“It’s 8:42! You only have three minutes until the bell rings!”
This was my frequent mantra from 2000-2007. Students arrived to school around 7:45 each day and went right to work producing our daily morning show on THTV. Our studio, classroom, and editing facilities were located in a small room in the lower level of the building. Inside the small room was an even smaller room which was approximately five feet wide by seven feet long and served as our Master Control Room. On a good day, three students would run the controls. On a bad day, I was in there with them. It was a tight squeeze, but the work we produced was top-notch and did we ever have fun! We recorded our show on a single, 120 minute VHS tape which would be cued to the last frame of the previous day’s show. We always proceeded to the next day’s show with trepidation that we might record over the previously recorded shows. One of the more popular semester projects was to produce promotional videos for our show which showed the many creative ways we were able to deliver our VHS tape to the media center in time for play out at 8:50. Picture a VHS tape being used as a football as the quarterback (tape delivery student) runs it down the field (hallway) to the goal (media center VHS player). I will add that though our morning announcements configuration was analog and a little dated, the rest of our production was all non-linear and digital.
It was in this little space with extremely tight deadlines where we created a track record for ourselves. Students produced videos that received awards and accolades at both the state and national level. The number of students requesting the class, or classes in the Media Studies program grew exponentially. Our successful track record was part of the reason for a bond initiative that was passed in our district in 2006. We left the two little rooms in the lower level of the school and found ourselves in a multi-room production suite complete with a full studio, control room, editing bays and a separate classroom. To this day, my favorite part of the studio space is a separate storage room which is almost as big as our original classroom!
And this is where the paradigm changed. Our announcements are now being produced in a digital format. No more VHS tape being run through the halls. Each day, students who are part of the cast and crew, go right to their positions and get that day’s show together. Three cameras, four anchors, graphics, audio, director, editor/playback, and teleprompter. It’s a pretty cool sight to see a perfect example of learning at its highest level. My job is to unlock the doors and do a bit of trouble shooting when needed. Otherwise, by the third week of school, the students do their thing without my involvement…except I still yell out the time when productivity slows down.
There are a few people who need to be thanked for getting us this far. First and foremost are my students who almost always took this class seriously and invested a lot of themselves in the curriculum. My former Superintendent, Dr. William Weber, was always encouraging and had faith in my abilities to create this program. Bill Zolkowski, truly THE BEST Principal ever, listened, helped, problem solved, advised, and provided kleenex when necessary if things got too frustrating for me. He even changed the school schedule so that the students and I could work a little easier in our new paradigm. Erin Ferris, my incredible Media Studies colleague, always has my back and is my steady back up if I need to be out of the building. Without her, announcements would not happen when I have/had a sub in my classroom. My husband, Joe, who is always supportive, is our road crew captain on out of town trips, has provided hundreds of hours equipment repair, and is a regular sounding board when I need it. Todd Skipski, one of my closest friends, visits THTV on a regular basis to help with lighting, unboxes equipment that I find too intimidating to unpack, and also provides a lot of advice. And finally, Dylan Zalewski, a THTV alum, who has been dedicated in keeping THTV running, and as current and functional as possible despite extreme budget restrictions.
Watching and experiencing the growth and development of THTV has been like watching the growth and development of a child. THTV is my baby and I am a very proud parent.