Gadsden State student earns national scholarship

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyGadsden State Community College, Gadsden, Ala., announced in a press release issued Jan. 29 that Analisa Arnold is one of two students nationwide to earn the Student Intern Scholarship from the National Court Reporters Foundation. The scholarship is worth $1,000 and is offered to students who are enrolled in NCRA-approved court reporting programs and meet other requirements.

Read more.

Go for the gold in NCRA’s Olympic student speed contest!

In celebration of Court Reporting & Captioning Week, the NCRA Student/Teacher Committee is sponsoring an Olympic-themed speed test offered to all students at varying test speeds. The tests consist of five minutes of dictation at a speed level that each individual student is either currently working on or has just passed. In order to be eligible to win, students must pass the test with 96 percent accuracy. (After all, it is the Olympics!) One Literary and one Q&A test will be offered, and the faculty at each school will be responsible for dictating and grading the material.*

How to win: All students who pass a test are eligible for prizes; winners will be drawn at random for first (gold), second (silver), and third (bronze) prizes.

  • Gold medal prize: NCRA’s RPR Study Guide ($125 value)
  • Silver medal prize: Choice of a one-year NCRA student membership ($46 value) or one leg of the RPR Skills Test ($72.50 value)
  • Bronze medal prize: $25 Starbucks gift card

All students who participate in the contest, even if they don’t pass a test, will have their names and schools published in the student newsletter and the JCR. NCRA wants to showcase the hard work that students and schools are doing to promote the court reporting and captioning professions.

*Full details and rules for the contest will be sent to your teachers, so please make sure they know you would like to participate. The contest will run from Feb. 10 through Feb. 17.

For more information, please contact Debbie Kriegshauser at deborah0841@att.net or Ellen Goff at egoff@ncra.org.

A little help from your friends

Stephen Shea, Amelia Bradley, and Lindsey NiBlack

Amelia Bradley, Lindsey NiBlack, and Stephen Shea started together at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., in the summer of 2016. They came together from different backgrounds, with different experiences, each with their own reasons for wanting to go into the profession. Soon the three formed a bond of friendship that has been a vital support system throughout their time at school. Bradley, NiBlack, and Shea sat down to interview each other to discuss how far they had come and where they plan to go.

How did you become interested in court reporting?

Shea: My wife and I knew someone in the industry. We came to an open house, and this career seemed a perfect fit for me. I wanted a stimulating, mobile career for the future.

NiBlack and Bradley: We were both unsatisfied with just our Bachelor of Arts degrees and wanted to do more. Like all good ideas, our mothers suggested the field of court reporting.

Did you have careers or degrees in something else, and if so, what made you switch to court reporting?

Shea: My career was my family’s printing business. I do have a Bachelor of Arts in management.

NiBlack: I have a bachelor’s in religious studies. So, obviously, that’s not exactly practical (laughter). A bachelor’s doesn’t have the same pull that it used to, so I wanted a skill, not just another degree.

Bradley: I am a professional ice skating instructor, and I have a bachelor’s in journalism. There are similarities between journalism and court reporting, but I wanted a career with more stability. Plus, I realized that I wanted to be more “behind the scenes.” Now, I can just listen, and I’m nosy!

Describe your support system at school. How has it helped you to overcome your challenges?

Bradley, NiBlack, and Shea: Amelia is by far the most positive. She always tells us, “You can do it!” We have found that it is easier to disappoint yourself than your friends and support system. We all have different strengths, too. Amelia is great at speedbuilding. Lindsey helps out with technology. Steve’s job is to keep us laughing. We all pull each other up in our academic classes, too! We’re the only ones left from our starting steno theory class and have been through a lot together.

It’s nice to have friends to ask stupid questions so that we don’t look stupid in class (laughter). That was a bond forged in our grammar class. That, and Steve’s study guides!

Even when we are aggravated about school, we come to see each other. There can be a lot of negative responses to testing and to some of the more challenging aspects of court reporting school. It is great to have a supportive group to go to and seek some encouragement from one’s peers. That keeps us in a positive frame of mind to be successful.

What has been your most difficult challenge so far?

Shea: Making the decision to not do something at home that needs to be done in order to practice has been hard. Making myself more disciplined has been a challenge. It can be hard to say no to your kids.

NiBlack: Definitely accepting failure. I have never failed so many tests in my life! Plus, being a steno writer, realizing that it takes us time to build speed.

Bradley: I think learning to be patient, like things won’t happen when I want them to. That doesn’t make me a failure. I’ve also had to cut back on a lot of work in order to progress. I have learned that I can’t do everything.

What is your dream job?

Shea: Barring becoming president of football operations for the New England Patriots, I think I want to be an official reporter for its stability.

NiBlack: Go Pats! I’m too late to be an astronaut. For now, I am leaning toward being a freelance reporter with the freedom to set my own schedule. I want to travel while I am still young! I think I would like to become an official of the court when I decide to settle down though.

Bradley: Officialship! I like routine and stability. I feel like that would allow me to form stronger relationships in the workplace. I do plan to get married and have children, so in order to be flexible, I might plan to freelance during that period of my life.

Schools gear up to celebrate Court Reporting & Captioning Week

By Ellen Goff

February is the month to celebrate! NCRA has declared Feb. 10-17 the sixth annual National Court Reporting & Captioning Week, an event designed to encourage members and students in the court reporting and captioning professions to celebrate by hosting special events within the community and more. Up-to-Speed shares what court reporting programs are doing to mark this year’s event.

NCRA encourages all schools to get involved in Court Reporting & Captioning Week by highlighting the contributions of stenographic court reporters and captioners to society. Court Reporting & Captioning Week is a perfect opportunity for students to share with friends, family, and members of the community what their careers will involve and why they chose this field. Events held this week promote the profession and showcase the career opportunities in the court reporting and captioning fields.

Updated resources are available to assist with planning and promoting activities during the week such as press release templates, posters, brochures, presentations, and more. Resources are available at NCRA.org and include materials tailored to members, schools, and state associations. Be sure to let NCRA know how you plan to celebrate by sharing your stories and photos via email at pr@ncra.org.

Here’s a list of what some of the nation’s court reporting schools are planning to mark the event:

Cuyahoga Community College, Parma, Ohio

Court Reporting & Captioning Week will be widely celebrated at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C). The students and faculty of the captioning and court reporting program will be hosting a panel of industry professionals for a discussion and Q&A session focused on encouraging students to “Envision Your Career!” Professionals will share their stories and advice about entering the field and building a career in court reporting and captioning.

Also during the week, Tri-C’s court reporting and captioning club will be conducting their annual Write-a-Thon fundraiser. Students will recruit sponsors who will pledge funds for every hour that the students practice their writing during the day. The Write-a-Thon will be held as a large group event in the main galleria on campus, so students will be able to show off their skills.

“We’re excited to hold our Write-a-Thon during Court Reporting & Captioning Week 2018,” says Todd Robie, president of the court reporting and captioning club. “This event is the cornerstone of our club’s efforts throughout the year to raise funding for our student members to attend professional events such as the NCRA Convention & Expo or the Ohio Court Reporters Association Annual Conference.”

Brown College of Court Reporting, Atlanta, Ga.

Brown College of Court Reporting is marking Court Reporting & Captioning Week with a week of games and prizes, guest speakers, and alumni to celebrate the profession and encourage students.

Monday: Grammar jam — Students will pick teams and go head to head in a Jeopardy!-style game show for prizes.

Tuesday: Financial literacy — A financial planner will be on campus to show students how to set themselves up for success.

Wednesday: Alumni event — Networking with fellow grads

Thursday: Guest speaker — Court reporter and mentor Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, will be sharing advice on what it takes to be a successful reporter.

Des Moines Area Community College, Newton, Iowa

Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) is planning a field trip with current students to the Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines. They hope to visit a number of courtrooms, speak with reporters and judges, and visit with the court administrator about official positions in Iowa.

On Feb. 17, DMACC will host an open house and information session at the Newton campus. The event will include realtime demonstrations, a panel discussion with court reporters, and a tour of campus for prospective students.

Atlantic Technical College, Coconut Creek, Fla.

The Atlantic Technical College (ATC) court reporting program will be celebrating Court Reporting & Captioning Week with the following activities:

  • ATC court reporting students will tour the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale.
  • Members of the Broward County Schools Court Reporting Advisory Committee will visit court reporting classes as guest speakers. They will share information with students about court reporting careers and South Florida court reporting agencies.
  • Students from various programs throughout the campus will be invited to tour the court reporting program to learn more about the program and court reporting careers available upon graduation.
  • NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week will be featured on ATC’s Facebook page.
  • ATC court reporting students will be participating in NCRA student activities.

Key College, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Key College’s court reporting program announces a weeklong celebration of Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

  • Three $1,000 scholarships will be given to new students. Winners will be selected by Florida employers within the court reporting industry.
  • High school students will be offered free, four-week introductory classes.
  • Guest speakers from the industry will be captioned and streamed to online students.
  • Alumni guests will provide real-world experiences and insight into the different opportunities available for graduates.
  • A banquet will be held honoring graduates who achieved the National Honor Society distinction.

All activities, as well as a tribute to Court Reporting & Captioning Week, will be featured on the school website and advertising.

The College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.

The College of Court Reporting (CCR) is planning to initiate and participate in several informative activities throughout Court Reporting & Captioning Week. First, CCR will focus on spreading the word about the court reporting profession to the community through fun competitions and seminars that will be held in local high school classrooms. CCR will also be posting to various social media platforms (including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) all week in order to share information about the field of court reporting and captioning. Finally, CCR will again participate in the Veteran’s History Project, which is a favorite of administrators and students alike.

“We believe that court reporting and captioning is worthy of national recognition and we are proud to take part in this national initiative,” said Nicky Rodriquez, admissions director at CCR.

Midstate College in Peoria, Ill.

Midstate College will be promoting a weeklong historical display about machine shorthand, starting with the Miles Bartholomew machine and ending with information about current machines and career options. Several machines and artifacts from a private collection will be part of the exhibit in the school’s library. In addition, a virtual display will be available at midstate.edu.

Plaza College, Forest Hills, N.Y.

During Court Reporting & Captioning Week, Plaza College will be celebrating with some exciting on-campus events:

Admissions open house: Students interested in a career in court reporting will have the opportunity to tour campus, see a realtime demonstration on a steno machine, and speak to court reporters currently working in the field. Program Director Oscar Garzon will also provide an overview of the program and career opportunities for graduates.

Mock trial: The paralegal and court reporting students will be conducting a mock trial during College Hour for all interested students to experience.

Visits from agencies: Throughout the week, various agencies from the area will be visiting classrooms to speak to graduating students about career opportunities and provide some encouraging words to students in their early semesters.

 

Students, instructors, staff, and alumni of court reporting programs are encouraged to share their Court Reporting & Captioning Week activities on social media using the hashtag #DiscoverSteno. And please share any scheduled events and programs with NCRA by sending them to pr@ncra.org.

Ellen Goff is NCRA’s Professional Development Manager. She can be reached at egoff@ncra.org.

It’s a new year, a new beginning

portrait of the author

Kay Moody

By Kay Moody

It’s a new year, and you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to practice more, buckle down, and make progress in machine shorthand. You’ve probably also set a goal to be at a certain speed level by the end of the next term in school. Every successful person will tell you that the secret to success is setting goals and working toward meeting those goals in an organized and timely manner. Here are seven tips to help you succeed:

  1. Set goals by identifying and eliminating your weaknesses and developing strengths.

When reading back shorthand notes, identify what you need to accomplish in order to write the selection at the speed dictated. Reading back and evaluating shorthand notes is an essential element in goal setting. Instead of saying, “It’s too fast,” identify exactly what you need to do to write at your goal speed. For example, if briefs and/or phrases cause you to hesitate or drop, set a goal to review them every day.

  1. Make goals that are small and attainable.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t attain their goals is that they set large goals that take months to accomplish. Instead, make small, attainable goals. Divide large, long-term goals into small, specific tasks that you can accomplish on a daily basis. For example, if you want to increase your shorthand speed by 40 wpm during the semester, break that down into two criteria:

  • To write 40 wpm faster in 16 weeks, you need to improve by 2.5 wpm each week. Set short-term weekly goals.
  • What principle of skill/speed development do you have to master to improve 2.5 wpm in one week? Identify what keeps you from writing faster, and develop study plans and drills to achieve this goal.

Gaining speed and passing tests are not goals; they are the result of working on and sticking to your short-term daily and weekly goals.

  1. State goals that are positive.

Instead of saying, “I’m not going to drop,” say, “I’m going to push myself and get every word. I’m going to get a stroke for everything that is dictated.”

  1. Remind yourself of a goal every time you write on your machine.

Before you begin writing, mentally establish the goal or purpose of each session, e.g., “I’m going to stay with the dictation and get an outline for every word.” When a brief, phrase, or difficult words causes you to hesitate, look up the correct outlines, drill on them, and retake the selection. Repeat the process until you can write the take without hesitating.

  1. Identify goals that are specific and can be measured.

When you read back a selection and have 40 drops, set the specific goal of fewer than 35 drops. Practice the same section until you reach that goal. In your next practice session, practice until you are down to 25 drops, then 15 drops, and finally no drops. Apply the same principle to cleaning up your notes, getting all your briefs, writing numbers, etc.

  1. Establish realistic expectation as to when you can reach your short term goals.

For example, “This week, I’m going to review and drill on 25 briefs every day.” By the end of the week, you will have reviewed, reinforced, and mastered 150 briefs.

  1. Reward yourself when you succeed in reaching a goal.

When you attain a goal, take a break, call a friend, or watch your favorite TV show as a reward. When you attain a major accomplishment (passing a desired speed level, for example), give yourself a BIG reward, something that you’ve wanted to do for a while but have been too busy practicing in order to reach your goals.

To summarize the elements of goal setting: Develop goals that eliminate weaknesses, that develop strengths, and that are small and attainable. Set a goal every time you sit at your machine, whether it is in class or a short practice session. All goals should be positive, measurable, specific, and realistic; and reward yourself when you succeed in reaching a goal.

Kay Moody, MCRI, CPE, is an instructor at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. She can be reached at kay.moody@ccr.edu.

Students resolve to work hard and graduate

pen and index card with "2018 goals" written at the top and a listIt’s 2018: Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Up-to-Speed reached out to court reporting students to ask them about their resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. Many of us resolve to start exercising, travel more often, or pick up a new hobby. But these students are all work and (mostly) no play.

“Making resolutions is usually not my thing,” said Rosalind Dennis of Arlington Career Institute in Arlington, Texas, “but I am this year!” Ask Connie Hwang of Plaza College in Forest Hills, N.Y., what her resolutions are and she gets right to the point: “Finish my stenography degree. Start working as a court reporter.” She is not alone. It seems every student has one thing top of mind this January: working hard.

What does working hard look like? “In 2018 I would like to become proficient in steno writing. I would like to eliminate hesitation and become more confident in muscle memory,” said Vickie Pelletier, of the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. Pelletier, like many students, is focused on her skills. January is a natural time to look back over the past year, assess your progress, and set some goals for the next 12 months. Macy Thompson, another student at the College of Court Reporting, will be one of those aiming for her goal. “I want to keep expanding my knowledge in briefs and phrases to help with less hesitation. My list of improvements could go on forever. I just really want to improve my speed,” Thompson said.

Speed is a common theme for student New Year’s resolutions. Taneshia Crockett, a student at Sheridan Technical College in Hollywood, Fla., said, “My goal is to accomplish passing all speeds.” She wants to pass her 180 wpm by the end of 2018 and be interning shortly after that. She has a no-nonsense plan: “Improve my writing habits. Focus on my weak areas.” Thompson wants to be at 225 wpm by December of 2018. “I’ve been struggling with my 120s since August. After having decided to make this my ultimate goal for the coming year, I am already two tests away from being in my 140s.”

Of course, all this pressure to increase speed leads to increased stress. To manage their stress, students say they are vowing to improve study habits, spend more time practicing, and find ways to reduce test anxiety. Cherie Allen, also a student at the College of Court Reporting, is resolving to “concentrate more on my studies, become better at time management, and try not to procrastinate so much.” Pelletier is doing her best to balance work, school, and an expanding family. “I would like to improve my time management. With a baby on the way, a degree underway, and a full-time job to maintain, the past few months have not been easy. I would like to manage my time in such a way where I am not tired during most of it. Miracles do happen!”

The ultimate goal of a student, as Hwang noted, is not to be a student any longer. Dennis said of her resolutions: “I plan to be vigilant in my practice time, finish school, and test in September.” When asked to narrow down just one goal for 2018, she picked, “Reaching 225!” More than half of the students who responded to Up-to-Speed indicated that graduating and finding work as a court reporter were their goals as well.

Allen’s drive and determination are tempered by her other aspirations: “to grow my love for the court reporting field” and “to overall have a happier/positive state of mind.” Only a few of the students Up-to-Speed reached out to brought up the lighter side of New Year’s resolutions. Jennifer Golightly, another student at Arlington Career Institute, said that “self health and awareness” were the things she would most like to improve in 2018. Hwang wants to increase her speed, but she also wants to “slow down.” She said she will travel more and “strengthen my relationships with family and friends.”

And Hwang has one more resolution. When she finishes her degree, she’s going to “CELEBRATE.”

Read your way to excellence

By Caroline R. Castle

If it is true, as the old saying goes, that “clothes make the man,” we could readily say that “words make the reporter.” Words are our stock in trade, our raison d’être. It falls to reporters, then, to have more than a passing acquaintance with the English language and with the meanings and spellings of as many words as possible. While it is true that we can report anything phonetically, the trick lies in transforming our soundalikes into sensible speech on the page. To do this well requires that we develop the kind of working knowledge of words that is derived most effectively from in-depth reading, an increasingly lost art.

Students, especially, should be concerned with expanding their vocabularies. As a reporter with 30-plus years’ experience and a veteran of proofreading, I know the impression that is created when an attorney sees a misused name or word on the page. When reporters transcribe elude instead of allude, for instance, they are announcing to the client that they are unfamiliar with these rather commonplace terms. To avoid such errors, students should begin now to create and maintain good reading habits. Only constant and repeated exposure to words of all stripes develops confidence in lexicological skill.

stack of booksThis is important for two reasons specific to accurate court reporting. Familiarity with the meaning of many words will, one, allow the reporter to follow and transcribe verbal speech accurately; and, two, increase spelling skill. Reporting softwares now include many aids to enhance accuracy. Even so, spell-check cannot solve all ills and is no substitute for knowledge. The reporter is always the final arbiter of the transcript and must take responsibility.

What, then, should we include in a reading regimen designed to promote tip-top professionalism? First, it is important to realize that any reading helps: fiction, nonfiction, periodicals, and newspapers. Some reading should be undertaken every day, before or after class. Newspapers and journalistic periodicals are particularly helpful, as they convey not only a general knowledge of words but also of newsworthy events in the world. It is vitally important to have an awareness of current events because it is impossible to predict what may emerge from someone’s mouth at any given moment. Names and places in the news regularly figure in testimony, and you stand a much better chance of reproducing accurate subjects about which you have even a modicum of understanding. This is particularly true when it comes to any technical field — medicine, science, business — but also extends to politics, culture, philosophy, and even religion. So grab a newspaper or a magazine and get busy.

Periodicals that run essays and book reviews are particularly helpful. They are usually associated with cultural, political, or economic life. Harper’s, The Atlantic, and National Review are three that come to mind that are most useful in this respect. The New Yorker is also excellent. Do not be put off by the particular political points of view espoused by such publications; what you are reading for is wealth of language.

Weekly current events periodicals are also very helpful. The best known of these are probably Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and The Economist. If you want some lighter reading, try Reader’s Digest. Along that line, regularly completing the “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” quiz in Reader’s Digest is a great way to enhance your vocabulary.

A word of warning regards the use of the internet to check unfamiliar words: Make certain you have a good dictionary and a thesaurus as well as other reference materials such as Physician’s Desk Reference, a medical dictionary, and a legal dictionary that can be tapped to verify specific terms. Again, as with spell-check, the internet does not solve all ills. If you have a mind full of information upon which to draw, you are better prepared to face the many puzzles you will confront in your writing.

Of course, in addition to current publications, the more books you read, the better off you are. I tend to favor nonfiction — political content and biographies are excellent — but high-quality novels and literature are very useful indeed. If you are perusing the book reviews, you will undoubtedly find many of the new releases interesting and will wish to read them, further exposing yourself to the written word.

Finally, although it does not exactly fall into the category of reading per se, solving word puzzles promotes a nimble mind. Mid-level difficulty crosswords are excellent for developing vocabulary, spelling, and a general knowledge base. Doing the jumble puzzle in your newspaper provides both a good feel for how words are comprised as well as an increasingly sharp recognition of prefixes and suffixes. And always, if you encounter an unfamiliar word in puzzling or reading, please stop and look it up to make the word a permanent part of your vocabulary arsenal.

Emulate Shakespeare, who achieved excellence using an invaluable tool: richness of language. Use this same tool and achieve excellence yourself.

Caroline R. Castle, RDR, CRR (Ret.), is a retired court reporter in Rapid City, S.D. She can be reached at bluish5746@hotmail.com.

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.