It takes drive to commit to court reporting school

: Kaitlyn Spurgeon, left, and Rachel Otto, right, share a goal and a commute

Kaitlyn Spurgeon, left, and Rachel Otto, right, share a goal and a commute

Court reporting students are much like the professionals in the business they are destined to enter: determined, hardworking, dedicated, and devoted. As with any profession, it can often be a long hard ride to the big time. But in the case of Kaitlyn Spurgeon and Rachel Otto, students at MacCormac College of Court Reporting in Chicago, Ill., the ride each day maybe long, but the support they have for each other in conquering school isn’t very hard to come by.

Spurgeon, a resident of Antioch, Ill., and Otto, a resident of Genoa City, Wis., live about 15 miles apart, and each school day they spend up to two hours a day together commuting each way to MacCormac. Up-to-Speed reached out to them to find out what keeps them motivated and on course in regards to their studies, and why they make the long trek they do several days a week.

Do you find you motivate each other during your commute?

KS — We definitely do motivate each other during the commute. After a long day of work, we do get tired and the drive is difficult, but we try to keep a conversation going to keep us awake and if all else fails, I have my iPod with more than a thousand songs to keep us entertained. We also have a game to try to find license plates from all 50 states.

RO — Kaitlyn and I definitely motivate each other throughout the commute. We will talk about our class and the difficulties we are having, and we also distract each other by playing games.

Some people might think that choosing an online program would be better than committing to a four-hour daily commute to attend brick-and-mortar classes. What would you say to that thinking?

KS — Well, I’ve come to understand that court reporting isn’t an easy skill to learn right away, and I was told by current court reporters that having an actual in-person class would be better for this skill than trying to learn it on my own through an online class.

RO — I like the idea of an online class just because I live on a farm and I am very busy here, but I also really love the school, and I learn best by being there physically and actually being able to see the teacher and ask questions. I think it is a better option for me at the moment.

What time do you leave for school each day and what time do you start your trip home?

KS — We leave for school after work at around 3  p.m. and arrive at school between 5 and 5:30 p.m. We leave school around 8 p.m. and get home between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m., as the traffic home can get pretty bad.

What is the most frustrating factor, besides the length, of your commute?

KS — I think one big downside of the commute isn’t the frustrating part; it’s the downright scary parts. You hear a lot about really bad car accidents, drunk drivers, and now there’s even people shooting each other on the highway. We go pretty fast on the highway along with everyone else, and we’ve both seen how careless a lot of people are when they drive.

How do you make up practice time given that you are on the road so long each day?

KS — I squeeze practice time between my two jobs and school whenever I can. There’s not much room for relaxation time in my world right now, but I’m totally okay with that. I love keeping busy, so whenever I have a chance to sit down, I have a steno machine in front of me.

RO — Practice time is at night. I stay up pretty late, until around 1 a.m., just to get practice in and then go to work at 6 a.m. Practice is very important, and we need time for it. Sleep is for later.

Do your classmates support your dedication to your program?

KS — To be totally honest, almost all of our other classmates have already given up on court reporting and stopped showing up. So Rachael is my only classmate. But yes, she is very supportive, and so is my teacher.

RO — My classroom is just three people including Kaitlyn. They support it and think it is crazy that we drive all the way over there for school.

How far along are you in your court reporting education?

KS — We are just about to wrap up our first semester, and I personally love it. Time really does fly when you’re having fun, and shorthand has been such a blast to learn and use so far.

RO — I am in the first class: Machine Shorthand Theory 1. I am just starting school for court reporting.

What area of the profession do you hope to enter upon graduation: official, freelancer, or CART or broadcast captioner?

KS — Honestly, I’m hoping to dabble in anything I can. I definitely want to be in a courtroom and a lawyer’s office for a while, but I would also love to be a captioner. I think I’ll switch it up every few years.

RO — I am thinking of becoming an official.

What attracted you to a career in court reporting?

KS — Rachael’s aunt has been a court reporter for more than 20 years, and she let us come to her office to see what she does. She pulled out the machine and started typing everything Rachael was saying, and as I watched, I fell in love. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and right then and there I knew I wanted to learn that skill. Just like some people see someone play and guitar and think, “I want to be like that;” that was me.

RO — My two aunts have been court reporters for more than 28 years, and they absolutely love it. My one aunt kept pushing me to try it out and see if I like it or not. She helped me find a school and went with me to get check out MacCormac.

What would you say to encourage others thinking about entering the field?

KS — It definitely takes a lot of dedication and time, but once you start getting the hang of it, it’s all you think about. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Court reporting is definitely worth it.

RO — I definitely encourage others to practice, practice, practice! Ask any questions you have if you don’t understand anything. Always go to class; missing one thing for learning the keyboard or anything is very bad and will possible set you back.

 

Do you know a student or students who should be in the spotlight? Let us know. Students in the spotlight must currently attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program.

Court reporting schools and state associations across country honor veterans through the Veterans History Project

Many court reporting schools, state associations, firms, and courthouses across the nation celebrate Veterans Day by interviewing veterans about their wartime experiences for the Veterans History Project (VHP). These VHP Days have become annual traditions in Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois, to name just a few places.

Iowa Court Reporters Association & Des Moines Area Community College

For the past eight years, the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA) has partnered with a local court reporting school to host a VHP Day in November. The event was hosted at AIB College of Business until the school closed its court reporting program in 2012. When Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) picked up AIB’s court reporting program, it also happily picked up the partnership with ICRA. Between the partnerships with AIB and DMACC, ICRA has interviewed almost 200 veterans.

On Nov. 4, DMACC and ICRA hosted their third shared VHP Day and interviewed 12 veterans who had served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The event involves more than simply interviewing veterans. This year, the local color guard posted the colors, Renee Davenport sang the national anthem, and Col. Greg Hapgood from Camp Dodge in Johnson, Iowa, handed out framed certificates to the veterans following a catered luncheon.

The event provides an opportunity to recognize veterans for their service, even when the veterans do not believe there is anything noteworthy about their service.

The committee who organized the VHP Day in Illinois. From left, front row: Teresa Kordick, Julie Van Cleve, Patti Ziegler. Back row: Kelli Mulcahy, Pam Burkle, Carrie Nauman, and Amanda Kieler. (Not pictured: Dixie Rash and Kelly Pieper)

The committee who organized the VHP Day in Illinois. From left, front row: Teresa Kordick, Julie Van Cleve, Patti Ziegler. Back row: Kelli Mulcahy, Pam Burkle, Carrie Nauman, and Amanda Kieler (Not pictured: Dixie Rash and Kelly Pieper)

“The common theme I have noted among all stories is that they don’t feel that their service was of any particular importance,” said Pamela Burkle, RPR, an official from Urbandale, Iowa, one of the organizers of the annual event. “But when you put them all together, they are important. One part cannot work without the other. One veteran said he made bread, and that was his job, and he didn’t feel it was very important. However, I think if you asked any of the veterans in his platoon, they would say their bread/food was an integral part of their survival.”

Since the event is hosted at DMACC, court reporting students are invited to participate as student guides and room monitors. In addition to hearing the veterans’ stories, which have a profound impact on everyone in the room, the students get the opportunity to speak with the seasoned court reporters who are transcribing the interviews.

“I was speaking with the student in my room and explaining how I was adding to my job dictionary based on the conversation the interviewer and the veteran were having prior to the interview starting,” said Burkle. “She had no idea how that worked, and she told me that she thought I was having computer problems because I kept going back to my laptop.”

There is a sense of urgency to interviewing veterans before it’s too late. “Last year, shortly after the histories were taken, a couple of the veterans passed away before the transcripts were even completed,” said Burkle. Fortunately, their stories will live on in the Library of Congress.

Anoka Technical College & Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners

The Judicial Reporting Program at Anoka Technical College in Minnesota has hosted an annual VHP Day the Saturday before Veterans Day since 2008, interviewing approximately 50 veterans to date. Working closely with the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners, the college recruits students to interview the veterans and Minnesotan reporters to write and transcribe the interviews.

The annual event used to be hosted on the college campus, but Anoka Tech has recently taken the event off-site.

“The past couple of years we have taken our team to an assisted living home so we can interview World War II and Korean War veterans who are not as mobile anymore,” said Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, an NCRA Director and instructor at Anoka Tech. “Most recently, on Nov. 5, Minnesota reporters and students … joined together to help preserve history for 12 wartime veterans at Chandler Place Assisted Living in St. Anthony.” Nine of these veterans served in World War II and three served in the Korean War.

“We make our VHP event more than just interviews,” Sati continues. “We have food, music (an accordion player), decorations, and we invite veterans to return back the following years to enjoy the day and continue building friendships.”

John Pletscher, accompanied by his daughter Chris, is interviewed by Tom Piltoff while Debbie Peterson transcribes

John Pletscher, accompanied by his daughter Chris, is interviewed by Tom Piltoff while Debbie Peterson transcribes.

Tom Piltoff, a court reporting student, served as an interviewer at this year’s event. “It was an extremely humbling experience to be in the presence of such great men and an honor to have been able to hear even a small chapter or two of their stories,” he said.

The participants will remember these stories for years to come. One memorable veteran is Larry Tillemans.

“He lived in a small town outside of the Twin Cities,” said Sati. “One of the students who worked as a waitress in a small café he frequented mentioned that her school hosts VHP Days. He was interested! As it turns out, Mr. Tillemans was a typist with the Third Army in Munich, Germany (1945-1946). He was assigned by the Army to type transcripts at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials and the Dachau Tribunal. Throughout the 218 days Mr. Tillemans spent in Germany, he witnessed over 350 Nazis and victims of the Holocaust give their testimony. Mr. Tillemans personally typed over 200,000 affidavits. He shares his experience with as many people as he could. He is adamant people hear actual accounts from people who were present when history was being made.”

Lake County, Ill., Veterans History Project

The Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Ill., has hosted its annual VHP Day for the past five years on Veterans Day.

“Our VHP event would never have happened if it hadn’t been for my colleague, Vernita Allen-Williams (our current ILCRA president),” said Deborah Cohen-Rojas, RPR, an official from Lake County, Ill., one of the event’s organizers. Allen-Williams, RMR, an official from Waukegan, Ill., is the current president for the Illinois Court Reporters Association. “[She] had read about the project and mentioned it to our then-chief judge, Fred Foreman, and, upon his retirement, support for the project was continued by our next chief judge, John Phillips, who is also a veteran,” Cohen-Rojas continued. “Both Judge Foreman and Judge Phillips are retired now, but they remain strong supporters of the project, and they both volunteered at this year’s event.” According to Cohen-Rojas, Allen-Williams and Colleen Eitermann, an official, from Deerfield, Ill., coordinated the first event and began “what has become a proud tradition at our courthouse.”

This event has grown exponentially over the past five years, from nine veterans the first year to a record 35 veterans this year, bringing their five-year total up to 134 veterans interviewed.

“The first year we did the VHP,” says Cohen-Rojas, “we put out pastries and fruit and coffee, and we had the opening ceremony in one of our courtrooms. Then, as more people participated each year, more people wanted to be involved and more ideas started to surface. The Young Marines, in addition to helping serve the veterans and their families breakfast, also help out as escorts for disabled veterans. Last year we had challenge coins made for the veterans with all of the branches of the military represented on them. We started sending the veterans packages after the interviews with copies of their interview transcripts, framed certificates, thank-you letters, and photos from the event. Representatives from organizations like the Honor Flight and the Daughters of the American Revolution got involved, as well. It has really been an honor to watch this event grow and evolve. My favorite part is hearing afterward from volunteers that the experience has changed them and that they want to volunteer again not just for the next year, but for every year after that!”

The entire community backs the annual event. The Lake County Bar Association supplies interviewers and escorts for the veterans, and contributes financially to support the event.

“State’s attorneys, public defenders, and private practitioners participate, as well as several retired judges,” adds Cohen-Rojas. “The Marines volunteer time and food for the fantastic breakfast served to the veterans and their families. The staff at the 19th Circuit café volunteer their time in helping to serve breakfast, as well.”

Of course, the event wouldn’t be complete without the court reporters.

“The court reporters are really superstars. Several of the 19th Circuit’s reporters participate, and we have freelancers and other officials who come from all over the state as well as several from other states,” said Cohen-Rojas. “I talked to at least three reporters this year who had come from so far away that they got hotel rooms and traveled in the day before the event. These reporters happily sacrifice their time off and, in the case of freelancers, personal expense to be a part of this event. I really can’t say enough about them.”

For more information on how you can interview a veteran in your community, or host your own VHP Day, visit NCRA.org/NCRF or contact NCRF’s Foundation Manager, April Weiner, aweiner@ncra.org.

South Suburban College announces open house to showcase profession

jcr-publications_high-resThe Chicago Weekly Citizen posted an announcement on Nov. 11 about a court reporting open house being hosted by South Suburban College on Dec. 1.

Read more.

Local court reporters coordinate Veterans History Project

jcr-publications_high-resThe Lake County News-Sun, Lake County, Ill., posted an article on Nov. 11 about the Veterans History Project event held in honor of Veterans Day. The event was coordinated by local court reporters Deborah Cohen-Rojas, RPR, and Colleen Eitermann.

Read more.

Upcoming court reporting open house at South Suburban College

JCR publications share buttoneNewsParkForest.com reported on June 30 that South Suburban College, Oak Forest, Ill., is hosting a court reporting open house on July 21 from 7–8:30 p.m. The open house will showcase the court reporting and captioning professions, which offer a wide-open job market and excellent income potential.

Read more.

Magna Legal Services acquires Lake Shore Reporting

JCR publications share buttonMagna Legal Services announced in a press release issued June 17 that it has acquired Chicago-based Lake Shore Reporting. The acquisition, coupled with the 2015 acquisition of Creative Counsel, also in Chicago, is expected to allow clients access to a larger variety of services.

Read more.

MacCormac College to host “A Toast to Court Reporting”

Students practicing steno

Photo by Crystal Wiley-Brown Photography

Senior leadership, students, and faculty from the court reporting program at MacCormac College, Chicago, Ill., are hosting an open reunion/reception for alumni and professionals attending the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, taking place Aug. 4-7 at the Hilton Chicago.

This evening of celebration and appreciation will take place Fri., Aug. 5 from 6-8 p.m. at the college’s campus located in the heart of historic downtown Chicago at 29 E. Madison St. – minutes from the convention site. Students from the college’s court reporting program will be on hand to help lead walking tour groups to the school from the Hilton Chicago for the reception.

MacCormac College is the premier two-year, private, non-profit institution in the State of Illinois, approved by the National Court Reporters Association and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Founded in 1904, MacCormac is home to the oldest court reporting school in the nation.

In addition to its associate degree program in court reporting, MacCormac College also offers continuing education programs, such as CART and captioning. The continuing education programs were specifically designed for working reporters who are interested in boosting earning potential, bolstering credentials, and growing their career. The entire program taught by accomplished, widely recognized faculty contains three modules, each held on Saturdays to accommodate a full-time work schedule.

To RSVP and for more information about “A Toast to Court Reporting” reception, contact Jenny Dick at jdick@maccormac.edu, or visit the MacCormac College booth in the convention Expo Hall.

For more information or questions about MacCormac’s continuing education program, contact Peg Dorchack at mskalski@maccormac.edu.

Promotions and pay raises for court reporters draws scrutiny

JCRiconAccording to an article posted by the Journal Star [Peoria, Ill.] on May 19, Judge Steve Kouri, chief judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit Court in Illinois, rescinded promotions of two court-reporting employees who recently had received five-figure raises after scrutiny from peers on the bench.

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Personnel cuts would not allow courts to work

Walter Braud of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County [Illinois], addressed officials about a proposed budget that would entail a possible 116 layoffs, according to a May 12 article in the Quad-City Times [Iowa]. Calling the situation a near tragedy, Braud later told reporters: “I’m required by law to have a good and proper courthouse. In each courtroom, there has to be a court reporter to record the proceedings, a clerk to maintain the court records, and there have to be armed deputies.”

Read more.

2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week gains traction in media coverage

Court Reporting & Captioning Week has put a number of NCRA members in the media spotlight, sharing information with viewers and readers about the vast number of opportunities available in the field.

Kicking off the week, Christine Phipps, RPR, owner of Phipps Reporting in West Palm Beach, Fla., was featured in a story aired by CBS affiliate channel 12, while NCRA Past President Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRR, owner of The Varallo Group in Worcester, Mass., joined NCRA member Kathy Silva, RPR, CRR, a freelancer from Andover, Mass., in a story that aired on Mass Appeal.

Appearing in print on behalf of NCRA and the court reporting and captioning professions were NCRA members Donna Cascio, RDR, CMRS, an official court reporter from Somerset, Pa., who was interviewed by the Somerset Daily American, and Melanie Oldham, an official court reporter from Athens, Texas, who was interviewed by the Athens Daily Review. Additional coverage is expected to be generated throughout the week.

NCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR, an official court reporter from Pittsfield, N.Y., joined Tonya Kaiser, RPR, CMRS, a freelance reporter from Fort Wayne and president of the Indiana Court Reporters Association; Susan Gee, RMR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Cincinnati and president-elect of the Ohio Court Reporters Association; and Kathy McHugh, RPR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Philadelphia and president of the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association in a panel discussion at the College of Court Reporting, in Hobart, Ind., on Feb. 15. The discussion, which took place online via the college’s Blackboard Collaborate, was hosted by CCR President Jeff Moody. More than 30 participants joined the discussion to hear what the panelists had to say about the greatest challenges they faced in court reporting school and how they overcame them, as well as how they were motivated to become leaders within their associations, the benefits of membership at the state and local levels, and the importance of certification. The hour-long session was recorded and can be heard here.

On Feb. 17, Zinone will visit Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, where he will address students and faculty at the court reporting program. He is scheduled to deliver a keynote address at 2:30 p.m. ET which can be accessed via the college’s Smart TV channel online.

Official proclamations recognizing 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week from state and local lawmakers continue to be reported. To date, the following states have reported official proclamations: California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. Local proclamations have also been issued in Miami-Date County, Fla.; Johnson County, Kan.; Louisville, Ky.; Eugene, Ore.; and San Antonio, Texas.

Below are some of the latest activities happening during the week around the nation:

  • The New York State Court Reporters Association will host a variety of events during the week including meet and greets throughout the state.
  • Members of the Texas Court Reporters Association are will host a number of Veterans History Project events throughout the state.
  • The Hawaii Court Reporters and Captioners Association has encouraged members to display the official 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week logo on their social media sites, hang posters at courthouses showcasing the event, and reach out to state and local lawmakers to remind them of the week.
  • Members of the Oregon Court Reporters Association will participate in a number of meetings with lawmakers and advocacy groups to bring awareness to the court reporting and captioning professions.

For a complete list of activities happening to mark the 2016 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, visit NCRA.org/Awareness. For more information, visit NCRA.org. Career information about the court reporting profession — one of the leading career options that do not require a traditional four-year degree — can be found at crTakeNote.com.