Erdmann honored as educator by peers

By on January 1, 2010

Teacher shaped KHS journalism program
by Martha Quetsch
Kaneland—Former Kaneland High School journalism teacher Laurie Erdmann received a lifetime achievement award from the Journalism Educators Association (JEA), topping off a career that she found both challenging and gratifying.

“I was thrilled just to be nominated,” Erdmann said. “There are so many amazing people in the JEA that I’ve admired and tried to follow the example of through the years, and to be recognized by one’s peers is unbelievably gratifying.”

Erdmann accepted the award Nov. 14 in Washington D.C. at the national convention for journalism students and newspaper advisers, co-sponsored each year by the JEA and the National Scholastic Press Association.

Erdmann taught journalism at Kaneland High School and advised its award-winning student newspaper, The Krier, for 34 years before retiring in 2008.

When she arrived at KHS in 1974, she first had to learn the process of publishing the on-campus Krier from a co-worker in the Midwest Vocational Center.

“I came into the job knowing very little and left with a wealth of knowledge and experiences,” Erdmann said.

Later, she steered the newspaper staff through the technological transition from paste-up to desktop publishing.

“When I started, we were using manual typewriters, T-squares and rubber cement; when I left, students were using iMacs and sophisticated software like InDesign to create their pages,” Erdmann said.

Twenty-five years ago, the KHS journalism program offered just a one-semester course. Erdmann helped develop it into a three-tiered, sequential journalism program, concluding in an Advanced Placement course emphasizing intensive journalistic writing.

Also during her tenure at KHS, Erdmann helped plan and implement a building addition to the school in 1998 for a journalism suite with a classroom, publications office and 20-workstation publications lab. She later supervised the establishment of an online version of the Krier.

In addition, she advised the school’s literary magazine for five years and served as board member, president and treasurer, respectively, of the Northern Illinois School Press Association during the early 1980s. In 2001, she was selected as KHS Educator of the Year.

Erdmann said her education helped her meet the challenges of building the Krier and journalism curriculum through the years at KHS. With a B.A. in English and an M.A in journalism from Northern Illinois, Erdmann received further adviser and journalistic training at University of Iowa, Indiana University and Harvard.

Under Erdmann’s leadership, The Krier frequently was recognized by regional, state and national scholastic evaluation organizations, and still operates as an open-forum, completely student-produced publication that has operated without censorship since 1974, she said.
“That’s what I’m most gratified about,” Erdmann said.

As a teacher and Krier coordinator, Erdmann emphasized journalism ethics and encouraged her students to understand the rights and responsibilities of free expression.

“When students have a voice and make the final decision, they are fully realizing their role in a democratic society—that a free press is a responsible press, and a responsible press is accountable to its readers,” Erdmann said.

One of Erdmann’s former students, Eric Ferguson, now a radio host at 101.9 FM, The Mix, said although Erdmann always encouraged students to have their own thoughts and opinions, she stressed the importance of backing them up with facts.

“She always told us to make sure you knew where you were going to take a story, otherwise you might end up painting yourself into a corner,” said Ferguson, former managing editor of the Krier. “She encouraged creativity backed with a logical thought process. I still use that model to this day.”

Photo: Retired Kaneland journalism teacher Laurie Erdmann (left) received a lifetime achievement from the Journalism Educator Association. Erdmann taught journalism at KHS and advised the award-winning Kaneland Krier for 34 years.
Courtesy Photo

Krier coordinator inspired, motivated students
by Martha Quetsch
KANELAND—Laurie Erdmann estimates that she worked with 4,000 students during her more than three decades at Kaneland High School.

Many of Erdmann’s students pursued journalism after high school, including Eric Ferguson, radio host at 101.9 FM, The Mix.

Ferguson, like many of Erdmann’s former students, has remained in contact with her since graduating. He remembers how she challenged him as a student.

“Her teaching style was always very engaged,” Ferguson said. “If she thought you could do more, or were just putting in a marginal effort, she would call you on it and challenge you.”

Ferguson had several journalism and English classes with Erdmann, and was managing editor of the Krier, Kaneland High School’s student-run newspaper.

Among Erdmann’s other students who have had professional journalism careers are Cali N. Bergold, former editor for Today’s Chicago Woman and writer for The New York Times; Lauren Stott, new executive editor for the Northern Star at Northern Illinois University; Suzy Lackey Ray, graphic designer for Chicagoland Gardening; Jason Chandler, editor for Campus Crusade for Christ website; and Kevin Murphy, sports editor at Eastern Illinois University.

Stott said Erdmann’s classes inspired her.

“Her classes were absolutely the reason I wanted to be a journalist,” Stott said. “The way she taught made it seem like such a fun, interesting and important job.”