Teacher Appreciation Week 2014: A Special Place Defined by Two Special College Teachers

by Jim Lang

And then there was college and the IU School of Journalism. I double majored in English and journalism and spent an extra year earning my education degree, but the J-School was always my home on the IU campus. Those were the classes that most defined my college years. To this day, the Ernie Pyle Hall School of Journalism remains the most special place in Bloomington for me. Those who sat through a lecture class in the old, pre-renovated Ernie Pyle lecture hall and took notes on the far-too-tiny and intricately carved-up wooden desks know what I mean – you know you’re smiling at that memory now.

For me, the teachers have always been what most defined the excellence in the IU School of Journalism. We had great teachers. Yes, they were journalists, writers, photographers, researchers, graphic designers, and artists, too, but most of all, they were teachers. They were people who shaped our lives. And those of us fortunate enough to have studied, learned, and graduated from the J-School are all connected by the experiences and stories we shared with the teachers who influenced us the most.

For me, those teachers were Claude Cookman and Jack Dvorak.

I took a graphic design class from Claude back in the days when graphic design consisted of colored pencils, border tape, x-acto knives, and Pagemaker.

Pause for veteran graphic designers to nod and smile while everyone else takes a moment to Google “border tape,” “x-acto knife,” and “Pagemaker.”

The quality I remember the most about Claude’s teaching was his ability to demand excellence from each student in a remarkably comfortable way. He took a genuine interest in each of us as individuals and honored our diverse talents and backgrounds. He made it clear that we were all learning together in our classroom community and that the responsibility for our learning was ours.

As a teacher myself, the quality I have always most admired about Claude is that he never stops learning himself. He is a lifelong learner who has a gift for bringing out each student’s very best. His lessons have remained with me in my own classroom over 20 years later. When my own journalism students attend the IU School of Journalism to further their education, I always provide this advice: Take Claude Cookman’s classes.

I couldn’t possibly count the number of ways and times Jack Dvorak has been there for me professionally and personally in the 27 years I have known him.

I first met Jack when I attended the IU High School Journalism Institute as a high school senior in 1987, his first year as director of a program that has always meant a great deal to me. Since then Jack has served numerous roles in my life – teacher, faculty adviser, employer, mentor, and friend. Years ago he gave me the great gift of hiring me as a floor counselor at HSJI. I never left. Twenty-five summers later, I’m still there, although now I am teaching and my former students work as counselors. HSJI continues to provide guidance and opportunities for my own students at Floyd Central High School.

Jack has always been an advocate for scholastic journalism through HSJI and his consistent support and research, but his greatest contribution as an educator has been shaping the lives of countless students and educators with his wisdom, patience, kindness, and generous spirit.

More than any educator I know, Jack Dvorak makes those around him better simply by being himself. I would not be the teacher or person I am today without him.

I was blessed with so many outstanding teachers and professors at IU, particularly in the School of Journalism. These educators made IU a truly special place.

Friday: The Art of Teaching

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