Kathy Craghead was salty.

She was brash.

She was brutally honest.

And she was one of the best teachers and role models I’ve ever known.

I visited her one time in Mexico. Mexico, Missouri. She taught there for who knows how long. It was pretty clear she owned that school. She commanded respect from students, teachers and administrators.

But it was when I worked with her at various conventions or summer workshops that I saw her really shine.

One of my first workshops as an instructor was the Ball State University Summer Workshops. Mid-80s. Something like that. I had the honor and pleasure of teaching with people like Susan Massy. Rik McNeil. Sherri Taylor. Joe Glowacki. Mark Shoup. Nancy Hastings. Marilyn Weaver. Just an amazing group of people who taught thousands of students over weeks living in dorms and sneaking out to get BBQ for dinner.

I also taught with Kathy at the Carolina Journalism Institute at the University of South Carolina back when there were 600 or more people attending.

It was there that I learned that Kathy would hold her own. She didn’t put up with anything. If she didn’t want to do, she didn’t. Kathy doesn’t want to play sand volleyball. Kathy isn’t gonna play sand volleyball. Don’t want to walk halfway across campus for dinner. What’s the alternative?

But it was also where I learned that Kathy was an amazing teacher. If her students didn’t learn it the first time, there were five other ways she could teach something at the drop of a hat.

It was also where I learned Kathy didn’t like to have her picture taken. And so began a battle that lasted, well, about 30 years to get photos of her.

Ann Visser and Kathy Craghead

2003 Yearbook Adviser of the Year Kathy Craghead, adviser at Mexico High School, accepts her award at the JEA/NSPA Adviser’s Recognition Luncheon Saturday afternoon.

I would have had a good write-up about her when she was Yearbook Adviser of the year in 2003, but that was the year the Board did away with NewsWire, JEA’s way to get news out to members. There were no online articles about the Yearbook Adviser of the Year until 2004. But I still had a photo of then-JEA President Ann Visser presenting the award.

That year, we all wore campaign-style buttons with Kathy’s photo on them. And when she came into the room, we bowed.

In that spring’s director’s report, then JEA President H.L. Hall, the first Yearbook Adviser of the Year, said, “In December, Linda Puntney and I traveled to Mexico, Missouri, to name Kathy Craghead, adviser at Mexico, as the new Teacher of the Year. We presented a plaque to Kathy in a special assembly at her school. Thanks to Kathy’s principal it was a special day for everyone involved.”

So was our special recognition of Kathy anytime we saw her in public.

One time when the national convention was in Kansas City, a group of us walked in to Jack Stack BBQ and screamed “Oh my God, it’s Kathy Craghead, the Yearbook Adviser of the Year.” It probably scared the crap out of the people in the restaurant. Kathy. She just said, “stop it.”

We didn’t stop.

We saw Kathy in the airport. Maybe not so loud — didn’t want to attract security — “Oh my God, it’s Kathy Craghead, the Yearbook Adviser of the Year.”

She won that award in 2003 and as recently as last year, we let everyone know about it.

Kathy was always willing to pass along her knowledge.

She helped out with no fewer than four issues of JEA’s magazine offering tips for interviewing or looking into her crystal ball to discuss the figure of critiques. In 2009, she wrote…

Kathy Craghead, MJE

“Critiques will become more interactive. Perhaps the staff will offer judges a video which gives an overview of the book, its production issues and an explanation of how the book’s content was chosen and organized.”

“Sometimes we forget that not all yearbook staffs are created equal. As a critiquer, I like to be made aware of the circumstances of publication: Is the book done solely as an extracurricular activity sponsored by a volunteer teacher or as the result of a multi-class curriculum taught by an accredited journalism teacher?

“Too many publications advisers live and die based on awards. These advisers generally seem to be the ones who refer to the publication as ‘my’ yearbook or newspaper. To these folks I just want to share an old Missouri expression: ‘chicken one day, feathers the next…’”

Chicken one day, feathers the next. That was Kathy.

And in 2003, she offered a list of 10 commonsense interviewing tips.

    1. Always begin by introducing yourself. Never assume an instructor or member of the community remembers your name.
    2. Always follow this question by confirming the spelling of the interviewee’s name, his/her position and job title. The source will likely applaud your effort to make the story more accurate.
    3. Always have questions prepared so the interview has a framework, but never stick so closely to the list that you cannot follow the story if it takes a sharp turn. In your quest, be flexible enough to chase the good story.
    4. Never use a tape recorder without permission. Asking is a courtesy. Take notes also; be prepared for technical failure.
    5. Always maintain as much eye contact as possible. Even while taking notes, give positive feedback when appropriate.
    6. Make note of body language, pauses, facial expressions and gestures. These may become critical in writing the narrative.
    7. Always confirm statistics, figures, money amounts, dates and times. Feel free to ask the interviewee to slow down, repeat or explain what you do not understand.
    8. Never hesitate to “read back” a statement. If you recognize the statement as a potential direct quote, you want it to be complete and correct.
    9. Never burn any bridges. You never know when you will have to go back for more information for this story or for another story.
    10. Always say thanks. Even if the interview was more frustrating than helpful, the person did give you time.

Words of wisdom that are just as valuable today as they were 13 years ago. Well, except maybe that part about the tape recorder. Kathy was never one to jump on technology. Technology might jump on her. But take notes. Good advice. Technical failure. Gonna happen.

I don’t know what else to say about Kathy. She was a good friend. A good mentor. An asset to the scholastic media community.

And we will all miss her.

But I’ll still be wearing my YAOY button at the convention this fall in her honor.

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LIST of JEA Yearbook Advisers of the Year

2003 — Kathy Craghead

Revisit Kathy’s words of wisdom.

  • Craghead’s Supplement. Kathy Craghead, publications adviser at Mexico High School (Mo.), describes herself as an avid reader. She shares insights from critics about four popular books that have caught her attention. Communication: Journalism Education Today, fall 2006
  • An Integral Part of the Book. Kathy, along with other JEA Yearbook Advisers of the Year discuss the yearbook theme. Communication: Journalism Education Today, spring 2005
  • Kathy gives Top 10 Commonsense Interviewing Tips. Communication: Journalism Education Today, fall 2003
  • Kathy and other notable advisers discuss The Future of Critiques. Communication: Journalism Education Today, fall 2009.
  • Looking Back: Anniversary Books Offer Unique Opportunities for Coverage and a Chance to Make History. Kathy is one of numerous yearbook experts who discuss how best to do an anniversary book. Communication: Journalism Education Today, spring 2000