Attention Online Skills or Written Knowledge Test candidates

NCRA members and nonmembers registering for Online Skills Tests or Written Knowledge Tests this month are urged to read before they register to make sure they are fully prepared to test in July.

Online Skills Tests

Registration for Online Skills Tests for the RSR, RPR, RMR, CRR, and CRC certifications is open now through June 20 with testing dates available July 1 through 20.

Online Skills Test candidates should note that an external webcam is required for online testing. Be aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a huge demand for webcams. Given this information, candidates should not register to test unless they have an external webcam to use and have completely read all of the technical requirements needed to test online.

Once candidates register with NCRA, they will receive a confirmation email from Realtime Coach within three business days. Their confirmation email will contain scheduling information for their test. Candidates are reminded upon receipt of their confirmation to schedule their test. All tests must be scheduled 72 hours in advance. If you do not receive a confirmation email within three business days of registration, please contact

Online Skills Candidates should note:

  • Candidates are encouraged to schedule their tests as soon as possible. There are a finite number of appointments available on each day, and they are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Wait times may be longer than normal and during peak times may be up to 30 minutes.
  • Candidates are encouraged to test their equipment prior to exam day and should take advantage of doing a proctored practice exam to aid in this process.

NCRA’s Testing Department is collaborating with ProctorU to do everything conceivable to keep wait times as low as possible, but the current COVID-19 situation has created extenuating circumstances. Connection times with proctors may be longer than the less-than-15-minutes normal and could average 30 minutes or more due to the increased demand. For more information contact

Written Knowledge Tests

Registration for the Written Knowledge Tests for the RPR, RDR, CRC, and CLVS certifications is open now through June 30 with testing available July 9-23. Candidates are urged to schedule the WKT with Pearson VUE, NCRA’s testing partner, upon receipt of their confirmation email with scheduling instructions. Please note that although additional testing centers have been added, the capacity at centers has been reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions. Scheduling early gives candidates the best chance at getting a slot at the testing center most convenient to their location. Be sure to visit for the listing of test center locations.

NCRA’s Certification and Testing Team would like to wish the best of luck to all of our candidates testing in July!

High school career day goes virtual

Kiyoko Panzella, RPR

A group of court employees from the Kings County Supreme Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently hosted a virtual career day via Google Meet for some high school students in lieu of an onsite one that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the participants was NCRA member and one of the court’s official reporters, Kiyoko Panzella, RPR. She joined several judges and other court staff to provide an overview of their jobs in the courtroom. The event lasted about two hours and provided 37 high school students with the opportunity to learn more about careers in the legal field. The Brooklyn Eagle posted a story about the event, and the JCR Weekly has since reached out to Panzella to learn more about her experience.

JCR | How did you become involved in this event?

KP | The judge who organized the event contacted me and asked if I would be willing to be a part of the court career day she was organizing. Since the high school we were presenting to is predominantly black and Latino transfer students who are behind in credits, it was important to her to include a diverse group of presenters from all areas of court personnel so we could highlight the different paths that could lead to a career in the courts.

JCR | Have you promoted the court reporting profession before at onsite career days? If so, how was this different?

KP | This was the first career day that I’ve taken part in, so I don’t have an in-person experience to be able to compare it to. I will say that, before we started, I was a little apprehensive about the students actually paying attention and engaging since we wouldn’t physically be with them, but I shouldn’t have worried. The event actually ran an hour past the scheduled time because the students had so many questions! One of the students was a little too “engaged” — he got kicked out of the meeting because he kept muting the speakers.

JCR | What tips would you offer others who might be interested in participating in this type of virtual event?

KP | The “shared screen” feature that many of the virtual meeting platforms have is a great tool for demonstrating realtime. By using that feature I was able to not only demonstrate the realtime feed, but the students were able to simultaneously see the digital notes on my screen and I was able to show some of the features that end users don’t necessarily ever notice such as the “fix one word mistran” AccelerWriter. Google Meet has a captioning function that uses a voice-to-text program, which is a great way to compare their capabilities with a live reporter. It also helps to stay patient and keep a sense of humor. No matter how well prepared you are, technical glitches will happen, so you have to be ready to just roll with the punches.

JCR | What types of questions did the student participants ask?

KP | Most of the questions were for the judges and lawyers about what it’s like to practice law and how they make decisions, but I was specifically asked how I deal with a bunch of people talking at once and what it takes to succeed in my profession.

JCR | How long have you been working as a court reporter?

KP | I’ve been working as a court reporter for about eleven and a half years, about seven as a freelancer and four and a half in the New York court system.

JCR | Where did you go to school for court reporting?

KP | I went to New York Career Institute in Manhattan.  (The school has since merged with Plaza College in Forest Hills, Queens.)

JCR | How did you learn about this profession?

KP | I have an aunt who was a court reporter in the Los Angeles Superior Court Criminal Division. 

JCR | What has been the best thing about choosing this career path?

KP | Definitely the relationships that I’ve developed. This career has enabled me to meet a wide variety of people in different capacities who I probably never would have crossed paths with if not for the profession. I also love that no two days are alike, and I never know what will happen when I walk into the courtroom.

Kiyoko Panzella, RPR, is an official court reporter with the Kings County Supreme Court in Brooklyn, N.Y. She can be reached at

New Professional Profile: Douglas Armstrong

By Lauren Lawrence

Douglas Armstrong, RPR

Douglas Armstrong, RPR, is a freelance court reporter in Seattle, Wash. He is a 2018 graduate of the Green River College court reporting program and is the current chair of the school’s Court Reporting and Captioning Advisory Committee. He loves opera and animals and spends way too much time thinking about Academy Awards trivia. 

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

DA | When my job of managing 200 employees in a pair of hair salons was eliminated without notice or ceremony after seven years, I didn’t know what I’d do next. I happened to read an article about the need for court reporters and the connection many reporters had to playing musical instruments, particularly piano, which I had played my whole life. I was a music major the first time I went to college. I contacted Green River College, met with the wonderful Lori Rapozo and Sidney Weldele-Wallace who sold me on the profession, and was enrolled within days. The rest is history.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

DA | Hang on and then keep hanging on. Quitting is not an option. You can always switch to decaf after you graduate. Failed tests do not mean that you’re not getting better all the time. Start and end each practice session with something you know you’re good at. Associate with students and reporters who love what they’re doing and want to succeed; stay away from those who complain, make excuses, or demotivate others. Practice sometimes with distractions, like a rock band in the background (it happens in the real world) or writing to material where the speaker is yelling or crying (it definitely happens). Approach adversity as an opportunity to improve yourself and your skills and not something to fear. Picture yourself laughing a few years from now at what scares you now. When you think you’ve practiced enough, practice more.

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

DA | I use public transportation whenever possible and deliberately travel as light as possible. I carry a briefcase-style bag with my Luminex and a backpack holding my lightweight Lenovo ThinkPad and only the essential accessories. A constantly replenished stash of protein bars and vegan jerky have definitely proven to be lifesavers on jobs that go straight through lunch.

JCR | What was life like as a student?

DA | I started school at age 33 and had to work full-time. I managed all aspects of a small, though very busy, vegan grocery store by day and did my online classes, homework, and practice by night. It was by far the most productive period of my life and also the most satisfying. I told myself often that the time would be passing anyway and that the hard work I was putting in was a gift I was able to give my future self. I was right, and there hasn’t been a day since where I haven’t felt immense gratitude for the opportunities opened to me by those years of effort.

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

DA | Finding and defining my own voice as a reporter was an unexpected challenge. There’s the voice on paper, of making formatting, grammatical, and punctuation decisions where there seem to be as many options as there are reporters. There’s the voice in the deposition, learning to coolly and confidently interact with attorneys and experts to get what I need to do my job with minimal disruption to theirs. There’s the voice as a businessperson, advocating for myself in finding answers to unexpected questions on everything from taxes to software functionality. I’ve definitely found that what is the preferred solution for others doesn’t necessarily have to be the best answer for me, and that’s OK. I’m a perfectionist and I like absolutes, but I have had to learn to be comfortable with ambiguity and flexibility.

JCR | What’s the coolest experience you have had working in the profession?

DA | I’ve been a guest speaker a few times at the law school of a local university on panels where I was the only reporter among several attorneys. Surprisingly, I got the majority of the student questions from folks who were fascinated by our profession and how we work our magic. I also got the chance every reporter dreams of, to tell a room full of future lawyers the dos and don’ts of a great record from our perspective, like thinking a question all the way through before starting and stopping seven times midsentence or not interjecting an “OK” after every three words of a deponent’s answer.

JCR | What do you love about your career?

DA | I love meeting new people every day and hearing about careers, processes, lifestyles, and experiences I might not otherwise be exposed to. I love writing new voices and unfamiliar terms and phrases, as well as the daily challenge of adapting to and anticipating the unique patterns and rhythms of each job. I love watching smart people argue and not having to choose a side. I love working in a prison one day and a surgeon’s office the next. I love the flexibility of a freelance schedule and the editing time at home with my dog and cat. I love the way processing words through my fingers on a funny little machine tickles my brain and that I get paid for that.

JCR | If you weren’t a court reporter, what career would you be interested in pursuing?

DA | I’ve always felt I’d make an excellent monarch. If the opportunity ever comes along, I’ll consider it. Until then, I’ll keep reporting.

Lauren Lawrence, RPR, is from Kansas City, Mo.

Students and teachers learn to cope with COVID-19

When stay-at-home orders were put in place across the country, brick-and-mortar schools were forced to shut their doors. The last couple of months have been challenging, but court reporting programs have found ways to adapt and serve the needs of their students during this unusual time. Whether they already had online programs in place, or are starting from scratch, everyone is learning to transition. Up-to-Speed asked teachers and students, “How are you coping with COVID-19?”

My speed building students are rocking right along in their daily assignments since we have the use of Blackboard at GSCC and Realtime Coach for all students. Since we are a brick and mortar school, the students are not fond of being absent from the classroom, their classmates, and the environment of being in school, but they are doing fine. Most prefer to be at school rather than home because school is their place of focus.

Testing has become much more of a challenge online because they get better feedback being in the classroom rather than getting it in an email. It has increased my workload tremendously to give them feedback on daily homework, classwork, and tests since I am not able to sit face-to-face with them. However, we are all adjusting and making it OK. I have actually had two graduate at the end of April!

I have made myself available as much as possible by using Facetime, texting, or phone calls. We are constantly coming up with new ways to make this transition of temporary online schooling as smooth as possible.

Our college has not yet determined when we will be back in the classroom, but hopefully it will be before summer is over, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” It’s a Southern thing. 😉

Leah M. Elkins, CRI, CCR Instructor/Advisor, Gadsden State Community College (GSCC), Gadsden, Ala.

Many people may feel that online learning is difficult, but I love the flexibility of it. Since life as we know it has changed due to COVID 19, online learning is the perfect option for someone who is looking for a career path or a career change.

I currently work in a skilled nursing facility in which there are patients and staff who are COVID positive. Life is very stressful caring for these sick people and then worrying that I could possibly get my family sick. I have days in which I may work long hours and then days that may be much shorter. Due to this uncertainty and chaos, the ability to take every class online for the captioning and court reporting program has been wonderful. I am able to practice on the steno machine at my own convenience which could be before work on some days or after the kids go to bed on other days. Even though the course load may feel overwhelming at times, the ability to do the work during my free time has been a blessing.

For me, if I were doing a traditional in-class learning schedule, I would not be as successful. There would not be enough time in the day to go to class, work full time, and be able to spend quality time with by children and husband. Online learning was the perfect option for me.

Allison Berg, student, Cuyahoga Community College, Parma, Ohio

Even though SimplySteno has been exclusively online for the last 15 years, changes have been made during Covid-19 to increase the social aspect of the program in these times when social distancing is encouraged. That has meant adding more live classes, which is another opportunity for students to see other students. In addition, Covid-19 has inspired us to create an online social network exclusively for our students – a safe space where they can share their stories with others in the SimplySteno program. 

Marc Greenberg, CRI, SimplySteno

Our spring semester took on a new look due to COVID-19. We were actually one step ahead of the “new normal” by already starting to use a platform called Bluejeans to teach from, as well as for the students to attend classes from. We had started a pilot program using Bluejeans in the fall of 2018 to allow students who did not have access to one of our shared-program technical colleges to attend our program from their home or a place where they had the required internet capability. So, when the safer-at-home order hit, we were up and running immediately. All students just attended their live classes on their regular schedules via Bluejeans from their homes.

Jackie Rupnow, RPR, CRI, our other instructor, and I had a few challenges in getting all our materials together and utilizing my husband and Jackie’s daughter for our second voice for our testimony classes. We thank them both for stepping in to keep our students on track! We did also set up speed tests through Realtime Coach just in case for April and May, which the college paid for so there was no cost to the students for that additional Realtime Coach feature. 

With that said, all students were able to complete their spring courses, and we had one graduate for the spring semester. 

Barbi Galarno, RPR, CRI, M.S.Ed., Court Reporting Instructor, Lakeshore Technical College, Cleveland, Wisc.

It seemed as if the crisis just snuck up on all of us locally and around the country. We were all watching the news and aware of the statistics surrounding the virus across the country when suddenly, faculty and students at Tri-C were informed that we would all begin to work remotely.

The fact that we had an online program already established alleviated stress for our students as well as our faculty. It was truly a ready-set-go situation for us. Amid all kinds of other frustrations and worries as they determined how to manage changes in their professional workplace, support their children’s teachers, deal with loss of income, and worry about health, our students expressed that their classes were a nice break from those things. Students found tending to coursework without hesitation to be a welcome way to spend their time and a sense of relief while adjusting to their new normal. The need to finish up with their schooling became even more important as many students faced changes in their employment situations.

A community college with access to grants and support, Tri-C provided laptops to nearly 150 students in financial need. It also has programs to help students find other financial support, food sources, and counseling. Overwhelmingly, Tri-C’s students have done very well academically as they shoulder the coronavirus in these uncertain times.

Kelly Moranz, CRI, Program Director, Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), Parma, Ohio

Stenopalooza inspires student

By Angela Rojo

Did anyone else see posts about Stenopalooza on social media? I can hear my teachers and other professionals in the industry telling me to put my phone down and to get back on my writer. Admittedly, social media is one of my weaknesses and such a time sucker. Anyway, Dineen Squillante, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Arlington, Vt., first planted the seed of attending Stenopalooza in one of her posts. After being invited to the Steno Strong group by Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from North Brunswick, N.J., and catching the infectious positive energy found there, signing up for the all-day seminar was a no-brainer.

I say no-brainer only because being aware of the trends in the industry will help me to be more effective once I transition from the role of student to that of Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR). I want to be able to advocate compellingly for the profession (read, advocate compellingly for myself). My choice to attend Stenopalooza was fueled by my desire to become an in-demand, California CSR. I am a single mom, and school is tough. However, my family would be underserved if I failed to seek information readily available pertaining to my chosen future profession. Honing my writing skill is only one of the elements of playing a vital role in either the system of justice or providing an important service for those with hearing impairments. What do you depend on to stay informed? I depend on my teachers, coach, association conventions, and training events. Oh, and social media.

Out of the nine webinars I watched during Stenopalooza, my favorites were the Lights, Action, ZOOM – Improving the New Normal; Captioning Facebook Live; and POW Knowledge is Power and NCRA is FLEXING. These were among my favorites because I think of them as double-dipping. I learned practical tips and skills that can be utilized immediately in school, and they will also serve me well in my future as a professional.

The presentation about Zoom helped pinpoint some of the connection problems I’ve been running into while transitioning with my school’s now online classes. There were a few absolute light bulb moments! Hello, mesh router!

Completely over the top was the Facebook Live class. Denise Hinxman, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Reno, Nev., expertly walked attendees through clear steps. The presenters began with teaching us to seek out untapped and out-of-the-box opportunities, transitioned to training clients previously unfamiliar with the elevated service value, and really guided us through all the areas necessary to providing a polished, valuable service. My words dull the class a bit, but this presentation had serious value. Dineen ended the seminar with the words, “If we don’t market ourselves, nobody will do it for us.” Let that sink in. “Not out-skilled. We’ll be out-marketed.” Not to strike fear at all, but rather action. Her words prompted me to sit up straighter and pay closer attention. “Don’t assume that all lawyers and consumers of our products know that — what this job entails and the importance and sanctity that comes with it.” 

With all the resources available to us as students, it really is up to us to pass those tests and get out of school. I think of advocating and marketing ourselves as trusted, ethical professionals in the same way. It’s up to us.

In five years – nope, make that one year — I want to be prepared to have a meaningful conversation when the opportunity arises to advocate for myself. Like Rich said, “Look for someone who’s advocating and try to follow.” There are local and national groups, like Steno Strong, where students are invited to participate and get to know our future peers. I encourage you to do so. There are valuable resources available in each group and association I’ve encountered. Don’t be intimidated to get out there and introduce yourself. Attending the Stenopalooza Happy Hour event was a fun opportunity to “see” reporters relaxed and real. Students, we will be out there with our licenses and certifications sooner rather than later. Why not jump in on the socializing and educational activities now? I hope to see you next time!

Angela Rojo is a 180 word-per-minute student attending Argonaut/Charles A. Jones Court Reporter Program in Sacramento, Calif.

If you would like to purchase a webinar from the Stenopalooza event, please visit NCRA’s Continuing Education catalog.

From streaming video games to streaming steno

Brian Binkney

By Brian Binkney

I was raised in rural Arizona and played video games and performed with my band around the state. I joined the U. S. Marine Corps in 1996 and served as a military policeman.  After I was discharged, in 2004, I continued my public service and became a law enforcement officer in Arizona where I worked for the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office and Kingman Police Department. I got to work with amazing people, serve my community, wake up with purpose, and care for my family.

At about 40, I was still looking for what I wanted to do because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a state of vigilance. I wanted to have purpose but not brace for a fight. I wanted to be able to relax for the first time in more than 20 years and let my body have a break. As I was looking, I worked in a local brewery that was just starting. I sold beer and talked about something I loved, traveling all over Arizona putting on events and getting the beer onto taps. I also worked as a substitute teacher mainly with middle school kids who had behavior problems. But I was still searching, thinking where to go and what to do. I was looking at job boards, looking for what to start, wondering what to do. And, somehow, the idea of court reporting came to me; probably from my wife who has all the great ideas and sees court reporters daily at the courthouse.

This is a profession that gives purpose, can be flexible, and ultimately felt like a challenge I could take on. I started at the College of Court Reporting in 2018 and attend through the Veteran Administrations Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Program (VA). Having the assistance of the VA has made this new career choice possible. I push toward learning new skills and accepting the idea that this will take time. To that end, I decided to share it. I needed something to hold me accountable to my practice, so I decided to stream my practice sessions. I was not expecting anyone to watch. I also didn’t realize that no one else was doing this. I had started streaming video games as a way to stay connected to my family who is far away, So I would stream video games via Streamlabs to Facebook live and Twitch. It would be me playing video games and chatting with people who were watching. As time went on, I figured I’d give streaming my practice sessions a shot

Streaming my steno was just another way to share my day. It’s a lonely world of online school where it’s just you doing it. More and more people started following and it was awesome to interact with other students and officials while practicing. It made it feel more like a classroom environment. The Streamlabs program lets me do scenes transitions, overlays, etc. I am able to start a live stream for both Twitch and Facebook from within the program itself and allow people to chat with me. Streamlabs is kind of like my own little TV studio at home. 

Much to my surprise people wanted to watch and interact. The positive reaction has been incredible and has created a community for me as I push through the difficult process of speed building toward graduation. I’m enjoying sharing what I do. My friends who have no exposure to stenography expressed interest and explained they had no idea what this was before. I also love building a steno community. People are watching me practice and practicing along usually on their own machines in their own CAT software. It’s like a huge practice session for anyone to join. 

Additionally, I appreciate that this holds me accountable to daily practice. I enjoy the conversations that are held during the stream between students and certified court reporters alike. There are funny stories, brief exchanges, and career advice freely exchanged. This is a community I am so proud to be a part of and that I am proud to represent. I finally have a plan for what I am going to do when I grow up.

Brian Binkney is a student at the College of Court reporting in Valparaiso, Ind. Brian’s livestreams can be found on Facebook at Stenogamer and at

Facebook group celebrates certifications

Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, recently started the Facebook group Stenographers Leveling up with Certifications. She talked to the JCR Weekly about what she hoped to accomplish with the group.

JCR | What gave you the idea for the group?

MR | The main reason I created this group is to encourage stenographers, including myself, to level up and take and successfully pass certifications tests. I wanted to provide a safe space for test-takers. There are many reporters who fear taking tests; many are embarrassed that they haven’t passed tests after many tries. I also wanted experienced reporters who obtained the highest level of certifications to join the group to encourage, train, mentor, and provide answers to questions that many reporters have. I want reporters to know that we are all in this together and that we have to help each other and celebrate each other when we fail and when we pass. This is a no-judgment-zone group. We learn from each other and support each other.

I am also a Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI). So I, along with other test-taking experts and highly decorated certificate holders, post test-taking tips, online testing tips, and test practice links. I also like to keep members of the group abreast of what tests are being offered and registration dates. Even though NCRA sends out weekly reminders of events, I thought having a page specifically based on certifications will keep people focused on their goal of obtaining certifications.

JCR | What do you hope to accomplish with the group?

MR | I firmly believe in teamwork. My desire is to have all members share test-taking strategies, common test-taking mistakes, post pictures of testing set-ups, how they prepare for tests, provide practice material, tips on how to write smarter, and discuss smart software settings. I want to hear good reports. I want to hear: “I passed the test that I have been trying to pass for the last five years.” I want to hear: “Ok, I am going to take an online test for the first time.” We also like to celebrate and acknowledge members when they pass tests and become certified. We want to celebrate every stenographic testing achievement and lessons learned.

What’s really ironic is at the time I created and launched this page on March 6, 2020, I had no idea that NCRA had a Celebrate Certification Month. When I realized May was Celebrate Certification Month and May 1 was the first day of online testing, I thought I have to do something big to celebrate the month with this group. We have to get some great, well-respected, certified leaders to come and encourage the members of this group during this month.

NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI

The first thought I had was, who is better than the president of NCRA, along with the leadership team, to encourage Stenographers Leveling up with Certifications members about obtaining certifications. I was very excited and honored to have President Max Curry, RPR, CRI; President-Elect Christine Phipps, RPR; Vice-President Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC; and Immediate-Past President Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, join our Celebrate Certification Month Zoom events during the month of May. They all provided great advice. They were all down-to-earth and realistic.

Kim Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, a highly experienced court reporter who has obtained many NCRA certifications, was also one of our speakers for our Zoom event. She gave great test-taking advice, and she has also contributed to our group by giving encouraging words to our members.

Another reason that I created the group is because I have always been concerned about the disparity with stenographers of color not having court reporting certifications and realtime certifications. I also recognized that some freelance reporters had more of a hustler mentality, and some officials had more of a complacent mentality or are more comfortable with the status quo, me included. I have also been concerned about not seeing reporters of color participating/represented in Speed and Realtime contests.

JCR | What is your personal certification story?

MR | The certificate that I am most proud of is my Bachelor of Science degree in court reporting from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, which I earned in 2000. I have also obtained the RPR and the CRI, which are NCRA certifications, and I also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator. I am geared up now and hoping to pass the RMR and CRC between now, 2020, and 2021.

JCR | Are you welcoming new members to the group?

MR | The group is always open to new members, members who would like to learn more about obtaining certifications, receive alerts about when online test registration opens and closes, and helpful tips about taking tests online. We also focus on writing cleaner to pass the CRC and CRR tests, writing “Real Realtime” as Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, says. Anissa is one of the top contributors to our page. She’s phenomenal. She’s very quick to answer questions that are posed by members of the group. I truly appreciate her and everyone else that contributes to the page to help others.

We also welcome contributors, coaches, and highly decorated, experienced certificate holders to help, train, and encourage those of us who are working toward earning certs. On our page, we have a mentorship program where experienced reporters with certifications are matched up with reporters who want or need help to level up.

Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, is an official court reporter in Washington, D.C.

Practice makes perfect

Everyone knows that practice makes perfect and during the stay-at-home orders caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many NCRA members are taking advantage of this opportunity to hone their skills as they wait to go back to work.

Antonia Moy, an official court reporter from Ridgewood, N.Y., said that before the pandemic took hold, she would practice during downtime at work. “Nowadays I try and practice every day for at least three hours. Maintaining speed is very important. I want to be on top of my game when the time comes to return to work,” said the former freelance court reporter who now works as a grand jury reporter.

Moy said her typical practice routine in today’s reality is to practice to the news at 11 a.m. Later in the day, she practices again from 4 to 6 p.m., and she also returns to her machine later and practices for another two hours to Q&A dictation.  

“Practicing while being quarantined is very important to me, because not only am I trying to maintain speed for work, but I am trying to get RPR certified as well,” she noted.

Melanie Kilchenstein from Millersville, Md., graduated from the Reporting Academy of Virginia in 1996 and worked as a freelance reporter until 2007. She took some time off and started back in 2015 after completing a speed development class at her local community college.

Currently, she said, she spends 100 percent of her time practicing her writing because she wants to pass the 180 lit, 200 jury charge, and 225 Q&A tests so that she will be ready to report again once the pandemic is over.

“Because of being busy with work and just life in general, I didn’t have time to spend on my writer like I do now. I may have looked up a brief here or there, but that’s about all I had time for. Because my focus is trying to write shorter and trying to clean up some of my prefixes and suffixes, this is going to definitely cut down on editing time,” she said.

Kilchenstein said she prefers to practice before noon each day before her college-aged kids wake up and the house gets busy. “I’d say I practice five days a week now. To practice, I am using My Realtime Coach, some old StenEd DVDs that I had, and occasionally I will practice to New York Gov. Cuomo’s daily briefings,” she said, adding that practice is very important to keep your skills at the highest level possible.

“I practice approximately 45 minutes to an hour a day. This is about 50 percent more time than before the pandemic,” said Mary Long, RPR, an official state court reporter from Florissant, Mo. “I am preparing to take the RMR so I have been practicing for a while.”

Long, who is still working as an official with St. Louis County, is currently using Zoom and participating in teleconference hearings for her judge, so she says the additional practice time she has been getting has been beneficial to her all around.

“I generally practice in the afternoon once our docket for the day is finished,” added Long, who has been a court reporter for a total of 18 years: 10 as a freelancer and eight as an official.

Last chance looms to purchase the NCRA webinars at a special price

Did you miss it? Then don’t miss the chance to purchase the recorded NCRA Stenopalooza and Leadership Training webinars at the special price of $20 each for members and $25 each for nonmembers. When this special offer ends on Thursday, May 21, at midnight Eastern time, the webinars will only be available at regular pricing.

NCRA’s Stenopalooza and Leadership Training events drew hundreds of members to participate in this first online, all-day event put together by the Board of Directors. The recorded webinars capture the variety of inspiring and informative sessions, including how to succeed in today’s challenging business environment, how to shift your steno skills from court reporting to captioning, the latest in legal videography trends, and more.

The webinars are available to view for 30 days after purchase. To purchase the webinars or to learn more about the sessions, visit NCRA/Stenopalooza or NCRA Leadership Training. Purchase now and save before regular pricing goes into effect after May 21.

When Hong Kong became part of China again

By Robin Nodland

One of the most unusual jobs that I did was captioning for the International Channel as they live-broadcasted the turnover of Hong Kong back to China from Great Britain.  Because of the time zone difference, this was done in the wee hours of the morning of June 30/July 1, 1997. My friend and business partner, Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, and I tag-teamed the broadcast, sleeping in between shifts. We sat in Carol’s living room with an audio feed of a team of interpreters translating from Mandarin to English, watching the live broadcast on the International Channel on cable TV. 

Carol is awesome and has many contacts in the captioning community, which led to her being contacted for this job.  Over the years she has generously shared these unusual jobs with me. Or, another way of putting it, has roped me in.

We knew from the start this would be different due to the historical significance of the event.  There was torrential rain throughout the ceremony, and Prince Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair, playing their key parts, were getting drenched, rivulets running down their faces. The Chinese strategically placed them on the stage without a roof to protect them. 

At one point the team of interpreters must have forgot they were translating for us, the captioners, because they began to talk amongst themselves about the politics of this historic change and their suspicions that the Chinese would not honor the agreements they made with Britain. There was a moment when my hands hovered over my steno keyboard as I asked myself: “Do I actually write that?” Yep, I did. 

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter and agency owner based in Portland, Ore. She can be reached at