One of Thomas Jefferson High School’s most looked forward to traditions is the annual yearbook, but what goes on behind the scenes?
For nearly every student, the 2021-2022 school year will be the first opportunity to experience the joy of receiving a high school yearbook in person. The yearbook has become an annual tradition to pass out yearbooks at the end of the school year and allow students to get their books signed by fellow peers and teachers, but due to COVID-19 and online school, all graduating classes before the class of 2022 have not yet enjoyed this event.
After being online, teacher Lea Wagner and the yearbook staff are excited to return back to work and share the joy of the yearbook once again. Wagner recalls the difficulty of having to “rely a lot on people to send in photos after things were taking place” during online school, which took away the ability to really connect with an event. Wagner said that having class in person again has allowed for staff members to actually “visit classrooms, go to club meetings, and attend sports to take photos as things are happening in real-time.”
One of the most exciting aspects of running yearbook in person again is the regained ability to capture the energy of Thomas Jefferson High School. For the past year and a half, most of the pictures submitted for the yearbook lacked the genuine excitement of school events. With no students allowed at sporting events, no school events, and no real social environments, content was slim. Now, Wagner said that “there is an excitement and enthusiasm to be back in the building,” and she is thrilled to “be able to capture [it].”
However returning in-person has not been all sugar and spice, as Wagner admitted that “there was a little difficulty at first getting used to the programs and routines” with a brand new staff and environment, but with time things were able to click once again, and Wagner remarked that “[they] are in a good place now.”
Despite being known as an end-of-year tradition, the creation of the yearbook is a year-long process. The staff works on “assigned pages that have different deadlines throughout the year,” according to Wagner. Class starts with an interactive and team-building activity, then usually transitions into a focused lesson on photography, writing, or design. Throughout the year, students use class and extracurricular time to photograph people and events, as well as to conduct interviews for their assigned teams. As senior yearbook staff member Mitchell Accola describes, there are multiple different teams, including a “senior team, photo team, design team, and writing team,” each of which works to capture material for “given sections [such as] sports, seniors, and other stuff.”
Due to the class revolving around so many different aspects, students are strongly encouraged to work with each other in order to get the most out of each other’s individual skill sets. Accola acknowledges that there are no specific requirements needed to join the yearbook staff, all you really need is “a baseline of most things [and] if something is too complex you just need to ask someone else for help.” Wagner concurs with this statement as she says that “we also work [in] teams to help each other out and get certain tasks done.” As yearbook editor Sawyer Beach expressed, this teamwork creates a “fun and hardworking” environment.
However, running the school yearbook comes with its own challenges. As Wagner pointed out, “the biggest challenge of yearbook is making it as inclusive as possible, and meeting the goal of featuring all students at least three times in the book.” The goal of the yearbook is to paint an all-embracing picture of the school and the people involved, but, of course, there is only so much space so including everyone is a struggle. The class’s teamwork emphasis can also be a source of difficulty at times, as Wagner admits that “communication is also a challenge sometimes, as the staff is all learning the best ways to work on a team and collaborate effectively.”
Despite these challenges, yearbook is once again thriving with the regained opportunity to capture the true spirit of TJ. Thanks to the TJ Yearbook staff, Spartans can once again enjoy their high school memories for a lifetime.