We first heard about the students of Eastside Technical last year when we first started working with the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
It seems that Eastside students under the leadership of Michelle Rauch consistently enter and win one of the Student Production Awards. This year, SVN had the honor of sharing a table with Michelle and her students and we immediately decided we had to do a profile. So here goes.
Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
I started teaching in the Fall of 2011 after spending nearly 20 years in broadcast journalism. I started my career as a one man band in the Ardmore, OK-Sherman, TX market. Next stop was Ft. Smith, AR where I was the morning anchor/co-producer and reporter. I started working at the ABC affiliate in Lexington, KY in 1998 and spent twelve years there. During my time at WTVQ I was weekend anchor, noon anchor, specialized in education reporting, crime/courts, and in-depth special reporting as well as general assignment. I am the daughter of a speech therapist who spent her career teaching in the public schools. In the back of my mind I always thought I may enjoy teaching. The opportunity at Eastside Technical Center literally dropped in my lap and I could not be happier. I am fortunate to be able to teach the skills behind my journalism career.
How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
Our program is funded through our local school district, the Fayette County Public Schools. The state of Kentucky has an outstanding division within the department of education devoted to Career and Technical Education (CTE). I believe the support at the state level has been tremendous to encourage local districts to provide CTE opportunities for students.
Did you have equipment available?
When I arrived at Eastside in 2011 the class was called Radio/TV Broadcasting. The room was equipped with four outdated small MAC computers and 3 newer desktops. There were a half dozen mini DV cameras available for students to checkout that used a firewire chord to download to the computers. I was amazed to be introduced to the Tricaster Studio. I had never seen or hear of one before and quite frankly was amazed to see what I call a “control room in a box” available for high school students to use. During the last three years we have changed the name of the program to multimedia production. I suggested the name change to better reflect the direction I see the program moving in. We now have 20 new MAC desktops, 8 of which have Final Cut Pro X editing software on them. We have 14 Canon Vixia HD camcorders for student’s to check out. We have a spacious room with an entire corner dedicated as a our broadcast stage with a permanent green screen. While schools everywhere have felt the impact of deep budget cuts, I have been amazed at the continued support my school district has given to invest in my program area. I believe they see the need and value of what a multimedia curriculum provides students with and they have been very generous with their support to make sure our students have the tools they need to learn.
How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
The Fayette Technical School system serves students in our county and three surrounding counties (Woodford, Jessamine & Scott). Our students spend half the day with us. We get one group in the morning. They leave for lunch and then a second group arrives after lunch for the PM.
Our classes are primarily geared for juniors and seniors, although some sophomores are admitted.
Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
Last year I had 32 students between the two classes. This year my numbers are down to 24. Classes are about 2 hours, although the afternoon is closer to 2.5 hours.
We begin the year with news literacy, first amendment, and copyright law. I think it is important for students to understand their own consumption habits for news/information before they venture out to become the one providing the information. When it comes to assigning projects I typically take a very general topic, like “hard” news, feature, or PSA and say turn a story. It is up to the students to decide what specifically to develop under the genre assigned. I want my students to be engaged. If I tell them they must do a story on school lunches or school dress code policies a few things will happen. One, not everyone will be interested in that topic and if they aren’t interested the chances of the story not being its best are pretty strong. There are so many ways you can tell some stories and after awhile chances are I would get a lot of stories that look like the one before it. That’s not fun for anyone. I tell my students I give them an assignment and I want to see two dozen very different outcomes. Everyone is an individual and has their own outlook, bring that into your projects.
In addition to my class assignments, I always take advantage of the video challenges KET offers. They give a more specific prompt like “recycling” or “Arts in schools”. Students may create PSAs, news stories, commercials, anything with the theme. These make for great project based learning assignments. Additionally I also take advantage of regional and national student contests for more project based learning assignments. One of my students was a finalist in the The National No Bull Challenge and won a trip to L.A. for the video she created. Another student my first year of teaching made it to the top ten in the country for a PSA he created for an anti tobacco video contest sponsored by the U.S. surgeon general’s office. I love tapping into contests for assignments because in addition to working on the skills in our class and earning a grade, students get an added bonus of potentially winning a contest, getting recognition/ or a prize!
How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
Our students do not get into producing broadcasts until second semester. As the program grows I would like to see second year students hit the ground running and produce shows from the beginning of the year since they will have already covered the foundation skills.
Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
Since our students come from nine different high schools in four counties, stories are not school specific. Our students are finding stories that reach a broader audience and typically are more issue oriented, feature, etc. Most of the home high schools offer a broadcasting club/or elective period that broadcasts the school announcements, events, sports scores, assemblies etc. I am finding this is one of the roadblocks I am facing as far as recruiting students to our school. There is a perception that the home schools “already have broadcasting” so there isn’t a need to send them to Eastside. While the broadcast opportunities at the home high schools are great to get students involved and try it out, our program goes much deeper for the students who want to pursue the study farther and learn about the industry from an insider who spent nearly two decades in it. Our program goes beyond announcements. Again, we are storytellers. I can not stress that enough. Stories are what connects us.
What jobs do the kids do? Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task? Do students audition for on-air positions?
No they do not. I encourage all students to give each position a try; however, many students gravitate to one area. My students who love the behind the scenes studio directing typically have no interest in being in front of the camera and vice versa. That said, anyone who wants a chance to be in front of the camera is given that opportunity.
Do they write the content?
I tell my students from day one in many ways they are enrolled in a writing class. That panic stricken look subsides quickly after I explain writing for broadcast is not like writing a formal paper for English class. We tell stories that appeal to people and connect with them, so we write how we talk, very conversational. We write to video and that can be really fun! It’s really neat to see students who come to the class and say they aren’t writers or don’t know how to write and by the end of the year have found their voice and realize, yes they can write.
So the short answer to this question is Yes! they do write their content. I review all content just as an Executive Producer or News Director would do in a newsroom.
How long does the show run?
Show times vary. Again, as my tenure as the sole teacher of this program is still in its infancy I am learning as I go and developing curriculum. In the future I do see setting a specific time limitation on shows so students will be able to learn the skill of prioritizing stories as they stack their show and deciding what stories may get cut if time does not allow or find extra stories to fill if they are short. Time management will be a valuable skill to incorporate.
Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
Yes! We submit to competitions such as SkillsUSA, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and many others. We just had a student win a free trip to LA for being a top finalist in the "No Bull" PSA competition. Two of our students were honored at the recent Student Production Awards at the regional Emmys.
Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
Our broadcast have been limited to in school, closed circuit TV. I have talked with our district run public access channel about getting student work broadcast on their channel so we may get a large public audience. They seem receptive to it. This year my principal approached me about getting some of our student work broadcast in the neighboring counties public access channels as well so the surrounding counties may become more aware of the opportunities available to their students in our county. I am really excited about these prospects. I believe giving these students a large audience outside the confines of our school building will be a tremendous boost to their confidence to get feedback and recognition from the public.
Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?
I created a YouTube page so we could post the stories the kids have created. While it provides a larger audience outside the school, it’s viewer are dependent on word of mouth.
We also post a lot of our projects on our local PBS channel, KET. They have an outstanding education resource page. Students from across the state may upload videos to their site which is fantastic to showcase our work and see what other students across Kentucky are doing.
Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
The Canon Vixia has been a very user friendly camera especially for beginners.
The Tricaster broadcast computer is simply amazing as it has virtual sets to choose from and is super easy to pack up and take on the road if needed for events or sports coverage.
I never used a MAC computer before I started to teach. I’m a convert. The editing system is very user friendly. I am old school and learned how to edit tape to tape. While I have the skills to know what goes into a well edited piece, non linear was new to me just a few short years ago. I took two free classes at the library after getting this job and then jumped in on the MAC and became very proficient very quickly on the MAC. The students are able to pick up the editing very quickly.