The Minnesota High School Press Association has presented its 2013 Journalism Educator of the Year honor to Jason Wallestad of Benilde-St. Margaret’s School and adviser to the Knight Errant newspaper with its companion website. Wallestad was recognized at the school in St. Louis Park on May 24.
Selection criteria for the award include teaching/advising preparation, experience and ability; relationships with students and others; contributions to the profession; promoting appreciation for journalism and as a career; and support for the First Amendment.Wallestad began teaching English and advising the Knight Errant in 2001. He earned a B.A. from University of Minnesota, Morris, and a M.A. at St. Mary’s University.The Knight Errant has received several state awards for its stories, photos and design. The Knight Errant website has earned four Online Pacemaker awards and serves as an example to the greater scholastic media community of a truly excellent news website.
Wallestad’s students and colleagues nominated him for the award. In their letters of support, they praised his teaching, his ability to inspire students and his positive relationship with the administration. Two former editors wrote letters crediting Wallestad with their pursuit of journalism as a career path. One wrote, “My passion for journalism can be traced back to my high school journalism days … and more specifically to my high school journalism instructor, Jason Wallestad.”Giulia Imholte, Current Online Editor in Chief for 2012-13, emphasized Wallestad’s commitment to making sure the students take responsibility for the paper. She wrote, “Mr. Wallestad always makes a point to remind the staff that they run the paper, not him.”Through difficult times Wallestad has managed to forge and maintain a good relationship with the school’s administration. Principal Sue Skinner described how 12 years ago, before Wallestad joined the school, the Knight Errant had to be submitted for prior review “until trust and confidence … has been regained.” Now, not only does Skinner not read the paper prior to publication, she wrote, “I have to admit, I go to the Knight Errant online before our own school’s official website to get the more current and compelling news.”Wallestad is also co-founder and co-owner of School Newspapers Online. His work with SNO also sets him apart and above. This work demonstrates his commitment to bringing scholastic journalism, both state-wide and nationally, to new levels of excellence.
Wallestad will be recognized at the MHSPA State Convention on Oct. 8, 2013.