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‘My teacher, my mentor, my friend’: JEA honors Levin with Lifetime Achievement Award

•Amanda Ams

•Amanda Ams


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Journalism adviser Janet Levin was honored with the Journalism Education Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her 37 years as a journalism educator, 33 of which have been here with The Correspondent. (The award is usually given to recipients who have been retirees for several years).

“I’m not about earning awards. What I do, I do so my students get practical journalism experience, and the building gets good media,” Levin said.

Levin was nominated for the award by her former student and current Prospect newspaper adviser Jason Block.

“It was a really easy decision. Janet is someone who has dedicated her life to scholastic journalism, to so many students over the years at Hersey and also around the country by all the contributions she has made at conventions and through national organizations, but especially to all her Corre Kids over the years where she has put their interests, their passions, ahead of everything and made sure that they had an outlet for thier creativity for their curiosity,” Block said.

Levin received the award on April 14 in San Francisco at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention.

“I was just so proud to say that that was my teacher, and that’s my colleague, and for some people it would be, ‘oh, that’s my mentor, and she is [for me].’ That person taught me, and know she’s my colleague and my friend. There she was getting national recognition that’s so well deserved and overdue. It was validating her entire career, all 37 years. It’s recognized on a national level,” Block said.

Block and English teacher Amanda Ams were able to be with Levin when she was recognized at the convention’s adviser luncheon. Several Correspondent members were waiting just outside the doors in matching “Janet” t-shirts.

“I really was blessed to be able to be with Janet. It would have been amazing regardless of if I was in San Francisco, but to be with Janet, I was so blessed to see her face and to hear the words said about her and see her in that room and see everybody clap for her,” Block said.

As the adviser of The Correspondent, Levin has taught and advised one Illinois Journalist of the Year (IJOY), two IJOY runners-up, 12 all-state team members, six IHSA state champions, and 19 IHSA state medalists. Her students have also earned 22 superior ratings and over 50 excellent and honorable mention ratings in national JEA write-off competitions. In the NSPA story of the year competition, Levin has had students’ stories named Diversity Story of the Year and honorable mention for News Story of the Year.

Under Levin’s leadership, The Correspondent has earned four All-American ratings and over 25 first-class ratings from the NSPA. The paper also placed in the top ten in the NSPA best of show competition at four national conventions, including a third place finish.

“The best part about it for me is that I’m sure she hated it [receiving the award] because she never wants recognition for herself. She wants recognition for us [her students]. That’s all she wants,” Block said.

As an adviser, Levin has earned numerous awards for herself. She was the James A. Tidwell Educator Award from IJEA in 2015. The NSPA awarded her with the Pioneer award in 2011. The JEA honored her the Teacher Inspiration Award in 2010 and the Medal of Merit 2009.

“When you look at Janet’s resume, how could she not get it?” Ams said.

In addition to being a teacher and adviser, Levin has previously served as the officer the Northern Illinois School Press Association and a local chair of the JEA/NSPA national convention when Chicago was the host city. She was also presented at over 20 JEA/NSPA national conventions and over 30 NISPA conventions. In addition, she has been the District 214 Journalism Day coordinator over 10 times. Levin also serves as a mentor to many other journalism advisers.

“In scholastic journalism, if The Correspondent and I were amazing, but no one else was, it would be pointless. I mentor people because I want them to have good publication programs too. Mentoring isn’t just answering calls and emails. I suggest things to people who may not know possible opportunities,” Levin said.

Aside from Levin’s lengthy resume of accolades, it is her relationships with her past and present Corre Kids that her students admire.

“When I listen to alumni talk about their time on The Correspondent, no matter how old they are, I hear almost identical experiences from mine. From the staff dinner at convention to a lack of singing on deadline, we’re all connected through this newspaper that Janet created and supported her entire career. 37 years of teenagers have been able to take part in this special experience all because Janet cared about it and believed in it. She’s created a program that had deeply impacted everyone involved in it for all this time, and she’s affected so many lives. I think that’s a massive accomplishment that deserves recognition,” senior Kayleigh Padar said.

Levin has impacted the lives of her students for decades.

“She really believes in you. She accepts you. She doesn’t try to change her students. She embraces what makes each one of them unique and sometimes weird. She just embraces that and helps you have more confidence than you’ve ever had,” Block said.

“Janet’s impacted my life in more ways than I can count. She’s taught me to write, first of all, which is really important in itself because that’s going to be my career. She’s more than just my English teacher, though, she’s my friend. She’s always here for me, whether I’m sending her annoying text messages over break or coming in early for a pep talk or stealing her lunch period. I’m so grateful for everything she’s done for me over the past four years,” Padar said.

It is Levin’s empowerment of and trust in students that Block holds in the highest regard.

“What I admire most is the way that she empowers her students. Trust she backs us, supports us; she puts more trust and responsibility on fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year old students than most anyone else…I think that’s what I respect most, that trust that she gives. It’s not misplaced trust. She knows what her students are capable of,” Block said.

“If I can impact half as many students in my career as Janet has, I will have a really great career. There’s no other way of putting it. She’s changed so many lives,” Block said.

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‘My teacher, my mentor, my friend’: JEA honors Levin with Lifetime Achievement Award