using) the ‘five W’s’ in telling a story as they prepare a print product for their readership. “I want to make kids conscious of the media they are reading (because) so much of what’s out there today is opinion-based,” Will explained. He said he expects his students to read newspapers a lot, and to learn that “writing is a process and, on a newspaper, you’re part of a team.” He also plans to have his students put a lot of work into developing that code of ethics.

A tall, craggy-faced man with a marked similarity to his father, Bill, Will speaks in a quiet but reserved tone. He says he’s “not sure” what style of teacher he’ll be—as he hasn’t taught before he won’t know until he gets into the classroom—but even though he’s young, his classroom won’t be a free-for-all. “This is not going to be an easy A,” he warned, adding that he expects his students to call him “Mr. Love.”

It wasn’t an easy A in his mother’s class either, and she’s left behind some pretty big shoes to fill. “There may be a few tracks left behind by my experience for him to check out, but I figure he’ll trod on into some new journalistic territory, and that excites me,” Marianne said of her son’s acceptance of the position as Cedar Post advisor. “During my career, I always embraced the future while holding on to the basic principles and high standards of journalism. I hope he does the same.”

Others have similar high expectations at learning there’s another Love at the school newspaper.

Bob Hamilton, advisor to the Cedar  Post from 1961 to 1990 (Marianne Love was one of his editors), says of Will’s position, “Obviously I wish him well. I have strong emotional ties to the Cedar Post.”

Bob’s granddaughter, Erin Daniels Bangle, was not only another CP staffer, but an advisor to the program herself just a few years ago. An English teacher at SHS, she took over the Cedar Post for four years; today, she’s teaching an online journalism class through the Spokane Public School District.

“Every time I think of Willie taking over, I get this huge smile on my face,” she said. “I just think it’s so neat that another child of an advisor is advising the program.”

In Erin’s senior year on the Cedar Post, Marianne was her advisor; Will was just starting 9th grade and was a classmate of Erin’s brother. “It’s kind of a small town thing,” Erin said, “but it’s also really neat. The Cedar Post has got its own personality (and I know that) Willie is going to do a wonderful job. All the Loves have been that way; he just won’t accept anything less.”

Being the child (or the grandchild) of a previous advisor, Erin says, “gives you that extra little push to do well. You don’t want to disappoint them.” She adds that she believes that with his lifelong connection to the program, Will “is going to breathe new life” into the Cedar Post.

Erin passes on to Will the advice her grandfather gave her when she began advising the newspaper: “If you’re going to do it, just do it right.”

Billie Jean Plaster, editor in 1985 and now editor of Sandpoint Magazine and Keokee Books, says she’s “excited” about Will taking over the job. “I think he’s going to do very well,” she predicted.

Dr. Becky Kiebert, principal at Sandpoint High, said, “The reason I’m so excited as that he’s so excited about this. He’s already been here (prior to the start of school) a couple of times. The kids love him and he has some great ideas.” Kiebert said Will’s references were, “glowing. He’s all about dedication and perseverance. Plus, he has that family connection (to the Cedar Post) which gives him a great support system. I really think Will has the ability for longevity in this position.”

“I want my students to respect journalism,” Will said. “They have to understand the power of what they do.” It’s a field that Will believes provides skills that translate well into many different careers. “I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this, and kids who have come through high school newspaper programs have a higher graduation rate, are more likely to go to college, and even have a higher rate of graduation from college. They become in demand in the workplace because they’ve learned all types of skills.”

This is illustrated in an impressive list of achievements from the Cedar Post alumni roster, not just those who have gone on to local renown, like Love mere, Billie Jean Plaster and Laurel Wagers (former editor of Multilingual Computing), but Jim Borden (class of ‘75) who is the managing editor for the Kalamazoo Gazette, Alana Watkins (class of ‘95) a former publicist for Random House who owns her own marketing company, Cindy Wooden (class of ‘78) who has been a reporter at the Vatican Bureau of the Catholic News Service for 20 years, and Chris Pietsch (class of ‘75), Kathryn Head (class of ‘94) and Bob Hamilton Jr. (class of ‘73), who all work as photojournalists.

Former staffers haven’t just made their mark in the media world, either. Kirsten Thompson (class of ‘76) is a judge in Portland, Ore., Chad Berkley (class of ‘95) is a computer programmer for UC Santa Barbara, and Megan Merriman (class of ‘88) is a lawyer in Seattle. And that’s just a few examples!

For those who think journalism is just about writing, Will points out that producing a newspaper requires much more—photography skills, editing and proofreading, design and layout, and that all-important business end, that not only includes selling the advertising that pays for the product, but billing and collections and tracking the money involved. “This is a student-run newspaper,” he pointed out, “which means they have to do it all.” And Will will have to teach it all, something he says his real-world experience will make easier, because the expectations of today’s reporters encompass much more than just turning in copy. Though Will says students will eventually find areas where they’re more specialized, the ‘real word’ of journalism requires a lot of flexibility. “They need to be able to do it all. I think that students learn by doing,” he added. “That’s the cool thing about this program in particular.”

With a frequent turnover in advisors the last few years, Will believes the Cedar Post has struggled to maintain the quality it was once known for. “I understand where this newspaper has been and I want to continue the growth,” he said. “I’m excited to be back and I’m ready for this challenge.”

Just thirty-two years after becoming Sandpoint High School’s newest Bulldog, Will is now one of their newest Bulldogs again, and is looking forward to helping guide the next generation of students as they develop skills for the Cedar Post that will stay with them throughout their lives.

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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

education, Lake Pend Oreille School District, journalism, Cindy Wooden, Bob Hamilton, teaching, Billie Jean Plaster, Will Love, Sandpoint High School, Cedar Post, Erin Bangle, Dr. Becky Kiebert, Lauren Wagers, Jim Borden, Alana Watkins, Chris Pietsch, Kathryn Head, Bob Hamilton Jr., Kirsten Thompson, Chad Berkley, Megan Merriman

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