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My court reporting “origin story”

A red S in a superhero emblem hovers within a yellow circle, similar to a full moon, over the black outline of a city.
We’re pretty sure the S is for “steno”

NCRA President Chris Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC, shared her court reporting “origin story” in her first address to the membership at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo. She said: “Last year, Tiva Wood, FAPR, RDR, CMRS, talked about how important it is for each of us to tell the story that lead us to court reporting and how fascinating our career can be.”

The JCR Weekly team posed a similar question to the membership in the Sept. 20 newsletter as the Question of the Week: “How did you learn about court reporting or captioning as a career?” Most respondents said they knew or met someone who was a reporter or captioner, or they saw a presentation in a class, at a career fair, etc. But several responded with “other.” We reached out to some of these respondents and asked them to share their personal stories of how they learned about court reporting or captioning.


Back in 1978, my high school counselor knew about court reporting and suggested the career might be a good one for me. He was also the teacher for the yearbook class in which I was a student. He knew me and knew of my bent toward both English and grammar. At his suggestion, I met with the folks at the Denver Academy of Court Reporting. I signed up for the program and have never looked back. Thirty-nine years later, I continue as a court reporter, and I still love the profession. I am so grateful that Mr. Roederer recognized that court reporting would be a perfect fit for me.

Kathy Davis, RDR, CRR, CMRS
Denver, Colo.


I attended a religious high school, and there were no career days. I had a master’s degree and had worked on Capitol Hill, in advertising and in a law firm, but had never considered court reporting until an aunt suggested it as I typed fast, am very good with words, and am inquisitive.

Jeremy Frank
New York, N.Y.


Through luck, good fortune, and encouraging people, I found out about this profession.

I really enjoyed English and typing classes in high school, so I was going to Brown Mackie College in Salina, Kan., to enroll in the executive secretary program. I had never been in a courtroom and had no idea what a court reporter was. When I went to enroll, I was told about court reporting. They told me I should seriously consider it because of my grade average and my strengths were in English and typing. The career really sounded interesting to me and challenging. I went home to speak to my parents about it and found out that my parents’ friend and neighbor had been an official court reporter for a number of years. So I went to talk to Anna about her job, and she is the one who piqued my interest even more. With the positive things she had to say about the job, I decided to enroll.

Court reporting school was tough, but I had a wonderful teacher, Mary Smith Agren, who really made a huge difference. She was so positive and encouraging, very good at keeping her students on track and communicating her excitement about this profession. When she moved to Colorado during my time at Brown Mackie, teacher Donna Hanson helped me through the last part of my training. I am so glad I was introduced to this profession — it’s been great!

Tammy Hogsett, RMR
Lawrence, Kan.

When I was in high school, I belonged to a Girl Scout mounted troop here in the St. Louis area. The dad of one of the girls was an attorney for the IRS here in St. Louis.

He told my mom that I should consider a career in court reporting because they made really good money and had the ability to take down several people talking at one time and never missing a word. And I believed him. While the “good money” took a long while to achieve, I’ve never really gotten to the point where I can take “several people” talking at the same time!

And the rest is history … 33 years of history!

Linda Madel
Kirkwood, Mo.


Back before the internet, in 1988, I was browsing the “Tickets” section of the classifieds in the Albuquerque Journal, looking for concert tickets. Just so happened that the “Schools” section was the category just above the tickets section. There was a classified for New Mexico School of Court Reporting. I was going to college at the University of New Mexico‎ (UNM) at the time with intentions of going to law school. So the ad caught my eye. I had no idea what a court reporter even was. I assumed it was a newspaper reporter who worked in court. The ad was misleading because it said court reporters make these great salaries and set their own hours, blah, blah, blah, which we all know isn’t true. But it piqued my interest. So I called the school simply out of curiosity to ask what a court reporter does. Next thing you know, I quit UNM and enrolled in court reporting school. Here I am almost 30 years later a court reporter.

Stacy Purcella, RPR
Orange, Calif.


In the beginning, there was nothing. I knew nothing about court reporting, didn’t even know it existed. I went to college and received my degree. As I worked to find my first job after college, I stumbled upon Court TV, back in its infancy, when they showed live trials. It was during the time of the William Kennedy Smith case. I got engrossed in the trial. As the proceedings went on, I really began to take notice of the man sitting in front of the courtroom “typing” on a little machine. I found it fascinating that he was perched right in front of the witness, getting a front-row seat to all kinds of legal proceedings. Curiosity aroused, I began to research the field, what it was all about, and where to get trained to become one of these mysterious court reporters. I contacted Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, applied, and registered. I began theory and was hooked, sure that I had made the right decision to enter this career. And here I am three decades later, still as much enthralled with court reporting as that first day of theory class, learning single letters, S-T-P-H….

Todd Vancel
Atlanta, Ga.