Eileen Beltz from College of Court Reporting honored with 2017 CASE Award

Jeff Moody, president of the College of Court Reporting, accepted the award on Beltz's behalf.

Jeff Moody, president of the College of Court Reporting, accepted the award on Beltz’s behalf.

Eileen Beltz, CRI, CPE, an instructor at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., was honored with the 2017 Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) Award of Excellence. The announcement was made at a special awards luncheon held during the NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev., Aug. 10-13. Beltz is from Avon, Ohio.

NCRA’s CASE Award of Excellence recognizes the important role student education plays in the court reporting profession and honors educators for their dedication, outstanding achievement, and leadership. Recipients are nominated by an NCRA member.

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Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.

The 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo is the place to earn new certifications

Professionals seeking to add nationally recognized certifications to their résumés can choose from several opportunities to work toward them at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo being held Aug. 10-13 at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

Programs and certifications opportunities available this year include the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC), Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI), and Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS). Note that many certifications require multiple steps to earn, so one or more components of testing may not be available during convention.

Certified Realtime Reporter Boot Camp

For those interested in learning how to pass the CRR, a three-hour long boot camp is available on Aug. 12. The CRR is recognized in the industry as the national certification of realtime competency. Taught by Kathryn Sweeney, FAPR, RMR, CRR, who helped develop the boot camp program, the course has enabled many to successfully pass the test on the first take. Sweeney is a freelance reporter and agency owner from Action, Mass.

Convention learning2In the course, Sweeney explains the testing requirements, covers NCRA’s What is an Error?, discusses what is not an error, and talks about the new online testing process. She also offers tips for self-preparation, including what to have on test day, what to do and not do on test day, and how and why candidates fail. Participants in the session should bring their equipment with them so they can take a couple of practice tests and learn how to adjust their system settings and dictionary entries. Skills testing for the CRR is offered online.

“I strongly believe taking the CRR Boot Camp will increase the chance of passing this test. When I finished my presentation in Georgia, a woman who already had her CRR came up to me and said that she wished this seminar was around when she was preparing for the test; that it had all of the information and steps that she muddled through on her own. She said it took years of figuring out what was being asked of her and then changing her writing and learning her equipment and software in order to pass,” Sweeney said.

“With this boot camp, I can help you in three hours,” added Sweeney, who also served as a beta tester for NCRA’s online testing system and as CRR Chief Examiner on behalf of the Association for 17 years.

Certified Realtime Captioner Workshop

Convention participants seeking the CRC certification can attend a 10-hour Workshop held Aug. 10-11 and take the Written Knowledge Test on Aug. 11, completing two of the three steps to the certification. (The third step, a Skills Test, can be taken anytime online.)

Leading the workshop are: Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR, a broadcast captioner from Flagstaff, Ariz.; LeAnn Hibler, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Joliet, Ill.; Karyn Menck, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Nashville, Tenn.; and Heidi Thomas, FARP, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from Acworth, Ga.

Convention learning“I know you will learn something new, no matter how long you have been captioning,” said Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner based in Portland, Ore. Studenmund heads the Certified Realtime Captioner Certification Committee. “Then take the Written Knowledge Test right after the workshop — while the material is fresh in your mind — and before you know it, you are two thirds of the way to earning the certification.”

Certified Reporting Instructor Workshop

Educators interested in earning the CRI can attend a two-day Workshop, Aug. 10-11, designed to expand their level of knowledge for becoming more effective realtime reporting instructors. The Workshop covers information about the learning process, how to develop court reporting syllabi and lesson plans, and how role playing a variety of courtroom scenarios can aid students’ understanding.

“Those who attend and participate in the CRI Workshop will gain wonderful insight and skills for training the future of our profession,” said Dr. Jen Krueger, RMR, CRI, CPE, who will lead the session. Krueger is a full-time faculty member at Cuyahoga Community College, Parma, Ohio,

“The CRI credential demonstrates excellence and dedication in teaching, assuring students they are benefiting from the best instructors available and others that the court reporting profession is in good hands as those learners prepare to continue the noble and fine work of court reporters and captioners everywhere,” she added.

CLVS SeminarCertified Legal Video Specialist Seminar and Production Exam

Participants interested in earning the CLVS certification can attend the required three-day seminar from Aug. 11-13. The CLVS production exam is also available on Aug. 11 and 12, for those who are qualified. The CLVS program sets and enforces standards for competency in the capture, utilization, and retention of legal video and promotes awareness of these standards within the legal marketplace. Legal videographers often partner with court reporters to ensure the integrity of both the video of legal proceedings and the official transcript.

“Attending at the CLVS Seminar is beneficial to both experienced legal videographers as well as novices to the profession,” said Jason Levin, CLVS, with Virginia Media Group, Washington, D.C. Levin is one of the instructors leading the seminar.

“Our goal is to prepare videographers for the production and written exams, and on the last day of the seminar we actually conduct mock depositions where the attendees can operate the equipment in a deposition environment. Earning the CLVS certification sets yourself apart from noncertified videographers.  The networking opportunities of attending an event like this are well worth the investment,” he added.

 

Don’t miss the savings on lodging at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, the host hotel for the 2017 Convention. Attendees who register to stay at Planet Hollywood on Friday and Saturday nights are eligible for free breakfast and to win one of six new Kindle Fire tablets in a giveaway. Visit NCRA.org/Convention to register now.

Lakeshore Technical College receives grant

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyLakeshore Technical College, Cleveland, Wis., recently wrote in about their recent grant award. Here’s what the college reported:

“Lakeshore Technical College was awarded a $196,000 grant from the Wisconsin Technical College System. It is a State Core Industry Grant. The tasks we outlined in the grant include:

High school online theory class – Spring start: Our project is to break our theory class down to two semesters and offer it online for high school students. We would meet with them live once a week as a class to give in-person feedback and answer questions. The following spring, they would be able to attend class along with our traditional students. It will also be a pilot program to possibly allow a spring start for all students as we now only have a fall start.

Lakeshore Technical College teaches all classes over an ITV (Instructional Television) format throughout the state of Wisconsin at various technical colleges. Students attend live classes with their instructors and their classmates. We feel very strongly about teaching our classes live and have had great success. Because we do have some areas of the state where we don’t have partnerships with a local technical college, we are looking to try solo sites for underserved areas. We will be researching technology that will enable students to attend our program from their homes in areas where they don’t have a satellite school within their area.

Embed CRR and RPR: We will embed the Certified Realtime Reporter and Registered Professional Reporter Exams in our broadcast captioning internship (CRR) and court reporting internship (RPR) so that students will get the experience of taking the exams before they graduate.

Student success coach/point person: We will hire a person to communicate personally with students and shared-site personnel to answer questions, help with technology, set up recruitment events, and help students to feel more of a classroom community instead of being ‘out there on their own.’

We are very excited with these new projects and look forward to their implementation.”

Tri-C annual open house boosts summer enrollment

The court reporting and captioning professions captivated attendees at the annual open house held April 25 by Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cuyahoga, Ohio. Sponsored by the college’s court reporting and captioning program, the event drew 75 attendees wanting to know more about the career choice and benefits.

Stefanie Sweet, a current student enrolled in Tri-C’s court reporting and captioning program, shares some insight into campus life and educational curriculum with open house attendees.

Stefanie Sweet, a current student enrolled in Tri-C’s court reporting and captioning program, shares some insight into campus life and educational curriculum with open house attendees.

According to Kelly Moranz, CRI, Tri-C’s program manager, attendees got an overview of the court reporting and captioning professions, including information about various work venues, earning potential, flexibility, and the college’s program. Attendees then embarked on a speed networking activity that allowed them to ask faculty, professionals, and current students more about available career opportunities, campus life, and scholarships.

“The opening comments were captioned remotely and put onto a large-screen monitor to demonstrate how captioning works,” said Moranz. “Overall, the open house resulted in numerous inquiries about how to get started, and there has been an increased enrollment in our summer introductory courses.”

Other topics addressed during the speed networking activity included a brief overview of the theory of steno, the importance of good English and grammar skills required by court reporters, examples of real-life experiences shared by professionals currently working in the field, and the chance to try writing on an actual machine.

What to do with those old steno machines

Steno machines are no different than anything else in life. At some point, they need to be replaced. But what’s a reporter or captioner to do with their old machines? For some, the answer is to donate them to a court reporting program.

Three 1980s models of steno machines grouped together“A donated machine is very much appreciated by a student,” says Mary Beth Johnson, CRI, a professor of court reporting at the Community College of Allegheny County.

“Our school is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We live in an area where court reporters are very generous. Our students have been the beneficiaries of donated steno paper, machines, and thousands of dollars in scholarship monies. As a teacher, I am always appreciative of the largesse of court reporters,” she adds.

State court reporting associations also recognize the importance of donating old steno machines and other items to benefit students. Recently, both the California Court Reporters Association and the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association (WCRA) issued calls to their members to donate old machines to schools and to volunteers who are leading the A to Z Program, a free introductory course of basic steno for those who might be interested in pursuing a court reporting or captioning career.

“In Wisconsin, I know of several reporters who donated their steno machines to the court reporting schools and also to the A to Z Program,” says Sheri Piontek, RMR, CRR, CRC, an official from Green Bay and president of WCRA.

“The A to Z Program is what prompted Wisconsin to request donations of machines as a means of trying to increase the number of students in the court reporting profession. The only way this program is successful is by asking the reporters to donate their older models to the students,” she adds. To date, WCRA members have hosted two A to Z Programs within the state and have a third planned for the fall, Piontek notes.

Donating old machines to court reporting schools can also help offset tuition expenses for students. In some cases, donating a machine can be used as a tax deduction.

“When I decide to recycle or toss my steno machine, I give it to a court reporting student,” says Laura Lynn Murphy, RMR, a freelance court reporter from St. Louis, Mo.

“Many of them are renting a machine. I like to think that if they don’t have the rent to pay, they will be more inclined to join Missouri Court Reporting Association or, perhaps, NCRA as a student because they have to pay dues to join,” says Murphy.

“If there isn’t a need from a student, I donate the steno machine to Ranken Technical College. The students there are learning how machines work and when they tear down, hopefully, learn the machinations. I also give them old Dictaphones or digital equipment, anything that would help their training and not go into landfills,” she adds.

Murphy also suggests offering an old machine to companies that sells new ones in exchange for credit toward a new purchase. Many times, she notes, companies will use the old machines for repair parts.

Donating an old machine to a student is invaluable, according to Kelly Moranz, CRI, program manager and adjunct faculty at Cuyahoga Community College’s captioning and court reporting program in Cuyahoga, Ohio.

These machines are distributed to students in need, and it can sometimes mean a difference as to whether they can begin the program or not,” Moranz says.

“Professionals typically reach out to us if they have a machine to donate. Through the grants we have received in the past, we have machines for campus students that cycle through the program. We are able to supply online students with the same opportunity with the machines donated by professionals. Additionally, for students mentioning they have spoken to a professional, I encourage them to reach out and see if they have an extra machine available,” she adds.

Johnson notes that she and her staff are not at all shy about asking for donations of old machines and other items, especially since working professionals have been consistently very generous with the program.

“Donations are critical to the success of our program. Please know how grateful we are for decades of donations, not limited to machines, but also including guest speakers, mentors, and scholarship donors. In Pittsburgh, professional reporters donate their time, talent, and treasure consistently,” she says.

NCCC to add court reporting certificate

JCR logoThe board of trustees of the Neosho County Community College, Chanute, Kan., recently approved a certificate for court reporting. The 45-credit-hour program is for those who only want to pass the state court reporting certification, according to an article posted on April 12 by the Chanute Tribune.

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Wanted: Court reporters

JCR logoWomenforhire.com posted an article on March 9 authored by Peg Sokalski-Dorchack, director of the court reporting program at MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill., about the need for more court reporters and captioners nationwide.

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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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Court reporting schools to exhibit at career day event in Texas

jcr-publications_high-resThe Gilmer [Texas] Mirror posted an article on Feb. 13 about the Texas Supreme Court holding a formal court session to hear oral arguments in two cases at LeTourneau University in Longview,  in conjunction with a “Law as a Career Day” being held on campus. Numerous law schools, paralegal schools, and court reporting schools will have recruiting booths on-site.

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Stepping over speed plateaus

Hiker standing on rocky edge

Photo by Travel Stock Photos

By Jackie Young

While the standard dictionary definition of plateau is “to have something remain at a stable level or on an even keel,” the word plateau has a completely different meaning to court reporting students. Simply uttering the words speed plateau can cause extreme frustration and anxiety. Don’t let that happen to you!

One of the main obstacles all reporters will face at one time or another in their court reporting career is a lack of speed. No matter how well prepared you are, there will come a day when you meet a witness or an attorney who seems bound and determined to be forever enshrined in The Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s fastest talker.

Most court reporting students will find that the other obstacle that goes hand in hand with a lack of speed, of course, is a lack of accuracy. If your fingers are struggling to capture every word, naturally your accuracy will go down. It is important to remember at times like this that struggling with speed and accuracy is not the end of the world, and it certainly should not stop you from fulfilling your dream of becoming a court reporter.

There is no secret potion or magical transformation that a reporter can instantaneously undergo that will allow him or her to write as fast and as accurately as NCRA’s speed champions. The good news, however, is that there are certain general tips you can follow to overcome and conquer those plateaus. With a little perseverance and hard work, you can and will be able to meet those challenges.

Tip No. 1: Concentrate. Concentration is perhaps one of the most important aspects of our job, and if you are suffering from poor concentration, your writing will show it. Before you begin practicing, take a few deep breaths to clear your mind of other thoughts and relax. Do a couple of one-minute takes in the beginning until you get warmed up, and then increase those gradually until you are able to accomplish the complete five-minute take without distractions. If you start to feel frustrated at a certain speed, pause for a moment, clear your mind, reaffirm to yourself that you can write at this speed, and begin again.

Tip No. 2: Use one-minute takes to increase your speed and accuracy. Select a one-minute segment at a speed that you can comfortably write at without many errors. Once you have finished writing that segment, read it back to yourself to see what errors you have made. Before you begin again, practice writing those words that caused you to hesitate or stumble. Then rewrite and reread the same segment at the same speed until you are able to write it flawlessly.

Once you have accomplished writing that segment without error, increase the speed slightly and begin again. This exercise will help you learn to hear and process the words at a faster rate, and train your fingers to move at a faster speed. Your fingers can only write as fast as your ears can hear and as fast as your brain can process the information.

Tip No. 3: Perform finger exercises every day. Take the time to write the alphabet and your numbers a couple of times. You can easily do this while you are waiting for class to start or before you begin your practice takes. As you write the letter, say the letters A, B, C, and so on in your head. Finger exercises will help enforce in your mind the placement of the keys and help eliminate hesitation. It will also help develop good finger dexterity and control.

Tip No. 4: Know your theory. If you find that your fingers are struggling with adding the D or S or you are faltering on words that start with S-M, go back through your theory books and rewrite those exercises to help reinforce your steno theory in your mind.

Tip No. 5: Read back your notes. Visualizing the steno on the paper or on your computer will help reinforce the correct letters and finger positions in your brain and help you recognize your errors before they become a habit. Circle your mistakes or write them on a piece of paper, and then rewrite them on your steno machine a number of times correctly so your fingers learn the correct placement. This will subsequently help you stroke those words without hesitation the next time you hear them.

Tip No. 6: Check your body and keyboard position. Be sure you are sitting comfortably and with both feet flat on the floor. Place your keyboard in a position where your forearms are about parallel with the floor and your fingers are naturally resting in the home position. If you find that you are experiencing pain in the muscles of your arms, shoulders, or back, it is likely your keyboard is positioned incorrectly, and you need to adjust the height of your machine, your chair, or both. Also, be sure your fingertips are not resting on the keys but are slightly above them. This will help you avoid adding unwanted extra letters.

Tip No. 7: Memorize and practice your briefs. There are mixed feelings about a reporter relying on too many briefs, but incorporating more briefs into my writing is the most important thing I have ever done as a court reporter to increase my speed and accuracy. I used to write the majority of everything out, but as I aged and it felt like more and more attorneys were talking faster and faster, I decided to incorporate two to three briefs on every job. For example, before the beginning of my deposition, I would look at the caption and create briefs for the names of the parties or other technical words that I thought might come up. If the plaintiff’s name was Tom Roberts, I would write that as T*R. Or, if the defendant’s name was Triumph Electronics Corporation, I would write that as T*E (Triumph Electronics) or T*EC for the full name. Before long, as you write, you will find yourself thinking of briefs for words that are difficult or come up frequently.

A strong word of caution, however: Before merging any brief into your job dictionary or main dictionary, please ensure that it does not cause any conflicts! One way to avoid conflicts is to incorporate the asterisk into your briefs whenever possible.

Now that you have created all these clever briefs, the next task is to remember and use them. Write them down on a piece of paper where you can easily see them during practice or on the job. You can also do this for other words or phrases that frequently come up on a practice tape or that you find yourself struggling with.

One other way I have incorporated more briefs into my writing is to listen to practice tapes and to find commonly used phrases or words. I come up with a brief, write it down on a piece of paper, and then listen and rewrite that segment of the tape two to three times to help reinforce that brief in my mind. After I feel comfortable writing those briefs, I then write the entire five-minute take and strive for accuracy.

Another strong word of caution: Writing briefs should be automatic. It is one thing to know you have a brief for a particular phrase, but it is a totally different thing to be able to write it without hesitation. Every day, memorize and practice briefs for common phrases and words until you no longer hesitate when you write them. It’s easier to remember briefs if they follow a similar pattern. For example, the phrases I don’t know, I don’t recall, I don’t remember, etc., should all have the same beginning, with only a slightly different ending. So if you are in a creative mood and want to shorten your writing, be sure to have a consistent pattern to your briefs whenever possible.

Tip No. 8: Have a positive attitude. If you practice regularly but you don’t feel like you are making any progress, don’t get discouraged. Whether you believe it or not, you are making progress — perhaps just a little more slowly than you would like. Above all else, don’t dwell on your mistakes or hesitations for days on end; that will bring you down mentally, and then you will fail. You can always come back a week or two down the road to work on any particular challenging issue.

Tip No. 9: Analyze your writing. Keep a list of hesitation words, and practice them daily. Whenever you hesitate over a word that comes up in the dictation, jot it down on a piece of paper and practice it a few times for the next few days. Once you find that you are stroking that particular word without hesitation, then move on to the next word. Repeat that exercise a few times, and your mind will automatically know how to write it. Keep those lists and review them every few months to make sure you haven’t forgotten how to stroke them effortlessly.

Tip No. 10: Make accuracy your first and most important goal. Establish a daily or weekly goal, such as “I will write 150 words per minute for five minutes with 10 or fewer errors.” By practicing your dictation in realtime, you will be able to monitor your error rate on each take. While on a deposition, I routinely challenge myself to see how low I can get my untranslate rate. Once you have your accuracy down, speed will naturally come to you.

The above is not an all-encompassing list, but incorporating most of these tips into your practices will give you a good start on improving your writing style and boosting your speed and accuracy. If you are having difficulty fitting in much practice time, just remember that it’s the quality, not the length, of your practice that really counts, so make it as productive as possible!

The last tip I will leave you with to help you overcome those speed plateaus is to simply relax and take it one step at a time so you do not feel too overwhelmed. Focus on the positive little steps that you make rather than worrying about the next speed test that might be coming up. People who focus on the positive will be able to challenge themselves to do their best and succeed at each stage of their career.

 

Jackie Young, RPR, is a freelancer in Delano, Minn. She can be reached at rite2jackie@yahoo.com.