Erinn Harris Named CSPA 2020 Journalism Teacher of the Year
Erinn Harris, who has served as a journalism teacher and adviser at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) since 2009, has been named the 2020 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA).
Harris, who began her career in Fairfax County Public Schools as a teacher at Lee High School in 2005, has been yearbook adviser and photojournalism teacher at TJHSST since 2008, and journalism teacher and newspaper adviser since 2013. She reintroduced broadcast journalism into the curriculum at the school and created a convergent media course, bringing together Journalism 1, 2, 3, and 4 and broadcast journalism. She serves as adviser to tjTODAY, the school’s student newspaper, and Techniques, the school yearbook, both winners of national awards from CSPA and the National Scholastic Press Association.
Harris is a strong supporter of New Voices legislation, as she believes students have become too likely to be self-censors. She said, “If a student is afraid that someone in the community might deem an important topic offensive, will the student avoid writing about it for fear that they will get in trouble?”
As tjTODAY and Techniques adviser, Harris believes students can empower their writing through research, “As part of my new opinion training structure, students have to prove they’ve done the research first, before they even begin writing. The legacy of Hazelwood has created a generation of students who are simply afraid to speak out. In my opinion, this is even more dangerous than external censorship.“
Harris was named Distinguished Adviser, CSPA’s Dow Jones Journalism Teacher of the Year, in 2019; recognized as Distinguished Adviser, the Journalism Education Association’s (JEA) H.L. Hall Adviser of the Year in 2016, and received Special Recognition in 2013; named the JEA’s Rising Star in 2010; and received the Douglas S. Freeman award from the Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers in 2013.
A graduate of Wake Forest University with a bachelor of arts in English, Harris is working on a master of arts in journalism education from Kent State University. She completed the requirements to be a Certified Journalism Educator and a Master Journalism Educator from the Journalism Education Association.
Harris will receive her award at the CSPA spring luncheon in March; one of her students will be selected for a scholarship from CSPA.