NCRF announces 2017 Robert H. Clark Scholarship and New Professional Reporter Grant recipients

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) has announced that Valerie Melkus, RPR, Charleston, S.C., was named recipient of the 2017 New Professional Reporter Grant. The Foundation also announced that Laurel Stalnaker, a student from Sumner College in Portland, Ore., is the recipient of the 2017 Robert H. Clark Scholarship.

“I am honored and thrilled to be the recipient of the New Professional Reporter Grant, though I’m certain that every person who applied is just as deserving. Starting out as a new reporter is tough. Anyone who’s made it this far has been working his or her behind off,” said Melkus. “I’ve been using an old, noisy, slow, refurbished laptop for work. This grant will enable me to not only pay my bills, but I will finally be able to get myself a new computer. I am beyond grateful.”

NCRF awards the annual New Professional Reporter Grant to a reporter who is in his or her first year of work, has graduated within a year from an NCRA-approved court reporting program, and meets specific criteria, including a grade point average of 3.5 or above, a letter of recommendation, and active work in any of the career paths of judicial (official/freelance), CART, or captioning. Melkus, a graduate of the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., is the 13th recipient of NCRF’s New Professional Reporter Grant. She was recommended by J. Lynn Clark, RMR, president of Clark & Associates.

“I have been reporting and training new reporters since 1979. Valerie has been the most impressive new reporter I have ever had the pleasure to work with,” Clark wrote in her recommendation. “I feel like I have hit a court reporting home run with [Valerie]. She loves learning new things and implementing them in her writing. Her enthusiasm for court reporting is contagious!”

Laurel Stalnaker

Laurel Stalnaker

The $2,000 Robert H. Clark Scholarship is named for the late Robert H. (Bob) Clark, a court reporter from Los Angeles, Calif., who was dedicated to preserving the history of the profession. Stalnaker is the third recipient of this scholarship.

“I am humbled to have won this scholarship, and I am grateful to have been nominated by my instructor. It will allow me to invest in myself in my new profession,” said Stalnaker. “I have been in school for two years now, and since day one I have been using an older student steno machine. Lately it has been having connectivity issues during class and, even worse, during tests. Recently I have been looking to buy a newer model for reporting professionally since I am only three tests away from graduating, and this scholarship will allow me to start my career on a positive note. I am eager to invest in a newer model and to excel in my last exams before I graduate.”

Students are nominated by instructors or other officials at their schools. To be eligible, nominees must be NCRA members, enrolled in an NCRA-approved court reporting program, have passed at least one of their program’s Q&A tests at 200 words per minute, and possess a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, among other criteria.

“Laurel has been, from day one, nothing less than a very devoted student. Her attendance has been superb, and her commitment to this program has never once wavered,” said Jacqueline Butler, CRI, who nominated Stalnaker. “She has stayed focused on the end result. I have no doubts whatsoever that she will make a great reporter. She takes her work very seriously and makes sure she learns all she can along the way. It’s wonderful to see her win this award!”

To learn more about NCRF’s scholarships and grants, visit NCRA.org/NCRF/Scholarships.

2017 NCRA Convention & Expo student track sessions

Steno Speed Dating

Here is your chance to have a face-to-face conversation with a court reporter or CART or broadcast captioner in a round of Steno Speed Dating. You’ll have 15 minutes with each representative to ask the questions you’ve always wondered about. Ever wondered how a speed champ writes like the wind? How does a reporter get a witness to stop interrupting? Do captioners really wear their pajamas to work? How on earth do you prep to provide CART for a Computer Science 225: Pseudorandomness class?

This will be the perfect time to find out what keeps these professionals motivated and passionate, and what it takes to compete at high-speed levels while still maintaining their daily jobs as a court reporter or CART or broadcast captioner .

Presenters: 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; and Doug Zweizig. RDR, CRR

 

Business of Being a Reporter

School may have prepared you to take down testimony, but what does it really look like when you’re on that deposition or court case? How do you conduct yourself around attorneys, witnesses, or even the judge? What do you do when things get crazy, and you’re about to lose the record? What does it mean to mark an exhibit? What’s it look like when you’re hooked up for a realtime job? If you consider yourself a visual learner, then this is the session for you! Our professional reporters will demonstrate real-world scenarios in a mock setting to show you the ins and outs of what it’s like on an actual job — play-by-play commentary included!

Presenters: Michael Hensley, RPR; Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Jessie Waack, RDR, CRR

 

How to Compete with Some of the Best

Join the Fabulous Fraziers and realtime champ Ron Cook to talk about how they prepare for the Speed and Realtime Contests and how this preparation can benefit your progress in school. Come get encouragement and learn some fun tips to help push you through your school journey.

Presenters: Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC; Clay Frazier, RMR, CRR; Tami Frazier, RMR, CRR

 

Online Skills Testing — See It for Yourself!

By now you’ve heard that NCRA skills tests have been moved online. But, what exactly does that mean and how does it affect you, if at all? No doubt, you have lots of questions, so let’s try to answer them. 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? Who is ProctorU and how are they involved? For answers to these questions and more, you’ll want to attend this seminar!

Presenter: Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI

 

Read the speaker bios here.

2017 NCRA Convention & Expo student track speaker bios

The following reporters and captioners will be speaking as part of the student track at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo. The event will run Aug. 10-13 in Las Vegas, Nev.

Read the sessions descriptions here.

BoenauDee Boenau, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Dee Boenau is a realtime captioner and a convention reporter. She entered the profession in 1992 as a freelance deposition reporter and then entered the fields of realtime captioning in 1995 and convention reporting in 2000. Since 2001, she has won the Realtime Contest twice, placed 2nd six times, and 3rd three times. In addition, Boenau placed 2nd in the Intersteno Speech Capturing Competition in Paris in 2011 and 2nd in the NCRA Speed Contest in 2013.

 

Bryce 2014Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR

Jo Ann Bryce has been a reporter for 42 years. She is a Registered Merit Reporter, Certified Realtime Reporter, California Certified Shorthand Reporter, and Federal Certified Realtime Reporter. She is currently an official reporter for the Northern District of California federal court in San Francisco. Bryce is a five-time National Realtime Champion, and at the 2014 NCRA Convention & Expo in San Francisco, she won both the National Speed and Realtime Contests. In total, she has five gold medals.

 

Linda S. Christensen, RMR, CRR, CRC

Linda S. Christensen is a graduate of Stenotype Institute of South Dakota. She lived 15 years in the beautiful state of Washington, enjoying life as both a freelancer and official. In 1998, she moved to the desert of Arizona and continued freelancing until 2007, when she transitioned into a varied career including CART, sports reporting, legal reporting, and transcribing. As a sports reporter, Christensen travels the world roughly 25 weeks a year covering professional tennis and golf events. She enjoys mentoring students and speaking at state seminars on the many different jobs within the fabulous skill of stenography. When Christensen is not tapping on her Luminex, you can find her in a botanical garden somewhere in the world or babying her own citrus trees and flowers in her Central Phoenix home and garden.

 

everhartMarybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI

Marybeth Everhart has been reporting since 1980 and writing realtime since 1992. She has been a freelance reporter in the Baltimore-Washington area; an official reporter in Brisbane, Australia; 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. She has been a certified advanced trainer for Eclipse since 1994 and has presented hundreds of seminars and trainings on dozens of Eclipse-related topics.

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. She has served as a member of the NCRA Future Group, the NCRA Reporter Education Commission, the Council on Approved Student Education, and the Maryland Court Reporters Association Education Committee. Everhart currently serves as a contributing editor to the JCR (Journal of Court Reporting) and the Eclipse Users Group Newscache.

 

Frazier family

Left to right: Clay Frazier, Ron Cook, Tami Frazier, and Chase Frazier

Frazier Family: Tami Frazier, RMR, CRR; Clay Frazier, RMR, CRR; and Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC

Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Tami Frazier, proud mom of Clay and Chase Frazier, has been a court reporter in California Superior Court for 36 years. Her love for the profession helped convince Clay and Chase to become court reporters as well.

Clay has been a deposition reporter for eight years, and Chase has been a CART captioner for two years. All three love competing with each other in speed and realtime contests, which is where they met Ron Cook.

Ron Cook has been a deposition reporter for — well, if you ask Tami, since the steno dinosaurs roamed. (He occasionally gets her back by calling her “Mom.”) Cook owns his own deposition agency in Seattle, Washington. Cook won the 2016 NCRA Realtime Contest Q&A leg and was one error away from being crowned the 2016 NCRA Realtime Champion.

 

RichGermosenRich 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. Germosen has consistently qualified in the NCRA National Speed and Realtime Competitions from 2012 through 2016. In 2016, Germosen also received a 3rd place medal in the Deposition Reporters Association Realtime Contest in the 190 wpm Q&A.

 

Haab2 (2)Cheryl Haab, RPR

Cheryl Haab is a freelance court reporter in Westminster, California. Originally from Canada, she migrated south in the year 2000 in search of a warmer climate and is now happy to call Orange County her home. Haab has served on the Board of Directors of the Deposition Reporters Association (DRA) since 2012, first as secretary-treasurer, followed by several terms as district director, vice president, and now president-elect.

Haab has served as chairperson of DRA’s Student Committee, and she currently serves in a consulting capacity on DRA’s legislative and financial committees, as well as being editor-in-chief of the association’s quarterly publication, the Deposition Reporter. She has also represented the DRA on the national level at several events across the country, including noteworthy leadership, legislative, and strategic planning conferences in Denver, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. She has had her writings published in the JCR (Journal of Court Reporting) and recently appeared in the award-winning court reporting documentary For the Record. Haab most recently served as co-chair of NCRA’s New Professional Committee. In August of 2015, Haab was the recipient of Bryan University’s first Alumni Award for Outstanding Career Achievement.

 

Hensley PicMike Hensley, RPR

Mike Hensley is a new reporter with one year of experience in handling deposition, arbitration, and court settings for live and teleconference communication methods. He has experience working with both boutique-style firms and international firms. He is currently serving on the NCRA New Professionals Committee.

 

Charisse Kitt_squareCharisse Kitt, RMR, CRI

Charisse Kitt has been a court reporter for 24 years. She has worked in the New York Supreme Court, the Eastern District of New York Federal Court, and Fulton County Superior Court (Atlanta, Georgia). Kitt is a Registered Merit Reporter, Certified Reporting Instructor, Certified Shorthand Reporter, and Federal Certified Realtime Reporter. Kitt currently serves as a board member for the New York State Court Reporters Association.

 

Stanley Sakai, CRC

Stanley Sakai is a 28 year-old Certified Realtime Captioner and Certified Shorthand Reporter from Seattle, Washington. He began teaching himself stenography as a faster way to take notes while obtaining his degree in linguistics from the University of Washington. In 2013, he relocated to New York City where he now lives and works as a freelance and CART captioner, offering realtime services in English and Spanish. Sakai is also a hobbyist programmer and uses his coding skills to contribute to projects like Aloft, a caption-streaming app he began in 2015, and Plover, an open-source steno translation engine. Sakai maintains an active Web presence, producing YouTube content and publishing blog posts about various steno-related topics.

 

Schuck Pic_squareJennifer Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Jennifer Schuck graduated from MacCormac College, Elmhurst, Illinois, in August 1993. She did judicial reporting until 2003. That fall, Schuck had the opportunity to receive training to become a captioner. In December, she left her freelance reporting position full time to start her transition into captioning. Currently, Schuck primarily provides on-site CART in the educational and corporate setting as well as travels for CART jobs. She provides remote CART and does some broadcast captioning as well. She has served as chairperson of the NCRA CART Community of Interest Committee, co-chair of the CART Ethics Taskforce, a member of the NCRA Realtime Certification Committee, and chair of the Arizona Court Reporters Association’s CART committee.

Some of her achievements include the Arizona Court Reporter Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2012, the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Chapter Professional Award in 2011, and 4th place overall in the NCRA Realtime Competition. However, her highest achievement was placing 3rd in the realtime competition at the Intersteno Congress in Paris in 2011 and Budapest in 2015. Schuck was inducted as a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters at the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo in Chicago.

 

Sonntag2_squareMelanie 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’s the only career she’s 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’s a Registered Diplomate Reporter, Certified Realtime Reporter, Certified Realtime Captioner, and Fellow of NCRA’s Academy of Professional Reporters. She’s served on many committees and boards, including as president of the Wyoming, Colorado, and National Court Reporters Associations. She’s a perennial contestant in state and national speed and realtime contests, having placed as high as 2nd in NCRA’s Speed Contest on two occasions and won the Colorado and Illinois contests numerous times. She’s given seminars to students, reporters, vendors, and the public since 1993. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for MacCormac College, the nation’s oldest reporting program. In 2015, Humphrey-Sonntag transitioned to Planet Depos, an international reporting firm, and she’s now a full-time realtime reporter in their Chicagoland branch, where she loves interacting with attorneys in the field and reporting varied and interesting cases.

 

StricklandJoe Strickland, RPR, CRR, CRC

Joe Strickland has been a reporter since 1990. He was a closed captioner for KVIA in El Paso, Texas, and a freelance reporter in the Washington, D.C. area. In 1993, he joined the U.S. House of Representatives as an official reporter. During his 22 years with the House, he served as an official reporter to house committees, an official reporter of debates, deputy chief reporter, and 10 years as chief reporter, supervising a 43-member staff. He has reported the State of the Union addresses of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Strickland retired from federal service in 2015 and is again a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C.

 

Waack Pic_squareJessie Waack, RDR, CRR

Jessie Waack has been a freelance reporter for 20 years. After graduating from Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wisconsin, she worked for 17 years in Milwaukee as a staff reporter. From there, she moved to San Francisco, California, for two years. After that, she moved to New York City where she has continued working as a freelance reporter and building her own clients. Waack has attained her Registered Diplomate Reporter, Certified Realtime Reporter, and Realtime System Administrator certifications. Waack also holds the California Certificate in Realtime Reporting, and the New Jersey Certified Court Reporter, New York Realtime Court Reporter, and New York Association Certified Reporter certifications.

 

ZweizigDoug Zweizig, RDR, CRR

A 1989 graduate of Central Pennsylvania Business School (now Central Pennsylvania College), Doug Zweizig earned his associate’s degree and moved from a small town to Philadelphia where he began work as a freelance court reporter. Initially covering car accidents and workers’ compensation matters, he later began covering medical malpractice, public hearings, etc. 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: 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 United States 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, etc. Zweizig has several medals in speed and realtime contests, winning the National Realtime Contest in 2006 and 2015.

NCRF currently accepting nominations for scholarship and grant

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) is now accepting nominations for the Robert H. Clark Scholarship and the New Professional Reporter Grant. The deadline for both the scholarship and the grant is April 21.

The $2,000 Robert H. Clark Scholarship is in its third year and is named for the late Robert H. (Bob) Clark, a court reporter from Los Angeles, Calif., who was dedicated to preserving the history of the profession. In 1993, he donated his extensive collection of books, artifacts, and documents related to court reporting to NCRF to help establish a namesake library housed at NCRA headquarters in Reston, Va. This scholarship was made possible thanks to a generous donation by Donna Hamer, Clark’s cousin, made in 2015.

“I have never met people who wish you success as if it was their own until I chose court reporting as my career path. I have always felt support and encouragement by people in the court reporting profession, and I feel honored and grateful to have been awarded the Robert H. Clark Scholarship,” said Natasha Jones after receiving the scholarship in 2016. “I am in the home stretch of court reporting school, and this scholarship will help me pay for my last quarters in school as well as certification testing. I cannot wait to become a court reporter!”

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 3.5 or above, demonstrating the need for financial assistance
  • possessing the qualities exemplified by a professional court reporter, including attitude, demeanor, dress, and motivation

The New Professional Reporter Grant of $2,000 benefits a qualified new working reporter who has graduated from an NCRA-approved program within the past year, among other criteria.

“Being a new reporter can be a little intimidating because every day is something new and unknown, which is also what makes it so exciting,” said Cathy Carpenter, the 2016 recipient of the New Professional Reporter Grant. “One of the best things about court reporting is that there are so many people willing to help, teach, and do whatever is necessary to help new reporters, such as myself, succeed. Receiving this [grant] is a prime example of the support that is out there in our community, and I am extremely grateful for it as I am starting out in my career.”

NCRF’s scholarships and grant are supported by donations to the NCRF Angels Drive and other fundraisers. Recipients will be recognized at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo., being held in Las Vegas, Nev., Aug. 10-13.

To learn more about the Robert H. Clark Scholarship or the New Professional Reporter Grant, and to find the nomination forms, please visit NCRA.org/NCRF/Scholarships.

Rub shoulders with the pros

Court reporting students and the NCRA president and CEO stand in front of the Take Note campaign sign

Photo by: Nicole Napodano. Used with permission.

The NCRA Convention & Expo provides students the best opportunity to learn from the pros and experience the court reporting and captioning professions through the eyes of experienced reporters and captioners.

The 2017 Convention is no exception. Students who attend will have the opportunity to hear seasoned professions present on topics including the business of being a reporter, how to compete at the national level, and the best tips for online testing. In addition, attendees can meet and mingle with NCRA members from all arenas of the profession during a special student reception, rub shoulders with members of the Board of Directors during another reception, and get up and personal with vendors during the Opening Reception held on the Expo floor. The 2017 Convention is Aug. 10-13 in Las Vegas, Nev., at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

“You never know where this career will take you,” said Joe Strickland, RPR, CRR, CRC, retired chief reporter at the U.S. House of Representatives who will be presenting during the student track at this year’s event.

Strickland said he attended his first NCRA convention when he was still in court reporting school. “I knew no one. I’ll never forget attending the Awards Luncheon. I wandered in and had to sit with seven strangers. I was intimidated by the ballroom full of professionals who all seemed to know each other, but my concerns were allayed by my warm, friendly tablemates,” Strickland said.

“They immediately introduced themselves and asked me where I reported. When I told them I was a student, they all chimed in with enthusiastic, encouraging words. They made me feel like I was already a part of their team,” he added.

Strickland will be participating in a reporter speed-dating session where participants will rotate from table to table and spend 10 or 15 minutes with working reporters to discuss their varied careers. “I think it’s a terrific idea, and I’m looking forward to meeting the students who join us in Las Vegas,” he said.

Nicole Bulldis, RPR, said she attended two of NCRA’s Conventions & Expos while a student, taking away both energy and passion from the working reporters she met on-site. Bulldis graduated from Green River Community College, Auburn, Wash., last June.

“In school, all you see is you and your peers struggling. It was amazing to go to Convention and see people who had been reporting for 20 to 30 years be so passionate and motivating about this field. I still remember Nancy Varallo sharing her favorite quote in Nashville: Success does not happen by spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. That quote helped me finish school,” added Bulldis, who noted that she began her career as a paralegal before moving to court reporting. She currently works as an official court reporter for the Benton/Franklin County Superior Courts in Kennewick, Wash.

Doreen Sutton, RPR, a freelance reporter from Scottsdale, Ariz., and chair of NCRA’s Student Committee, encourages students to attend the Convention because of the opportunity it provides them to learn about current events and reporting software options, and to network with other students and professional reporters.

“I would like students to get to know working reporters, learn about the practice opportunities, and meet some wonderful reporters in each practice,” said Sutton. “I would like students to fall in love with attending Convention, like I did when I was just in my 60s speed, and resolve to try and attend convention each year. Plus, you never know when there will be special student surprises.”

Strickland agrees and encourages students to become familiar with the many options the field offers (including freelance, official, captioning, CART services, and legislative) because no one’s career path is identical to another’s.

“In my legislative career, I was honored to report State of the Union speeches by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. I reported the testimony of world leaders, CIA and FBI directors, movie star activists, and industry giants. I provided CART for a late-deafened judge as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee. In 2002, I reported a Special Joint Session held in New York to honor the victims of 9/11. It’s been quite a journey,” added Strickland, who retired after 22 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives and works now as a part-time freelancer and a full-time traveler.

Learn about the speakers on the student track.

The confidence to succeed in school

Photo of Rachel Ellefson: a young woman with blond hair in a red blazerStaying motivated in court reporting school is a struggle that every student faces. Dealing with stress and hitting speed plateaus are common frustrations. This quarter, we spotlight Rachel Ellefson, RPR, a recent graduate of Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in Des Moines, Ill. who now works as an official reporter for the State of Iowa. Rachel has some advice for students: try to find the confidence to overcome self-doubt and practice, practice, practice!

Can you talk a little about your background? You already had a bachelor’s degree, correct, before you started at DMAAC? What made you decide to change careers to go into court reporting?

Right after high school, I went to a four-year college having no idea what I wanted to do with my life and earned my B.A. in business administration. After that, I started working in a business office at a local college, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My mom is a court reporter, so court reporting is a profession I have always been familiar with. My mom and I went to an information session at DMACC about the court reporting program, and I was hooked.

Describe your practice routine while you were a student. How many hours a day did you practice?

My usual practice routine consisted of practicing dictation files my teacher had recorded during class and working on briefs. I also found it helpful to transcribe portions of dictation that I struggled with and just write them over and over until I could write it perfectly, and then I would write it again with the audio. Working through the difficult stuff made everything else seem easy.

I can’t really say how many hours a day I practiced because it was never the same. I am a believer in quality over quantity. Some days that meant I practiced for one hour, and some days three or four. For me, it was more important to get in quality, focused practice than to worry about getting in a certain amount of hours a day. I am also a believer in taking days off. Sometimes you just need to step away from your machine and relax.

Did you hit any speed plateaus while you were going through school? What advice do you have for students who get stuck at a particular speed?

I think a big thing about getting stuck at a speed is the hit it takes on your confidence. It’s so easy to become frustrated when you don’t pass a take, but you really have to stay confident. Don’t dwell on the takes you failed. Wake up and tell yourself every day that you can do it, and eventually you will start to believe it.

What were your biggest frustrations during your court reporting program? What kept you motivated along the way?

The biggest frustration I had during school is kind of a weird one. I worked very hard in school to get all of my required takes passed with plenty of time to spare before the semester ended. I was frustrated with having to continue to sit in speed classes I had already passed. At the time, DMACC was a brand-new program and didn’t have higher speed classes to sit in. I ended up using those times to work on shortening and cleaning up my writing, which I know has paid off in the long run.

My mom definitely kept me motivated during those times. As annoying as it was to have her ask me every single day if I had practiced and how it went, she really held me accountable.

You mention that DMACC was a brand-new program when you started. Can you give us a little context and tell us a little about what that was like?

DMACC announced their plan to add the court reporting program in late spring/early summer of 2014, and the first classes started in August of 2014, which meant they had a very short period of time to get the program going. So when I started court reporting school, we had a very small class, the court reporting program only had one instructor, and there were no second-year students, which meant no higher speed classes to sit in on and no survivors of the theory classes to talk to. However, the Iowa Court Reporters Association paired us with mentors, who were such a great support system.

By the start of my second year in school, DMACC had added instructors and the new class of theory students was full. DMACC and the Iowa Court Reporters Association really put in a lot of effort to get the program started, for which I am extremely grateful, and I am proud to say I was in the first court reporting class at DMACC.

Were you also balancing a family and/or a job during school? How did you manage that?

I waitressed one night during the week, in addition to Fridays and Saturdays, and also babysat one night a week. I knew going into the court reporting program that school needed to be my priority and that it would require a lot of time. At the same time, I wasn’t willing to quit working altogether and live on student loans, so when my parents offered to let me move back home to save money, I did. Doing so allowed me to only have to work about 15 hours a week and keep my focus on getting out of school.

Did you take any of your RPR legs while you were in school? What was that like?

I took a literary test during my last semester in school, and it was terrible. It was after that I realized it was going to be an adjustment taking tests online. It was so different from what I was used to in school. I was used to live dictation and watching the speakers, which made the transition to the RPR tests difficult for me. I wish I hadn’t developed a habit of looking at the speakers.

How did you find your first job?

I knew when I started court reporting school that I wanted to work as an official for the State of Iowa. Iowa pays well, it has great benefits, and officials get six months to earn their certification. So once I passed my last take at school, I went to the Iowa Judicial Branch website, looked at my options, found the job I wanted, and within the next month, I started my career.

What is the best thing about being a court reporter? What is the hardest?

Court reporting is pretty sweet. Making a verbatim record at 225 words per minute is not something just anyone can do, and I take a lot of pride in my ability to do that. I also like that I’m not listening to the same thing every day.

Going into court reporting, I really thought asking people to slow down or speak up would be the hardest thing, but I got over that pretty quickly. I think the hardest thing is taking down the testimony of someone who mumbles.

Have you ever attended any state or national conventions?

I attended parts of the past two Iowa conventions. I really enjoyed them. Court reporters love students. People were always coming up to us and asking how school was going and telling us about their experiences. Conventions are a really great way to network.

Do you have any advice for students trying to make it through court reporting schools today?

Confidence, confidence, confidence. If you doubt yourself while you’re practicing, I can guarantee that as soon as you get to a hard part in a test, doubt will kick in and take over. Tell yourself you can do it.

Nominations being accepted for the 2017 CASE Award of Excellence and Student Scholarships

student-group-tabletsThe Council on Approved Student Education has announce that it is now accepting nominations for the Award of Excellence to an Outstanding Educator, which is given in recognition of dedication to students and extraordinary contributions to reporter education. Recipients are nominated by an NCRA member.

CASE is also accepting applications for three student scholarships in the amount of $500, $1,000, and $1,500. Applicants must meet a number of requirements to be eligible, including attending a NCRA-certified court reporting program, write between 140 and 180 wpm, and submit a two-page essay on a pre-selected topic. Nominations and applications are being accepted through April 7.

Please contact a member of NCRA’s Education Team with any questions.

New professional spotlight: Sarah Gadd

By Mike Hensley

SarahGaddSarah Gadd is not afraid of a challenge. As a reporter newly certified by the state of California, she has obtained a position as a reporter pro tempore with the Superior Court of California in San Bernardino County. Her schooling took her through both on-campus and online methods and ultimately shaped her into a courageous reporter who handles a large variety of court proceedings for various divisions and departments in her county. Always striving for the best, she hopes to earn her RPR soon as well as realtime certification so that she can provide the best services that our profession has to offer.

How did you get into court reporting?

I wanted to find a career that would set me up for life, and I wanted something that would allow me to help other people. I originally sought out the medical field, but I couldn’t stand the sight of blood. On a random occasion, a friend of my brother mentioned court reporting. Once I looked into it further, I was hooked. I knew it was the job for me.

How long did it take you to complete schooling and become certified?

I would say four and a half years. I started at an on-campus school and flew through theory and speeds. I had to take time off for personal reasons, and when I came back, I found a school with an online program. I even had a moment where I suffered a hand injury. Instead of seeing it as a limitation, I saw it as a challenge that I could overcome. Once I found that focused, determined mindset, I finished school and even passed the CSR exam on my first attempt.

What was the biggest difference you experienced between on-campus and online schooling?

Flexibility. However, that puts the onus on the student to show up and do more than just the bare minimum to make progress. On campus, everything was given to us for what we had to do. Online, you must set up your own routine to get things done. I had to do some very drastic things to make it work. The hardest thing to learn was how to say “no.” I had to remember that I was making sacrifices now so that I could enjoy my success later.

What helped you adjust from on-campus to online schooling?

Online schooling can feel very lonely and isolated. To solve that issue, I forced myself to reach out and find my community. I really am glad there are platforms like Facebook that connect me to groups of reporters who have so much to offer. I’m grateful for those days when I have a question or need a brief and all I have to do is log on, and I get an answer within minutes.

What advice do you have for students who are currently working to finish school?

Practice every single day and analyze your notes. I transcribed everything, and that gave me such great feedback to push me past the finish line. Even now as a professional reporter, I continue to look for ways to boost my speed through shortening my writing and incorporating more briefs. Every little bit helps. Those small pieces really do add up over time.

What do you love about your career as a court reporter?

The pay’s not bad at all, but the best part is the pride I feel when I get to say, “I am a court reporter.” No longer am I just a student, I am a working professional. There will always be an opportunity to learn and grow and develop my skills, but now it’s part of my job. I also love that my job is part of a solution. Every day I help create justice for those who need it most. Also, as a pro tem reporter, I get to support other reporters in various situations of need. My job is not just about me — it’s a part of something much greater.

Mike Hensley, RPR, is a freelance reporter in Evanston, Ill., and a member of the New Professionals Committee. He can be reached at stenomph@gmail.com.

And the winners are…

Angela Patla photo

First-place winner Angela Patla

In honor of 2017 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, NCRA’s Student Committee challenged court reporting students to transcribe as many tests as possible during the week to qualify for a prize. First place was awarded to Angela Patla, a student at South Suburban College, Oak Forest, Ill. Robyn Broyles a student at GateWay Community College, Phoenix, Ariz., earned second place, and Evie Morris, a student at the Court Reporting Institute of St. Louis, Mo., earned third place.

Under the contest’s rules, participants did not have to pass the tests, simply transcribe them. The first place winner Patla will be awarded a copy of NCRA’s RPR Study Guide, Broyles will have one leg of the RPR Skills Test covered, and Morris will receive a $25 Starbucks gift card.

Students who participated in the challenge were also required to submit a test verification form signed by both the student and a teacher.

“When I heard of the contest, I was debating on whether or not I should go for it. Winning the RPR Study Guide book was definitely something that pushed me in doing the contest,” said Patla, who won top honors by transcribing 31 tests during the competition.

“Although court reporting and transcribing came fairly easy to me since I started the program, I think participating in this contest helped a lot with my transcribing skills. It gave me a chance to feel what it was like to have a deadline on something like I would if I was on a job out reporting.”

Patla, who is almost through with 190 Testimony, is done with Jury Charge and is working on her 180 Literary. She plans to either freelance or work as an official court reporter when she graduates. She attributes her choice of court reporting as a career to her mother.

“My mom actually helped me choose court reporting my junior year of high school. I had no idea what I wanted to do. She mentioned to me a few different ladies in the area that we know who are court reporters. Right away I was interested, and I went to South Suburban’s open house. I couldn’t wait to graduate school and get started with the program,” said Patla.

Second place winner Broyles said she decided to take the challenge because she actually enjoys typing up transcripts and because the prizes were so enticing.

“I learned to recognize a few strokes that I was missing on a regular basis,” she said about participating by taking 16 tests. “I just passed my last 180 Literary test. I’m working hard to finish up Jury charge and Q&A. My resolution for 2017 is to pass all legs of the RPR and get to work,” she added.

Broyles said she is excited about all of the opportunities that will be available to her upon graduation. She currently works as a litigation secretary and bankruptcy paralegal.

“I almost went to court reporting school in 1993, but I went to paralegal school instead because I thought I would eventually go to law school,” said Broyles. “I decided to go back to school for court reporting when I met a very talented and successful closed captioner who has the kind of flexibility and earning capacity I’m looking for.”

Court reporting program hosts fundraiser

jcr-publications_high-resWASW-TV7 reported on Feb. 16 that the Neosho County College’s court reporting program in Ottawa, Kan., will hosted a write-a-thon fundraiser for students in conjunction with a bake sale in honor of Court Reporting & Captioning Week. The effort is to help raise funds to assist students of the program with tuition.

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