Mountain Vista High School journalism teacher Mark Newton knows most of his students won't work in the rapidly changing profession on which he's focused his life's work. But he's confident the skills gleaned through a better understanding of …
Mountain Vista High School journalism teacher Mark Newton knows most of his students won't work in the rapidly changing profession on which he's focused his life's work. But he's confident the skills gleaned through a better understanding of journalism will bolster them on any path they choose.
“Sure, I want journalists,” Newton said. “But I realized a long time ago it really doesn't matter what you're going to do. I'm working to create people who will use the skills of journalism to set themselves apart in whatever they want to do. They're going to understand the First Amendment, freedom, responsibility. The skills of journalism are what every employer wants.”
That passion for his subject matter and students earned Newton the 2014 Secondary Teacher Apple Award from the Douglas County School District, announced during a March 1 ceremony at the downtown Denver Sheraton.
The MVHS journalism program, called the VISTAj, includes the yearbook, a broadcast program and a news magazine. The National Scholastic Press Association selected its Eagle Eye newsmagazine for the 2013Pacemaker Award — its highest honor.
Even with an Apple Award in hand, Newton deflects credit for the program's success.
“I got it because I have great kids,” he said. “The students in our program are so exceptional. This just celebrates who they are and their voice.”
The six-year MVHS teacher, married to a Denver Public Schools teacher and the father of two grown children, also is president of the national Journalism Education Association.
He believes journalism's lessons dovetail with the shift in education, and DCSD's emphasis on the four C's — creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.
“The journalism we're teaching today is the kind of education everybody wants,” Newton said. “It's authentic. It's real world. It's taking everything you've learned and making a product people will judge.
“A yearbook is 340 pages that are blank in August. By March, it's a book with thousands of pictures and thousands of stories.”
That, Newton said, stands in stark contrast to an English essay typically viewed by only a student, teacher and parent.
Newton encourages his students to test their own boundaries. That may include repeatedly contacting the White House to request an interview with President Obama, or on a local scale, supporting them when they pulled together a successful fall 2013 school board candidate forum.
“If you don't ask, you're never going to get the opportunity,” said Newton, who's also there to help them learn from the experience of failure. “I say, `I'm your trampoline.' You're going to hit the ground, but you're going to bounce higher. You learn just as much from a loss as you do from a victory.”
Not knowing which any given day will bring is part of what Newton loves about his job.
“It's different every day, but the core of journalism is still the same,” he said. “I feel that way about education, too, and I love that about each kid. Every day, they're different but they're kind of the same.”