Dow Jones News Fund recognized high school educators who have been exemplary in teaching journalism. Terry Cassreino, University of Mississippi journalism graduate (BA ’85), is one of the top high school journalism teachers in the nation according to the organization.
Terry Cassreino teaches three eighth-grade English classes and two high school journalism classes at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison. He is honored by the recognition.
Cassreino said, “The fact that the Dow Jones News Fund recognized me and our journalism program at St. Joseph Catholic School says a lot about the direction in which I have our program headed. It also says a lot about the quality of the students whom I teach.”
Among the nine schools listed, many other educators have been teaching for at least eight years. One of the honorees has 70 plus students and publishes 16 20-page newspapers each academic year.
Compared to the other schools, St. Joe is relatively small. Cassreino teaches a total of 26 students with 13 in Foundations of Journalism, an into class and the other 13 in Print Journalism where they built a student newspaper and yearbook while managing a streaming sports radio station. The 13 students publish eight newspapers a year.
Cassreino said, “But my program has been very successful. Just this pas spring, we were honored with 61 awards from the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association including being named the Best High School Newspaper for the third straight year. That’s not all. My students were named Broadcast Staff Member of the Year, Newspaper Staff Member of the Year and the Orley Hood Sports Writer of the Year. One of my students, Jack Hall, won the Orley Hood award for the second straight year. I myself was named Yearbook Adviser of the Year – one year after being named Newspaper Adviser of the Year.”
Cassreino’s background in media was key to his leadership in St. Joe’s journalism program. He has 24-plus years as a reporter, political columnist and editor at Mississippi newspapers including positions as capitol bureau chief for The Sun Herald, managing editor of The Madison County Journal, and assistant managing editor for The Meridian Star and at the Hattiesburg American
He said, “It helps to have supportive school administrators who see the value of a strong high school student media. And it helps that I have worked with and learned from some of the best people in journalism in Mississippi: Mike Tonos, who is a professor at Ole Miss and was my editor at The Sun Herald; Charlie Mitchell, who is assistant dean at the Meek School and a trusted adviser through the years; and Will Norton, the dean of the Meek School who I have always considered a mentor and good friend.”
During his journalistic career, Cassreino thought he would one day enjoy teaching high school students. In the late 1990s, he taught religious education to 10th graders at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison every Sunday night.
He said, “I really enjoyed that. I remember thinking if I could teach religious education to 10th graders on a Sunday and be successful, I could teach high school.”
More than a decade later, he enrolled in UM’s Teach Mississippi Institute where he earned his five-year teaching license. He then began as an English teacher for eighth graders at St. Joe in 2011. After a year on the job, the school offered him the journalism program.
“I haven’t looked back. I have enjoyed every minute of it,” said Cassreino. “I’ve particularly enjoyed working with a great group of student journalists, watching them hone their talent to levels I thought wasn’t possible in high school. I feel like I am making a difference in the lives of many of my students.”
When his students graduate, Cassreino wants them to carry a newfound respect for journalism, newspapers, magazines and broadcast as well as having a habit for reading the newspapers and watching the news.
“I’m not naive enough to think my students will ultimately enter the journalism field. Maybe they will. I don’t know,” said Cassreino. “But I do know one thing: My journalism class teach my students life skills they will use throughout high school, in college and as adults. My high school journalism students will leave my class with an increase in self esteem and self discipline. They also will be able to write, think on their feet, speak in public, conduct accurate research, interview people and more. High school journalism is fun and meaningful on many different levels.”
Terry Cassreino’s background and works can be viewed on his website.
Callie Daniels Bryant is a senior managing editor at HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.