Inside the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand online program

A 2017 survey of NCRA members revealed that 75 percent of the membership has been in the court reporting profession for 16 or more years. In fact, 64 percent have been in the profession for 21-plus years.  With that much tenure, it may be difficult to recall what life was like before court reporting.  In an effort to learn more about the experiences and motivations of the next generation of court reporters, as well as to experience steno firsthand, NCRA Marketing Manager Elisa Cohen recently took the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand online program.  During the program, three fellow participants who completed it agreed to share their stories:  

  • Jessica Pell, a correctional officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, who has four children and an encouraging mother-in-law in the profession;
  • Jeff Spears, a 38-year-old telecommunications technician from Kentucky, who lives in Texas with his wife and two young children; and
  • Arlisia Stansberry, a single mother with an established career as a corporate nurse, who is ready to begin a new career path in the field that has interested her since high school.

Each of these participants decided to investigate a career in court reporting as a result of a recommendation. While serving on a jury in San Antonio, Spears was told of the court reporter shortage from the presiding judge. The suggestion particularly resonated with him. With injuries from his athletic childhood, his earlier landscaping business, and two recent knee surgeries as a result of climbing phone polls for a living, Spears is eager to be able to support his family with a job that isn’t so physically demanding.

Pell learned of the profession, and the A to Z program, from her mother-in-law, who has been a court reporter for more than 10 years. The program reinforced Pell’s interest in the court reporting profession. “It was a lot of fun! I learned so much during a short time and feel I have a strong understanding of the basics,” Pell said about the A to Z program.

Stansberry learned about the A to Z program from one of her former high school classmates, who has been in the court reporting profession more than 20 years. When she was just out of high school, her classmate inspired her to start court reporting school. She took only one level before switching to a nursing career at the suggestion of her mother. “I loved shorthand. Always felt a calling for court reporting. But with young kids, as a single mom, I couldn’t go to school and keep a full-time job,” she explained.

After a full career involving extensive travel as a corporate nurse, Stansberry had an epiphany one late night and pulled out her old green steno machine.

However, the similarities among these participants end when discussing what interests them about the profession.

Pell finds it fun and is interested in learning every aspect of steno. “It’s like learning a language within a language,” she explained.

Spears, who hopes to become an official reporter, feels driven to civil service by his father’s example as a police officer.

And Stansberry? She is fascinated by the ability to type verbatim what is being said: “Amazing to me, just amazing to me, how you put those letters together. I don’t see PL anymore, I see M. It’s just weird.”

When it comes to discussing the obstacles that may lay ahead, the unifying concern among these participants is time. Pell is concerned that her “crazy” work hours as a correctional officer combined with the demands of her four children will get in the way of her practice time. Spears has similar concerns, since he homeschools his children and may get distracted by the needs of his 3- and 8-year-olds. As for Stansberry, her current job requires extensive air travel, which might impact when she will be able to take classes and practice.

We asked each participant what they want to ask of experienced court reporters. Pell is most curious about what can be done when stuck at a speed plateau. Stansberry wants to know how to manage staying awake for hours and keeping calm from some of the things that are said during trials or depositions. And when Spears was asked if he had any questions of experienced court reporters or captioners, he replied: “Holy cow.  I’ve got about 78 of them!”

The good news: After completing the six-week training in the A to Z program, each of these participants are planning to enroll in court reporting school as soon as possible.

The next online A to Z classes start Jan. 27 at 6:30 Eastern; Feb. 10 asynchronous; and April 9 at 8 p.m. Central.

New Professional Profile: Bethany Glover

Bethany Glover

By Mike Hensley, RDR

Bethany Glover, RPR, is a new professional residing in Long Beach, Calif.  Not only is she new — within her first year of work as a freelance deposition reporter — she finished school in a blazing 16 months. She is excellently poised to take the world by storm, and she has graciously shared insights with us as a newly licensed court reporter.

JCR | Why did you choose to become a court reporter?

BG | I grew up dancing, moved to New York City to earn my bachelor’s in dance at a prestigious school, traveled the world performing as a professional dancer, and had to cut short my dancing career early due to a back injury. I wanted a career that would still give me the freedom to travel while also earning a good living. I also loved how crucial court reporting is for getting a record of people‘s experiences and for the judicial system as a whole.

JCR | What’s your “can’t live without” item in your steno bag?

BG | Definitely back-up USB flash drives. I always, always back everything up, because you just never know when technology is going to be cranky.

JCR | What is your biggest challenge as a new reporter?

BG | My biggest challenge as a new reporter is learning how to have a good work/life balance. I really love what I do, so I tend to get lost in my work. I’m trying to learn to step back and take time to do things for myself outside of work too. Self-care is crucial!

JCR | What is your next goal? What is a long-term goal?

BG | My next goal is working on realtime. I’m learning that the cleaner that I write while on the job, the less work I have to do editing. I want to be writing realtime as soon as I can.

A long-term goal of mine is to be able to take depositions internationally. I would love to travel for work. That’s the dream.

JCR | What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?

BG | When I’m not reporting, I love to take yoga classes and explore new neighborhoods. I really enjoy being outside and walking. I also want to get into doing volunteer work with animals.

JCR | What do you love about your career?

BG | I absolutely love meeting new people and going to new offices every day. It’s always something different, and there are no two days the same.

JCR | How has involvement with state and national associations benefited your career thus far?

BG | Being involved with associations has been so important for me on my journey to becoming a court reporter. I have met wonderful reporters through the associations who have supported me, cheered me on, and have been there for me for every question that I have. The court reporting community is like no other, and the reporters I have met through associations inspire me every day.

JCR | What was the best piece of advice that you received from another court reporter that helped you?

BG | The best piece of advice I ever received from another court reporter is to be confident in my skills and to not be afraid of taking charge. Being a new reporter can be a little intimidating sometimes, but you just need to walk in with a smile on your face and your head held high.

Mike Hensley, RDR, is a freelancer from Dublin, Calif. He can be reached at stenomph@gmail.com.

Preparing for that first court reporting assignment

In a blog posted Sept. 5 by JD Supra, Planet Depos shared with court reporting interns a number of  tips to help them transition from their student role to the official reporter on any assignment.

Read more.

‘I know you’re exhausted, but you can do this’

Elise Townes, RPR

Elise Townes, RPR, a freelancer from Rockford, Mich., posted the following in the Facebook group “Encouraging Court Reporting Students.”

Why do you love court reporting? Share your reasons with us at jcrfeedback@ncra.org and post with #whyilovecourtreporting.

Tonight was a pretty big night for me. I just submitted my very first transcript to the attorneys! This has all been about seven years in the making. I’m a single mother, and this whole process has not been easy!

I felt like it took me forever to get out of school. My school (The College of Court Reporting) was fantastic! I just had to work while I was in school and had two young children, so it took me a bit longer. 

After that, it took me a few more years to become certified. It was tough finding time and energy to practice, especially not being in school. I finally decided to quit my work and focus solely on practicing for the last leg of the RPR, and it worked. I was finally certified in December of last year and then earned my CSR certification right after.

I was a teen mom (twice). I have had to struggle immensely for this, and it’s all been to give my kids the life they deserve. They’re the reason for all of it. A few months ago, I accepted a job as an official reporter in Colorado and made the huge move from Michigan.

I’ve only been working for a month, but it feels so amazing to be able to say I finally made it and to tell all of you that YOU CAN DO THIS. Don’t give up!!! I know you’re exhausted. I know you’re feeling burnt out. I know it feels like it’s taking forever. Persevere and power through because you’ve got this, and it’s worth it!!

Why I love court reporting: Aimee Edwards-Altadonna

Aimee Edwards-Altadonna is a freelance reporter in California and a CCRA board member. She recently posted this in the Facebook group “Encouraging Court Reporting Students.”

Students, I want to talk to you about how quickly your life can flip into an amazing place once you are certified and out there busting your butt as a court reporter. There is so much work out there, and it’s just crazy. I could work every single day, multiple jobs a day if I chose to. Instead I choose to work about 8-10 jobs a month and am comfortably making six figures by my fourth year reporting in California’s Bay Area and Central Valley. It’s a true story, and I promise you it’s there for the taking if you work hard.

I am about 4 1/2 years into working now, and in that short period of time, my family’s lifestyle has been able to change dramatically for the better. We went from living paycheck to paycheck as a family of four as I struggled through the end game of certification, finally passing all three legs of the Califonia CSR after winning my appeal on the skills portion and overcoming a pretty horrific ankle injury on the night I qualified for the CSR. We were so strapped, my dad had to help sign for the loan for the $2,000 upgrade to professional software. He even paid for my $1,000 local CSR prep class since I could no longer travel for school with my busted ankle — we were financially spent and had nothing else to give to school — but I didn’t give up. Thanks, Dad. I tell you this to give you perspective. We have been the family living on $26 for over a week until the next check came in and just hoping nobody got sick or broken or any other unforeseen event that can happen with a young family with no safety net.

And yet today I am writing you from the Airbnb in Venice on leg two of an epic 25-day trip to Italy! Worry-free because I just worked extra hard last month and billed out twice as much, so I was set to not work this month. We did a long layover in London and are going all over Italy and Sicily and Cagliari for Intersteno so I’m writing off a portion of this awesome adventure.

This career allowed us to plan and pay for this amazing trip. My kids had never been on a plane, let alone a plane to Europe, and my husband and I have waited 21 years to take this trip. At 9 and 12 they will have such a broad world view, and it will change them at their core for the better for having been explorers in another country. This is a profession that can give you the freedom you’ve dreamed of and can take you places you can’t imagine and didn’t even know you wanted.

When you’re feeling stressed or wondering how long it will take before it’s your turn, just remember that the other side is a magical place of freedom and release and all the amazing things. Even on the ickiest day, this is still the best job ever, and we can’t wait to help you get to the other side. On the dark days, I hope this message will inspire you to keep going. I promise the other side is so worth all of the struggle.

Keep going. Just keep going!

NCRA member gets investor for online system for court reporters

NCRA member Lauren Lawrence welcomed her first outside investor to her tech startup, Stenovate, according to the July 5 Startland, a news site that reports on Kansas City innovators. Stenovate is billed to be an online platform for court reporters, scopists, and proofreaders that simplifies organization and collaboration.

Read more.

New Professional Spotlight: Amanda Harwell

Amanda Harwell

By Selana Scott and Michael Hensley, RDR

Amanda Harwell is a graduate of MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill.  As a new professional court reporter, she has started her career with gusto.  Providing coverage for the Chicago area, she handles many different types of proceedings.  Ask anyone who has worked with her, and they’ll tell you she is a force to be reckoned with. She recently spoke to the court reporting students at MacCormac College and gave them advice on how to handle the constant questions from families about when they will be finished with school. When her family was asking, she said she corralled them in one room and made them listen to a recording of someone speaking at a rate of 200 WPM, while she transcribed the recording for them all to see. Needless to say, no one questioned her again about when she’d be finished with school.

JCR |How did you become interested in becoming a court reporter?

AH |I became interested in becoming a court reporter for many reasons. I knew coming straight out of high school I wanted to go into the legal field, but I did not want to commit to the years of necessary schooling. After winning multiple typing class competitions, my typing teacher in high school encouraged me to look into court reporting. After some research, school visits, and talking with seasoned reporters, I was aware this was the career for me.

JCR | Where did you first start working once you graduated/certified?

AH | Immediately following certification I started my employment with Planet Depos.

JCR |What do you love most about being a court reporter so far?

AH | My favorite thing about being a court reporter is the versatility. Being a reporter, you really have to be able to adapt to a number of circumstances, personalities, and deadlines. It keeps me on my toes! I never feel bored, unmotivated, or looking for the next best thing being a reporter. I know that each day will bring different opportunities.

JCR | What advice do you have for students who are near the end of their education?

AH | Never stop practicing. The more consistent you are with practicing following graduation will only make the real world that much easier.

JCR | Why do you think it’s important to give back to students now that you are a new professional?

AH | I believe being a young professional reporter is something that not a lot of students get to see. I know when I was going to school it was difficult to feel like I could achieve this goal considering the age gap of the working reporters I had come into contact with. My ability to relate to the students and their personal educational experience provides realistic insight that is valuable.

JCR | What’s your favorite accessory (gadget) that you bring with you to every job?

AH | I do not work a day without my USB microphone extender. I swear by it. After having my audio compromised with the shuffling of exhibits and attorney notes, I realized I needed something to avoid that from consistently happening. I found a USB extender that allows my microphone to be above the table and avoid being knocked out of place. It is beautiful!

JCR | How has your NCRA certification helped you in your career thus far?

AH | My NCRA certification has allowed me the opportunity to work with a wonderful company. Having my RPR has also made it much easier for me to become certified in multiple states and broaden where I can take work.

JCR | Any other thoughts?

AH | Tell your friends! Court reporting is one of the most rewarding careers there is.

3 Reasons why you should consider court reporting as a career

Education News posted an article on June 26 citing the reasons why someone should consider a career in court reporting.

Read more.

Networking advice for students

Cuyahoga Community College’s (Parma, Ohio) Captioning and Court Reporting Club President, Todd Robie, held a “How to Network at a Conference” seminar on April 3 for all students in the program. Both on-campus and online students were invited to participate. Robie gave valuable pointers for small- to mid-sized conventions and events. As he pointed out, these are your future colleagues and people you may have the opportunity to work with or for in the future. Make it your goal to start building your network!

Here are a few tips and tricks to review and take along with you to a conference you may be attending:

  1. What’s the best thing to get out of a conference? Connections! You want them to remember you and you to remember them.
  2. Everyone expects to meet new people at a conference and to talk with them.
  3. Wear your nametag! It can be a conversation starter in itself.
  4. Remember, folks are especially receptive to students so take advantage of that while you can.
  5. Take the initiative, as that sets you apart from others right from the start.
  6. Start out in a group if you are nervous and then branch out individually.
  7. You are terrific! Keep that in mind because it takes a terrific person to take on the challenge of this career and you have a lot to add to the profession.
  8. Start by preparing and having two basic introductions in mind along with two questions to start conversations. One intro should be a quick one and the second should be two or three sentences. Good news – you can use the same ones over and over again!
  9. Remember, the goal is to turn that conversation into a networking opportunity.
  10. Check out the layout/floor plan of the convention in advance. Common areas are the best places to network.
  11. Take the time to review the schedule and circle potential networking opportunities. Most of your connections will be made outside the sessions in such places as food lines, coffee and drink stations, and breaks.
  12. Do a little research on who is attending the convention and who you would like to meet. Make a list of them.
  13. Keep a file of any business cards you receive and ask them if you can contact them with any additional questions you might have as you continue on your journey as a student.
  14. Take the time to write down what you talked about with the individuals you’ve spoken with.
  15. Of course, dress appropriately.
  16. Feel free to send the people you meet a thank-you email.
  17. Most importantly, enjoy yourself and all those you meet!
  18. So go ahead and join your state and national organizations and make your plans to attend these conventions and conferences!

Don’t miss your chance to save on 2018 Convention registration fees. Register by July 23 to save!








New captioning company in Idaho

NCRA members Andrea Couch, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, are the owners of a new captioning company, IdaCaption, located in Boise, Idaho.  IdaCaption provides on-site and off-site CART and broadcast captioning services.

Read more.