DMACC students help pack meals for hurricane victims

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyCourt reporting students from the Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa joined students from the school’s nursing program and hundreds of other volunteers to help package 20,000 meals to help fight hunger, according to an article posted by the Newton Daily News on Nov. 14. The meals will be going to the disaster relief effort in Puerto Rico.

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DMACC court reporting student receives scholarship

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe Newton Daily News posted an article on Aug. 15 announcing that Maggie DeRocher, RPR, of LeMars, Iowa, received a $1,000 scholarship from the National Court Reporting Association Council on Approved Student Education. DeRocher is a graduate of the Des Moines Area Community College Newton Campus court reporting program.

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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.

Court reporting students host Veterans History Project

The Newton Daily Njcr-publications_high-resews posted an article on Nov. 11 about a Veterans History Project event held at the Des Moines Area (Iowa) Community College that was hosted by students from its court reporting program. Members from the Iowa Court Reporters Association interviewed 12 veterans during the event in honor of Veterans Day.

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Discovering a career in realtime reporting

JCR publications share buttonRealtime reporting is the subject of an article posted Oct. 25 by the Newton Daily News, Newton, Iowa. The article notes that while realtime reporting is a relatively unknown profession, it is considered to be one of the top careers in the country. The article was generated by the Des Moines Area Community College Court Reporting Program.

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DMACC court reporting students get first-hand tour of state Supreme Court

Students and staff from DMACC pose in front of the Iowa Supreme Court.On April 6, more than two dozen students from the court reporting program at the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) had the opportunity to tour the Iowa Judicial Building and Iowa Supreme Court.

The tour was arranged by DMACC adjunct professor of CART, Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, to provide students with the opportunity to become familiar with the state’s judicial system, experience a live courtroom event, and learn from Iowa’s leading jurists. Penniston, who also is a CART provider, had previously worked with one of the judges. Also accompanying the students were Dr. Patti Ziegler, CRI, CPE, the program’s chair, and instructor Deb DeBuc.

During their visit, the students had the opportunity to meet with the Hon. Michael Mullins and the Hon. David Wiggins in the Court of Appeals. The meeting was followed by observing an hour of oral arguments in a live courtroom setting.

DMACC is the only school to offer a realtime court reporting program in Iowa. The program, launched in 2014, was recently certified by NCRA.

According to Ziegler, the students were very appreciative of the tour and expressed a great deal of positive feedback.

Announcing the winners of the JCR Awards

The JCR Awards were created as a way to highlight the innovative and forward-thinking practices of NCRA members and to recognize how court reporters, captioners, and legal videographers are leading the profession.

These individuals and organizations are being recognized as being the best-in-class for the noted categories.

Wendy Evangelista, Claudia Booton, Judy Stevens, Rachel Fox and Chandra Monis.

From left to right: Wendy Evangelista, Claudia Booton (sitting), Judy Stevens, Rachel Fox, and Chandra Monis.

Leadership and team-building

Judy Stevens, RPR, CMRS, CPE

Lakewood, Colo.

Judy Stevens, who owns Stevens-Koenig Reporting, was nominated by several reporters and staff members, who shared stories of her leadership and drive. “I’m one of four reporters who are tag-teaming an unusual trial case. Judy’s help in guiding me through what is outside of my comfort zone is quite reassuring,” wrote Becky Collings, RPR. “I recently passed the Colorado Realtime Certification test, and Judy is getting me ready to start that next journey of my career.” Several of the nominations also spoke about the meetings, often held at her home, where reporters can get together to socialize and ex- change steno briefs. Stevens has also brought in realtime trainers or motivational speakers for her staff and reporters for these gatherings, which have built a strong support network for everyone.

Debbie Weaver receiving the 2015 Spirit of Justice Award

Debbie Weaver receiving the 2015 Spirit of Justice Award

Community outreach

Midwest Litigation Services

St. Louis, Mo.

Debbie Weaver of Midwest Litigation Services has been actively involved in supporting equal access to justice through a number of pro bono organizations in St. Louis. One of the organizations the company supports is Let’s Start, a program dedicated to assisting women and their children in the transition from prison life to society. The company supports this group by volunteering at annual fundraisers and supplying packed lunches for a bus ride to take the children to the local prison to visit their mothers. In addition, the company has participated with the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis in Read Across America, a literacy program; Motion for Kids, a party thrown for children who have parents affected by the criminal justice system; and other events.

White Coat Captioning screen from !!Con  2015.

White Coat Captioning screen from !!Con 2015.

Service in a nonlegal setting

White Coat Captioning

Saint Albans, Vt.

White Coat Captioning has been expanding its business to captioning several technical conferences, including a last-minute conference where the company replaced a group that was providing “nonsensical captions.” “People were very unhappy with the captions,” wrote Mirabai

Knight, RDR, CRR, CRC, who nominated the company (for which she works). Knight said that the company was able to completely turn around the comments. “As soon as we came on board, the entire social media reception to the captioning had completely changed. People started talking about how helpful the captions were and how impressed they were with the quality and accuracy of the captions, even saying that they wanted captioning at all their conferences in the future! It was a total reversal of the previous reception.”

Knight went on to explain that the company has been focused on the conference captioning work because it hopes to change the status quo, where the only way to get captioning was for a person who was deaf or hard of hearing to invoke their ADA rights. “One in seven people has hearing loss,” notes Knight, “so in an audience of 100 people, at least 14 will benefit from captioning.” White Coat Captioning seeks to make captioned conferences the new standard for conferences.

Christine Phipps caught in a relaxed moment during the workday.

Christine Phipps caught in a relaxed moment during the workday.

Individual member

Christine Phipps, RDR

North Palm Beach, Fla.

Categories recognized: Leadership and team-building, marketing and customer service, use of technology, community outreach

Dedicated. Hard-working. Determined. Tech- savvy. These are the words used to describe Christine Phipps by those who nominated her. “Christine Phipps is the type of person who will go out of her way,” wrote Jacqueline Andujar in her nomination. It was what inspired Andujar to go into business with Phipps, back when the company was run out of a bedroom in Phipps’ house. “Christine’s main goal is always to make her clients happy. She takes the time to listen and care.”

“Her passion is so contagious!” wrote Sherry Laurino in her nomination of Phipps. Laurino went on to say that it was Phipps who inspired her own entrepreneurial skills. “No one has more passion and love for court reporting and is committed to the growth and longevity of this industry,” Laurino said.

When she is preparing to meet a new client and show what her company has to offer, Phipps will go above and beyond to make sure the client understands and is satisfied. Even with other reporters, Phipps takes the time to update them with anything new and explains it. In addition, she has taken the time to write several articles on technology for the profession to make sure that everyone is aware of the latest trends and news.

“She is dedicated to teaching while not forgetting where she came from,” wrote Laurino. One of Phipps’ passions has been to help students of the profession and new profession. She led a charge to provide a number of students with memberships to NCRA in 2015 with posts about “Paying it forward” to the next generation, as well as donating several of the memberships herself.

“As her employee now, I have nothing but admiration and respect for her. She has been nothing but supportive, respectful, loyal, open-minded, and just an amazing person to work for,” said Andujar.

Honorable mentions

The Varallo Group

Worcester, Mass.

Categories recognized: Leadership and team-building

During 2015, the Varallo Group offered its employees a fitness program, which gave them the opportunity to establish health goals and meet and work with a personal trainer. The program was a huge success and produced immediate results that were clearly measurable, including weight loss and decreased absenteeism. An added benefit was that the employees grew closer through their shared experiences; for example, several employees ran together in their first-ever 5k race.

Cuyahoga Community College

Cuyahoga, Ohio

Categories recognized: Use of technology

The nomination for Cuyahoga Community College noted its use of technology to enhance students’ academic success, realtime writing achievement, and program satisfaction. From attending an introductory webinar before deciding to sign up for the program to its Blackboard Learning Management System, from using computer-compatible steno machines from the first day of class to accessing drills through Realtime Coach, the court reporting and captioning program uses technology to increase student satisfaction and eventual success.

Paradigm Reporting & Captioning

Minneapolis, Minn.

Categories recognized: Community outreach

Paradigm Reporting & Captioning donates to many local organizations, particularly legal associations and nonprofits that support the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The Paradigm CART Captioning division provides many hours of pro bono services, including, in September, the captioning for the local Walk4Hearing that benefited the Hearing Loss Association of America. In addition, the company assembled 22 walkers to participate as “Team Paradigm.”

Caption First

Monument, Colo.

Categories recognized: Service in a nonlegal setting

Caption First, a company that offers remote and on-site captioning in a secure environment, established a call center that would offer stenographic relay services to people with hearing loss. The company used this as both a way to hire new stenographic professionals to hone their skills and a way to demonstrate stenographic skills to a broad audience. “It was a ‘court reporting continuum’ as it allowed new folks to work and provided relief to those who are winding down and don’t want to produce transcripts,” wrote Lesia Mervin, RMR, CRR, in her nomination. “And it, of course, highlighted realtime skills — always realtime skills.”

Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio

Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio

Schools: Leadership and team-building

Kelly Moranz, CRI

Cleveland, Ohio

At the Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio, Kelly Moranz spearheaded a mentoring program among all of the students, as well as with professionals. In addition, Moranz has supported the students in creating a new Captioning & Court Reporting Club. The club organized a Write-A-Thon (where all students had sponsors donate money as they wrote for five hours) and a bake sale. As Kristina Carmody wrote in her nomination, Moranz “generously donated and contributed time, money, and service to our fundraiser and even stayed the entire time and helped sell the baked goods while we wrote.”

Moranz is also in charge of recruiting new students for the program. Among the places that the school presents is a program called Women in Transition, which addresses women changing occupations or getting second careers later in life.

Dr. Mary Entz, Provost, DMACC-Newton holds a press conference to announce new court reporting program

Dr. Mary Entz, Provost, DMACC-Newton holds a press conference to announce new court reporting program

Special collaboration

DMACC and the Iowa Court Reporters Association

When Iowa court reporters received the news that AIB College of Business, which had been in place since the 1930s, would phase out the court reporting and captioning programs, the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA) immediately went to work. The ICRA Board of Directors engaged Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, to investigate the matter, compile a report on successful court reporting schools throughout the country, and suggest a school in Iowa that could teach court reporting.

Penniston recommended contacting Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), a well-established Iowa community college, to determine if it could create a court reporting program. When Stephanie Early, RDR, ICRA’s president at the time, and Bill Wimmer, its legislative representative, approached the school’s officials, they assured the school that ICRA was fully committed to assisting with the implementation of a court reporting program at DMACC.

DMACC's 2015 incoming theory students

DMACC’s 2015 incoming theory students

The DMACC school was interested in the concept and contacted other community colleges that offered court reporting programs. They also gathered more information about the curriculum and endorsements that would be needed to put such a program in place. In February 2014, the DMACC Board of Directors and the Iowa Department of Education approved the court reporting program. Then, in March, the DMACC Newton campus hosted a press conference to make the announcement about the new program: “DMACC has been working with the Iowa Court Reporters Association for more than a year to develop the curriculum, hire the faculty, and work out other details related to starting a new program.”

In 2014, Dr. Patricia Ziegler, CRI, CPE, was hired as a professor and program chair for DMACC’s new court reporting program, and in September of that year, eight students began classes at the Newton campus.

Through 2014-15, Iowa court reporters and AIB’s former vice president of admissions actively promoted the new program. More than 300 visits were made to Iowa high schools, career fairs, libraries, mock trials, and the Iowa State Fair. Through the Adopt-a- County project, Iowa court reporters marketed the profession and this new program in 26 of 99 Iowa counties. In addition, ICRA sponsored a student scholarship, and individual ICRA members mentored individual students. And in September 2015, a new class of 27 students enrolled.

The program is a success story stemming from the commitment and dedication of many, from the Iowa Court Reporters Association to the new DMACC court reporting program staff. As Penniston wrote in her nomination, “Because of the efforts of the Iowa Court Reporters Association and the hard work of everyone involved, court reporting education is alive and well in Iowa!”

Next JCR Awards

DMACC court reporting program nominated for several awards

The Newton Daily News reported on March 3 that the Realtime Court Reporting Program at Des Moines Area Community College Newton Campus, Newton, Iowa, has been nominated for several awards by the Journal of Court Reporting. “We are honored to be recognized by our peers at the NCRA. This award demonstrates the vision and collaboration of DMACC administration and the Iowa Court Reporters Association to keep court reporting education alive in Iowa,” said Dr. Patti Ziegler, the chair of the court reporting program at DMACC.

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DMACC to hold two information sessions about court reporting

The Newton Daily News reported on Feb. 5 that the Des Moines Area Community College Newton campus is hosting two information sessions for those interested in learning more about the in-demand career of court reporting. DMACC Newton campus offers Iowa’s only court reporting program. The sessions are being held during the 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week taking place Feb. 14-20.

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Court reporting program and profession featured on local TV station

On Dec. 23, 2015, station KCWI 23 aired a feature story about the court reporting and captioning professions and showcased the program offered at Des Moines Area Community College. Interviewed in the piece were Patricia Ziegler, chair of DMACC’s court reporting department; NCRA member Tanya Gerke, RMR, CRR, an official court reporter from State Center, Iowa; and Rachel Ellefson, a court reporting student at DMACC. Ellefson is the daughter of NCRA member Brenda Ellefson, RMR, an official court reporter from Marshalltown, Iowa.

Watch the clip.