Jim Woitalla’s legacy continues with student scholarships

By Jennifer Sati

As we all cherish our memories of Jim Woitalla and relish every single moment we spent with him, his legacy continues through his scholarships for judicial reporting students at Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.

Callie Sajdera, Anoka Tech student, and Peter Gravett, Anoka Tech Foundation director

Three $1,000 scholarships were awarded this past summer semester to students. All three of the recipients had Jim as their technology instructor, which made the award all the more special. The recipients were Jennifer Brama, who has since graduated; Callie Sajdera, a 200 wpm student; and Jamie Ward, a 180 wpm student.

The scholarships were presented on Oct. 5 at the Anoka Technical College fall scholarship dinner and ceremony. It was a privilege and blessing to have Jim’s mother and two of his sisters attend the scholarship ceremony and be a part of awarding the very first Woitalla scholarships. Callie Sajdera, the student speaker at the foundation ceremony, shared heartfelt stories of Jim as her instructor.

The judicial reporting program would like to thank everyone who has generously donated toward Jim Woitalla’s scholarship fund. Please know that the students are very appreciative of the thoughtfulness of others and that the money has made a difference in their education. We at Anoka Tech will keep Jim’s passion for this amazing profession thriving by continuing to graduate students who share his same passion and enthusiasm for technology and excellence.

Court reporting students Callie Sajdera (far left) and Jamie Ward (far right) pose with members of Jim Woitalla’s family

Since the inception of the scholarship fund, a total of $8,500 has been donated. We are hopeful we can keep Jim’s scholarship fund active with continued donations and use the funds to award two $1,000 scholarships annually. The family discerningly suggested that more funds be given out this first year or two so that students who learned from Jim could receive the most benefit.

Jim was loved and respected by countless reporters and captioners around the country, and it is a great privilege to be able to continue to share his legacy with students, our future! Learn more about how to get involved with the Anoka Tech Foundation and the “Judicial Reporting Program/Woitalla Scholarship Fund.”

Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, is a captioner and an instructor at Anoka Tech. She is also on NCRA’s Board of Directors. She can be reached at jsati@anokatech.edu.

STUDENT REPORTING: First impressions in a social media world

By Melissa Lee

In life we are granted but one first: our first step, our first day at school, our first kiss. Firsts are so important, in fact, that it has been said that there is never a second chance to make a first impression. With that thought in mind, think about this: Potential employers often use Google and Internet-based social websites to glean information about an applicant they are considering for employment. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do the pictures on your social media accounts tell a future employer about you, and what kind of first impression will they be left with?

When you graduate, your transcript will not be the only thing you are selling. You, too, become a part of the product you are marketing. Your behavior represents not only yourself, but your future employer and your court reporting community as a whole. The activities you choose to participate in, your dress, and your appearance all become indicators to others of the person you are long before your work product is ever seen. In fact, most people will come to know of you before they know you personally strictly based on a reputation that precedes you in a field where honesty, integrity, and discretion are paramount.

Knowing this is another important “first”; that is, the first step toward making first impressions that demonstrate to others who you are and that you are who they want. Start by guarding your name and your reputation the same way you would guard your Social Security number. Be mindful not only of the things you choose to post and say on social networking sites but the things you choose to allow yourself to be a part of or to participate in.

With that said, remember that it is not always the picture you post on your Facebook or Instagram account that can have a detrimental effect on the impression you leave with others; it can be the picture you allow to be taken of you that is later tagged on someone else’s social media account. Be mindful of the things you allow to be written on your wall. While you cannot control others and their opinions, you do have control over what is on your personal page and, presumably, reflects your opinions as well. While not always fair, some will be judged guilty by association; so choose your associates wisely.

While an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure regarding one’s reputation and first impressions specifically, those who do have an embarrassing hiccup in their personal histories should remember this: Do not allow yourself to be defined by your mistakes but, rather, by how you choose to overcome them, never forgetting your lessons learned today and applying them to all your tomorrows. Own your past and the mistakes it holds so they won’t later own you. Be forthcoming regarding those errors in judgment so that you will never be presumed guilty of lying by omission.

While we strive for perfection, we will never be perfect. And while no firm is looking for perfection in an applicant, they are looking for someone that represents them, their values, and their company in a way they can be proud of and that they can sell to others. Begin this day becoming the reporter you want to market in your future by developing a reputation that you can be proud of and making first impressions that will convey to others the important asset you will be to their team.

Melissa S. Lee, A.S., CRI, is a teacher at the College of Court Reporting. She can be reached at MelissaLeeCCR@gmail.com.

The online student experience: Interview with Mike Hensley

Mike Hensley, RPR, is an unusual reporter in that he completed court reporting school entirely online. He is a 2015 graduate of Sage College and currently works as a freelance reporter in Evanston, Ill. (although he will be moving to the San Francisco, Calif., area by the end of 2017). Hensley is also in his second year as a member of the NCRA New Professionals Committee.

Why did you decide to go to court reporting school online? What factors went into your decision to choose your school?

I went online primarily because the school I was interested in was based in California, and I was facing an upcoming cross-country move to Chicago. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to attend school with the facility I found; so online schooling was the best available option to meet my needs. I also wanted the flexibility to complete school on my terms and on my schedule since I was an independent adult working full time.

How did you fit classes and practice time into your schedule?

I worked a full-time job, and even at one point, I had a full-time and part-time job while attending school. I had to be very creative in finding time for fitting in school. Luckily, my full-time job was a graveyard shift, Friday-Monday job. The job also had a lot of dead time where my boss encouraged me to bring something to do. He himself mentioned that he completed a master’s degree program while working my particular shift; so it seemed like a good fit to allow me to complete my own schoolwork. As far as practice time, I really had to push myself to forego personal activities and use my non-work time to practice as often as I could. I had to remind myself that sacrifices during school would only be temporary, and it would pay off later when I achieved my new career.

What did you do, if anything, to find a court reporting support network without having in-person classes?

I found Facebook to be a great resource for networking with court reporters. Along with that, my school provided a good source for coaches and mentors through the school staff as part of the online program. As I joined more court reporter groups through Facebook, I developed a presence among court reporters and was able to connect with several individuals who offered to become mentors and eventual friends.

Who or where did you go to for advice on steno theory, selecting software, speedbuilding, and so on?

My school primarily had a good plan of direction for guiding us with software and speedbuilding materials through their online program. As I progressed through school, I kept my eyes open for other sources of material. I obtained a large amount of information through word of mouth from other reporters and online students. Online students sharing with one another can be a great resource because we’re all looking for the most efficient and cost-effective (i.e. free) tools for practice.

What was the biggest challenge you faced about studying online? How did you overcome that challenge?

My biggest challenge was time management initially. The first two years of school were a combination of academics and speedbuilding; so I had to balance both practice time and homework time along with my work schedule. Once I completed academics, I was able to focus solely on speedbuilding, and things became less complicated. As an online student, you have to be your own coach at times. I had to really dig deep and find the drive to push myself to make time in my schedule for practice. It really helped to surround myself with things that reminded me of my goal. At one point, I kept a vision board with pictures of things I wanted as a result of my new career: things like my steno machine, vacation destinations, etc.

What advantages did you find to attending school online?

I was able to complete schoolwork at times that were most advantageous to me so that I could still maintain my full-time job. I was also able to tackle as much or as little as I wanted. Usually, I leaned towards tackling more because I wanted to finish as soon as possible. Personally, I wanted to attend school and focus on the program without any distractions, and knowing my personality, if I had gone to a brick-and-mortar school, I would have found myself distracted by the social environment. But that’s just my personal observation. I think one of the strongest advantages to online schooling is that when you know yourself and you know that you are dedicated enough to buckle down and do the work that you need to do, then it can be a very suitable option to complete school.

Describe the transition from school to working – were there any factors from having been an online student that make you think this transition was slightly easier or slightly harder?

I do admit, when I started as a reporter, it felt strange to set up my equipment in someone’s office as opposed to setting up in my living room. However, that adjustment was minor and was easily overcome. I think that being an online student made it easier for me to transition because I didn’t become accustomed to going to a school facility and being in that environment before entering the working world. In my mind, whenever I sat down at my machine, I was already in the working world. By the time I entered the field, I already felt like I had been a court reporter because I had spent so much time envisioning it during my education.

What do you think firms and courthouses should keep in mind when hiring students who graduated from an online program?

Firms should bear in mind that they may need to spend a small amount of time discussing professional etiquette with an online student, especially if for some reason the online student didn’t have the opportunity to shadow a working reporter. If that did not occur, I would highly recommend that the firm arrange for the online graduate to shadow a reporter to see what it looks like to do the job. Firms and courthouses can expect that online students are well versed in using technology to complete tasks, and therefore they are more likely to communicate through methods like email and/or text message. Online students may also be more adept at submitting work product through electronic means such as email, an online portal, or a cloud-based system.

What do you think working reporters can do to help online students specifically?

I find that a large number of online students really need a mentor  to develop the mental fortitude necessary to become a court reporter. I was very fortunate to find several mentors who gave me some fantastic advice that helped me reach the finish line. Words of a professional reporter carry a lot of weight with students. Any professional reporter who can offer even a small amount of time as a mentor can really be a huge influence on the future generation. Being a mentor doesn’t mean you’re a babysitter. It can be something as simple as being willing to have a weekly or even monthly phone call to check in and say: “Hey, how are you doing?”

Do you have any final thoughts to share?

I feel that my online education prepared me to be a new breed of court reporter. When I began working in the field, I was not afraid of jobs that involved videoconferencing or telephonic participants because I had dealt with these sorts of issues to complete my education. Online schooling also gave me an awareness of many forms of technology available to me as a future professional. When I began working, I was comfortable with completing paperwork electronically and submitting it to whomever requested it. This allows me to be comfortable in working with out-of-state agencies when coverage is needed in my home area. Online schooling also made me strongly accustomed to being realtime-ready. I was connected to a computer 24/7 through my education. Now that I’m a professional reporter, I embrace various technologies to help me do my job as best as I can. With the uncertainty of many brick-and-mortar programs, I feel that online education is truly a wonderful option to keep the education of court reporters alive and well for the years to come.

NCRF accepting nominations for Frank Sarli Memorial and Student Intern scholarships

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) is now accepting nominations for the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship and the Student Intern Scholarship. The deadline for both these scholarships is Dec. 1.

Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

NCRF’s Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship of $2,000 has benefited court reporting students nearing graduation for 20 years. The award honors the late Frank Sarli, a court reporter who was committed to supporting students at the highest level of their education. Sarli, who was studying to become a professional pianist, turned to court reporting when he could no longer afford the tuition to music school. During his career, he opened Accurate Court Reporters in Orlando, Fla., Orange County’s first independent court reporting firm, and was a founding member of the Florida Shorthand Reporters Association. Sarli also served in numerous roles at the national level, including as a director for NCRA. He was the first Floridian to earn NCRA’s Distinguished Service Award.

“This scholarship helped me immensely because I was able to use some of the funds for my professional machine, which helped me enter the workforce without being in debt, the first leg of my RPR, and my airfare to attend the NCRA Convention in Chicago, which was incredibly inspiring and motivating for a new reporter/recent grad,” said Nicole Bulldis, RPR, an official court reporter in Pasco, Wash., and the 2016 recipient of the Sarli scholarship.

Court reporting students must be nominated by an instructor or advisor and meet a number of specific criteria to be eligible, including:

  • enrollment in an NCRA-approved court reporting program
  • passing at least one of the court reporting program’s Q&A tests at a minimum of 200 words per minute
  • having a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale,
  • demonstrating the need for financial assistance
  • possessing the qualities exemplified by a professional court reporter, including attitude, demeanor, dress, and motivation

Submit a nomination for the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

Student Intern Scholarship

Each year, NCRF awards two $1,000 scholarships to students who have completed or are currently performing the required internship portion of their court reporting program. They must also meet other specific criteria, including:

  • current membership in NCRA
  • having a grade point average of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale
  • attending an NCRA-approved court reporting program

A generous annual donation from the Reis Family Foundation helps fund these scholarships.

“Receiving [this scholarship], was a financial boon for my transition from student intern to working reporter,” said Stephen Sudano, a freelance court reporter from Bohemia, N.Y., and one of the 2016 recipients of the Student Intern Scholarship. “A career as a freelance court reporter requires a substantial investment to get off the ground. This scholarship helped pay for my professional equipment, and I appreciate it to this day.”

Submit a nomination for the Student Intern Scholarship

NCRF’s scholarships and grant are supported by donations to the NCRF Angels Drive and other fundraisers. To learn more about these scholarships, and to find the nomination forms, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF/Scholarships.

Access to a master: The value of having a mentor

Man in a suit sitting at a steno machine next to a screenBy Joshua Edwards

Back in 2016 before giving my first speech at my local Toastmasters club, I emailed a draft of my speech to my assigned mentor, Jason. Jason is a seasoned member of our club and has given dozens of speeches over the years. He had developed a keen eye for how to craft an effective speech. Jason redlined through several paragraphs of my speech and typed a note about getting right to the point. I accepted his input and rewrote the speech. Had I not worked with a mentor and done it on my own, I would probably have droned on and on about things that are interesting to just one person — me — and barreled through the four- to six-minute time limit.

In the field of court reporting, I am a mentor to several students through both NCRA and the New York State Court Reporters Association. I try to give them the same beneficial insight in reporting as Jason gave me in Toastmasters: to avoid pitfalls, discover best practice habits, and stay disciplined and focused. I’ve heard anecdotes of students spending precious time in useless practice habits like sitting in front of a television and writing the news while the writer is turned off. (How do you know what you are writing?) A student may think that is effective practicing, but without the feedback of either paper notes or a realtime display, it is just a vain exercise.

All of us know how hard court reporting is. In fact, speedbuilding can be just as nerve-racking as public speaking. We can all empathize with the student who has been stuck at a particular speed for what feels like eons and the bitter disappointment of failing that speed test week after week. That student may be just one more failed test away from jumping ship and abandoning a significant investment of time and money. The difference between walking away in frustration and becoming a successful court reporter often hinges on wise input from a mentor.

Mentors guide students, and they offer encouragement and practical advice based on personal experience. When a student works with a mentor, that student has prime access to an individual who has mastered the craft of court reporting and worked in the field long enough to know a thing or two. A well-qualified mentor has operated in a wide variety of settings and has faced and survived both the tedious routine and the exciting challenges that can happen in the course of a court reporter’s day. Think of a young voice student who had the chance to work with the legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Pavarotti had a passion for singing and for encouraging young singers to refine their craft. He not only performed in major opera houses across the globe, but he coached many voice students as well.

Whether a reporting student needs help, an occasional pep talk, or a serious high-voltage motivational speech, the mentor is willing to commit the time and to be responsive to the student’s needs. It goes without saying that the student must be equally committed and willing to put in his or her due time and effort. Remember this is a volunteer effort. Time is valuable to us all, and being a mentor means being willing to give some of that precious time for free. Likewise, the student needs to respect the time and energy given by the mentor for his or her benefit.

I have a mentee* who occasionally sends me her transcribed assignments to look at the punctuation. While reviewing a jury charge, she had put in so many underscores denoting drops that I had to stop marking the grammar. Instead, I wrote a note in red ink: “It is critically important that you practice at a speed you can actually get down.” Her practice habits were not going to yield much success if she continued practicing at too-high speeds, dropping too many words, and trying to learn punctuation from incomplete passages.

*(Yes, mentee is a real dictionary word. Be sure to define it so you don’t get minty, men tea, men tee, or heaven forbid, meanty.)

Communication is key for a mentoring relationship to be successful, whether it happens by email, phone, text, video conference, or in person, if possible. Each week I send an email to a list of more than 90 students and working reporters. The email may cover anything related to the field. After coming back from NCRA’s Convention in Las Vegas, I wrote a lengthy piece summarizing my experiences there. Being a mentor means sharing your professional expertise to help a student reach his or her goals. Being a mentee means receiving valuable tutelage, for free, from a pro who has already been there. So go ahead and sign up. Your future may well depend on it!

Joshua Edwards, RDR, CRR, is a captioner in New York, N.Y. He can be reached at joshua@jbreporting.com.

Convention conversations

This year, students attending the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev., were treated to a range of different seminars aimed at preparing them for testing, contests, and the real world beyond graduation. Up-to-Speed asked attendees for feedback on the student experience and they shared their highlights of the Convention.

Group photo of students and the NCRA Board of Directors posed with enthusiasm

Students pose with the NCRA Board of Directors after a special meet and greet

The opportunity to network was one of the benefits students mentioned most. “The Convention was very motivational for me,” said Hailey Treasure, a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. “It was awesome to see how excited all the working reporters were to meet students and to hear them talking about what a good career reporting is and how much they love it after all these years. It was also nice to hear all the tips they had to share for practicing speed.” Meeting other reporters at the Convention was an especially useful opportunity for online students.

When asked to share her best takeaway from the Convention, Lindsay Pepe, who studies with online program SimplySteno, answered, “So many things! Being an online student, I don’t get a lot of interaction with other reporting students or actual reporters, so it was such a great experience being surrounded by them.” Brianna Carpenter, also with SimplySteno, agreed: “I enjoyed the opportunity to be around reporters because being a student is very isolating with schools switching to an online environment.”

Attending the social events such as the Awards Luncheon and the “Only New Once” Reception was also a great way to meet and talk with other working reporters. At the reception, first-time attendees shared drinks with the NCRA Board of Directors and the NCRF Board of Trustees. “They were so welcoming and encouraging,” Pepe commented.

A large luncheon in a hotel ballroom with people seated at round tables; in the background is the logo for the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

Students from MacCormac mingle during the Awards Luncheon

Of course, networking is just one reason students come to the Convention. Another is to attend the student seminars and learn from the best. Speed dating has become a favorite way to meet people, and the “Steno Speed Dating” session proved no less popular. “It was an awesome way to meet working reporters,” said Treasure, “and to ask all the questions you have about their particular area of reporting.” In this seminar, students sat around 10 tables while professional court reporters, CART captioners, and broadcast captioners rotated from table to table every fifteen minutes so that all students had an opportunity to ask each of them questions. Unfortunately, a power outage at Planet Hollywood (along with Paris and Bally’s) shortened the time for speed dating, but the presenters and moderator Shaunise Day, a student at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., moved the session along and got everyone back up to speed.

The presenters were:

  • Dee Boenau, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR
  • Linda Christensen, RMR, CRR, CRC
  • Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR
  • Cheryl Haab, RPR
  • Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Stanley Sakai, CRC
  • Jennifer Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC
  • Joe Strickland, RPR, CRR, CRC
  • Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR

Ashley Hurd, of the Long Island Business Institute in Commack, N.Y., gave the speed-dating session a good review: “This seminar provided excellent tips and advice from professional reporters in different areas. Knowing these reporters were once in my shoes as students gives me hope that I can be successful like they are.” The fast pace of the format kept the questions flowing and the reporters on their feet.

A young woman and a young man stand next to each other smiling

Shaunise Day and Stan Sakai pose after the steno speed dating session (photo from Stan Sakai)

Another dynamic session that garnered a lot of attention was “Business of Being a Court Reporter.” Presenters Michael Hensley, RPR; Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Katherine Schilling, RPR; and Jessica Waack, RDR, CRR; demonstrated real-world scenarios in a mock setting to show students the ins and outs of what it’s like on an actual job. The idea was to expose students to the kinds of situations they probably don’t encounter inside the classroom.

For Hurd, this session was a way to extend her learning beyond her coursework. “As a visual learner, having this segment for representation was exciting,” Hurd said. “I was able to see how everything I’ve learned in school came to life.” She added that students often question what are “the proper, respectful, and professional ways to interject as a court reporter,” but this session “answered every doubt in a student’s mind.” Presenters also demonstrated the preferred way to conduct oneself around attorneys, witnesses, and judges.

For Amy Flaherty, of GateWay Community College in Phoenix, Ariz., this was her favorite session: “It really covered the basics in an entertaining way. Having the panel be so diverse was incredibly helpful. The panel members were down to earth and informative.” Pepe agreed. “Really fun and educational session,” she said. “It was great getting the opinions on how each individual would handle the hypothetical situations. Probably one of my favorite sessions at the Convention!” Interactive sessions like this one infused an element of entertainment and kept the students engaged.

What would students like to see more of in 2018? Hurd, the student from Long Island Business Institute, is concerned about scheduling her sessions around her class time and wants to try to avoid any overlap. Pepe, from SimplySteno, would like more time to visit with vendors in the Expo Hall. And Whitney Berndt, a student at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis. is thinking even farther ahead. “I would have appreciated an opportunity to discuss the future of court reporting schools, education, and testing to hear how NCRA is dealing with the lack of new reporters and how to get more students out of school.” Berndt will get an opportunity to share her ideas over the coming year as a member of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

Striking a different key, and hitting a new note

A young woman sits in front of a steno machine poised as ready to write. Her laptop is open on the table in front of her.Brittaney Byers, of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Parma, Ohio, has been working at the keys since she was 4 years old, practicing her drills and improving her finger dexterity. Before starting at Tri-C, she had been trained by some of the best at Cleveland State University. But Byers isn’t a lifelong stenographer; she’s a pianist who went searching for a different tune.

Can you talk a little about your background? Did you start the program straight out of high school or did you have another career first?

When I came out of high school, I was originally aiming for a career in music therapy. However, that didn’t work out. I ended up studying at Cuyahoga Community College after leaving my previous university, originally for a degree in liberal arts, and then switching to the court reporting and captioning program.

How did you first get the idea of being a court reporter?

When I was studying at Tri-C, I was kind of unsure about what I should focus on studying while I was there, and I was looking for a career that would allow flexibility in my schedule and a lot of typing, which I enjoyed. (At the time, I had no idea that writing on a steno machine was any different than writing on a QWERTY keyboard.) I happened to be looking at television one day, saw the captions running across the bottom of the screen, and thought, “I wonder who does that, and I wonder if I could do that.” I looked up stenography and found out there was a court reporting and captioning program at the school I was already currently attending! I just decided to go for it!

How does being a pianist translate into stenography? What about it makes it easier (or harder) to write?  

I think I’m better able to learn briefs and finger combinations than I would be if I didn’t study piano. I also think I’m at a better place with my finger dexterity. However, the thing that helps the most is not from a writing perspective. Studying piano in school was very similar to studying stenography. Most of the things that my professors ask me to do now are the same as what my music professors asked me to do. Things like keeping a practice journal, reading back (or listening to myself) for feedback, using a metronome, isolating problem areas, and many other practice techniques are all things that I was introduced to (and continue to learn and work on now) while I was studying piano.

What other skill sets do you think would be helpful for a court reporter to possess?

The more I learn about this field, the more I realize how critical good organizational skills are to a successful court reporter. This is definitely something that I am still working on and will probably be working on for a very long time to improve. I can only imagine how much it takes to keep your schedule together for jobs (especially if you work with more than one agency), organize taxes and other financial things, and keep the rest of your life in order.

What kinds of challenges have you faced during your court reporting program?

My biggest challenge is trying to find a healthy balance between work, school, and life. I am currently working full time, which is not something I was doing when I was studying music, so trying to find the correct balance between earning enough income and having enough time and energy to practice is something that I am working to perfect.

What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?

I’ve been hearing this piece of advice in different forms and different places recently, but it still rings true. The biggest battle you have to fight will be with yourself. I have to continuously believe that I can do it. The speed is not going to be my biggest problem; it’s going to be my mindset. I have to battle myself to get on the machine after a long day of work, to stay encouraged after a bad test, or to do just five more minutes of writing when I feel I can’t anymore. I know if I can win the battle within myself and develop a positive mindset, and continue to improve my discipline, I will be able to succeed, no matter what.

If you were to go to a high school career fair to recruit students, what would you say to them about a career in court reporting and captioning?

I would let them know that if they wanted a career that would grant them a lot of flexibility and a high earning potential, they should join the court reporting field! We need more new faces! Of course, I would let them know that learning stenography and getting up to speed require a lot of discipline, but for the people who stick it through, there is great reward. I would tell them about the amazing experience I’ve had here at Tri-C and the awesome and supportive staff I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They will really do their part to make sure you have the best chance at success.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I hope to have passed the RPR Exam, and to have finished the court reporting and captioning program at Tri-C. I really want to go out to southern California and work there either doing freelance work or CART.

Speed challenge gives students serious practice time by treating it like work

Collage of photos: In one, a groupd photo of people standing around a chair covered in red velvet cloth (one person is sitting in the chair); everyone is wearing gold plastic crowns and there is an open treasure chest. Along the side are three individual photos of smiling students sitting in the red velvet chair next to the treasure chest and holding a plastic sword or a ribbon streamer.

Tri-C students who participated in the “Slay a speed in seven hours” event. Right, top to bottom: Tara Harris, Nicole Parobek, Brittaney Byers

Eleven students from the Cuyahoga Community College, Parma, Ohio, committed to participate in a challenge dubbed “Slay a speed in seven hours,” designed to focus them on serious practice time while treating it like the work it is.

During the event, which ran from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., each student was given an individualized practice plan and goal by their instructor. After each hour, progress was evaluated and any adjustments were made accordingly, explained Kelly Moranz, CRI, Tri-C program manager and adjunct faculty.

“After lunch, speed tests were taken for the remainder of the day. Stroke/word counts were tallied for the day, and 152,203 strokes/words were written,” Moranz said. “All students demonstrated progress in their writing, and 12 speed tests were passed — one being a 225 Q&A!”

According to Tri-C Associate Professor Jen Krueger, RMR, CRI, CPE, the idea of the challenge grew from discussions with students about ways to approach practice time seriously.

“The challenge seemed a good way to demonstrate that practice takes a lot of work, by offering students a seven-hour workday. Lots of practice occurs, but in evaluating practice times and habits from homework, it was realized that a focused, longer day of skill development was needed,” Krueger said.

According to Moranz, Tri-C offers its court reporting and captioning students similar challenges from time to time, such as seeing who can practice the most hours, who can write the most strokes, and who can practice the most days in a row without missing a single day.

“Students who passed a test received a specially created certificate with a graphic of a sword going through the steno machine. Our focus was to motivate them for the sake of learning and recognize their efforts toward success, with a tangible prize secondary to the personal reward of gaining speed and accuracy,” Moranz said.

“I attended the ‘Slay a speed’ event, and it was beneficial for me because I passed a speed test,” said Tara Harris, a student in Tri-C’s court reporting program. “I think it helped to be away from home in a classroom setting or maybe it was the structure of the event with the mission to write as much as you can each hour. Also, our phones were confiscated upon arrival, and that helped because I didn’t even think about my phone.”

“Challenges provide the opportunity for students to focus on the positive aspects of their work, recognize their successes as well as their challenges, build camaraderie, and strengthen their commitment to complete the program and reach their goals,” said Krueger.

Krueger added: “Veering away from the usual routine of school work can be invigorating as the personal, academic, and physical skill improvements are seen as positive and motivating.”

Highlights from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: A student’s experience

Four young women pose in matching light blue shirts with steno written on the front

MacCormac students wear matching shirts at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: (l-r) Ariel Kraut, Brianna Uhlman, Marissa Loring, and Hailey Treasure

By Ariel Kraut

I am very appreciative for the time I got to spend at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas. What a fun and vibrant location for court reporters to come together and connect as a community!

On our first day, we visited the Expo Hall and got to explore many innovations in reporting technology. Things that I never even thought of, like ergonomic machines, different types of travel bags, all kinds of software, and much more, were on display. We got some great swag and were able to connect with vendors from all types of companies related to the field. I loved the neon light-up writer!

It was amazing to see all of the different types of new technology associated with the Stenograph machines knowing that I will soon be purchasing my own when I finish school. I really enjoyed watching a demonstration involving the audio-recording capabilities of the Luminex writer. Not only can you direct it to go back to the last question you asked in a testimony dictation, but the audio-sync feature allows you to listen to the actual dictation in addition to seeing the question on your screen. If only I had that available during tests!

My favorite part of the Convention was the being able to speak with reporters from all different fields. It was exciting to have so many people come up to us, knowing that we were students, and introduce themselves. All of the pros were so warm and welcoming to us. People from all over the country were so happy to see us students and had nothing but the most encouraging things to say. I even spoke with the President of NCRA multiple times and felt great about it. It was inspiring to see that many of the people we spoke with actually won awards for the Speed and Realtime Contests and were honored during the luncheon.

An especially good time for networking was in the “Steno Speed Dating” part of the first day of the student track. We got to sit with very successful reporters, including speed contest winners, realtime writers, captioners, and even a court reporter who worked in the House of Representatives. It is inspiring to see the places that this career can take you if you apply yourself. I also appreciated hearing about these professionals’ school experiences and what the biggest struggles were for each of them. I got some practice tips and some great advice as to how I can clean up my notes and build my speed at the same time.

Another very beneficial session was “Business of Being a Court Reporter.” There, we got to see a mock deposition take place with a panel of professional reporters pausing to explain certain parts of the process. They would also tell us what they would do if something unusual would happen and frequent issues that may come up on the job.

I am very thankful that I was able to attend this Convention as I found it reinvigorating for me as a student. School can be stressful sometimes, but seeing all of these successful women and men in the field made me feel like I was on the right track and I have a great life to look forward to in this field.

Ariel Kraut is a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. She can be reached at akraut@maccormac.edu.

Read “Finding court reporters’ paradise” by MacCormac student Brianna Uhlman.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

Finding court reporters’ paradise

By Brianna Uhlman

The NCRA Convention & Expo is like the Shangri-la of court reporting. The things you learn, the relationships you build, and the experiences you take with you are irreplaceable. You leave motivated to finish school and determined to make the most out of your time in this profession.

Four young women pose in matching light blue shirts with steno written on the front

MacCormac students wear matching shirts at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: (l-r) Ariel Kraut, Brianna Uhlman, Marissa Loring, and Hailey Treasure

The Expo Hall at the NCRA Convention is truly a magical place. Even as a student, the exhibitors are so willing and eager to talk to you and show you all that is new in the world of court reporting. In the Expo Hall, you can learn so much about the newest technology, whether it’s machines, updates in software, etc. You get to test out different machines from all different vendors. You have the opportunity to learn about several different companies that are involved in the court reporting world. You have the opportunity to talk face-to-face with some of the business owners and representatives who you will be working with for the rest of your career. And you can win so much free stuff!

Getting the chance to mingle with some of the top reporters around the country and the globe is such an invaluable experience. Talking with members of the Board, speed contest champions, and the like is extremely motivational. For me personally, I come from a small town with small dreams and not a lot of opportunity. When first enrolling in court reporting school and joining the court reporting community, I had no idea where this career could take me. But at events like the NCRA Convention, you get to know these amazing and successful people who may have come from a situation similar to yours. But because of this profession and all of the opportunity and their personal hard work and dedication, they have taken themselves so far. It makes you dream bigger and work harder for those dreams. It shows you that no matter your background or your current standing, there is no limit to where this profession can take you. If you work hard, stay motivated, and keep pushing yourself to get through school, you can have a very successful and fulfilling career.

Having the opportunity to talk to other students from all over the country is so encouraging. It really makes you realize that you are not alone in the struggles of court reporting school. There is a whole community of students who are having difficulty with speeds, getting stuck in similar areas, and experiencing the same discouragements you are experiencing. But being able to discuss these experiences and learn about other people’s techniques and tricks is so helpful. They are there to encourage you to keep going. Seeing the resilient spirit of other students is inspiring. Experiencing the genuine care and comradery from other students creates such an honest atmosphere of support and sincerity. It truly is a community of people that want to see you succeed in this profession, and that is just not something you see very often.

I am so thankful for the court reporting community. And I am so thankful for the NCRA Convention & Expo that creates the opportunity for this community to come together and create positive, long-lasting impacts on its members and their profession.

Brianna Uhlman is a student at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. She can be reached at brianna.uhlman@gmail.com.

Read “Highlights from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo: A student’s experience” by MacCormac student Ariel Kraut.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.