Jenny Zimmerman featured in her classroom library

A BCS teacher has earned national recognition for her dedication to the journalism program at her school. 

North Buncombe High’s Jenny Zimmerman is one of five teachers from across the country to earn the Rising Star Award from the Journalism Education Association (JEA). Rising Star awards are presented to advisers who are in their first five years of advising a school media program, have shown dedication to scholastic journalism, and have had success advising at least one media program.

“This recognition means so much to me because it validates all the hard work we put into growing our journalism program at NBHS,” said Ms. Zimmerman. “We started with minimal equipment and just a few big ideas, and now we are a growing, thriving program that competes at the state and national levels. The students deserve this award as much as I do because they are the ones who listened, learned, and took on the task of creating a journalistic yearbook. I'm so proud of how far we've come and thankful that our work is recognized by JEA. We are never finished, though! Every year we set new goals and strive for improvement.” 

This class of Rising Stars stands out, as they faced challenges as new teachers during the pandemic and not only managed to help their media programs survive but thrive. Ms. Zimmerman will be formally recognized at the JEA Fall National High School Journalism Convention in St. Louis in November.

From the Journalism Education Association:

Jenny Zimmerman advises Black Hawk broadcast and the Hilltopper yearbook at North Buncombe High School in Weaverville, North Carolina, and serves as the southwest region representative of the North Carolina Scholastic Media Advisers Association.

“When I first met Jenny, she and her staff were close to completing the 2021 Hilltopper —Jenny’s first yearbook,” Zimmerman’s mentor Brenda Gorsuch, MJE, said. “What a terrible year to begin advising a yearbook staff! She and a handful of students were forced to work remotely to gather most of the content for the book. Photographers were unable to attend school events, and most interviews had to be done by email or phone. Most of the advisers I work with wanted to quit after 2021, but Jenny was unfazed. After all the challenges, she was even more determined to establish a successful yearbook program at North Buncombe.”

Gorsuch described previous editions of the yearbook as a scrapbook with photographs but little to no text. She said Zimmerman was determined to turn the yearbook into an award-winning, journalist publication.

“She constantly pushes our staff to do our best and to always make sure we’re putting our best foot forward,” 2023 Editor-in-Chief Lorena Alamo said. “She doesn’t stray from the opportunity to give us the constructive criticism we need and emphasizes the importance of it as we all have room to learn and grow.”

When she took over, Zimmerman developed a three-year plan that included areas of theme development, coverage, photography, writing and design. In 2022 — only one year later — the yearbook staff received a Tar Heel Award as one of the state’s best yearbooks, and two broadcast students won major awards. 

“Jenny and her students are truly overachievers,” Gorsuch said. “What Jenny thought would take three years, became reality in one year. She convinced her staff to take on the challenge of producing a journalistic yearbook. In a very short amount of time, Jenny has become an accomplished publications adviser.”