The Dow Jones News Fund has named Ellen Austin of Palo Alto High School "National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year."
As the winner, Austin, who teaches both journalism and AP literature at Paly, will speak before national conferences on journalism education and write a column for the newspaper of the Dow Jones News Fund, which supports journalism education and promotes careers in journalism.
The Dow Jones fund has selected 54 teachers of the year since 1960, including Paly teacher Paul Kandell in 2009.
Austin is entering her sixth year at Paly, where she is among several teachers guiding a 500-plus-student media arts program, which produces an array of publications and broadcasts, including newspaper, magazine, video and Web.
"We've been retooling and re-imagining what our broadcast program can be, and it's come light years in two years," Austin said.
"Two-and-a-half years ago we were still using videotape. Now it's all digital, and we added the long-form piece last year.
In a joint project last year with actor and 1996 Paly graduate James Franco, the Viking and INFocus collaborated to film every single varsity athletic event at Paly, Austin said.
"We got the footage, and Franco's got it. They're pondering an art installation they want to use this footage for," she said.
"It was an exciting and interesting collaboration project across staffs, which is where journalism is going. Instead of small fiefdoms, it's about reaching out to colleagues to do multi-platform projects together."
Austin also highlighted the student journalists' work last year on coverage of 2006 Paly graduate and pro basketball player Jeremy Lin, including an interview following a Knicks game in New York.
Austin was recruited to Paly in 2007 from St. Paul Academy in St. Paul, Minn., where she taught for three years. Prior to that, she taught for five years at Cannon Falls High School in Cannon Falls, Minn., where she helped to start a student newspaper.
She was the 2011 California Journalism Educator of the Year and spent four weeks this past summer as a National Endowment for the Humanities grant recipient studying Chaucer's life and works in London.
Austin chairs the Student Press Law Center's steering committee and served as a Journalism Education Association regional director from 2008 to 2011.
She earned a bachelor's in marketing from the University of Illinois at Champaign and a master's in secondary English from the University of Minnesota.
Paly's media arts program is expected to move next year into a new building now under construction near the Embarcadero Road side of campus.
"This building, which is part of the bond issue, is a once-in-a-career opportunity and gives us the chance to re-imagine what Paly journalism can do in the decades ahead," she said.
"I can't tell you how much the bond has meant to us as a school community, especially when so many other districts are in such pain."
Austin said she plans to strike the theme of "inclusion" in her Nov. 17 acceptance speech at the National High School Journalism convention in San Antonio, Tex.
"Two things that matter a lot to me are student press rights and freedom of expression, and emphasizing the idea of inclusion, from the newsroom to the stories we tell to the audience that we reach," she said.
"It's reaching out to as many constituencies as we can, both in our community and beyond."