Student scholarship opportunities: CASE Scholarship application due April 30

NCRA is accepting Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) student scholarship applications for five awards this year. The CASE has increased the number of scholarships available from three to five this year to better support the future of the profession. The top award is $1,500; second award is $1,000; third award is $750; fourth award is $500; and fifth award is $250. To be eligible to apply, students must currently be attending an NCRA-approved court reporting program, have an exemplary academic record, and have passed one skills test writing 140-180 wpm at the time of submission. In addition, applicants must submit an essay on the topic, “Pick an experience during your court reporting education and explain how it has influenced your development.” Deadline for applications is April 30. See the CASE student scholarship page for full details.

Scholarship recipients will be formally announced at the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La.

“I’m so honored to be a recipient of the CASE Scholarship. It’s great motivation to continue to constantly learn and grow in this great profession,” said Maggie DeRocher, a 2017 graduate from Des Moines Area Community College and a working freelance reporter. DeRocher was awarded a $1,000 CASE scholarship in 2017.

“If you are a student considering applying for this scholarship, I highly recommend it. Writing out your thoughts in essay form, no matter the topic, helps bring you back to the reason you started the journey to becoming a court reporter. If you are lucky enough to be chosen as a recipient, the scholarship helps to offset the costs of finishing school or starting out your career,” DeRocher advised.

Schools and students across the country celebrate Court Reporting & Captioning Week

Atlantic Technical College

Schools and students from across the country participated in NCRA’s student speed contest last month. The contest, which was part of NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week celebration, garnered widespread involvement, with 182 students competing from all over the country. All students, from all court reporting schools, at any speed level, were invited to participate. All told, 17 court reporting programs had students compete in the contest. “My speedbuilding class quite enjoyed writing the student speed contest,” said Barbara Ladderud, a teacher at Green River College in Auburn, Wash. “Thank you for putting this together as a fun way to promote Court Reporting and Captioning Week.”

Cuyahoga Community College

For this speed test, students had the choice of taking a Literary or a Q&A test consisting of five minutes of dictation. Test takers took the test at a speed level they were working on or had just passed and must have achieved 96 percent or higher accuracy to be eligible to win a prize. Because the contest was open to students at all levels, schools were able to have many or all of their students involved. ”Thank you very much for this opportunity,” said Joanne McKenzie, a teacher at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta. “We made it a requirement for all students to participate.” The tests, which were written by Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, a member of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, were intended to push the students. Kay Reindl, CRI, an instructor for Humphreys University in Stockton, Calif., reported that, although “these were pretty challenging tests….most attempted the tests at their targeted speed.”

Of the 182 students who competed in the contest, 42 passed the test. “My students didn’t get 96 percent on either test,” reported LaTherese Cooke, a teacher at South Suburban College in Oak Forest, Ill., “but they gave it their best.” Three of those who past were chosen at random to receive first, second, and third place prizes. First prize, or the gold medal, was awarded to Kelsie Alford of Green River College. Second prize, the silver medal, went to Julie Drew of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and third prize, bronze, was awarded to Samantha Marshak of Realtime Center for Learning, Inc. in Garden City, N.Y.

Des Moines Area Community College

Teachers and students alike were enthusiastic about the experience. “What fun we had! Thank you for the great idea and enthusiasm it generated during Court Reporting and Captioning Week,” said Joan Rikansrud, a teacher at Green River College. “Thank you again for including us in your contest and for all that you do!” echoed Carrie Ravenscroft, Cypress College in Cypress, Calif.

NCRA would like to showcase the hard work that students and schools are doing to promote the court reporting and captioning professions. Below are the names of all the students who participated in this year’s contest. Students marked with an asterisk passed the test with 96 percent accuracy or higher.

Arlington Career Institute
Grand Prairie, Texas
Allie Handlon
Deborah Quarles
Emelia Mullen
Jazzmen Garcia
Jennifer Ferenz
Rosalind Dennis
Sunshine Nance

Atlantic Technical College
Coconut Creek, Fla.
Alison Dituro
Ashley McCormick*
Carolina Rivas
Courtney Carpentier
Jenna Xarhoulakos
Lindsey Polin*
Samantha Kutner
Shawn Condon

Brown College of Court Reporting
Atlanta, Ga.
Amanda Bilbrey*
Amanda Bilbrey*
Andrew Shin
Brianna Shelton*
Connor Tatham
Crystal Foster*
Josie Thompson
Nicole Willoughby*
Nicole Willoughby*
Shannon Miles *


College of Court Reporting
Valparaiso, Ind.
Angela Viray
Ashly Richter
Brian Nelson
Desssalyn Kimbrough
Jennifer Hall
Kate Hargis
Kolby Garrison
Lori Ingram
Macy Thompson*
Megan Bowman  
Shaylene Mofle*


Cuyahoga Community College
Parma, Ohio
Devon Sneve
Kristina Carmody 
Teresa Nero
Vanessa Feistel


Cypress College
Cypress, Calif.
Eun Young (Joyce) Kim


Des Moines Area Community College
Newton, Iowa
Liz Ostrem*
Lonnie Appleby*
Sarah Muff*


Downey Adult School
Downey, Calif.
Jennie Ramos
Jenny Yi


Green River College
Auburn, Wash.
Abby Markson
Alexandria Fleming*
Doug Armstrong
Evelyn Jaimez
Heather Game*
Justin Choi*
Kari Derr
Kelsie Alford*
Lindsey Gruntorad
Michelle Overby
Sara Baxter*
Sarah Webb*
Sierra Zanghi*
Spencer Holesinsky*
Svetlana Golub


Hardeman School of Court Reporting
& Captioning (online)
Amy Plaxton*
Angela Cakridas
Brooke Taylor*
Casey Veinotte
Chelsea Morris*
Kaitlin McGowan*
Nick Mulvoy *


Humphreys University
Stockton, Calif.
Araceli Nava
Brittny Boya
Emma Pesusic
Kate Mendoza
Leslie Orr
Ngia Her
Sarah Glover


Lakeshore Technical College
Cleveland, Wis.
Abigail Fowler
Calisa Barta
Catherine Ray
Chad Hirsch
Megan Baeten*
Meredith Seymour
Michelle Miller
Nicole Whelihan
Stacie Pomrening


Macomb Community College
Clinton Township, Mich.
Alexa Lupenec
Cheryl Demanski*
Robert Ludwig
Tonia Miller


Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Abby Robinson
Amanda Hebb
Ariana McCalla*
Ashley De Marco
Bradley Morrison*
Brent Hannam*
Carly Fenske
Christine Rees
Dakota Chartrand
Dayna Canning
Diego Jiles
Dina Vasylevsky
Dyana Pewarchuk
Eileen Johnson
Ester Horvath
Jada Babiuk
Jalene Hutseal
Jameca Nguyen
Jayne Yuill
Jillian Pumphrey
Julie Drew*
Kayla Hotte
Kelcy Sherbank*
Kim Nguyen
Kristina Zeller
Laura Collis
Laura Driscoll
Linsey Eby
Lora Zabiran*
Martina MacFarlane*
McKaya Baril*
Meagan Gibson
Megan Galloway
Melinda Heinrichs
Michelle Gulka
Michelle Klatt*
Michelle Stevens
Nancy Phong
Netannys Turner-Wiens
Nicole Leddy
Presley Thomson
Sarah Pfau
Shauna Lagore
Stephanie Jabbour*
Stephanie Marocco
Yazda Khaled


Plaza College
Forest Hills, N.Y.
Brittany O’Brien
Christina Valentin
Connie Hwang
Dominique Burke
Elisabeth Dempsey
Elizabeth Keating
Ferrina Johnson
Floriana Krifca
Gabrella Tutino
Hazel Elardo Asca
Jerrica Nieves
Justin Centeno
Justine Torres
Kayla Jacobs
Kimberlee Clifford
Lakesha Dubose
Letitia Caceres
Maia Morgan
Melissa Colon
Paradise Rosario
Pashen Hutton
Patricia Alexander
Radhika Rampersand
Ramona Perez
Raven McCants
Rebecca Pierre-Louis
Ruby Mitchell*
Sophian deFrance
Tambra Whitfield
Violeta Marashaj
Yvonne Panigel


Realtime Center for Learning, Inc.
Garden City, N.Y.
Antonia May*
Debbie Babino
Gabrielle Carletti
Joe Altieri
Lisa Previti
Samantha Marshak*


South Suburban College
Oak Forest, Ill.
Amanda Castaldo
Candace Bradley
Cascidy Bandyk
Casey Toomey
Elizabeth Crossin
Hannah Flynn
Jennifer Blum
Kelsey Mikos
Lilly Martlink
Marla Peteet
Valencia Reed


Realtime Center for Learning celebrates NCRA’s 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

Court Reporting & Captioning Week was celebrated at the Realtime Center for Learning (RCL) by participating in the NCRA Students’ Speed Tests. RCL has locations in Garden City and Massapequa, N.Y.

“It was really easy for us to incorporate the dictations, word lists and directions for the students’ tests; they had the flexibility of being timed for any speed that a student had last passed. However, passing was 96 percent,” said Harriet Brenner-Gettleman, CMRS, CRI, director and owner of the RCL

“All participants would be named in the next JCR with those that passed being entered into a pool from which Gold, Silver and Bronze winners would be selected with various prizes commiserate with the appropriate level.”

NCRA sent the Literary and Q&A tests already timed out in 20 words with enough material so court reporting faculty who participated were able to give tests from 60 wpm up to 200 wpm in both categories.  According to Brenner-Gettleman, RCL is a unique blend of one in-house night a week for accountability, dictation and test-giving along with having students do between 13 and 20 hours of homework and practice a week.

As such, participating in the NCRA students’ speed contest created a bit of a challenge since there are three speed classes on Tuesday nights and one high speed and two Theory classes on Thursday nights, explained Brenner-Gettleman.

“There were three students who took the test at 100 wpm, another student took it at 120 wpm, but I had to give them separately because they were all really in the same class,” she added.

Students who participated included: Debbie Babino; Gabrielle Carletti; Antonia Moy; Joe Altier; Lisa Previt; and Samantha Marshak.

“Court Reporting & Captioning Week is an opportunity for reminding the students they are part of a larger culture of excellence and dedication,” Brenner-Gettleman said. “We also remind them, if they haven’t already, to join both the New York State Association of Court Reporters and NCRA and to put the upcoming convention dates for both on their calendars.”

Brown College celebrates 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week with a number of events 

Students and faculty at Brown College of Court Reporting (BCCR) in Atlanta, Ga., held a number of events throughout the week to celebrate 2018 Court Reporting & Captioning Week held Feb. 10-16.

An open house kicked off the week to showcase the profession to prospective students. Attendees were given a tour of the facility, learned how to type a few words on a steno machine, and heard first hand from program graduates about what it is like to work in the field.

The college also held a friendly student competition with a game dubbed, “Grammar Jam.”  The Jeopardy style game had students team up to answer questions in several categories including current events, spelling, punctuation, definitions, medical and legal terminology, and court reporting procedures questions.  Prizes were provided by Janice S. Baker & Associates and  US Legal Support.

The winning team of students included: Thomas Pacheco; Kimesha Smith Stallworth; Andrew Shin; Connor Tatham; and Cindi Drakeford.

Guest speaker Vickie Wiechec, CCR, a past president of the Georgia Court Reporters and Captioners Association, visited the college to talk to more than 70 students on campus and online about the captioning and CART profession, and gave them several takeaways to consider for anyone considering entering the field.

A second guest speaker during the week was Magistrate Judge, Jennifer Mann, who talked to students about the High School Mock Trial competition and Georgia high school participants’ successful history in competition on the national level. She encouraged all BCCR students to participate as court reporters duringseveral rounds that took place in early March at the Gwinnett County Court House. BCCR has been participating in mock trial competitions for the last few years and recently reported that several students participated in the latest competition.

Debbie Kriegshauser, CRR, RMR, an official court reporter at the federal level from St. Louis, Mo., also spoke with students on campus and online about the state of the industry, the importance of certifications, and the importance of finishing school. She not only encouraged students to finish the program, she brought several books from the NCRA Store to give away to campus and online students.

Keys to success for the adult learner

By Kay Moodyportrait of the author

Many adjectives describe the typical court reporting student: busy, mature, single parent, employed, easily frustrated, second career, and self-supporting. Court reporting students are adults who are involved in many demanding, life-changing, time-consuming, and mentally depleting activities that interfere with their focus and concentration and that can sometimes hinder the time they can spend on skill development.

Adult learners are defined as students who are 20 years old or older; for many years, educators thought adults and younger students learned in the same way. Over the years, educational researchers found there are profound differences between adult learning and that of younger students. As an adult student, you must be goal-oriented and know what you hope to achieve every time you are working on your machine. You must identify goals and objectives for every class and practice session, and you will learn best when you view the potential outcome of each class and practice session. You will progress faster if you manage time for your school-related activities so they fit into your busy life.

Listed below are five critical elements that promote learning for adults: Motivation, Time Management, Reinforcement, Transfer of Learning, and Retention.

  1. Motivation : The best way to feel motivated is to make every class relevant and meaningful. Don’t think of activities as busy work or nonproductive. You will be motivated when you know the relevance of every course, every class, every assignment, and every practice session. If you can’t identity the objective of an assignment, ask your instructor what the expected outcome or purpose of the assignment is. Insist that your instructors give you immediate, constructive, and specific feedback.


  1. Time Management: Like most adult learners, you are probably busy and don’t have large blocks of uninterrupted time. Plan time you can practice when your family and friends won’t disturb you: during their favorite TV show, when they’re at school or taking a nap, before and after they’ve gone to bed, etc. You can find ways to squeeze in 5, 10, 15 minutes three times every day for drills, to read back shorthand notes, or for memorizing and reviewing outlines. For instance, if you work full-time, plan to work on non-machine activities during your lunch hour and break time, and, during your commute, visualize writing on your machine while listening to audio tapes. In developing your plan, don’t try to do more than one thing at a given time. Schedule the more difficult tasks early in the day when you’re well-rested.


  1. Reinforcement: Adult students need constant reinforcement in a variety of ways. Drills are essential for learning, reviewing, and reinforcement of briefs, phrases, multisyllabic words, difficult outlines, etc. Try practicing the same drill for 10 minutes every day until you can write it perfectly! Speed is developed through repetition by hearing the same take over and over again. Read back each take, mark errors and words that caused you to hesitate, and drill on those words. Repeat the selection and continue until you can write it.

You should benefit from every class — even a class in which you wrote poorly because this is when you can identify your weaknesses and develop strengths. Keep a journal to see what you need to review, tape the class, and work out the difficult parts until you master the selection that you wrote poorly.


  1. Transfer of learning: The fourth element that promotes adult learning is transfer of learning: the ability to apply or use information in a new or different setting. This is the importance of working on drills and how they help students progress. Work on drills that eliminate your weaknesses. For instance, if you had a speedbuilding take that was difficult because it had a lot of proper names, work on writing proper names at least once a day. You can make up a list from names in the newspaper, your address book, the teachers at your child’s school, etc. Once you get used to writing proper names through drill work, transfer of learning will automatically take place when taking dictation. Other drills include briefs, phrases, numbers, alphabets, foreign words, homophones, and word families. Use external memory aids such as a whiteboard or bulletin board, Post-It Notes, and notebooks to help you memorize and remember the correct outlines.


  1. Retention: The fifth major element that promotes learning is your ability to retain information. This pertains to learning new outlines for difficult words, briefs, and phrases.

Principles of Retention

  • Adults retain 10 percent of what they read.
  • Adults retain 20 percent of what they write.
  • Adults retain 30 percent of what they see.
  • Adults retain 50 percent of what they see, hear, and write.
  • Adults retain 90 to 100 percent of what they see, hear, write, read, and repeat many times.

To learn and retain new outlines:  first of all read a steno outline; write it on your machine; then read the steno that you’ve written, saying it out loud while you read; write the outline again while visualizing the outline in shorthand; continue until going through the steps until you can write the outline with 100 percent accuracy. For additional information and ideas, go to the following website:

Adults can progress quickly through court reporting school when they use the correct study and practice skills by incorporating the five critical element of effective adult learning:  Motivation, Time Management, Reinforcement, Transfer of Learning, and Retention.

Kay Moody, MCRI, CPE, is an instructor for the College of Court Reporting based in Valparaiso, Ind.

How did we get here? Life before court reporting school

They come from diverse backgrounds, some with no prior job experience and others with 30 or more years behind them. Court reporting students are recent high school grads, stay-at-home parents, and veterans. They have worked in education, public service, law, and business. These students each took a different path, but they came to the same place with a similar goal.

Up-to-Speed asked students from Arlington Career Institute in Grand Prairie, Texas;  Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga.; and Simply Steno Court Reporting Program:  What were you doing before you started court reporting school?

Arlington Career Institute

Alice Crawford:  I was a development director for a small nonprofit organization. Working to help improve the quality of life for so many really afforded me a sense of contentment.

Autumn Clark: I was and still am working as a 911 emergency dispatcher.

Bartley Caitlin: Working as an office manager for a brand design company.

Jennifer Cook: I am still working a full-time job at a local municipality.

Brittany Creech: I worked for nine years as a legal assistant in a District Attorney’s office.

Eileen Peralez: I was a stay-at-home mom during the day with my 3 children under the age of four; then I would work part time from home from 5-10 p.m.

Hannah Pate: I was enrolled at a community college in my hometown and working as a receptionist at our District Attorney’s office.

Vanessa Carranza: I was and still am employed as a police officer.

Krystal Cook: I am a stay-at-home mom. Prior to that I was a soldier in the U.S. Army.

Samantha Crawford: Before I began school and during, I worked full-time at my local hospital and was a volunteer child advocate for the court.

Candice Radam: I am working full-time as a pharmacy technician.

Carmen Cortinas: I was taking classes towards a nursing degree.

Judith Gilmore: I had been teaching for 20+ years.


Brown College of Court Reporting

Michelle Munro: I am a paralegal, and I have been working for a real estate attorney for the past five years.

Geraldine Gomes: I am currently employed in the human resources field as an engagement specialist and I am an alcohol and drug counselor.

Donna Capolongo: I worked as an IT recruiter for about 30 years, the last 12 years of which I ran an IT staffing firm which I cofounded.

Kaitlin Thompson: Before I started school I was a staying home and taking care of my elderly grandmother.

Joy Cunningham: I worked in Mental Health as a Qualified Mental Healthcare Professional, as a Middle School English Teacher, and a part-time collage and jewelry artist.


Simply Steno

Aleece DePuey: I was in insurance sales and then worked in efficiency scheduling in construction.

Dominique LaJeunesse: I was working at eBay.

Alexandra Zuazo: Paralegal.

Brianna Carpenter: I was a college student studying Business Management and Human Resources at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Keri Hryc: Student.

Paula Henderson: I am a teacher with 22 years of experience.

Amy Quincey: Massage therapist.

A lucky cab ride

By Kristine Wesner

Growing up, college held so much promise: Pick a school and program I like, earn the degree, qualify for well-paying jobs, and earn enough money to pay back my loans and start my life. However, after the third attempt at starting a career with yet another company, doing something unrelated to my degree and working just to “work,” I finally realized that I was repeating a path I would not enjoy or even continue for much longer. While there were aspects that aligned well with my degree in English studies, the jobs never quite took off to become the career I wanted. So with no plan and a patiently supportive husband, I decided to take time off to figure out where to go in my life.

It was obvious to those around me that I had a passion for the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of documentation. Whether it involved heavy research, developing and structuring some form of record, or just being able to type faster than most in my field, I knew my career would be discovered through those means. I thought pre-law and paralegal work would benefit me, but I was not keen on the idea of staying in school when college was so close to an end at that point; I was burned out and just wanted to work. As the years passed after graduation, it became apparent to me that the adage rang true: “It’s who you know, not what you know.” I never believed it would apply to my situation until I entered into my second month of unemployment in February 2017.

During my two-week stint as a driver for Uber, I received a pick-up request near downtown Chicago. It was then that I met a familiar face in the court reporting world, Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a former president of NCRA who is currently serving the Chicagoland area. When picking her up, I helped load her lone suitcase into the trunk of my car and, being the curious sort that I am, I inquired where she was traveling. It was then she explained her fascinating career as a court reporter, with her writer carefully packaged away in the metal-supported suitcase. She explained that a lot of her career takes her on the road and the writer was a fragile piece of technology, with language smarter than the average computer. Just like your first car, you take care of your machine and it takes care of you. I mentioned that I had been fascinated with the idea of stenography, but I was not keen on the idea of more schooling.

The questions soon began: What had I pursued in college? What jobs had I experienced previously? What kind of work I found enjoyable? Was driving for Uber a hobby or a career for me? I explained that I had graduated with an English degree but felt unfilled with my attempts at finding a career, so I decided to start driving for Uber because I was currently trying “to find myself.” She noted that I seemed to be outgoing and had a solid knowledge of the English language, both of which are strong qualifications for court reporting. In turn, I asked about how happy she was in her career; if more lengthy schooling was required to develop the experience; and of course, what the financial benefits of the career were. In essence, she described — in as much detail and passion as a 20-minute car ride allowed — all the pros and cons of the court reporting world.

As we arrived at her destination, she gave me her business card and invited me to stay in touch with her should I choose to explore the idea of court reporting. When I saw her name, I said, “Your last name means Sunday!” and explained I was studying German as a hobby, to which she said, “You really do love linguistics! You’re already a great fit.” The enthusiasm and driving force she had was infectious and I decided – after much research and review – that I would return to school at the College of Court Reporting (CCR), in Valparaiso, Ind., in order to obtain my AAS in Court Reporting.

I am currently starting my third semester at CCR, having just completed my first five-minute Q&A at 60 wpm. I am surrounded by overwhelming resources and support from the faculty and staff at CCR. My classmates come from all walks of life, yet we are all working toward the same goals (I have even made a steno best friend, whom I speak with almost daily), and that fateful meeting turned an acquaintance into a mentor and friend.

With the challenge of balancing home life and full-time school, the goal of graduating in December 2019 with the 225 wpm requirement seems daunting. But even with attaining that goal, court reporting has ignited a passion in me that I do not feel the English program ever did at my alma mater. I am making plans that never seemed possible: I plan to graduate and apply to a specific agency for a few years, and then I will pursue an opportunity as a full-time court reporter for one of our local courts. Or, if I find myself still struggling with realtime, I would love the idea of teaching theory to future students. I already find myself talking non-stop about it to family and friends, so why not get paid for it as well!

I have not always been the most optimistic person, but court reporting has drastically improved my way of thinking in such a short amount of time, and every day I cannot wait to talk about it with someone new, just what Melanie did for me.

Kristine Wesner is a court reporting student at College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.

Why are we here? The path to court reporting school

Court reporting students may share the common desire to become professionals in their field, but each has followed a unique path to get there. They arrive at school with different experiences, for different reasons, and with different plans for the future. Up-to-Speed reached out to students to ask them why they chose court reporting, where they get their inspiration, and what lies ahead.

Connie Spears and Meredith McDonnell of Arlington Career Institute in Grand Prairie, Texas; Sydney Lundberg of Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Iowa; Suzanne Laisney of Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga.; and Sara Vaughn of Simply Steno share their stories.


UTS | Why have you chosen this career?

SPEARS | I have always been interested in the law and hearing people’s stories, and now my career will be to do this every single day! My cousin has been a court reporter for 13 years, and she really has helped me understand the job and the benefits for my future.

LUNDBERG |  I become interested in court reporting through my family member, who was a captioner at the time.

MCDONNELL | I had seen a presentation in high school featuring court reporting as a future career, and it always stuck with me as a skill that I would like to learn more about.

LAISNEY | At the risk of sounding cliché, I actually was looking on the Internet for a new career to have in this part of my life. I saw an ad from Brown College and decided to research it more. As soon as I did, I knew it would be the right fit for me.

VAUGHN | I was in the process of applying to college to become an accountant. It wasn’t really something I thought I’d enjoy, but I knew it would help me financially. A friend of mine happened to mention court reporting, which I’d never even heard of prior to that conversation, so I decided to look into it. After a bit of research, I was convinced it was going to be something that not only would enrich my financial situation but was so diverse that I could be happy with what I do for a long time to come.


UTS | What were you doing before you started school?

SPEARS |I work at a dental office and have for 14 years. But since I was young I always wanted to be a court reporter. So now is my time!

LUNDBERG | Before I started school, I was attending high school, and I was extremely interested in marine biology.

MCDONNELL |I was a part-time preschool teacher and a stay-at-home mom.

LAISNEY |Before I started school I had a full career. I was a 30 year veteran teacher in the public school system in Georgia. My areas of expertise and certifications are focused in language arts and foreign language instruction (in particular French and Spanish), Instructional Technology, and English taught to speakers of other languages (ESOL). With these being my strengths and experience, I thought that court reporting would dovetail quite nicely into a future career!

VAUGHN |I was and still am a bookkeeper.


UTS | Who or what inspires you?

SPEARS |My children inspire me. I want to be the very best I can be and also do what I have always dreamed of doing so that my kids will see in life one day that you can do anything you put your mind to!

LUNDBERG | I am inspired by my aunt, as she assists the hearing impaired through CART and broadcast captioning services.

MCDONNELL |Those who get a little later start in life when it comes to starting their career. I decided to have my children at a young age and to be at home with them for the first several years of their life before I began to work on my own career.

LAISNEY |I am inspired by Richard Branson (entrepreneur and business owner of Virgin companies around the world) and many people whoare similar to him. I love to read quotes from people I admire to inspire me. I look at a quote as a quick peek into a person’s brain. Branson has many that resonate with me, including my favorite: “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes then learn how to do it later.” In fact, I love quotes so much for personal inspiration that I keep a running notebook of them. This way, whenever I run across one I like, I add it to my notebook to re-read later when I need to get that extra pop of motivation!

VAUGHN |It sounds so cliché, but my kids inspire me. I want to show them that even if the task is a long, difficult road, if you set your mind to it, you can make it happen. They’ve seen me go through some setbacks, but they’ll also see me succeed in what I set out to accomplish.


UTS | What happens next? What is your dream job?

SPEARS |This is my dream job! Being a court reporter is my dream job, and I cannot wait to be sitting in the court room!

LUNDBERG | My dream job is to work for VITAC as a captioner.

MCDONNELL |I am very interested in the criminal justice system, and the idea of being in a courtroom and being able to play a part of the action excites me. Court reporting is my dream job because it is the perfect career for allowing me to feel important and involved, but it still gives me the flexibility to spend time with my family.

LAISNEY |My dream job is one in which I feel passionate about what I am doing while continuing to have flexibility and balance in my life. It is one where I feel excited to come to work daily, knowing that I will leave at the end of the day having made a difference!

VAUGHN |I am in love with cosmology! My dream job would be to provide captioning services for NASA or SpaceX.

Student speed contest winners announced

Kelsie Alford of Green River College in Auburn, Wash.

NCRA congratulates the winners of the Court Reporting & Captioning Week student speed contest. Of the students who passed the five-minute dictation test, three winners were drawn at random. Kelsie Alford of Green River College in Auburn, Wash., was awarded the Gold medal. “Even though I’m at the beginning of my speed-building journey, having the opportunity to participate in the NCRA speed contest was exciting,” said Alford. “Although I was nervous to write the test, the support of my peers and teachers encouraged me to take on this challenge.”

Julie Drew of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta

Julie Drew of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, Alberta was awarded the Silver medal. “This speed test was a great opportunity to enhance my vocabulary and to further my learning,” Drew said. “Thank you for this great experience!” The Bronze medal went to Samantha Marshak of Realtime Center for Learning, Inc. in Garden City, N.Y. Marshak has been studying for nearly three years. “Court reporting as a career has proven to be a challenge from the start,” she told Up-to-Speed, “but it will be one of the most rewarding accomplishments to say ‘I did it.’”

The NCRA Student/Teacher Committee sponsored the Olympic-themed speed test, which was offered to all students at varying test speeds. One Literary and one Q&A test were given and each consisted of five minutes of dictation at a speed level that each student was either currently working on or had just passed. In order to be eligible to win a prize, students must have passed the test with at least 96 percent accuracy.

Samantha Marshak of Realtime Center for Learning, Inc. in Garden City, N.Y.

As the gold medal winner, Alford will go home with an RPR Study Guide ($125 value). Drew, the silver medalist, will have the choice of a one-year NCRA student membership ($46 value) or one complimentary leg of the RPR Skills Test ($72.50 value). The winner of the Bronze medal, Marshak, will receive a $25 Starbucks gift card.

Many thanks to Debbie Kriegshauser for her hard work writing the speed tests and preparing the other testing materials. The contest would not have been possible without her.

TESTING: When it doesn’t work

By Marybeth Everhart

“It doesn’t work.” That’s a sentence I’ve heard many, many times over the years, as a teacher, long-time CAT software trainer (and user), and marketing manager for Realtime Coach. This phrase, in general, refers to something mechanical that is broken or that has a function that is, well, not functioning. When a technology does not behave as we anticipate, we tend to say, “It doesn’t work!”

I used that very phrase myself recently when driving my new car. One of the features didn’t function as I anticipated, and my first reaction was to fuss about a brand-new car that “doesn’t work.” Okay, there were a few choice words mixed in with my “fussing,” but you get the picture. Fortunately, I read up on the function before calling — or worse, pulling into — the dealership and complaining about the vehicle. Turns out I misunderstood how that particular feature worked. It wasn’t broken at all; it simply didn’t meet my expectations. Once I understood how the feature was supposed to work, I realized “it” wasn’t broken but rather worked just fine. I guess you could say my understanding of “it” didn’t work.

That phrase is also one I hear, and occasionally read on social media, relating to online testing; and I often wonder if what generates the comment is a lack of understanding of the testing process or the process doesn’t meet the test candidate’s expectations. So this article will explore, in detail, who each of the players in online testing are, their role in the process, and what may cause “it” not to work or to meet your expectations.

The players

As has always been the case, NCRA (staff and volunteers) write and record the tests, handle registration, and communicate with test candidates. Realtime Coach is the practice and testing delivery platform, which means is where you will go to practice and prepare for, take a skills test, and receive the immediate, electronic feedback. ProctorU is the company providing online test proctoring, which includes verifying and authenticating the test candidate, securing the testing location, and maintaining test security.

Once you register for a test through, you’ll receive an email from Realtime Coach. That email contains some very important information: a link to the testing site, your user name and password, and instructions for how to practice and prepare for a test. Answers to questions you have about registration, cost, frequency of testing, and so on can be found at

There are several reasons why you may not receive the email: One is it ended up in your spam or junk email folder, so always check there before reaching out to NCRA. The other is you may have an old email address in your NCRA member profile, so double-check that the correct email address, and one you check regularly, is included in your profile. You will have an opportunity to review and/or change it at the time you register for a skills test.

Once you receive your login to, you’ll want to begin preparing for the test by practicing the testing process, hopefully many, many times. There is one practice test for each type of certification, and there is no limit to the number of times you may access it, so walk through it as many times as you need to. This will help you feel more comfortable on test day. You’ll need to know where to find both the steno note and transcript files on your computer, for both practice and testing. If you don’t know where your particular CAT software houses files on your computer, you’ll find that information in the document “Taking an Online Skills Test with Realtime Coach and ProctorU.”

Once you have practiced the process on Realtime Coach, you have two free proctored practices available before taking a test. Use them! ProctorU requires you download a small applet that will allow your computer to connect to the proctor. You’ll also be using more of your computer’s resources, as well as internet bandwidth, to connect, so it’s better to find out ahead of time what corrections may need to be made.

Possible hiccups

Stuttering or no audio. Let’s say you hear the words “Ready, begin” but nothing after that. Stuttering or choppy audio or video playback is most often a computer performance issue, but it can be any one of the following:

Poor internet connection speed: Your internet connection should be at least DSL/cable or equivalent. It might be helpful to test your connection speed at a website that provides this service, such as You might also test the playback when no other programs are running.

Computer performance: Even if your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements, it’s still possible that the choppy playback is the result of poor computer performance. While capable hardware is required, performance is governed by how efficiently the software makes use of the hardware’s resources. Having multiple applications or processes running simultaneously will consume your system resources (particularly CPU and RAM usage), sometimes to the point of degrading overall performance. Most computers will have dozens of processes running silently in the background that each consume available memory and processing power.

To view the impact of the various processes that are running, begin playing an exercise — one of the practice tests will do just fine — and press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open the Windows Task Manager. On the Processes tab, you will see everything currently running, along with the percentage of CPU power being consumed by each process at any given time. If you suspect that your computer’s performance is being degraded by running processes, you will want to disable all unnecessary or unwanted applications and to remove them from Startup when your computer boots up.

If you are unfamiliar or not comfortable with identifying and disabling background processes, ask someone appropriately knowledgeable and qualified to assist you. Once a process is identified and disabled, be sure to remove it from Startup so it does not load the next time your computer boots up. Another very helpful tip is to reboot your computer. If you’re like me and you put yours to sleep rather than turn it off, you’ll notice over time that things begin to run slowly and, in technical terms, it’s just not very happy. Go to the Start menu and choose Restart, which will shut down everything that’s running and start anew.

The test won’t load.

Check your browsing cache: The first time you visit a website, the browser will save pieces of the site because the browser can display the files stored in its cache much faster than it can pull fresh files from a server. The next time you visit that site, the cached files will help cut down the page load time. Sounds helpful, doesn’t it? Yes and no. Helpful, yes, if there have been no changes to the site or in what you are to have access to. Not helpful if any changes have occurred. For example, perhaps you’re taking your second online certification exam, the first being the RPR and the second being the CRR. The cached version of Realtime Coach may show you enrolled in only the RPR, so there’s no CRR for you to take, even though you’ve registered and paid for it. Clearing your cache is the first place to start. If you don’t know how to clear the cache in your browser, simply perform an internet search on clearing cache in Chrome, Firefox, or Edge — whatever browser you use — or refer to this section of the Realtime Coach website.
Update your antivirus software: Run the update procedure, and fully scan your system for viruses. Take the course of action recommended by the software if any infections are found. If you don’t have an anti-virus program, get one as soon as possible. There are several high-quality free programs out there — just do your homework before you select one. Scan your entire system with one or two reputable anti-spyware programs. Be sure to run the update procedure before scanning so that the software can detect the latest threats. After scanning, perform the recommended actions if anything is found. You’d be surprised how many people have viruses or malware on their computers without even realizing it.


As mentioned previously, ProctorU’s role is that of test security. They proctor hundreds of thousands of exams each year for hundreds of institutions, so don’t expect them to understand what it is we do. That’s not their job. Their job is simply to verify that you are, indeed, the person who registered to take the test, to secure the test site, and to monitor the testing process to ensure no one cheats.

Know that they will ask to see your driver’s license to confirm your identity. It is helpful to have a second form of ID handy just in case you do not pass the authentication quiz. They will also ask you to perform a 360-degree pan of the room using your external webcam. What they’re looking for is other people in the room with you, any paperwork on your desk that might assist you in any way, even what cables are attached to your computer and what devices they are connected to.

Once the proctor is comfortable that you are who you say you are, that you are alone, and that you have no outside assistance, they will ask you to set the camera at an angle that allows them to see both your face and your hands on your machine as you write. It’s helpful to have a camera with a built-in, adjustable stand for this purpose. Knowing this, you can practice setting up your camera that way when you use Skype or Zoom, once again raising your comfort level when the actual test rolls around. You should know that connecting to the proctor, passing the identification and authentication process, and preparing for the skills test can take some time — perhaps even 30 minutes or more — so be patient.

A lot of the testing stress has been eliminated by allowing you to take it on a day and time and in a location that suits you best, and by reducing the distractions, like other test candidates in the room. That said, you’re still likely to be a bit nervous, so just remember to practice, be patient (with yourself and your proctor), and be persistent. Data shows that pass rates have increased since moving tests online, so the odds of passing are increasingly in your favor. Ready, begin!

Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE, is the national marketing manager at RealtimeCoach, a realtime trainer, and a former court reporter. She can be reached at