Defender of student press rights named top high school journalism teacher

NEW JERSEY — An adviser who risked her job defendingstudent press rights deserves to be commended. An adviser whohas done so twice deserves to be named the year’s outstandinghigh school journalism teacher.

Terry Nelson of Muncie Central High School in Indiana was namedthe 2001 Dow Jones Newspaper Fund National High School JournalismTeacher of the Year, rewarding 25 years spent defending rightsof the student press.

In 1979, Nelson was fired from an advising job for refusingto tell school administrators the author of a letter to the editor.After the school board agreed to her conditions for student pressrights, Nelson was reinstated. Nineteen years later, her job atMuncie was threatened because she denied a request to turn inthe student newspaper for prior review.

"As I look back, some of the most negative situationsI’ve had with student press rights and school administrators haveactually been good because they’ve been defining moments for me,"Nelson said. "The most important thing is to always do what’sright. I’m going to do what’s best for the students, and if thatmeans that I can’t be a teacher, then I guess I shouldn’t be ateacher."

Nelson was selected from a field of 41 nominees. She is inher eighth year as adviser of the Munsonian and was nameda First Team All USA Teacher by USA Today in 2000.

"A good journalism teacher realizes the importance andpotential impact that journalists have on their world," Nelsonsaid. "If you treat your journalism students as part of areal staff with real news, it puts a different twist on thingsso that the students will perform to higher standards. It hasa lot to do with expectations."

As part of the award, a senior at Muncie Central High Schoolwill receive a $1,000 college scholarship to study news-editorialjournalism. Nelson will be honored on Nov. 10 in Boston at theadvisers’ luncheon during the convention of the Journalism EducationAssociation/National Scholastic Press Association.

The Dow Jones Newspaper Fund press release, which includes a list of other high school adviser award winners, is availableat: