Journalism adviser wins top state award

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Brian Wilson, a journalism advisor at Palo Alto High School, speaks before family, students, and colleagues after receiving an award for Advising Excellence from the California Journalism and Media Affiliates. “I don’t love surprises, usually,” Wilson said. “I like to know what’s coming, but this was a great surprise. And I had that opportunity to have some of my students there and my family there and my colleagues there and the administration there to celebrate that.” (Photo: Asa Deggeller)

Recognizing his work as a leader in scholastic journalism, a state organization honored Palo Alto High School journalism teacher Brian Wilson as the California journalism educator of the year during a surprise announcement this morning in the school’s Media Arts Center.

During a routine faculty meeting this morning, Wilson was surprised by his family members from all across the country, as well as students from his publications, which include the sports magazine The Viking, the culture-focused C Magazine, and the school’s yearbook, Madrono.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Wilson told the Voice after the event. “Being a teacher sometimes is very challenging and exhausting, and when you feel like there’s some version of appreciation for that it just really makes you feel good.”

The award — officially the Nick Ferentinos Award for Advising Excellence — comes from the California Journalism and Media Affiliates, an association of the state’s high school and college media educators.

Wilson, who joined the Paly faculty in 2015, said his goal as an adviser has always been to equip students with the skills to succeed independently.

“It [the award] is actually an amazing testament to Paly scholastic journalism and to the work that students do,” Wilson said. “Giving students the tools that they need to be able to pursue stories and then just getting out of the way and letting them pursue the stories is, to me, what makes a good adviser.”

Students, colleagues, and family honor Brian Wilson, a journalism adviser at Palo Alto High School after he won an award in Advisor Excellence yesterday. According to fellow journalism adviser Rodney Satterthwaite, Wilson has taught him a lot. “Working with him on the beginning journalism class here, it just helped me learn a lot about like student engagement and how to make lessons more assertive physically as well as mentally,” Satterthwaite said. (Photo: Asa Deggeller)

Sarah Nichols, president of the Journalism Education Association, nominated Wilson for the award.

“He’s a lifelong learner committed to excellence in his own teaching and leads by example,” Nichols stated in her nominating letter. “His students are empowered to think outside the box and produce outstanding work.”
According to Nichols, Wilson has served as a speaker, instructor, and judge at many regional, state, and national events, passing his knowledge on to a wide audience.

“He’s truly an adviser, excellent at asking questions, listening, nudging and nurturing,” Nichols said. “He treats each person individually and helps students and teachers grow and succeed at their pace.”

Fellow journalism adviser Rodney Satterthwaite, a journalism advisor at Paly, said Wilson has not only taught him how to better engage students in a class, but how to be a better person.

“Every time I walk by his room, I kind of get inspired by his enthusiasm and the way that he runs his classes,” Satterthwaite said. “I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of just like being a good human being and how to give other people grace, and he’s a good role model for me. … I feel super fortunate that I just get to walk downstairs and ask him questions and talk to him about how to teach journalism.”

The CJ&MA comprise leaders of California campus media associations. Previous educators of the year nominate current contenders for awards at the university, community college and high school level. The awards are funded by the California Press Foundation.