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.

In honor of Memorial Day: VHP Video

This Memorial Day, please take a moment to pause to remember all who have served in the armed forces over the years to protect and preserve our freedoms. NCRF and NCRA would also like to thank everyone who has participated in protecting and preserving the stories of these war veterans by participating in the Veterans History Projects across the nation in the past 15 years.

Rob Jones interviewed by NCRA President Chris Willette as Tricia Rosate transcribes and Joe Donahoe videos

During NCRA’s 2018 Legislative Boot Camp, NCRA President Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, Wausau, Wis.,  had the opportunity to interview double amputee Rob Jones at the Library of Congress as part of its Veterans History Project. In addition to providing a court reporter and CLVS to record the interview, Planet Depos, based in Washington, D.C., created the following promotional video about NCRF’s involvement with VHP.

Watch the video.

 

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.

2018 NCRA Convention & Expo student track sessions

Read the presenters bios here.

Steno Speed Dating

Steno Speed Dating (noun): An organized social activity in which students seeking information and networking opportunities have a series of short conversations with working reporters and captioners. This is a great opportunity to sit down and talk with professionals in a round of “Speed Dating.” You will have 10-15 minutes with each reporter or captioner to ask all the questions you have always wondered about. Find out what keeps these professionals motivated and passionate about their careers.

Presenters:  Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, Karla Sommer, RMR, CRR, CRC, Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Kathryn Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC, Karen Tyler, RDR, CRR, CRC, Donna Urlaub, RMR, CRR, Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR

Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR

Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Kathryn Thomas photographed with Sen. Tom Harkin

Kathryn Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC, photographed with Sen. Tom Harkin

Karen Tyler, RDR, CRR, CRC

Donna Urlaub, RMR, CRR

Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR

 


What I didn’t learn in School: From the New Professionals’ Perspective – Do’s and Don’ts
You’ve just graduated from Court Reporting School and now you’re certified. Reality kicks in and you aren’t sure about the necessary steps for landing your first deposition or applying for an officialship. Does your resume stand out? Should you commit to one firm only? Is venting on social media a good idea? Come hear from a panel of stellar new professionals to learn all you need to know before entering the real world of reporting.

Presenters:  Aimee Edwards-Altadonna, Michael Hensley, RPR, Celeste Poppe, RPR, Isaiah Roberts, RPR, Katherine Schilling, RPR

Aimee Edwards-Altadonna

Michael Hensley, RPR

Celeste Poppe, RPR

Isaiah Roberts, RPR

Katherine Schilling, RPR

 


Good Reporter/Bad Reporter
This audience-participation skit touches on professional etiquette and mannerisms in conducting oneself at work. Learn the tools of the trade to win over clientele for freelance or get hired for overflow work in a judicial proceeding. Why some people “have it” and others just simply don’t. Be prepared to laugh!

Presenters:  Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, Susan Moran, RMR

Deborah Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS

Susan Moran, RMR

 

 


Online Skills Testing

In this seminar, Marybeth Everhart will review the entire online testing process, from registration to completion – soup to nuts, you might say. What equipment will you need? Where can you test, and when? Who is ProctorU and how are they involved? For answers to these questions and more, you’ll want to attend this seminar!

Presenter:  Mary Beth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE

Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE

2018 NCRA Convention & Expo student track speaker bios

The following reporters and captioners will be speaking as part of the student track at the 2018 NCRA Convention & Expo. The event will run Aug. 2-5 in New Orleans, La.

Read the session descriptions here.

Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Ron Cook is a veteran deposition reporter who owns his own agency in Seattle, Wash. He won the 2016 NCRA Realtime Contest Q&A leg and was one error away from being crowned the 2016 NCRA Realtime Champion.

 

Aimee Edwards-Altadonna

Aimee Edwards-Altadonna holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Communications from California State University, Monterey Bay. She has been working as a freelance reporter covering Northern California since the fall of 2014. She has participated in state and national conventions as well as in software user groups for a number of years. She is proud to be involved as part of the volunteer leadership of California Court Reporters Association representing freelance reporters throughout the state.

 Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE

Marybeth Everhart has been reporting since 1980 and writing realtime since 1992. She has been a freelance reporter in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area; an official reporter in Brisbane, Australia; has provided CART services to such organizations as Self Help for Hard of Hearing People and the Neurofibromatosis Foundation; captioned for Gallaudet University; managed a large, multi-office freelance firm; taught court reporting at all levels; and trained on numerous CAT systems over the years. Everhart is now the national marketing manager for Realtime Coach and works closely with reporting schools, firms, and court systems to increase speed and improve accuracy for students and working reporters. Everhart is as a contributing editor to the JCR (Journal of Court Reporting) and the Eclipse Users Group Newscache.

 Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR

Rich Germosen is a Certified Realtime Reporter with more than 24 years of experience covering high-end realtime assignments nationwide, especially in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. He holds the NCRA Realtime Systems Administrator certificate. Hehas consistently qualified in the NCRA National Speed and Realtime Competitions from 2012 through 2016, and in 2016, he received a 3rd place medal in the Deposition Reporters Association Realtime Contest in the 190 wpm Q&A.

Michael Hensley, RPR

Michael Hensley joined the profession of court reporting in a somewhat unique way. His schooling was done entirely online. Not once did he set foot in a classroom at a brick-and-mortar facility. His education provided him with a unique perspective relating to the court reporting education process that allows him to embrace technology in every aspect of his career. In his experience as a reporter, he has covered various types of proceedings including depositions for cases involving wrongful death, patent law, medical practice, and technical expert testimony. Hensley is a member of NCRA’s New Professionals Advisory Committee, which advocates for involvement in local and national associations as well as certification and professional development. He finds joy in giving back to the profession of court reporting by encouraging other reporters to continually sharpen their skills and by offering guidance and education for various technologies available to professional court reporters and students alike.

Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag has lived and breathed reporting since she discovered the profession as a junior in high school. It is the only career she has ever had, and in her more than 35 years of reporting she has worked as an official, freelancer, firm owner, and occasional CART captioner. She has served on many committees and boards, including as president of the Wyoming, Colorado, and National Court Reporter Associations. She is a perennial contestant in state and national speed and realtime contests, having placed as high as 2nd in NCRA’s Speed Contest twice. She has also won the Colorado and Illinois contests numerous times. She has given seminars to students, reporters, vendors, and the public since 1993. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for MacCormac College, in Chicago, Ill., the nation’s oldest reporting program. In 2015, Humphrey-Sonntag transitioned to Planet Depos, an international reporting firm. She is now a full-time realtime reporter in the firm’s Chicagoland branch, where she loves interacting with attorneys in the field and reporting varied and interesting cases.

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC

Debbie Kriegshauser is currently a federal official reporter with the U.S. District Court in St. Louis, Mo. She has been a reporter since 1980 and has worked in all phases of the reporting profession. She also has served on numerous national and state committees, including her current service on NCRA’s Test Advisory Council.

 

Susan Moran, RMR

Susan Moran has been a federal official in St. Louis, Mo. for 20 years. Prior to that, she worked as a freelancer for four years. She received her RPR in 1992 and her RMR in 1999. In 2005, Moran received the FCRR (Federal Realtime Reporter) designation.

 

Celeste Poppe, RPR

Celeste Poppe is a freelance deposition reporter in California. She received her California license in February  2017 and received her RPR shortly after that in April 2017. Before becoming licensed, Poppe was an office manager at a small CSR-owned agency that gave her great insight into what agencies expect out of reporters and also what drives them crazy. She volunteers her time to students and new professionals in guiding them to be successful reporters. She also serves on event committees for the California Deposition Reporters Association and volunteers as a subject matter expert for the written exams with the California Court Reporters Board. She has also been published in the JCR (Journal of Court Reporting).

Isaiah Roberts, RPR

Isaiah Roberts is currently an official reporter in the 11th Judicial Circuit of Illinois. After obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing from Illinois State University in 2013, Roberts attended the Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting before starting his job as an official in April of 2016. He currently serves as the Legislative Representative for the Illinois Court Reporters Association and is an avid member of NCRA.

Katherine Schilling, RPR

Court reporting is Katherine Schilling’s second career, after having spent seven years as a translator of Japanese comics and video games in Los Angeles, Calif., and the Silicon Valley. After three years at West Valley College’s court reporting program and still with her qualifier to pass, Katherine opted instead to work under a one-year contract across the country in Richmond, Va., where a few months of experience under her belt helped her to pass the RPR, followed shortly thereafter by the California CSR. Schilling loved working in the Washington, D.C., area where she considered every day on the job to be a “waking dream.” At her two-year anniversary as a working reporter, she had the opportunity to marry her love of court reporting and Japanese culture by relocating to Tokyo, Japan – a lifelong dream of hers. There she has been taking realtime depositions in Japan and throughout Asia.

Karla Sommer, RMR, CRR, CRC

Karla Sommer has been a court reporter in the Wausau, Wis. area for the past 32 years. She began her career as a freelance reporter. After five years of freelancing, Sommer was appointed as an official reporter for the state of Wisconsin, a position she has held for 27 years. She has also worked as a part-time captioner, and she continues to provide CART services when needed. Sommer holds the Registered Merit Reporter, Certified Realtime Reporter, and Certified Realtime Captioner certifications. She is currently the past president of the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association and is serving on NCRA’s Nominating Committee as well as the Association’s Skills Writing Committee.

Kathryn Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC

Kathryn A. Thomas is a captioner in the greater St. Louis, Mo., area and is currently president of the Illinois Court Reporters Association. She provides captioning to individuals, stadiums, webcasts, conventions, and wherever it’s needed.

Karen Tyler, RDR, CRR, CRC

Karen Tyler has worked as an official court reporter in state and federal courts in Shreveport, La., and as a freelance reporter. She became a firm owner in 1994 and then transitioned to the Western District of Louisiana. Tyler assisted in setting up the first paperless and realtime-ready courtroom in northern Louisiana in 1998. After bombing the infamous NCRA Speed and Realtime Contests held in Dallas, Texas, she garnered her courage and competed again in 2013, where she qualified in all three legs, and won second in the Q&A, and also qualified in both legs of the realtime contest. In 2014, she qualified in all three legs of the speed contest, won third in the literary, and qualified in both legs of the realtime contest. In 2015, she qualified in all three legs of the speed contest, and in 2016, she won third overall in the speed contest, second place in the Q&A, and qualified in realtime Q&A. Tyler is the owner of Karen Tyler Reporting in Shreveport, La.

Donna Urlaub, RMR, CRR

Donna Urlaub has been working as a court reporter for 49 years and also owns her own agency. She was an Illinois speed and realtime champion in 2013, 2015, and in 2017. She has been a perennial medalist in NCRA’s speed and realtime contests and won third place at Intersteno in 2015. Urlaub has been a presenter at NCRA, the Illinois Court Reporters Association, and STAR.

Doug J. Zweizig, RDR, CRR

Douglas J. Zweizig is a 1989 graduate of Central Pennsylvania Business School (now Central Pennsylvania College). Zweizig earned his Associate’s degree and moved from a small town to Philadelphia, Pa., where he began work as a freelance court reporter. Initially covering car accidents and workers’ compensation matters, he worked his way up to medical malpractice, public hearings, and more. A limited amount of CART work was interspersed in those years, something he found most rewarding. In 2001, Zweizig began as an official court reporter in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia. He covered a wide range of work including drug cases, assaults, and especially homicide trials. On the civil side, he covered medical malpractice, mass tort pharmaceutical cases, construction, and discrimination. After many rewarding years there, he accepted a position in the U. S. District Court for the District of Maryland, where he’s currently working. There he handles criminal matters, including large drug conspiracies, racketeering, bank fraud, and occasionally a murder trial. On the civil side, he covers patent cases, maritime, discrimination, and more. Zweizig has several medals in speed and realtime contests, winning NCRA’s Realtime Contest in 2006 and 2015.

NCRA mentors pay it forward

“I think it is very important to encourage students as much as we can. Court reporting is difficult, and not everyone picks up the skill easily. I am grateful for those who helped me when I was in school and all along the way to where I am now.” Buffy Topper, RPR, CRR

The NCRA Virtual Mentor Program (VMP) is another way for court reporting and captioning students to get the encouragement they may need as they work towards their next speed. Mentors can share their own experiences and offer advice on speedbuilding, overcoming plateaus, and maintaining a practice schedule. “I think students have a ton of questions, insecurities, or just curiosity about the field, the excitement, the pros and cons,” says Amy Rosato, RPR, an official court reporter from Oriskany, N.Y. “I love that the field still exists and that students are still interested. I love to give answers and give a different perspective.”

In the past year, more than 125 students have been matched with a mentor through the Virtual Mentor Program. Some of the VMP mentors are recent graduates, who can easily recall the challenges of managing stress in school.

“I’ve been out of school for five years, but still remember its immediate struggles and concerns,” says Kendra Oechsner, RMR, an official court reporter from Oakfield, Wis. “I love this career and want to promote it in any way I can. I feel the most crucial way to do this is to provide the support that I wasn’t lucky enough to receive during school. I want to help a student know that the grass is greener on the other side and that the stress and anxiety are worth it for this career.”

Other mentors bring decades of experience, like Cathy Wood, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from Laguna Niguel, Calif., who has been a court reporter for more than 40 years. “I still love being a court reporter and am very motivated to introduce young students to this amazing career. Court reporting is a challenging educational and training pursuit. I feel my longevity in this profession and positive attitude about my job make me a good mentor to court reporting students.”

Veteran reporters such as Wood can also serve as role models for mentees, someone to give them firsthand insight into the real world of court reporting. Many NCRA mentors also assist their mentees with job shadowing and internships.

Mentors in the VMP are eager to see their profession thrive. Brook Nunn, CRC, a captioner from Boise, Idaho, chose to be a mentor because: “Being a young captioner myself, it’s important to me that the profession continues to be viable for many years. For that to happen, we need to do everything we can to get more writers in the field. I’d like to share my knowledge and experience with new writers.”

By encouraging their newer colleagues to succeed, and offering their years of knowledge and expertise, mentors are continuing a tradition of service to their community. Deanna Dean, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from Bedford, N.H., volunteers to mentor for the “opportunity to give back to the profession and pay forward the help I was given when I was a newbie. I was so grateful for that assistance back then and never forgot the person who was generous enough to offer it to me.”

Students who are interested can learn more about the NCRA Virtual Mentor Program and can sign up to be assigned to a mentor. For more information, contact VMP@ncra.org.