School Video News had the opportunity to work with some great students from Highland High School,Highland, Illinois. We asked these students to help us at the Illinois Principals Association annual conference and WOW! did they do a great job. We had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with their teacher, Mr. Jim Nickerson.
SVN: Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
JN: I have been involved, in one way or another, in television or photography for practically all of my life. My photographic career began as a photographer (and darkroom worker) for the Highland High School yearbook. The next year HHS got a grant to develop a video program of which I became a member. I now teach that same program in the very same high school. That was 42 years ago. In the early 1990s I was asked by our former superintendent to revive the program. I’ve never looked back.
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
JN: The initial funding for my program came as a “sidebar” from a remodelling of our high school. My funds came from the interest on the monies when the remodelling came in under budget. Funding now comes hit and miss. We’ve had to do some of our own fund rainsing as well.
SNV: Did you have equipment available?
JN: I started with all new equipment when I rolled the “retooled” out in 1999.
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes?
JN: I usually have between 90 and 100 students per semester.
SVN: How is it broken down?
JN: We have Television & Radio Production 1, 2, 3, 4, and MT (Master Technician)
SVN: Is it a multi-year program?
JN: The program could be 3 years in length if the student so desires.
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes?
JN: Class are 90 minutes each How many students? I have 17 (or so) per class.
SVN: What types of projects?
JN: We work on documentaries, news, productions for Emmy submission, internet broadcasts, and productions for teachers and students.
SNV: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast?
SVN: Do you also do a weekly broadcast?
SVN: Special events coverage?
JN: We do live broacasts of athletic events, homecoming, graduation and other events.
SVN: What jobs do the kids do?Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?
JN: The positions include: 2 talent, 1 sports, 1 teleprompter, 3 camera operators, 1 audio, 1 graphics, 1 video switcher, 1 director, 1 music, 1 weather recorder, 1 live weather talent. The others not “in” for that day help with the setup and then block the halls so that students don’t walk through the set. The students rotate through all positions after 2 or 3 newscasts. The can then teach each other the positions as they move one position to their right. Mentoring is huge.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
JN: No – they rotate.
SVN Do they write the content?
JN: We use a massaged version of the daily bulletin to do the news. The news is further supplemented by commercials and “stand-up” news stories.
SVN: How long does the show run?
JN: About 10 minutes
SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
JN: We usually only submit to the High School division of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (the Emmys). To date we have won 4 first places and 3 “runners-up” in Emmy competition.
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school?
Here is the link for the high school emmys and their chapter contacts:
The contact for our Chapter is Maggie Eubanks. What I would do is instruct the high schools to go to the correct chapter (on the web link above) and contact the name on the web page. Each chapter’s site should have a link to the high school emmys for that region of the country.