Marjorie A. Peters Recognized with 2018 Santo J. Aurelio Award for Altruism

Nancy Hopp and Marjorie Peters

NCRA member Marjorie A. Peters, RMR, CRR, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Pittsburgh, Pa., was honored with the 2018 Santo J. Aurelio Award for Altruism. The award was presented by NCRF during NCRA’s Convention & Expo held Aug. 2-5 in New Orleans, La.

The Aurelio Award is given to a working court reporter with more than 25 years of experience who has given back to the profession and to the court reporting community with no expectation of any reward.

“Receiving the Santo Aurelio Award was an emotional and overwhelming moment, only made better because I was able to share it in person with so many friends and colleagues who offered their heartfelt congratulations and kind words.  When I see photos on Facebook, I continue to be deeply touched,” said Peters, who owns Marjorie Peters Court Reporting.

“When I look at past years’ awardees, I am in awe to be included now in their company and then even more humbled that my dear friends nominated me and saw it through,” she added.

At the national level, Peters has presented numerous times at NCRA’s annual Convention & Expo as well as has served on a number of the Association’s committees. She is a longtime supporter of NCRF.

Active at the state level, she has served twice on the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association Board of Directors. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Technological Advancement of Reporting (STAR) and has coordinated a number of Veterans History Project events to capture the stories of U.S. war veterans for the Library of Congress to preserve.

She has sponsored students at both the state and national levels for memberships and convention fees and often invites students from the court reporting program at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) into her home office to demonstrate live captioning.

Active in her community, Peters is a longtime volunteer with the Light of Life Rescue Mission, as well as the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Race, which benefits the Autism Society. She is also a lector at the Assumption Church in Bellevue, Pa.

“I feel Marjorie is the perfect example of the meaning of the word altruism – the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others,” said life-long friend Janis L. Ferguson, RPR, CRR, who was one of several of Peters’ peers to nominate her.

“She has demonstrated this time and time again through her concern for her family, her concern for her community, and her concern and passion for her chosen profession. It has been an honor to nominate her,” added Ferguson, a freelance court reporter from Erie, Pa.

“Marjorie’s work history is made up of every facet of our profession – judicial reporting, captioning, and freelance work. She does not hesitate to volunteer in every way she can manage for our school in western Pennsylvania, and is a great aid to CCAC,” wrote Donna Cascio, FAPR, RDR, CMRS, an official court reporter from Somerset, Pa., who also nominated Peters.

“She is a great ambassador for our profession — and for living with compassion and kindness on this planet,” Cascio added.

Peters said that each year, she continues to be inspired by court reporters, CART and broadcast captioners, and firm owners who offer themselves to build up the profession, as well as their communities, and offered the following words of encouragement: “Let us always be encouraged by each other. Always remember to allow yourself to be inspired, and that any act of kindness, no matter how small, is never wasted. Smile at a hard-working clerk. Act when action is needed. And give whenever you can. Your heart and mind will be most richly rewarded.”

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE: Six Students Shadow Captioners During HLAA Conference

By Deanna P. Baker

Student captioners at 2018 HLAA

Six students, all from Anoka Technical College, attended the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) conference I was captioning to learn more about the practice of captioning. It was wonderful to get to know this group of students. I had captioned this event for 25 years in a row, and I loved sharing my experience with the students that came out those days.

Since the HLAA conference was held in Minneapolis, Minn., two of the local captioners on the team, Angie Sundell, RMR, CRR, CRC, and Lisa Richardson, RPR, CRR, CRC, who are also on the advisory board of Anoka College, worked with Anoka Tech reporting instructor Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, to invite local students to shadow at the annual HLAA conference. We thought it was a great chance for the students to write some sessions – for their own personal benefit – and see CART captioners and their team at work. And several of them really jumped at the opportunity.

The captioning team for the 2018 HLAA Conference: back row: Megan Stumm, Angie Sundell, Lisa Richardson, Lori Morrow, and Whitney Riley; Front row: Kristi Artzen, Lisa Johnston, Deanna Baker, Lori Yeager Stavropoulos, and Sharon Vivian. (Not pictured: Jayne Carriker)

The captioning team for the 2018 HLAA Conference. Back row: Megan Stumm, Angie Sundell, Lisa Richardson, Lori Morrow, and Whitney Riley; Front row: Kristi Arntzen, Lisa Johnston, Deanna Baker, Lori Yeager Stavropoulos, and Sharon Vivian. (Not pictured: Jayne Carriker)

My thanks go to all of the people on the captioning team who not only rocked the HLAA conference this year but made this a great experience for the students. In addition to myself, Angie, and Lisa, our team consisted of:

  • Kristi Arntzen, RPR, CRR
  • Jayne Carriker, RPR, CRC
  • Lisa B. Johnston, RMR, CRR, CRC
  • Lori Morrow, RMR, CRR, CRC
  • Whitney Riley, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI
  • Lori Yeager Stavropoulos, RPR, CRR, CRC
  • Megan Stumm
  • Sharon K. Vivian, RPR, CRR, CRC
  • Scott Smith, who provided technical support for our CART captioning team

When I reached out to the students after the HLAA conference, I asked them several questions, from why they volunteered to what they expected and what they learned from the day. All of them said that it was a true learning experience, and for several it either reinforced for them why they were working so hard to graduate or it gave them new insight into the opportunities that lay ahead for them.

Here is a little of the experience through their eyes.

Expectations vs. reality

I asked the students what they expected and how the actual experience matched or differed from their expectations.

“I anticipated a lot of stress and not much interaction with the CART provider because of the nature of the job,” said Kaurie Jeske, one of the Anoka students. “That was not the case! Before the job I was introduced to the CART provider, who seemed very happy to let me sit in and learn. Other members of the team providing services elsewhere also came and went before the ceremony started, and I came to understand what a close-knit group of people this group really is. Everyone seemed genuinely excited that students were coming in to shadow them.”

“I was expecting everyone to be talking so fast that I wouldn’t be able to keep up at all, and I was a bit nervous about the whole experience,” said Ryan Judge. “We were told beforehand that nobody was going to be seeing our writing, which helped a lot with the anxiety. When I got there, everyone was so nice that all the leftover jitters faded away.”

“When I got to the convention and started writing, the professional calm that the captioners exuded immediately put me at ease,” said Samantha Robinson. “They assured me that with practice and dedication that I would be able to do this after graduation.”

“It was mostly in line with what I had heard about captioning, except both the ability of the reporter and speed of the dictation she had to write was very impressive,” said Megan Bidney. “I was expecting more drops or paraphrasing, but there was nearly none of that.”

A test of skills

Because the point of the students coming out was to learn more about themselves, I wanted to know what they were going to put into action moving forward. All of them found that the experience reinforced what they already knew they could do, and many of them responded with plans to double their efforts on certain aspects of their training.

“It was a true test of my endurance level,” said Davis Wille, another one of the students. “Seeing firsthand the stresses involved with handling technology at a live event was definitely somewhat anxiety-inducing. I expected this issue might be a deterrent for me wanting to explore the CART field, but watching Lisa and Angie remain calm and level-headed reiterated that it’s simply part of the job. It’s manageable when you’ve had plenty of experience behind you. It’s a field I’d be much more curious to explore now.”

Judge agreed: “I think the biggest thing I am going to do is work on endurance. There were certainly some points where I was getting quite uncomfortable and wanted a break, but you can’t just stop when you’re on the job.”

“I will be focusing on accuracy! I have never been the cleanest writer, but I can read through my blunders,” said Jeske. “Now I am tailoring my practice more to focus on being accurate and getting a lot more out of my practice time.”

“The biggest difference I noticed was that the captioner I worked with would include flourishes such as ‘applause’ and ‘laughter’ to convey the reaction of the audience,” said recent graduate Tom Piltoff.

The big take-away

When I asked what they had learned by attending the convention, the students’ replies were varied.

“That the steno community is huge and welcoming,” said Piltoff. (I think this is my personal favorite, and I’m glad that these six students were able to experience the camaraderie that is part of this profession so early on in their careers.)

“I learned that I need to continue practicing more to be at that level, but also that it is actually possible to write at that level,” said Bidney.

“The most valuable lesson I took away was that it isn’t impossible to keep up with the speaker if I just calm down and focus on writing,” said Judge.

“I heard so many stories from the award presenters and the recipients about the need for these kinds of services,” said Jeske. “I want to be part of something that makes me feel like I’m making a positive impact in the world. This profession definitely does that.”

“The most valuable lesson I took away from the convention was just how thrilled everyone was to see us in attendance and in action,” said Wille. “The attendees were so clearly grateful that I was given an overall boost of confidence in what career path I’ve chosen to enter. It was very exciting.”

“The most valuable thing I took away from this experience is more confidence in myself. I thought it would take me years to get to the point of being able to provide near-flawless captions, but I feel now that I can and will be able to do this sooner than I thought,” said Robinson. “After sitting in with these amazing reporters, I feel like this is exactly what I want to do.”

 

Deanna P. Baker, RMR, of Flagstaff, Ariz.

Deanna P. Baker, FAPR, RMR, is a realtime captioner and captioning consultant based in Flagstaff, Ariz. She can be reached at dpbaker@mindspring.com.

HLAA members embrace NCRA at annual convention

Marcia Ferranto

Attendees at the 2018 Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA) annual convention held June 21-24 in Minneapolis, Minn., welcomed NCRA as an exhibitor to the event and shared with Executive Director and CEO Marcia Ferranto how much they appreciated the services of captioners and CART providers.

“Working with the end user of CART captioning was an enriching experience, and many of them shared with me their love for the service and their willingness to help advance the profession,” Ferranto said.

Ferranto also held a breakout session onsite where she explained to attendees how NCRA is working toward attracting more people into the profession. She also shared that NCRA members who are CART captioners represent the highest standard of skill and excellence in the profession. Ferranto also offered information about what is involved in becoming and working as a CART captioner, how NCRA is the national certifying body, and why users should be looking for NCRA certifications when hiring a provider.

“Marcia’s presentation on the future of CART captioning was very well-received and shed light on how NCRA is working with HLAA to raise awareness of and to proliferate CART captioning,” said Matthew R. Barusch, NCRA’s Manager of State Government Relations, who also attended the event.

Overall, said Barusch, the whole experience was a huge success and was a prime example of the importance of working with the deaf and hard-of hearing community. People with hearing disabilities are the main consumers of CART captioning services, and they value and appreciate the services that NCRA members provide, he added. Working with HLAA to enhance and protect captioning and captioning policy cultivates a huge population of advocates for NCRA members and, ultimately, will make NCRA stronger.

According to Barusch, there was a huge interest by attendees in the NCRA Sourcebook, since so many attendees were interested in finding CART captioners in their area. In addition, he noted that many chapter leaders thanked NCRA for its new partnership with HLAA, which is helping to identify and provide CART captioning to their members.

Left to right: Matt Barusch, Caitlin Albrecht, Merilee Johnson, Jennifer Sati

“We could not be more thankful to HLAA for putting on such a great convention, and to our wonderful volunteers, who represented in such an amazing way,” Barusch shared.

NCRA Board of Directors member Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, from Dayton, Minn., assisted in recruiting a number of volunteers to demonstrate captioning at the NCRA booth. Those volunteers included:

  • Caitlin Albrecht, a freelance court reporter from Plymouth, Minn.
  • Kristi Arntzen, RPR, CRR, a captioner from St. Louis Park, Minn.
  • Elizabeth Gangl, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Staci Heichert, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Shakopee, Minn.
  • Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Eden Prairie, Minn.
  • Heather Schuetz, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Woodbury, Minn.
  • Angie Sundell, RMR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Hopkins, Minn.
  • Jean Whalen, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Apple Valley, Minn.

“I want to give a shout-out to Marcia on her presentation at HLAA. I was lucky enough to be in the audience since it was in my neck of the woods. She has such a talent at engaging the audience, and they were engaged! I never tire of hearing CART captioning consumers express how much they love NCRA and their captioners,” Sati shared with members of NCRA’s BOD.

“Seeing us in action this weekend, I think this is a must to continue with our participation at HLAA each year to take advantage of the exposure and opportunities,” she added.

“Engaging in professional relationships with like-minded organizations such as HLAA not only showcases the services our members provide to assist members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, but it also creates a strong bond and vital support for our common issues,” Ferranto added.

What a room full of girls taught me about the profession

Merilee Johnson

By Merilee Johnson

As I looked out at the expectant, inquisitive eyes of a room full of 8- to 12-year-old girls, I came to the realization this was going to be a challenge more difficult than I had anticipated. Presenting to professional colleagues can be intimidating enough, but what could I offer these young minds whose only image of a court reporter (if they had one at all) is of a person sitting to the side of the action, “typing” quietly in the corner?

What I had envisioned as a breezy conversation (accepted on a whim) changed in focus to promoting and recruiting for the future of our profession. I needed to both capture their attention and convey that reporting is an empowering and fulfilling career. If I can’t impart that message here and now, how can we bring young people into the industry?

And how did I find myself in this position? About a month prior, a friend asked me to participate in their church’s career month, an admirable effort on their part to present the congregation’s youth girls firsthand experience with possible career paths. I’d accepted immediately as I thought of it as more of a personal favor to a friend, filling a time slot they needed filled. It was only when I walked in the church doors on that fateful Wednesday night that the broader implications became clear.

As I stood in front of these earnest eyes, I realized I needed to scrap the PowerPoint, scrap any facts and figures about the shortage we’re facing and how much reporters can make, and took a chance at speaking their language. I start the presentation with, “Raise your hand if you like creating worlds in Minecraft. How about learning another language? Who likes to play an instrument? Who likes hearing or reading stories? Who likes to learn, without having to do homework?”

Hands flung in the air with a level of enthusiasm only achievable by a group of young girls, and I shared with them that these are very much like the things I get to enjoy every day as a court reporter and captioner.

I explained that I knew a second language called “shorthand theory” and felt them lean in as I pulled out my writer. As I started writing, I showed them how I was pressing multiple keys at once, like you would a chord on a piano. I told them that I’d written a code, like you do in Minecraft, that allows my computer to translate those chords into English. As the words appeared on the screen, an audible “Whoa” could be heard. One nine-year-old exclaimed with her voice (and motioning with her hands), “You. Are. Awesome!” (which, of course, I captioned).

Having captured their attention, the obvious next step was to let them fall in love with reporting the same way the rest of us did. I invited them to come up and (carefully) put their hands on the writer and let the writer work its magic. Quickly, the concept of “carefully” was out the door as their curious faces huddled around the writer and they energetically started to push the keys. Like many of us, the moment their hands touched the writer, they had an unparalleled desire to learn how to write on it.

So, one by one, I taught each girl how to steno their own names, which elevated the thrill as they saw their names up on the projected screen. One girl’s misstroke produced the word “poop,” which, if they weren’t already in an excited frenzy, pushed them over the top and resulted in peals of laughter. It served as a reminder that in the quest to capture the attention of youth, the high road isn’t the only path. I used it as a teaching moment to let them know that even the best writers have mistrans, and that’s okay!

We wrapped up the session, and the girls reluctantly allowed me to pack up my equipment. As I did, I reflected on the fact that our profession is intrinsically interesting and, if properly communicated, can easily capture the enthusiasm of young people. Walking out the doors, I took with me a strong sense of optimism for the future of reporting and additional pride that these girls had given me. They reminded me that we can smile at our mistakes and even on our “poopy” days, what we get to do every day “is awesome.”

Merilee S. Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate, is a captioner base in Eden Prairie, Minn. She can be reached at msjreporter@outlook.com.

 

NCRA member transcribes for Veterans History Project

On June 26, The Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, posted an article about a Veterans History Project interview that NCRA member Debbie Sabat, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Warren, Ohio, transcribed for a local veteran.

Read more.

Baskets are filling up: Be a part of NCRA’s PAC fundraiser

A number of state court reporter associations have shown their support for NCRA’s PAC (Political Action Committee) by committing to donate a gift basket for this year’s PAC fundraiser, Gift Basket Extravaganza, being held at the Association’s 2018 Convention & Expo, Aug. 2-5 in New Orleans, La.

NCRA is asking all state associations to donate a gift basket that contains items that show the uniqueness of their state and their association’s pride in it! Each state that contributes a gift basket will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a free registration to the 2019 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp.

Among the state associations that have donated a basket for the fundraising event is the Florida Court Reporters Association (FCRA) and West Virginia Court Reporters Association (WVCRA).

“This year, NCRA is trying something new to raise money for its PAC. Having a PAC allows NCRA to donate to legislators who might be willing to help the Association and the court reporting cause or to donate against those who may hurt us.  It is a very important and necessary part of politics,” said Christy Aulls Bradshaw, RPR, a freelance reporter and firm owner from Ocala, Fla., and immediate past president of FCRA.

“FCRA is excited and very proud to be contributing a basket for this year’s conference in New Orleans in support of the NCRA PAC. We are hoping to have a basket full of some of Florida’s favorite things. And, we hope that other states or firms will consider donating a basket too,” added Bradshaw, who also noted that the basket raffle has been a top fundraiser her state association for several years.

Here’s how the gift basket works: Each state association that donates a gift basket has a chance to win a registration to the 2019 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp. Which state wins the NCRA Legislative Boot Camp registration is based on which basket is the biggest draw at Convention. Convention attendees who contribute to NCRA PAC in exchange for raffle tickets will vote by putting their raffle tickets in a bowl for the basket they want to win. If donors want your state’s basket, they will put their tickets in the bowl, and the winner of the basket will be chosen randomly. The basket that accumulates the highest number of tickets wins the 2019 NCRA Legislative Boot Camp registration.

NCRA’s PAC is an important way members can help shape how the court reporting and captioning professions are addressed at the federal level.

“With the 2018 midterm elections coming up, NCRA has an opportunity to cultivate new alliances in the federal government and to ensure that members of Congress who know the importance of court reporters and support the court reporting profession in the United States stay in office,” said NCRA Government Relations Manager Matthew Barusch.

If you have any questions about the 2018 NCRA PAC Gift Basket Extravaganza, contact Matthew Barusch at mbarusch@ncra.org.

Behind the Scenes of the Speed and Realtime Contests

NCRA 's 2016 CASE Award of Excellence Winner was Kelly Moranz of Cuyahoga Community College

Speed and Realtime Contests Committee member Kelly Moranz

Each year during the NCRA Convention & Expo, a few dedicated members sit behind closed doors working on the Speed and Realtime Contests. Their tasks include feverishly reviewing hundreds of papers from the contestants, poring over them for grading, creating lists of qualifiers for each of the legs, and more. It’s a lot of work, but when we sat down with Contests Committee members Pat Miller, CRI, CPE, and Kelly Moranz, CRI, to learn everything we always wanted to know about the Speed and Realtime Contests, they said that they have fun, learn a lot, and that they enjoy connecting with each other and the contestants after months of planning.

How many individual legs do you grade for the Speed and Realtime Contests?
The Committee grades every leg that is submitted after the contests. Every passing leg is ranked as a qualifier. Only contestants who pass one leg in each category are eligible to place for a medal. A contestant could place first in the Realtime literary leg but not qualify in the Realtime testimony. Recognition will be given for the stellar literary skill but the person is not eligible for a medal.

How do you protect the papers so you don’t know whose work it is?
Contestants are randomly assigned an ID number that is known only to the Committee Chair(s) and the contestants themselves, of course. It’s not perfect, but the Committee does not try to link the ID with the contestant at registration. We want to be as surprised as the members attending the Awards Luncheon. It’s exciting to grade the papers and to see the amazing skill of our colleagues. An exception is made for Canadian members who opt to transcribe using British variant spellings as allowed by the Merriam-Webster dictionary (colour instead of color). Contestants who are eligible for this option do sign a form that makes it clear they will not remain anonymous to graders. We want to give back as many points as we possibly can within the What is an Error? Contests guidelines. We just grade the words and punctuation, not the people.

Why do contestants talk about qualifying instead of passing or failing?
Contests are definitely not a pass/fail situation. Any member who schleps their equipment to the NCRA Convention & Expo, days ahead of the Convention at additional cost, time away from work, and after whatever practice the member may have added to preparation for the Contests, does not ever pass or fail. Let’s get real. How especially extra awesome are these members? Contestants have and give a great showing of skill every year.

We use the term “qualifier” for Contests. Contestants either qualify or do not qualify. More contestants qualify than do not on both literary selections and both testimony selections. If there is a leg on which fewer people qualify than not, it is definitely legal opinion.

What happens with the papers that don’t qualify? And, conversely, what happens to the papers that do?
Every leg that is submitted for grading is graded and marked with a summation of results, final grade initialed by the Committee Co-chairs. Papers that do not qualify are marked “DNQ.” We attempt to mark all folders with polite-sized digits and letters so that contestants may keep their results private-ish when they review their grades after the Awards Luncheon.

Of course, this is a contest where participants expect scores to be made public. All of the qualifiers names and scores are posted after the Awards ceremony. While the Committee does not talk about individual member results – qualifier or not – the contestants may do as they wish.

What kind of checks do you do on the audio and what do you grade against?
We have checkers in the Contests rooms who have copies of the material that will be dictated. They mark any variations, stutters, kerfuffels, and any other such events on the script as best they can. When the Committee meets after the Contests, the checkers compare their findings against the master transcripts. Notations are made so that the Co-chairs can make final decisions on how those sections will be handled in grading. If we do record the audio, then the audio is also compared to the master transcript for any additional adjustments.

Realtime Coach will make changes in the master transcript that is loaded into their system before beginning the grading process.

Are there areas where there is more than one right answer? How do you deal with that? What if there’s a slip by the speaker?
Yes, there is more than one “right” answer. There are places where more than one punctuation choice is acceptable. This is why the computer grading is called “first grade.” It gives a great assessment of each transcript and saves a huge chunk of time for the graders. An instant accuracy percentage is given to determine qualification for second grading. A second grade is critical and so the graders review each transcript to determine whether or not it had areas that prevented the computer analysis from making an accurate assessment. During this time if there is a “trend” of some sort noted in a consistent error, it will be reviewed as to the possibility of it being correct. If that is the case, the number of errors would be reduced for that test.

Sometimes there are third and fourth grades of papers. Each round is in a different color pen and is initialed by the person who graded. When there are enough Committee members present, we do not regrade a paper with the grader who did the prior pass. The Contest Co-chairs have final say in any error/not an error determination and in how to grade areas where a speaker “slipped.”

A Canadian won the Speed Contest most recently. Did he use any Canadian spellings? How do you deal with that? Are those considered absolutely wrong?
They are only wrong if you are not Canadian. Yes, he did use British variants. He also was informed of the grading policy and formally agreed to it. We require consistency for those papers, too. If the contestant wants to use British variants, they cannot also have the companion American variant in the paper even if it would be an acceptable spelling in other contestants’ papers.

Why are the percentages figured out to so many decimal points?
I’m about to do math. Three contestants with three errors, the top three results in the Contest. Realtime contestant A has one error on the LRT (literary realtime) and two errors on the TRT (testimony realtime). Contestant B has two on LRT and one on TRT. Contestant C has zero on LRT and three on TRT.

LRT = 1000 words minus 1 error equals 99.90.
TRT = 1125 words minus 2 errors equals 99.82
99.20 + 99.82 / 2 = 99.860 for Contestant A

LRT = 1000 – 2 = 99.80
TRT = 1125 – 1 = 99.91
99.80 + 99.91 / 2 = 99.855 for Contestant B

LRT = 1000 – 0 = 100.00
TRT = 1125 – 3 = 99.73
100.00 + 99.73 / 2 = 99.865 for Contestant C

Stating the obvious, all three qualify in both categories and so are eligible for the medal round.

Standings for three contestants with an equal error count:
LRT: Blue ribbon to C; Red to A; White to B
TRT: Blue ribbon to B; Red to A; White to C
Champion Level: in third place, B; in second place, A; Champion, C, with a difference of no error but .005 in the score.

Although all three contestants have the same number of errors – a total of three in both legs – whether they are made in the literary or testimony leg will make a difference in the overall score.

What qualifications do you need to be a grader?
If you volunteer to be on the Committee, you will be expected to help grade. It helps if you graded NCRA certification exams, have an open mind, can leave your ego and personal judgment about what “should” be done at the door, and have a great sense of humor. You must absolutely be able to be completely confidential in all dealings from the moment you join the Committee to the announcement of the scores at the Awards Luncheon. You must be available to put the time into grading, which means arriving at the Convention early in order to participate and to begin grading as soon as Realtime Coach completes the first round of grading. You will want to know the What is an Error? Contests guidelines comfortably and be able to check them quickly for guidance. To recap: We grade words and punctuation, not people. We go with the style we’re given and enjoy doing something we may not ordinarily do in our own (saleable) transcripts.

Graders must be able to “defend” their choices to the contestants at the postmortem. Of course, not every grader will attend the postmortem, but we must answer to our decisions. We do make mistakes. We have nightmares and daymares and agita, tsuris, and plain old anxiety about mistakes. When a mistake is pointed out to us, we feel a professional disappointment in ourselves that is probably not as bad as the feeling the contestant had that they had one fewer error than was marked. Graders need to be self-healing, fairly confident people who understand that excellence is sought but not always achieved by graders as well as contestants.

But mostly – did I mention that we laugh a lot? Not at the contestants – ever. But sometimes a translation is quite entertaining. It could also have to do with the lack of sleep involved! We’re court reporters. Words are our playthings. Graders also get to glory in the beauty of skill that presents us with some amazing transcripts. It’s a hard, busy time, but it’s an awesome time to be among your colleagues.

 

Registration for the Speed and Realtime Contests is open until all the seats are filled (and the Contests sell out every year). Visit NCRA.org/Convention to register online or complete and return the downloadable Convention Registration form to NCRA.

On any given Sunday: Volunteer live-captioning on Sunday service

The Sun Sentinel aired a story on its website on June 6 that features NCRA member Ninette Bulter, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Orlando, Fla., talking about volunteering to live-caption Sunday church services.

Watch the story.

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.

Call for Altruism Award nominations

Nominations are now being accepted for the Santo J. Aurelio Award for Altruism, the highest honor awarded by the National Court Reporters Foundation. The deadline for nominations is June 15.

The Aurelio Award, which is presented at the NCRA Convention & Expo, is bestowed on a longtime captioner or court reporter who has given back selflessly to the profession or community. The nominee must be an NCRA Participating or Registered member or a Retired Participating or Registered member, have demonstrated altruistic behavior, and have been a working captioner or reporter for at least 25 years.

“Receiving the Aurelio Award was truly one of the highlights of my career as a court reporter. Having the respect of my court reporter colleagues means more to me than anything,” said Rosalie Kramm, RPR, CRR, San Diego, Calif., who received the Altruism Award in 2017.

“Being altruistic is not anything I ever decided to do. I think life is more fun helping people in my wonderful profession,” Kramm added.

For questions or more information about the Santo J. Aurelio Award for Altruism, contact B.J. Shorak, NCRF Deputy Executive Director, at 800-272-6272, ext. 126, or at bjshorak@ncra.org.

Nominate now.