Dreams never die

By Joshua Edwards

The JCR Weekly recently learned that NCRA member Joshua Edwards has a passion for singing and reached out to learn more about what motivates this CART captioner and court reporter from New York, N.Y.

 

 

 

 

 

Being a professional Broadway singer was the dream that brought me to New York 10 years ago. And the dream never dies. However, I knew that I did not want to follow the typical path that most aspiring singer-actors follow – a waiter or always working nightshift jobs. On a friend’s recommendation, I discovered court reporting school. That ended up being a wonderful path for me. I finished school in December 2010 and started taking depositions in New York City right away. Five years flew by. Then I applied for a job in federal court as an official reporter and spent one year there. A major reason I did not want to stay in court is that I felt like I would not have free time to pursue my artistic interests. Auditions for musicals and tours, for example, start at 9 in the morning. If you work a full-time day job, you will never have the opportunity to attend auditions. After leaving my court position, I became a CART captioner, which is now my full‑time job.

Both of my mother’s parents were music lovers. My grandfather was a minister of music in his church. I never got to hear him live, but we do have a few rare recordings of him singing church hymns. My grandmother used to love to hear me sing some of those hymns.

I only started taking lessons in college. My major was vocal performance. Part of the bachelor’s degree was to take diction classes for the four major sung languages: English, German, French, and Italian. We learned how to analyze words according to the International Phonetic Alphabet. When you study music, the foundation is usually classical. In singing you start with the five pure Italian vowels ah, eh, ee, oh, and uu. In Italian, the word for “but” is “ma.” It should be pronounced with a pure tall “ah” sound like the word “mom.” In English we have sloppier vowel constructions like “my.” That’s a combination of “ma” and “ee,” or a diphthong. But no court reporter would write the word “my” in two strokes PHA/AOE. Even more complicated are triphthongs like “our,” comprised of a-uu-er, which mercifully is written in one stroke. So to me, the study of singing in foreign languages is incredibly similar to the study of writing in steno.

Even though I learned to sing operatic arias from composers like Mozart and Puccini, my favorite music to sing is classic Broadway. The singer blends a strong trained voice with more contemporary music. I’ve performed in many plays and musicals — and even some operas. Two performances that stand out are being invited to sing “Nessun Dorma” in a packed courtroom when I was a federal reporter, and then entertaining our state convention attendees last month as the Phantom of the Opera singing “Music of the Night.” Watch the video.

Singing is incredibly rewarding. Singing, music, and any visual or other manner of art connect people on a higher plane in an otherwise chaotic world that is basically a cycle of life and death. Why do we as human beings enjoy things like good food, music, sports, entertainment, and other things which I won’t mention in this article? They make life worth living.

Joshua Edwards, RDR, CRR, is a CART captioner from New York, N.Y.

Captioning a spelling bee

Chase Frazier

So what do you do when you are asked to report a spelling bee? If you have the opportunity to do so, Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, of Murrieta, Calif., says that it can be a fun experience and suggests making sure you know what the company you work for wants you to do. Here, he shares his experience.

JCR | Were you on-site for the spelling bee?
Frazier | I was remote. I believe it was a state spelling bee. The kids were 13 years old and under, I believe. It lasted about four hours.

JCR | Did you get the list of words early? Did you have the list printed next to you or did you have them all in the dictionary?
Frazier | I wasn’t allowed to write the word when the judges said it. I would write: “Spell ____.”

Then, I would write everything else and then fingerspell the student’s spelling. They didn’t want there to be any way for cheating, so I was not given any prep. And when they used the word in a sentence, I had the blurb (contest word) come up in place of the word.

It wasn’t that hard to just drop the word because the words were crazy. I’ve never heard of most of them, so it quickly became natural to write the blurb.

When they spelled, I could fingerspell the word; but when the judges were saying it, I couldn’t.

JCR | Did you feel for any of the contestants when they missed or were you just too focused on what you needed to do?
Frazier | It was cool to see them do so well, but it was sad to see some go because they did so great in previous rounds.

JCR | Did you end up adding those words to your dictionary or did they seem too esoteric? Or did you pick and choose?
Frazier | Most of the words were just so far out there. They were spelling bee words, so, no, I don’t think I added any of them. I may have added a couple that seemed reasonable, though.

2018 Realtime Contest winner Mark Kislingbury shares his story

2018 NCRA Realtime Contest Winner Mark Kislingbury

NCRA member Mark Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR, owner of Magnum Steno from Houston, Texas, won the 2018 National Realtime Contest held during the Association’s Convention & Expo in New Orleans, La. It is his fifth Realtime Contest win. This win ties the record for most wins in the NCRA Realtime Contest with 2017-2018 Contests Committee co-chair Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR, of Castro Valley, Calif. Kislingbury’s overall score was 99.24 percent.

Kislingbury placed second in the literary leg with a 99.20 percent accuracy rate, and first in the Q&A leg with a 99.28 percent accuracy rate.

The JCR Weekly recently reached out to him to find out more about what motivates him, how he prepares to compete, and how he learned about court reporting as a career.

JCR | In what area of the profession do you work?
KISLINGBURY | What I do does not actually fit into any of those groups! Most of my professional writing is for a national political radio program where the Web team for that program wants instant transcripts so they can post verbatim transcripts on their site. This demands accurate realtime so that I only have to make a few edits/corrections on commercial breaks and send that segment at the end of the commercial break. I also work for that same program before each particular show transcribing “sound bites” taken from television so that the host may have verbatim transcripts of those sound bites. Occasionally I still do broadcast captioning and will take a freelance job or a remote CART job.

JCR | How long have you been in the profession?
KISLINGBURY | 35 years.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?
KISLINGBURY | I was a junior in high school in a Gregg shorthand class when a rep from the nearest court reporting school visited our class and showed us a brand-new olive green steno machine with shiny black keys. She told us you could graduate in two years, make a high salary right away, and that 95 percent of the students were girls. What’s to not like?

JCR | How many national contests have you participated in?
KISLINGBURY | I competed in NCRA Speed Contests from 1995 through 2010 (16 of them), and since 1999 I have competed in 18 of the 20 NCRA Realtime Contests.

JCR | Do you compete both in the Realtime and the Speed contests??
KISLINGBURY | I used to compete in both, but from 2011 through today I have not competed in an NCRA Speed Contest. I do enjoy competing in the California DRA Realtime Contests.

JCR | What motivates you to compete?
KISLINGBURY | I suppose it’s the pursuit of excellence. The pursuit of excellence seems to be a universal human value that contributes to overall happiness, self-esteem, and well-being. Since I love teaching court reporters and students to help them improve, I think that winning contests (where I have been fortunate enough to do so) lends added credibility to what I am teaching.

JCR | How did it feel to win this year?
KISLINGBURY | It felt great because it was the culmination of a lot of hard work in the practice room. There are so many amazing realtime competitors out there nowadays that it is extremely hard to win! And it’s so easy to “have a bad day” in the realtime contest. I believe only nine different individuals have won the NCRA realtime contest in its 20 years of existence! And only four have won it multiple times.

JCR | Do you plan to continue to compete at the national level?
KISLINGBURY | Absolutely!

JCR | What advice would you give someone who is considering competing at the national level?
KISLINGBURY | It’s fun! Do it for the experience, for the pursuit of excellence, not “to win.” It takes the pressure off if you have the attitude: “I just want to try my best and see what happens.” The other competitors are friendly and encouraging. Your first goal may well be to simply “qualify” in one of the two legs. (Qualifying means 95 percent accuracy or above.) Qualifying means you get ranked in a group of elite Realtime (or Speed) Contest reporters!

JCR | How far in advance do you begin to practice for the national contests?
KISLINGBURY | When I was competing in speed contests, I would start at least three months ahead of time. For the realtime contest, I start practicing 365 days ahead of the contest!

JCR | What is your practice routine to prep for these contests?
KISLINGBURY | For the realtime contest, generally I write a 5-minute take at around 280 and keep slowing it down in 5 percent increments until it’s about 225. The whole time I’m striving to write each stroke instantly, without ever getting behind. The “instant” takes precedence over “accuracy.” I generally write the take 7-8 times. By the time I quit, I’m realtiming it virtually perfectly. That takes 35-45 minutes. Then I take a break. The next time I practice, it’s a new take, same routine.

If I were doing the speed contest again, I would do the same practice regimen except start much faster than 280 and slow it down incrementally until it reached 280, doing each take 7-8 times before moving on.

JCR | Do you compete at the state level as well?
KISLINGBURY | Currently, only at the California Deposition Reporters Realtime Contests, which tend to be every February. I used to compete in the Texas Speed Contest in the 1990s. For many years I have chaired the Texas Court Reporters Association Realtime Contest and continue to do so to this day.

JCR | Is there anything else you would like to share?
KISLINGBURY | I have started a court reporting school, the Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting, in Houston, Texas. We opened in 2011. We have both on-site and online programs. Our first nine graduates (who started brand-new with us) have averaged one year and 10 months! Four of the nine were online students. I teach students my very short Magnum Steno Theory. There are several dozen happy and prospering professional reporters in the field who learned my theory. Many of them are providing realtime and/or captioning. I am attempting to do my small part to try to fix our nationwide court reporter shortage.

Join NCRA in June and you might win a Kindle Fire

Anyone who joins NCRA for the first time in June will be entered into a drawing to win a Kindle Fire.

NCRA member benefits include:

  • A listing* in both the print and online versions of the NCRA Sourcebook
  • A subscription to the JCR magazine and the JCR Weekly online newsletter
  • Access to multiple certification programs with online skills tests designed to make you more money
  • Take advantage of NCRA member discounts for exams and premier events
  • Access discounts for a variety of suppliers, with no cost to sign up, through the NCRA Saving Center
  • Save on NCRA Store items like the RPR Study Guide, a comprehensive guide written by testing experts
  • Stay protected with Mercer insurance, including cyber liability insurance, health insurance, equipment insurance, pet insurance, and errors and omissions insurance
  • Member pricing to can’t-miss networking and educational events at the NCRA Convention & Expo (Aug. 2-5, 2018)

 

 

Parker Burton

New NCRA member and court reporting student wins Kindle

In April, Parker Burton, from Atlanta, Ga., won the drawing for a Kindle Fire 8 by joining NCRA. Burton is a first quarter student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga. The JCR reached out to him to learn more about why he is pursuing a career in court reporting and what advice he has for other court reporting and captioning students.

 

JCR | Why did you choose court reporting as a career?

Burton | My initial inspiration of court reporting was from my aunt who was a long-time court reporter who lived in New Orleans, La. However, since being enrolled at Brown College, my current inspirations have been my awesome instructors,  Todd Vansel and Bob Tanner, CRI, who have been guiding me and offering the best advice on improving my skills and helping guide my career paths.

 

JCR | What is your current speed?

Burton | As a first quarter student, my speed at this point is at only about 30 wpm but I am working on it daily to get that up little by little weekly.

 

JCR | What inspired you to join NCRA?

Burton | Very shortly after I started school, I joined NCRA because I am very excited to attend the upcoming convention in my hometown of New Orleans, and to network with other professionals in the field.

 

Joining NCRA is easy and available online at NCRA.org/join. Members can expect to receive their membership card via email within approximately two weeks of renewing if they have a valid email address and have not previously opted out of Constant Contact email messaging.

 

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.

You never know where the job might take you

Tiffany Treffeisen, RPR, is ready for anything, including on-site trials in the Florida sun!

While working for Orange Legal in Tavares, Fla., Tiffany Treffeisen, RPR, and Lisa Shuman, RPR, shared reporting duties on an eminent domain case earlier this year. When they heard more about the proceedings, they learned that the parties agreed a view of the site – the house and road – would be beneficial to the jury in making its decision. The jury would then be able to see the boundary lines, home, and property lines that had been discussed the previous few days.

Treffeisen, who is also certified in Florida, has been reporting for 20 years in the Fifth Circuit and surrounding counties in Central Florida. Shuman has also been reporting for 20 years throughout Central Florida.

JCR | Did you know when you were assigned that something different was going to happen with this case?

Treffeisen | I was not aware when I accepted the assignment that it would include a site visit, but I learned about it on the first day of trial. Then we just had to wait and see whether it was going to be Lisa or I who was the lucky one to be the reporter, depending on which day they decided to make the trip.

Shuman | Tiffany and I split the trial, and we had heard that Thursday there would be a site visit. They wanted to move it to Friday, but it was supposed to rain, so she was the lucky one. The job I was on that day canceled, so I wanted to go along for the ride to see how it’s done for next time! And also see the road and the house!

JCR | What was the experience like? Did you have any challenges?

Shuman | It was an eminent domain trial for some property in Lake County that was taken by the Department of Transportation for the Wekiva Parkway. I had done a couple things in the case, but was very familiar with the location. I used to use the road every day and it’s being moved due to the Wekiva Protection Act. They wanted the judge and jury to see the land that was taken so they could get the market value for it.

Treffeisen | When I was talking with the attorneys about how the site view was going to take place, they informed me that we (judge, jury, attorneys, bailiff, clerk, and myself) would be taking a transit-type bus to the active construction site and that we would be getting off in several locations and that the surveyor would be testifying as to boundary locations. They advised that we would then be going to the property owners’ home and touring their house and the farm. They also assured me they would make sure I understood when to be on the record.

With the construction of the road already starting, it was a great opportunity for the jury to be able to see exactly where the road was being constructed on the property and how it was affecting the property owners.

The attorneys had also suggested I bring my own chair so I would have some place to sit while taking the testimony. So I loaded up a folding chair that morning and took it with me. I certainly got some strange looks and questions from the security station about why I needed to bring a chair into the courthouse with me.

Thankfully Lisa was there to assist me with the chair so I didn’t have to juggle my machine and the chair while getting on and off the bus; however, the judge often grabbed my chair and scolded the younger male attorneys for not being gentlemen and getting the chair for me. One of the younger attorneys took his cue and began to assist. The judge got a laugh out of “educating” young men on being proper gentlemen.

At each of the five stops, everyone exited the bus onto the road that was being constructed, which was currently lime rock, and gathered around the surveyor for him to show the jury where they were standing in relation to the maps that they had been shown all week. I think the biggest challenge of the day became the wind. It made it difficult to hear the soft-spoken surveyor while he was testifying as to the boundary lines at our stops. It was also super frustrating to have my hair blowing all over my face while trying to write. Fortunately, we were not outside taking testimony for very long, though. And when we arrived at the home and farm, the attorneys said there would be no testimony taken there.

JCR | How long were you out in the field?

Shuman | We were on site for about an hour. We stopped at five stops in various locations on the road, and then we viewed their actual house, stable, and land. There was 434 acres before the taking and 230 after, so it was to see the effect it had on their land and wildlife.

Treffeisen | We were gone for a total of around two hours – but, technically, outside and reporting, probably less than 20 minutes.  The judge gave the jury a half hour to view the house and farm portion, and then we headed back to the courthouse to finish out the day with more witness testimony.

JCR | Anything else you can tell us about what happened?

Shuman | The trial finished the next day. The jury deliberated for 1.5 hours and came back with a $4.9 million verdict!

Treffeisen | It was a pretty laid-back field trip, and it was great to get out of the courtroom for a few hours. The attorneys and the judge were all super nice and were very accommodating to me; making sure that I had everything I needed. Really, the entire trial was like that for Lisa and me. They were a great group to work with.

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

Jeseca Eddington, RDR, CRR, CRC

Jeseca Eddington, RDR, CRR, CRC

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

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

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

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

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

PROFILE: James Pence-Aviles, RMR, CRR

James Pence-Aviles, RMR, CRR

James Pence-Aviles, RMR, CRR

Official court reporter
Currently resides in: Imperial Beach, Calif.
Member since: 2005
Graduated from: Court Reporting Institute
Theory: Phoenix Theory

JCR | Why did you decide to earn an NCRA certification?
PENCE-AVILES | I decided to test for the RPR because it was being offered a month before the California CSR exam. I thought it would be good practice for the CSR. I actually thought the RPR was even harder than the CSR! Looking back, it was probably the best career decision I ever made, because I’m now an official in federal court, which requires that you at least have your RPR.

JCR | You competed a few years ago in the Speed Contest. Did that factor in your decision to earn additional certifications?
PENCE-AVILES | It didn’t because I never thought I would be good enough to compete in the Speed Contest. I listened to a few Speed Contest tapes when I was a brand-new reporter, and they blew me away. I never thought I would be able to write at 280 wpm. It wasn’t until I began working in federal court that I seriously began thinking about giving it a shot. People in federal court tend to speak really fast, so it was good practice for the Speed Contest. In 2014, the NCRA convention was being held in San Francisco, not far from where I was working at the time, and my coworker and mentor Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR, encouraged me to give the contest a shot. So I did, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my career. It turned out to be a very pleasant and fun experience. It helped that I knew people who were taking it, too. Compared to the CSR, RMR, or CRR, it was a piece of cake! Placing fourth in the 220 Literary and seventh overall was just icing on the cake.

JCR | Have you gotten a job specifically as a result of your certification?
PENCE-AVILES | Yes. In 2014, I applied for a position in the United States District Court in San Francisco, and the CRR was mandatory for that position. In 2015, I transferred to the Federal Court in San Diego, which also requires those certifications.

JCR | Why do you think professional certification is important?
PENCE-AVILES | It’s important because you never know where your career may take you. In 2012, I was laid off from the San Diego Superior Court due to statewide budget cuts, and from there, I did independent contract work in Florida and then ended up in Federal Court in San Francisco, then transferred back home to San Diego a year later. That wouldn’t have been possible without my national certifications. It also helps you stand out from other reporters, and it can lead to better and more lucrative work, especially if you have the realtime certification.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others considering professional certification?
PENCE-AVILES | Get as many certifications as possible. If your state has a CSR, get that CSR and never let it lapse. Also, get as many NCRA certifications as you can, no matter what career path you take, whether it’s an official, freelancer, captioner, teacher, etc. Most importantly, never give up. If it takes you a few tries to get your certs, keep at it. The end result is absolutely worth it.

JCR | What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
PENCE-AVILES | Besides the Speed Contest, I would consider my current assignment in federal court to be my greatest professional accomplishment. I’m currently assigned to the chief judge, who suffers from a rare neurological disorder that affects his speech. I’ve worked for him since 2015, and I’m one of two reporters in our district who is able to understand him. Since 2017, a fellow court reporter and I have been providing realtime of the judge’s statements for the court staff, the attorneys, and the public pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, so everyone can follow along and understand the proceedings. It helps the judge, the attorneys, and the public. It’s a difficult and challenging assignment, but it’s also a very important job and one that I’m proud to do.

PROFILE: Laura Ohman, RPR

Laura Ohman, RPR

Laura Ohman, RPR

Freelance court reporter
Currently resides in: Tacoma, Wash.
Member since: 2008
Graduated from: Bates Technical College
Theory: Phoenix Theory

JCR | Why did you decide to earn an NCRA certification?
OHMAN | After a few years working as a court reporter, I really hit my stride and had a lot of confidence in my ability. I wanted my credentials to reflect that! I passed the RPR in 2014 and, to this day, when I look at my business card and see my credential, I have such a sense of accomplishment! It was also important to me to get my NCRA certification so my peers and firms knew that I was competent and that they could trust me to do a great job for them.

JCR | How has certification helped you professionally?
OHMAN | Obtaining my RPR gave me personal confidence to take on more complex cases. I remember being asked to take on a pharmaceutical case with around 15 attorneys. My immediate response was to run for the hills. Then I paused, remembered I am not only state-certified but nationally certified. I said yes, I did great, and I was happy I did it. I’ve gained so much more experience by remembering that I’m an RPR, I’m capable, and I am just saying yes to the complex cases.

JCR | Have you gotten a job specifically as a result of your certification?
OHMAN | Absolutely! Before my RPR credential, I got assigned and asked to do a lot of personal injury and family law work, which I actually really enjoy. But it’s easier work. After my RPR, that’s when I started getting into medical malpractice, maritime, asbestos, and so on! Yes, it’s more challenging, but it’s usually much more lucrative. I think having an NCRA certification definitely puts you at the top of the list when firms are looking for reporters to represent their company.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others considering  professional certification?
OHMAN | Go for it! You will never regret getting a new certification. We are professionals, and we have a serious job to do. Getting those credentials and doing your CEUs will only help you learn, achieve, and ultimately make more money!

JCR | What has been your best work experience so far in your career?
OHMAN | I’ve had the chance to meet a few famous folks, which was of course so fun! I’ve had the chance to travel out of the country, which was of course so fun! But I think my best moment was when I did a five-hour doctor asbestos deposition only to learn at the end they wanted a rough draft and I didn’t panic. I said, “No problem,” and I was able to hand it over right then and there. That was my “wow” moment, that I’d become the court reporter I had always looked up to.

JCR | What surprised you about your career?
OHMAN | Oh, the things you learn! It’s really neat to get to hear about a veteran’s experience in Vietnam one day and then hear about how high-rises are constructed the next and then the next day you learn about how to start a franchise. You get to peek into so many worlds and learn about so many different topics. It fascinates me!

JCR | Is there something else you would like to share about yourself?
OHMAN | I would just say that I love this job because it has enabled me to create a life that works for me. I am a mom to two young children, and having the ability to be flexible on the hours I work has made my life so easy and usually so balanced. There’s not a lot of jobs in the world where you can be a professional and a parent and feel like you’re giving your best to both. I love my job. After 10 years, I’m still so thankful I do what I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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