Lori Keekley, BAJ’95, a journalism and English teacher at St. Louis Park High School in Minnesota, has been recognized as the Dow Jones News Fund National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year.
“It’s really an honor,” Keekley said in a phone interview. “When I found out, it was one of those moments that was kind of surreal, and it didn’t really hit me until the next day.”
Keekley was chosen by a board of leaders in scholastic journalism from a field of 25 teachers across the country. She will receive her award at the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention (LINK) Nov. 12 in Indianapolis.
“My students were giddy when they found out,” Keekley said. “They even threw me a surprise party. They’re very proud and they’re energetic.”
But for Keekley and her staff, awards are never the focus of their work.
“It’s funny, because I always tell them that we never do anything for awards,” she said. “It’s about taking care of our students and our staff at Park. And if we get any awards from that, then that’s just icing on the cake.”
As part of the award, Keekley will receive a laptop computer for her classroom, a $1,000 scholarship for a graduating senior from her high school, and access to teaching material and webinars from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
“I’m very much excited to take a look at Poynter and see what materials are available,” Keekley said. “I really believe that while my students are learning, I’m still learning too.”
Keekley sees the award as a reflection of not just her own teaching abilities, but the work of St. Louis Park students.
“As a teacher, it’s a credit to all my students,” she said. “We’ve had a longstanding tradition at Park, even before I got here, of a strong journalism program, and it’s an honor to be able to represent past students and current students as well.”
In her time at IU, Keekley was editor of the 1994 Arbutus and copy chief at the Indiana Daily Student for several semesters.
“I loved my time at IU,” she said. “I do believe that my time on student media when I was there jump-started my career. The experience of not only doing journalism, but learning how to do it well, messing up, fixing our mistakes and moving forward in good times and bad was amazing and helps me today.”
In addition to her peers on student media, Keekley thanked the faculty and staff who supported her, including Professor Emeritus Jack Dvorak, who oversaw the journalism teacher preparation program, and David Adams, longtime high school journalism adviser and IU Student Media director before his death in 2007.
“My adviser, David Adams, and counselor Jack Dvorak were both very instrumental in making sure that I made it through,” Keekley said.
She not only made it through, but succeeded in all that she did, according to Dvorak.
“She had a wonderful undergraduate experience, and I’m very proud of her accomplishments as a journalism educator,” said Dvorak, professor emeritus who retired in 2011. “I know what a dedicated and talented teacher and adviser she is now.”
Keekley has contributed to the landscape of scholastic journalism in her own classroom and beyond, with a continuous focus on the importance of the First Amendment.
“Everything we do involves the First Amendment,” she said. “Because the students work to robustly examine real topics, they learn how their voices matter — and how they can impact change.”
Keekley said her dedication to the First Amendment stems from her journalism education.
“My time at IU further enforced the importance of the First Amendment,” she said. “My high school adviser, Dan Diercks (BS’72, MS’Ed’76), instilled this belief, and Dave Adams furthered this. Their work continues on as I teach, and I often hear their words when I work with my students.”