A yearbook is a reputed icon of high school. For decades, they have acted as memorials to every individual’s youth. Despite this, however, little is truly known about how a yearbook is made. Thus, we asked Erin Wright to share her perspective on the yearbook’s development, impact, mission, and future.
How much time would you say a yearbook takes to make?
That's a hard question to answer just because it takes a varied amount of time to come up with the idea itself. We start in the summertime by creating the theme and my editors work individually with me over the summer to build that as well as the design of the cover. Then, it takes every single class period throughout the school year and additional time for the students as well. Typically, we end and finish the yearbook by May.
How does your team go about creating a theme? Is there a particular reference you usually use or is it mostly your own idea?
It is a combination of ideas from the students, inspiration from other yearbooks and teams that have done well, from magazines and advertisements that we see that are eye-catching, and just the overall feel of the year. So, with this particular year, we felt that there's been a lot of shifts and a lot of changes, so it's about being both an individual and part of a group and that was the basis of our thought this year.
How many different roles do your students take?
We have a variety of roles. The students that are in charge are called our editors-in-chief. We have two editors this year: the first is Emma Morgan, and the second is Alexandra Lanning. They are in charge of doing the design and the overall concept work for the yearbook. They also make sure that everyone’s writing sounds good and that everything is really similar in format. There are also what we call ‘staffers’. Our staffers write the copy, do the photography, as well as organize all of the spreads to make them look good. Spreads are what we call the two open pages in a yearbook. For those jobs, everyone has a variety of things that they need to do, including interviewing, researching, finding the time to go out to an event (if necessary) and do on-the-spot interviewing, as well as assembling the final product. [This is essential], because a lot of the yearbook is about the look.
How much control and authority, would you say, do the students have?
They have most of the control. Whenever we create a book, it is basically a projection of their ideas onto paper. I don’t ever come up with the main ideas; I always let them [editors-in-chief] guide and help them [staffers] to create it in the best way possible. Sometimes I’ll provide some examples or suggestions on how to make it look nicer, but it's always the students’ idea.
How long have you been doing yearbook, here and at other schools?
That’s a good question. I actually have only been a yearbook advisor for Bella Vista. This is my third year as an advisor, so my first normal year if you will, and I was also a student of Bella Vista. I did yearbook for three years as a student, and that's where my passion comes from.
What do you enjoy most about building the yearbook?
I love the collaborative spirit of the yearbook. It really only works if my students work together and build it as a team. The environment we create in my classroom is really fun and family-oriented. We have a really close bond that makes everything really fun.
How much of an impact would you say that the yearbook has on both the students in your team and the school as a whole?
I think that the yearbook, for our students in the class, is a really good place for creative expression as well as community building. For the overall school, it provides historical documentation. The yearbook is a tradition that we’ve held year upon year. It encapsulates what we are every single year. It’s kinda awesome because I think it reflects how our school looks, and that’s cool.
What do you think of our school, in that sense? What do you think our school looks like?
Typically our school is perceived as somewhat academic and a little bit serious. Our job as the yearbook is usually to show what makes us have our particular flavor; whatever our particular year of students has that is special about them. In the last couple of years it’s been about how expressive and willing to innovate our students have been.
Do you like that about this school?
I love it about this school. It’s my favorite part about being here. The people at Bella Vista are always willing to push the envelope.I like that Bella Vista students question things. I think that there’s a lot of students that accept what’s normal for face value, and our school likes to make positive changes. This particular group of students on campus is really all in, and they're concerned about their future and their selves, something that I think is worthy of being reflected in the yearbook… I think this year too with the walk-outs that we’ve already had that there’s been a political vibe on campus. The dress code walkout especially we’ve made sure to include in the yearbook because that was such a monumental moment that truly showed the spirit of our class.
Do you have any plans for the yearbook in the future?
Ideally I would like to have another yearbook class that is more built on the interviewing and connection to craft a good interview process. I think the personal connection is something that we’ve lost over the last couple of years and teaching people how to have a conversation takes a little bit more time. I’d love it if we had a Journalism 1 class, because technically my class is called Journalism 2, though I couldn’t tell you why. It’d go alongside Yearbook/Journalism 2 so that I could have a bigger group of students to work with.
In Mrs. Wright’s eyes, the yearbook is more than a record - it is a physical expression of our school community. With her team hard at work developing a new yearbook, we can be assured that it rests in good hands - the hands of the students.