PROMOTING THE PROFESSION: Passion for captioning and court reporting showcased at high school career day

Cindi Lynch

Earlier this spring, Cindi Lynch, training program manager for Stenograph, based in Elmhurst Ill., and Sharon Vartanian, RPR, a district sales manager for the company, spent a few hours promoting the captioning and court reporting professions at a career day held at Prospect High School in Saratoga. Calif. Lynch, who is well-known for her enthusiasm for the court reporting profession, has a sister-in-law who teaches English at the high school. She passed along Lynch’s information to one of the school’s career specialists. Lynch was asked if she would give a presentation to a group of their students, and she readily accepted. Vartanian, who represents Stenograph in the area, and Lynch also enlisted the help of NCRA member Maggie Ortiz, manager of the court reporting program at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., and Tobi Giluso, a high-speed student from the program.

Sharon Vartanian

 

JCR | What did you do to prepare?

SV | Cindi put the word out on social media and spoke with people working with the A to Z program and with Project Steno to get their input on similar presentations they had done in the past. Cindi took that information and then put together a brief presentation based on the information she had gathered.

CL | Sharon thought it would be a great idea if we asked the court reporting program at the local college to also participate in the presentation, and she took on the task of gathering representatives from West Valley College to join us.

 

JCR | What was the event like?

SV | Cindi’s presentation focused on what a court reporter is, where and how reporters, captioners and CART providers work, and the basic principles of machine shorthand.

Tobi captioned the presentation. She did an excellent job, and the high school students were able to see firsthand the skills of a reporter/captioner. (Tobi has passed all her qualifiers and will be taking the state exam this July.)

Maggie Ortiz, court reporting program manager, talked about West Valley College’s specific program and gave current information about earning potential in the local area. In 2017, West Valley also started offering a free court reporting course through Silicon Valley Adult Education. Maggie explained how the high school students could immediately take advantage of this free course before graduating high school to learn the theory of steno writing. The course is designed to give students a head start in the West Valley court reporting program.

There was a small, but very interested, group of juniors and seniors in attendance, as well as parents, teachers, and teacher aides. We were pleased that we had a wide range of panelists to answer questions during the Q&A session. Maggie addressed school questions, Tobi answered student and CART questions, and Sharon was able to address working as a freelance court reporter.

 

JCR | How did it go? Did people seem interested?

CL | We were really pleased with the presentation and how warmly it was received. Both the students and the adults were very interested. We were asked a lot of thoughtful, smart questions and it was clear to us that they had paid close attention to the information they’d been given.

We brought a few Luminex writers with us. At the end of the presentation, the students eagerly waited in line to have their first experience of writing on a steno machine.

 

JCR | You are both such professionals, you’re probably prepared for anything. But did anything surprise you? Can you tell us about that?

CL and SV | No surprises. We put a lot of effort into being well prepared. We were delighted we had male and female attendees.

One person we had consulted while preparing for the presentation advised us to bring food, especially candy for the kids. We rewarded the attendees for asking questions by giving them candy bars. While we know rewarding for candy works, we were amazed at how well it works.

 

JCR | What advice would you give others about telling people about careers in court reporting and captioning?

CL and SV | Show your passion for the profession; it’s infectious. The attendees appreciated the fact that all of us who spoke at the event had been around the profession most of our lives and were excited to talk about it. When you love what you do, it definitely comes through. Convey how much support they can expect from the court reporting community. Communicate how much we need them and want them to join us in this fabulous career.

 

JCR | Is there anything else you would like to share?

CL and SV | We were well-received by the teachers and career specialist at Prospect High, and they expressed an interest in having us come back in the future to talk to additional students. They also asked for more information from Maggie so that they could partner with West Valley College. This made us very happy. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome from our presentation!

 

Cindi Lynch can be reached at CLynch@Stenograph.com. Sharon Vartanian can be reached at SVartanian@Stenograph.com.

Hit me with your best webinar

Since hitting the scene in the mid-1990s the popularity of webinars to share information has defied all communications trends. Their use has more than rapidly grown, thanks to the platform’s ability to allow presenters a cost-effective mode to reach large and specific groups of online viewers from a single location and offers participants the ability to interact with presenters.

Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR

NCRA offers a variety of both live and recorded webinars that members can use to earn continuing education units. But it’s not just the participants who benefit from the value of webinars; the presenters do as well.

“I love webinars,” says Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from San Antonio, Texas, who was tapped by NCRA to present in a webinar about promoting and recruiting for the court reporting and captioning professions. “I think they are so informative and educational. Court reporters’ and captioners’ schedules are so hectic that it is sometimes hard to get away to a convention. Webinars make a very convenient and flexible way to educate and earn continuing education credits,” Uviedo said.

Steve Lubetkin, CLVS

Steve Lubetkin, CLVS, managing partner of Lubetkin Media Companies in Cherry Hill, N.J., said he presented his first webinar for NCRA after a conversation with staff when he finished his CLVS practical test. The conversation, he said, was about how highly he thought of the program. Since then, he has produced and hosted three webinars for NCRA.

“I enjoy being able to share some of the practical experience I’ve gained producing video and managing my business. I’m proud of some of the tricks I’ve learned to streamline the work, and it’s rewarding to have peers say they appreciate the ideas as well,” Lubetkin said.

Uviedo agreed. “Lending your expertise to other reporters is one of the greatest givebacks you can contribute to the profession.  Many of us are self-employed and do not have an employer to guide and/or train us. Training and guidance via webinar is an excellent way to educate our professionals,” said the 23-year veteran of court reporting.

According to Lubetkin, depending on the topic, preparing and creating a webinar can take some work on the presenter’s part. “For my webinar on the deposition audio chain, I think I spent two or three hours shooting the b-roll I used to illustrate part of the one-hour program. For the others, I spent several hours each on screen shots and display materials,” he noted.

Uviedo encourages others to volunteer to host webinars for NCRA to help increase educational opportunities. “I would say that your webinar is imperative for the busy working reporters who are unable to attend conventions and also reporters who are looking for guidance on information throughout the year. You can just go to NCRA’s webinar website and look for the topic you need training on, and voila! It’s a win-win for both the reporter and NCRA,” she said.

“Webinars are great when people can dedicate the specific time period for the live learning, and engage in interaction with the instructor and participants, but they are also valuable as on-demand recorded programs that people can go back to over and over to review concepts and techniques,” added Lubetkin, who has been a legal videographer since 2014 and earned his CLVS in 2016.

NCRA is always looking for professionals to share their expertise with our membership. Presenting a webinar is a great way to build your résumé, gain a platform for your ideas, and contribute your knowledge to the NCRA Continuing Education library. Presenters may advertise their business at the end of their presentations and will be compensated. For more information, contact egoff@ncra.org.

Arlington Career Institute salutes newly certified alumni

Arlington Career Institute instructor Judy Brownlow reported that three graduates of the Grand Prairie, Texas, program recently passed the Oklahoma certification tests. “Congratulations to Amy Cummings, Karen Gonzalez, and Trulia Taylor,” says Brownlow. “Nice job, ladies. We are proud of you. See you in court!”

 

Prep for practice

Len Sperling, MBA, CRI

By Len Sperling

As we all know, practice is a vital and key component to attaining success while speed testing. However, most students during their studies reach points in their testing journey where they plateau, and passing tests becomes a daunting task. As this plateau continues, the danger is that students may start to spend more time and energy worrying about not passing any tests instead of focusing their energy on practice itself. A snowball effect to this dilemma can occur where the more a student struggles to pass tests, the less they practice. A line I have often used with students who reach this impasse is: “You worry about the practice; I’ll worry about the tests.” The point of my line is to help direct student energy and time towards quality practice and not the outcomes of speed tests. My contention is tests will eventually take care of themselves as long as students put in the required quality practice.

One of the keys to success for any student in a court reporting program is to have the discipline to put in the quality practice outside of class. In developing any skill, time on task is paramount. Although students realize this, they find it difficult to put in that needed quality practice. So the question becomes: What is the best way for students to plan and develop a solid practice plan required for progress?

I am going to explore one strategy to help make a successful practice plan. Financial planners like saying the following line: “People don’t plan to fail. They fail to plan.” This is the foundation of my strategy. At the end of your last practice session for the day, plan and document your practice for the next day. Besides time allotment and instructor-assigned practice, you should decide the type of dictation or other drills you plan to practice, and then pick your dictation and speeds. There are a number of reasons why I think this is a good strategy to use. I will outline a few.

1. Reflection

To make a good practice plan for the next day, you need to reflect on your current day’s work. What went well? Where did I struggle? Were there briefs or phrases or any key combinations that I hesitated on? Where did the errors occur in my practice? When I dropped, was there a specific reason? By reflecting on practice and answering these types of questions, your practice becomes purposeful and more effective. Although you want to attain both quality and quantity in practice, take quality over quantity any day.

2. Structure

Every student is different. However, I have found most students like structure and want as much as possible. By prepping for practice, you are providing yourself that structure and, thus, the chances of executing your designed practice for the next day becomes much higher. In essence, this allows you to schedule your priorities for the next day. Planning your practice the previous night allows you to easily document your practice and become much more organized. If practice material and speeds are already documented, it becomes easier to record error rates and areas of difficulty. This, in turn, provides a basis for future practice.

3. Motivation

It is hard for students who are not experiencing success at testing to stay motivated.  By prepping for practice, your focus is on your next practice, not your next test. In my experience, students at times find it hard to start practicing. Procrastination sets in, which may unfortunately turn into a slippery slope. This is especially true on weekends and holidays. By having your practice already planned, it provides motivation to practice. A good day of practice hopefully will lead to another good day of practice.

I hope these small tips will help in developing good practice habits and, more importantly, change your mindset on how to get through your testing plateaus.

NCRA Member Len Sperling, MBA, CRI, is the chair of the Captioning and Court Reporting program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He can be reached at lens@nait.ca.

Court reporters offer free course

The Oklahoman posted an article about an upcoming NCRA A to Z Intro to Machine Shorthand program the Oklahoma Court Reporters Association will be offering later in May. The article was generated by a press release issued by NCRA.

Read more.

PROFILE: Jeseca C. Eddington, RDR, CRR, CRC

Jeseca Eddington, RDR, CRR, CRC

Jeseca Eddington, RDR, CRR, CRC

Official court reporter
Currently resides in: Detroit, Mich.
Member since: 2002
Graduated from: Academy of Court Reporting
Theory: Realtime compatible

JCR | Why was it important for you to earn the RDR certification?
EDDINGTON | I made it my personal goal to become a part of this exclusive club that only welcomes the best of the best. Being a Registered Diplomate Reporter means that I have attained the highest level of excellence in the field of court reporting and it commands respect from my peers. I have obtained many certifications that have helped advance my career and I have remained humble. But when I passed the RDR, I shouted from the rooftops and let the world know! Most importantly, those letters look great behind my name.

JCR | Why do you think professional certification is important?
EDDINGTON | NCRA certifications separate the wheat from the chaff. When it comes to employment, certifications let potential employers know that I am qualified for the job even before opening my mouth to speak. So the only thing left for me to do during an interview process is to focus on my experience and wow them with my winning personality.

JCR | What has been your best work experience so far in your career?
EDDINGTON | Yes, I have corralled upwards of 75 attorneys and taken charge during those court proceedings to make sure the record remained accurate and uncompromised. Yes, I have earned in two weeks what is equal to a half year’s salary for some. Yes, I have earned a litany of certifications. But the most rewarding part of my career thus far has been teaching! In the 18 years I have been in this wonderful field, the most fulfilling part of my job is when I am able to help others – be it teaching, mentoring, or the occasional pro bono work.

JCR | Is there something else you would like to share about yourself?
EDDINGTON | Outside of my demanding job, I love to spend quality time with my husband and our tween and toddler daughters. I have even calendared events such as Meatless Mondays where we try different vegetarian recipes; Workout Wednesdays where we do a physical activity together as a family; and Family Fridays, which can include anything from board games to movie night. In addition, I enjoy vegetable gardening and creating artwork.

PROFILE: Teri C. Gibson, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

Teri C. Gibson, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

Teri C. Gibson, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

Freelance court reporter and CART captioner
Currently resides in: Boston, Mass.
Member since: 1986
Graduated from: Chicago College of Commerce
Theory: Stenographic Theory and Computer Compatible Stenography Theory

JCR | Why did you decide to earn an NCRA certification?
GIBSON | When I was a student in college in Chicago, Ill., to work in Illinois, you had to become certified. So I took the NCRA test back in 1981.

JCR | Why did you decide to freelance?
GIBSON | In the beginning of my career, I wanted to become an official court reporter.
That doesn’t happen right away. You have to get experience.  After six months as a freelance court reporter, I was married and moved to Massachusetts. I worked as a freelance court reporter for many years. I was a hearings stenographer with the Department of Industrial Accidents. I found that job didn’t give me the challenge that I enjoyed as a freelance reporter, so I went back to working as a freelance reporter. Through time, I developed my realtime skills. I worked as a federal official for almost 10 years. I went back to freelance, but this time I went into CART captioning because I loved writing realtime and there was a great need for CART captioners.

JCR | Why was it important for you to earn so many different certifications?
GIBSON | Certifications verify your skill level. As a CART captioner, I wanted that certification because it gives prospective clients the assurance that I am certified and can provide the service.

JCR | Have you gotten a job specifically as a result of your certification?
GIBSON | As a freelancer in Illinois, it was required to become certified. Without it, I would not have been able to work at all. In Massachusetts, I don’t believe it’s required, but having my certification when I did move to Boston, I had no trouble getting work.

JCR | Why do you think professional certification is important?
GIBSON | This allows whoever hires you to know that you have the knowledge and skills to perform the work as a court reporter or as a CART captioner.

JCR | What would you say to others considering professional certification?
GIBSON | Certification is only a baseline for the professional starting their career. Through time as you work as a court reporter or CART captioner, you will improve your knowledge and skill level. I would like to encourage all court reporters to get the CSR or RPR and all CART captioners get the CRR. This allows you to have the basic skills needed to start working as a court reporter or CART captioner.

When writing on the steno machine, there are times we are confronted with really hard-working environments that can cause us to doubt that we have what it takes. When you have difficult working environments and situations, you can handle the stress better and continue to write on the steno machine.

I would also encourage new working court reporters to transcribe their own work and use a proofreader in the beginning so that they can continue to build their stenographic skills and knowledge base. Also, if you are able, take classes or seminars and learn about things that interest you or set a goal for something you may want to do in the future and get ready. Have something that you are passionate about or that you can enjoy outside of court reporting. I say this because court reporting exposes us to the experiences of people who have experienced trauma, broken the law, and very stressful situations; it’s important to have positive and joyful experiences to counterbalance.

JCR | What has been your best work experience so far in your career?
GIBSON | I love working as a court reporter and CART captioner. When working as a CART captioner, the consumers are more appreciative of your skills.

JCR | Is there something else you would like to share?
GIBSON | I am a woman with many talents besides being a stenographer. I am a teacher at heart. I was a Sunday School teacher for more than 25 years. Now I am developing my skills for teaching as a Christian Life Coach, and I am an authorized trainer of the Total Eclipse Software. Through the years, I worked as a fitness instructor. I taught aerobics, step, and spinning. I love to swim, knit, read, listen to audiobooks, and writing. I have four books to complete to publish.

PROFILE: Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI

Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI

Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI

Official court reporter
Currently resides in: Arlington, Texas
Member since: 1994
Graduated from: Brown Institute of Court Reporting, Longview, Texas
Theory: StenEd

JCR | Why was it important for you to earn so many certifications?
XAVIER | I’ve always been a “learner.” I love to learn as much as I can take in. But if I had to pin it down, I would say the desire to earn certifications was largely due to cultural and environmental influences early in life. I do know that it was never an option for me to not challenge myself to be the best that I could be at whatever I was trying to accomplish. I think if you could eavesdrop inside the home of just about any African-American family in this country, regardless of their socioeconomic background, you would hear children being told that they must be extraordinary in order to be noticed. You would hear them being told that they could not slack off. You would hear them being told they have to outperform their non-black counterparts just to be considered equal. When you hear that all your life, it can easily become a part of your DNA and who you are. So I’d say I’ve always taken those admonishments to heart.

JCR | Have you gotten a job specifically as a result of your certifications?
XAVIER | I was appointed to report a high-profile change-of-venue case years ago due to my realtime capabilities, and having advanced certifications definitely made saying yes a lot easier and stress-free for me.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others considering earning professional certifications?
XAVIER | The best advice I could give would be to do it now! If you’re a newbie, don’t stop after graduating from school. Continue on the test-taking journey. If you’ve been reporting for a while, do yourself a favor and take that first step and actually register for your chosen exam with an eye toward passing it and not just trying it out to see what it’s like. If you really want it, that financial investment will be what pushes you to commit to the time and effort it will take to pass. So many of us are waiting for something else to happen before we jump in and do it, but there will never be a right time. You will always be busy. There will always be something to distract you. In fact, we often create other things to distract ourselves. Taking an exam is so different from our day-to-day jobs that the longer we wait after completing court reporting school, the harder it is to get back into the flow of standardized testing.

JCR | What surprised you about your career?
XAVIER | I am surprised that I am still working as a reporter and enjoying it! I came to reporting after a stint in the military; and at that time, it was customary for most people to retire after about 20 years in the military. So that number has always stuck in my head as “long enough to be on a job.” But there have been very few days in almost 24 years that I felt like I was going to work. I still enjoy what I’m doing.

JCR | What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
XAVIER | I enjoy encouraging others to challenge themselves. I enjoy helping others reach their potential in the field. So I would say my greatest accomplishments would probably have something to do with students who eventually become reporters and new reporters who have come to me for training and stuck it out with me. So when I see someone I’ve had a hand in mentoring or training, and they’re excelling and doing their thing in the field and actually enjoying it as much as I do, I consider that an awesome accomplishment.

CCAC to offer free intro course to court reporting

The Tribune Review reported on March 22 that the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in Pennsylvania will host a free introductory course on court reporting this spring. The A to Z Intro to Machine Shorthand, an Introduction to Stenographic Theory, will be held from April 19 to May 12.

Read more.

What did you do to make a difference for Court Reporting & Captioning Week?

By Debbie Kriegshauser

I must share with you all that I had a “peach of a time” visiting the Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., during Court Reporting & Captioning Week. I was beyond impressed with the school. The classroom layouts, the labs, the faculty, and the administration were just amazing – not to mention the best students in the United States. There are 41 daytime students, 32 evening students, and 125 online students. That is phenomenal! We certainly can’t take a chance of losing this program.

We all remember those days of the dreaded “guest speaker” when we were in school, but I must say we had a fantastic time. Several of the students who chose to sit in the back of the room were dancing in the aisles and happy-go-lucky when they left. Oh, yes, we had attendance prizes, Valentine’s Day candy bags, and some good ole fun and enjoyment. They love those wonderful reference books the NCRA Store has for sale, plus I rewarded the student I mentor there with a convention registration for being the main reason I went to Brown College of Court Reporting in the first place. Thank you, Kimesha Smith Stallworth, for arranging this opportunity!

I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my life and work experience with the students. I’m currently a federal official in St. Louis, Mo., and have been for 15 years. But I had done 25 years of freelance work before that, not to mention two years of CART reporting for a deaf student studying Agricultural Science, some dabbling in the captioning side of life, and providing media coverage for a Senior PGA Tournament on top of the freelance work. Needless to say, I had a lot to share with the students. I could have consumed the entire day. I also went into my professional memberships and covered an array of committees I have served on to show the students that involvement in your professional organizations is priceless!

We all have some experiences we can share with students as well as prospective students across the country. I challenge each and every one of you to share a bit of your court reporting or captioning experience with our schools. You can make a difference. You have to “just do it!” Did I mention the school YouTubed the entire evening presentation while it streamed it to the online students?

And the best part of this college visit: I got invited back! I also received the nicest “thank you” card. Thank you, Brown College of Court Reporting, especially Mark Green, Jr., director of career services, and Marita Carey, director of administration!

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, CLVS, is an official court reporter at the federal level from St. Louis, Mo.