It was a nice surprise that arrived just in time for the holidays.
As Alyssa Boehringer took her seat at the McKinney High School holiday staff luncheon on the afternoon of Dec. 15, a caravan of current and former students, family members and a representative from the Journalism Education Association (JEA) emerged from a back hallway and politely interrupted the proceedings with an announcement:
Boehringer had been chosen as the JEA National Broadcast Advisor of the Year. The award is designed to honor outstanding high school advisers and their exemplary work from the previous year, as well as throughout their careers.
Amid a standing ovation from the staff, Boehringer, who has taught broadcast journalism at MHS for the past 12 years, was called to the stage where JEA Board Member Mark Murray presented her with a plaque.
“You can look at the extensive list of awards that the McKinney broadcast program has received over the years and quickly recognize the amazing job Alyssa has done here at McKinney High School,” Murray remarked to the assembled staff and guests.
“But, Alyssa has also contributed outside of the school at the local, state and national level, teaching workshops to other schools, serving on the state Journalism Education Association Board and working with the national organization to support scholastic journalism across the country. It is because of all these contributions that we honor Alyssa today,” he said.
Boehringer was chosen over broadcast journalism teachers from across the country that ranged in years of experience from 5 to 30 according to Murray. When evaluating submissions, the national board considered feedback from current and former students and looked at factors such as teaching philosophy, program structure and diversity and how well the program represents the school.
“Alyssa is one of the best examples of what teachers and advisors can be,” Murray said. “She inspires not only her own students but students and teachers here in Texas and around the country. She brings an insight to teaching and to broadcast that others just lap up, and she is the perfect example of what we want the broadcast advisor of the year to be.”
Receiving the award was especially poignant for Boehringer who graduated from MHS in 2003. “It’s such an honor to teach at the high school that I went to,” she told the audience. “I love this school so much. So, I love being able to teach kids to tell the stories of the year—whether it’s video or yearbook or whatever means it may be. It’s just an incredible honor and…what a huge surprise!”
And while it arrived just in time for Christmas, the award was certainly not gifted to her; Boehringer earned it through years of hard work at MHS, and the number of students—both former and current—who showed up to celebrate the moment with her served as testimony to her influence as a teacher.
“I got to where I am today almost purely on Mrs. Boehringer’s strong [motivation] and strong lead to just, ‘Do what you do. You’re good at it. Keep continuing to pursue it,’” said former student Aaron Delgado, who graduated from MHS in 2013. He’s currently a junior at the University of North Texas where he serves in the school’s television promotions department. “A lot of accolades and personal achievements of mine, I would credit to Mrs. Boehringer. What a fantastic teacher.”
Nicole Osterreicher is a senior at MHS this year. “I’m the yearbook editor, and this is the first year that Mrs. Boehringer has taught me, and I absolutely love her,” said Osterreicher. “She’s so encouraging and inspirational, and she’s so funny. I’m so excited for her, and it’s a great opportunity. She totally deserves it.”
Senior Devin Field’s voice cracked with emotion as she described Boehringer’s impact. “I’ve had her ever since my sophomore year, and coming into high school, I knew I wanted to pursue journalism, and she has just furthered all my dreams in pursuing that. She’s the reason that I love journalism so much, and I’m so happy that she got [this award]. She’s won me so many awards, and I’m just beyond blessed to have such an amazing teacher. She’s part of the reason why I want to do journalism.”
Boehringer didn’t necessarily set out to inspire the next generation of broadcast journalists. Her experience, education and ambition were all tilted firmly in the direction of a career in print journalism until a University of Texas professor during her junior year suggested she consider teaching.
That didn’t immediately fly with Boehringer, but a year later, she was looking for a job to launch her career in newspaper or yearbook, and she stumbled across an opening for a broadcast journalism teacher at MHS.
“I knew about the program, obviously,” Boehringer said. “I knew what MHS 1 was. I wasn’t sure what it had become in the four years that I was gone, so I had a little bit of trepidation because I didn’t know anything about video editing or shooting video — but I did know about storytelling.
“And, really that’s the most important part of what journalism teachers do—no matter what version of that you want to call it. So, I said, ‘Yes!’ Really, I knew I wanted to do this when I got the job at McKinney High School. My students taught me video editing and how to use cameras that first year. So, you know, 12 years later…”
Here we are.
The journalism lab is wallpapered with framed certificates and plaques chronicling the phenomenal success of its students. If journalism is about telling a story, these relate the tale of a program that has been doing things the right way for a long time.
And behind all that, has been Boehringer.
“I have students doing all kinds of stuff across the board,” she said. “I have students who are anchors and reporters for small t.v. affiliates at this point and things like that. I had a student working at MTV. I have students working in television. I have a student who worked on “House of Cards” and “The Leftovers” on HBO. I have two students in California who are doing production and things like that. Their names aren’t in lights, but they’re working in the industry and doing really well.
“We’re proud of that.”