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!

New Professional Spotlight: Caitlin Albrecht

Caitlin Albrecht

By Jan Ballman, FAPR, RPR, CMRS

Caitlin Albrecht is a freelancer from Plymouth, Minn., who graduated from Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.

JCR | What was the hardest part of transitioning from school to the real world?

CA | For me, it was the realization that my writing was still my writing.  It may sound silly, but whenever I thought about that far-off day when I passed my last test and sailed out of school on cloud nine, I believed that a magic switch would flip, and I would suddenly have stellar writing.  No longer would my hands freeze up and my heart start pounding its way out of my chest.  From now on, writing would be a breeze as I focused on the finer things of life, like what steno machine I would select or what I would do with all the extra cash now that I was working.  I can smile and shake my head now at my naïveté, but at the time, the shock of realizing I had to now take professional jobs and still deal with that paralyzing stress threw me into a tailspin. 

JCR | What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started out?

CA | That it’s OK to not be perfect.  While I still strive for perfection in my writing and transcription, I don’t beat myself up anymore about not achieving the unattainable standard I set for myself when I first began working.  Providing realtime for clients has been a scary step for me, but also one of the biggest helps.  I’m forced to admit that I don’t write everything perfectly, but it also boosts my desire to get every word down accurately the first time around.  Ironically, throwing myself out there and showcasing my imperfection has skyrocketed my confidence and made me a better writer in the long run.

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

CA | My current goal is to obtain my RPR.  I completed the written test and first two legs while in school and have been working at that last Q & A leg ever since.  I really struggle some days when I think about tackling that last leg, but my mentors and fellow reporters have been hugely encouraging and supportive.  I know I belong in this profession; once I get my RPR, everyone else will know it, too.  In the long term, I want to replace those letters with the RMR certification, and eventually become a Registered  Diplomate Reporter.

JCR | Who is your mentor?

CA | I have been blessed with a number of incredible mentors, but the most influential have been Jan Ballman, Mary Mitchell, and Merilee Johnson.  Jan was my mentor in school and really got me thinking about the reporter I wanted to be once I graduated.  Mary walked me through my first years as a brand-new reporter and showed me how a true professional tackled the difficulties of reporting life (while still looking cool as a cucumber … I’m still working on that part).  Finally, Merilee has been the catalyst for my success in providing realtime.  Without her encouragement and selfless investment in my training, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today in the profession.  These women have inspired me with their innovation, excellence, and determination, and I couldn’t be more grateful for them.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

CA | Be kind to yourself and keep at it.  I remember sitting in school and taking test after test, hopeful that maybe this time I’d write well enough to move on.  It was the easiest thing to start an internal dialogue in my head about how I should have had a better brief for that four-stroker, or how everyone else in the class seemed to be doing just fine while my shoulders slumped in defeat.  Court reporting school is tough!  In the end, though, it really comes down to staying positive, outwardly and inwardly, and sitting down day after day in front of your steno machine and choosing to fight for every word.  It really is a battle some days, but the outcome is worth it.

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

CA | I have been a student in Kung Fu San Soo, a self-defense martial art, for over a decade, and there’s nothing like getting on the mat to shake (or punch) out the stress of the day.  I also volunteer with my church’s youth group and enjoy doing everything from having honest life discussions with the teens to attending the high school sporting events, concerts, and theater performances they’re involved in.  When I’m not doing either of those things, I enjoy diving into a good Bible study or learning how to play new board games with my boyfriend, Matt.

Convention winner Garcia excited about future

Alexandria Faith Garcia

We recently held a contest to give a free 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo registration to a new member who joined between May 17 and June 30. Alexandria Faith Garcia was the winner. She told the JCR Weekly about her journey to court reporting.

I have an aunt who is an official court reporter in Harris County, Texas, and that is how I found out about the court reporting industry. I chose to do court reporting because I saw how many different paths you could take as a reporter, such as being a freelance reporter, a captioner, or having an official position in court. I liked the idea of having different options so that I could see which one fit me best. When I found out that you could caption at events such as sporting events and concerts, that is what intrigued me. I hope to caption for those kinds of events sometime in the future.

My family is what kept me motivated during school and practice time. Growing up less fortunate than others really pushed me to finish school so that I, along with my mother and sister, could have a better life for not only ourselves but for our future families as well. They were a constant support throughout school. Being able to go through the experience of theory and speedbuilding was tough at times, but it has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done for myself and for them as well. Now it has even inspired my sister to push through court reporting school, and I cannot wait for her to become a fellow reporter.

While in school, I had the opportunity to attend Texas Court Reporters Association and NCRA conventions. Those were a lot of fun. I loved learning more about this profession that I did not know about, such as the different contests that I could participate in once I became qualified. The continuing education in this field is never ending.

My advice for future court reporters is to keep pushing through school no matter how hard it gets. Keep going because there’s a whole world of things to do and places to go. Do the homework even if it’s tiring and boring. Make time to practice outside of school. It will only make you write faster and help you memorize briefs and phrases. Transcribe as many tests as you can because that will only make you better. There were times when I felt I couldn’t put my fingers in a position to press the right keys or when I thought I wouldn’t be able to reach a certain speed, but now I look back and see how silly it was to think I wasn’t able to do those things because I am doing them now. During the moments I didn’t feel motivated, I pushed through and made myself practice, and I must say that the compensation has been rewarding.

I recently started my career in May of 2019, and I can see the change and impact it has made in my life. I’m currently a deputy court reporter in juvenile court. Everything is fresh for me, and I’m learning a lot as I go along, and, luckily, I have amazing people I can turn to when I need help. Overall, this journey from the start of school until now has been such a big blessing for myself and my family. I very much look forward to the future I have in court reporting.

Switching schools, switching careers

Zeke Alicea

Nineteen-year-old Zeke Alicea had a plan for his future that included a four-year degree. He was interested in the legal field, but nothing really clicked until a criminology professor discussed the role of court reporters. Alicea decided to turn in his $50,000/year tuition for a court reporting degree at community college.

UTS | You started your education at Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Wis.,  and then transferred to MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. Why did you make the switch?

ZA | At Marquette, I was majoring in Clinical Laboratory Science. However, as I went through my first semester, I started to lose interest and look into other majors. I especially had a great interest in criminology. I was thinking I could be a lawyer, detective, forensic scientist, or even a criminologist. One day during one of my criminology lectures, my professor was telling us all the positions in the courtroom. One of them was obviously the court reporter. She told my class how it’s a profitable career and shared some of the skills required for being a court reporter. That was the first time I had ever heard of court reporting, and it immediately piqued my interest. I also noticed that people who are gamers or musicians have a tendency to do well in court reporting school.

Another reason was that I wanted to be back home with my family. Being at Marquette made me miss a lot of my close friends and family, and I like the control that I feel I have at home rather than living in a dorm. I also love being in Chicago since it’s an environment I’ve lived in all my life. Lastly, I made the switch because of the tuition at Marquette. The tuition was around $50,000. Of course, scholarships reduced the cost, but the tuition was still very high. The tuition at MacCormac is comparable to the tuition of a community college in Chicago. It’s very inexpensive at MacCormac, and now I don’t need to worry about finances while in school. 

UTS | Have you met any court reporters or captioners? What have you learned from them?

ZA | I’ve met quite a handful ever since I started school at MacCormac. The nice thing about court reporting is that it’s extremely easy to make connections since there are so few of us. I’ve met higher speed students, working court reporters, and even court reporters who have their own firms. From all the court reporters I have met, I firmly believe that just about anyone can pursue a career in court reporting as long as you have a strong determination. 

UTS |What has surprised you most about learning steno?

ZA | I think it’s really interesting that there are so many different theories for steno. Before I enrolled at MacCormac, I thought that every court reporter wrote shorthand the same way. I quickly learned that was not the case. I know that a lot of older theories would have you stroke out words phonetically, but a lot of the newer theories teach many neat briefs for those multisyllabic words. Another thing I like about steno is sharing my briefs and phrases with higher speed students who have learned a different theory. Occasionally, they will actually like my suggestions and incorporate those briefs in their dictionary. Lastly, I love how individualized it is when it comes to learning steno. One thing I noticed is not everybody strokes things the same way. One of my friends in class uses the “*F” for words that have a “V” in them while I use “-FB.” Furthermore, once you start becoming more settled with your theory, you can even start making up your own briefs and phrases. 

UTS | What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?

ZA | The best advice I have been given is to start building your dictionary as soon as you can. Something about knowing that everything you stroke is going to translate on your real-time software really makes me feel reassured. There are also times when I’ll have a test, and just about everything translates. It’s a really exciting feeling, and it really builds up your confidence in your writing. Another great piece of advice I heard is to look at the person who is speaking when reporting. This might just be more of a personal preference, but I feel more focused when I’m watching the person who’s speaking. 

UTS | If you were to go to a high school career fair to recruit students, what would you say to them about a career in court reporting and captioning? 

ZA | I would tell them that it’s in high demand and that there’s practically 100 percent job availability when you graduate. I would tell them you only need a two-year degree to be a court reporter and that there’s a high earning potential. Their age is the perfect time to get into court reporting since our minds are still developing, so we’re able to absorb information easily. (That will be very handy when learning the ridiculous amounts of phrases and briefs.) I would tell them that having a background in music or video games can help, and even if you’re not into either of those, you can still do well in this field. And lastly, I would tell them how much a fun career in court reporting is. Every day when I’m court reporting, I’m always learning something new, and I always get to hear interesting court stories.

UTS | What is your dream job? Where do you see yourself in five  years?

ZA | My dream job would be, well, a court reporter! I definitely would like to have the opportunity as a court reporter to provide captions for a Cubs game! In five years, I will be with a court reporting firm and downtown (I’m not that into the whole freelance reporting gig), and I would also like to be participating in speed competitions at that time. I would also want to be known as a trustworthy and distinguished court reporter who is very passionate about his job.

MacCormac College’s court reporting program was recently featured on Chicago Tonight, a local PBS program. Watch the news story and a television interview with Alicea here.

Working from home while parenting

Holly Smith with her sons

The benefits of working from home for some people are priceless. For example, a work-at-home situation can offer flexibility, a more casual surrounding, and more time with the family. But for work-at-home professionals with small children, the situation often means creating a balanced environment where both work and family receive the needed attention.

In a recent JCR Weekly question of the week, readers who work from home and have small children were asked to share insights into how they manage to create a successful balance between the two. The answers ranged from hiring child care or sending a child to camp, to cutting back on work, relying on friends and family for help, and employing the game Fortnite or turning on YouTube.

Holly Smith, an online student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., has two sons, ages 2 and 6 years old. To help manage her studies and parenting duties, Smith said she typically works on her assignments or other tasks involving school while the boys are preoccupied. “My 6-year-old loves video games, and my 2-year-old is usually playing with trains and cars or coloring,” she said.

“It’s important to me that my kids don’t feel ignored. They will only be little once. Typically, I will pull my machine out and practice in small 15- to 30-minute increments so that I don’t get overwhelmed. That’s usually the amount of time that my kids will stay preoccupied until they need or want something,” she said. “If they do happen to interrupt me during class time, I end up just putting my machine to the side and tending to them or playing with them until I can get back to my machine. It’s definitely a juggling act, and when my husband is home, he tries to help and distract as much as possible. But if you want it bad enough — and I do — you have to make it work. My boys, as well as my husband, are my reason to push through. So it makes it all worth it and keeps my motivation alive,” she added.

Rowan Knight working in the home office his mother made him out of a cardboard box complete with an open source steno machine, sound mixer, TV remote, and calculator.

Mirabai Knight, RDR, CRC, CRR, a captioner from New York, N.Y., often works from home and has a son Rowan, who will be 3 years old in August. While she said that sometimes he “works” alongside her when she has an at-home assignment or when she is practicing on her machine, she has the help of her wife when it comes to keeping the little one busy.

“My wife stays home and watches our son while I caption. I usually work in the living room, so he’s often in the room with me, but fortunately my wife is able to keep him from interfering with my equipment, though he’s actually getting much better about respecting that himself these days,” Knight said.

Smith said her 6-year-old also often helps her when she is practicing by working on his reading. “I have had him read me some Dr. Seuss books previously. It’s a challenge with all of the silly words that Dr. Seuss uses. My son is also getting so good at reading that it’s difficult to keep up with him, so it’s a challenge. A part of our homework assignment is reading steno notes to be able to understand them just as well as we understand English words. So I will treat those steno notes like little stories and practice reading them to my boys,” she added.

Machines fascinate kids

Mirabai Knight and her son, Rowan

“He loves playing with all my steno machines,” Knight said of her son. “He also knows how to get into ‘insert mode’ from ‘command mode’ in Vim, the text editor I use for much of my captioning, which makes me so proud! He always says, ‘I need to do some steno machine and computer work now! Let me work!’ And he knows where the R key is! I’m going to teach him steno as early as I possibly can.”

Likewise for Smith’s boys, said their mother, who noted that they are both also fascinated with her machine. “Sometimes I have to put my machine in a place in our apartment that they can’t get to just to keep them off of it, especially my 2-year-old. He knows how to turn it on and off. My 6-year-old has been interested in learning where the letters are and trying to write,” she said,

A flexible career that helps with parenting

Both Smith and Knight agree that a career in court reporting or captioning absolutely helps with parenting duties. For one, it allows parents the opportunity to spend more time at home with their children.

“That is one of the reasons I started looking into this career path,” Smith said. “I have been so indecisive with a career path that will allow me to be the mom I want to be to my boys, as well as allow the income potential that court reporting and captioning offers. I often feel like I won’t be good enough to make it. So the income and flexibility potential help push me to get back onto my machine when I’ve had a rough practice day and feel frustrated,” she said.

“It will open so many doors for my family that we wouldn’t be able to attain otherwise. My husband works so hard to provide for us, but while he makes good money, his job would never present the opportunities that court reporting can.”

Smith added that any money she can make once she enters the workforce will help with the family savings, as well as allow her husband to be home more often to spend time with the family. “We want to be able to take vacations together more often. We want to be able to retire at a reasonable age so that we can be the grandparents we want to be to our future grandchildren. I believe that this career choice is going to create a much better life for our family,” she said.

“Being able to work fewer hours with a fairly high hourly rate helps a lot. I’m the sole breadwinner for my family, so that let’s me be home with my son much more than if I’d had to work 40 hours a week,” Knight said. “Also I was able to take several months off and live on savings when he was born, which wouldn’t necessarily have been possible in a non-freelance job. And I can do some of my work from home. Being able to watch my kid eat breakfast while I remote caption international conferences has been such a joy,” she added.

Advice for other work-at-home parents

“It’s a battle in itself just choosing to open up your machine and spend time practicing, especially if you’re trying to be a full-time mom, keep your household chores up to date, spend time with your kids, and give your husband the attention he needs,” Smith said. “But you have to keep your eye on the prize. You have to focus on why you chose this field in the first place.

“Remember the possibilities that will open up to you. Those little people that are pulling on your arms and legs, interrupting your practicing and making you feel like you can’t do it, those are the same people that you have to do this for. Take your time. Close your machine and take a break when you’re feeling frustrated. Play with your kids for a little bit instead. Choose your battles, but don’t give up.”

And the best piece of advice Knight offers others: “Teach them steno!”

Coping with test anxiety

By Kay Moody

“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to advance.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, inaugural address, 1933

Students repeatedly say they miss passing a test because of nerves or test anxiety. Almost all court reporters will tell you they experienced nervousness and shaking hands on tests, but they learned how to cope with test anxiety! There are proven relaxation techniques.

  1. EXERCISE: 
    1. Release tension with what’s known as the “tense-relax method.”  Make a fist; clench your fists as hard as you can. Keep them tightly clenched as long as possible. Then relax. For total relaxation, clench your fists, tighten your jaw, straighten your legs, and tense your abdomen all at once—right before a test. Then let go and take a deep breath. 
    2. Do a mini-aerobic workout: 10 jumping jacks, sit-ups, touch your toes, run in place for five minutes, etc. If you have a treadmill, run on it until you’re breathing deeply.
  2. IMAGING: To relieve tension during a test, use guided imagery. Before taking a test, relax completely and take a quick fantasy trip. Close your eyes; relax your body; and imagine yourself in a beautiful, peaceful, pastoral setting. Create as much of the scene as you can. Use all your senses: soft music, a candle, perfume, aroma therapy.
  3. BE POSITIVE: Substitute negative thoughts and emotions with pleasant, positive images: eating a hot fudge sundae, taking a nap on the beach, seeing your best friend, hugging a loved one, having a romantic weekend, etc. Think about these positive images before and during a test. Put a small picture of your favorite fantasy in front of you and look at it during the test. Take the test with a smile on your face. Post a happy emoji on your machine. 
  4. IMPROVE YOUR PHYSICAL WELL-BEING: There are a number of reasons you’re nervous.
    1. Too much caffeine:  coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate.
    2. Skipping meals, particularly breakfast. 
    3. Holding your breath. Breathe deeply while working on speed building dictation. When you feel nervous, inhale deeply.
    4. Poor circulation. Drop your head between your knees and stay in that position for a few minutes.
    5. Lack of endorphins. Laughter creates endorphins. Laugh hard.  Laugh out loud or silently. Laugh until your sides ache. Laugh for a couple of minutes.
    6. Cold hands and cold feet. Put on shoes and socks. Cold feet produce shaking hands. Keep both your feet and hands warm. 
    7. Not enough rest. Get a good night’s sleep before test day.
  5. USE VISUALIZING TECHNIQUES:  Feel professional. Dress properly to perform better. If you feel like a professional, it will be easier to imagine that you are a professional court reporter.
  6. KEEP A TEST DIARY: Divide each page into two sections: “Strong Tests” and “Weak Tests.” Keep a journal of what you did prior to the strong tests and/or prior to the weak tests. Indicate the following:
    1. What did you eat or drink before the test? 
    2. Did you have a cigarette right before a test?
    3. What time of day/night did you take the test? Was it at the beginning or end of the week? 
    4. Did you warm up before the test? What material did you use? How fast was your warm-up material?
    5. Did you have a focal point during the test?
    6. Did you practice breathing? visualizing? exercising?
    7. What did you think about during the test?
    8. Were you rested? Did you get a good night’s sleep?

In conclusion, don’t let anxiety prevent you from passing a test. Identify why you’re nervous; apply specific relaxation techniques prior to and during a test; and adjust your surroundings to help you stay calm and focused.

DMACC Court Reporting Career Fair

What started out as a request for students to visit District 7 turned into a full-blown court reporting career fair! It all started a year ago when Jeanne Jacobs and Karla Lester, RMR, CRR, members of the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA), invited us to bring the court reporting students to their district so they could show them what a great place it is to work.

That seemed like a great idea and something the students would enjoy. But we realized that other folks would probably request that we visit their districts as well. I could see us traveling in a school bus all over the state. Oh, but we’ve got classes to teach and tests to pass.

After visiting with ICRA President Rachel Waterhouse, RPR, we decided that a career fair might be a good solution. The event was originally scheduled in February during Court Reporting & Captioning Week but was canceled because of bad weather.

On April 2, six court reporters, one district court administrator, two judges, four freelance firm owners, and the interim director of human resources for the Iowa Judicial Branch came to the Newton campus of the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), Des Moines, Iowa. The top speed students talked with employers first; then the middle speed students; and finally, the theory students. 

Following the fair, employers and DMACC administration and faculty members participated in a roundtable discussion on strategies for recruiting students and building the college’s court reporting program.

Theory students reported feeling a little nervous, even intimidated, at first. However, they all had great comments about how much they learned and how friendly everyone was. Following are sample comments from theory students:

  • My favorite part was that every single court reporter loves their job.
  • I truly appreciated the openness and friendliness of everyone wanting to see all of us succeed.
  • I believe that only good can come out of it. I was intimidated at first, but the conversation was easy and natural.
  • This was a great opportunity for us to feel a more confident in the profession.
  • I feel a little more connected in the court reporting community.
  • It helped me see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”
  • I think it is a great idea to repeat this event annually. It benefits both employers and students.  Employers get to “sell” their firm or district and students get to see all of the options they have.
  • Please have this event annually. I wanted to stay at every table longer!

Second-year students offered these comments:

  • One thing I really appreciated was that all employers, whether freelance or official, asked me what route I was interested in taking. They were all kind and gracious regardless of whether or not I was considering their area or method of reporting. The overall atmosphere of the job fair was one of enthusiasm and excitement for the new reporters who will be working all throughout Iowa. I feel very fortunate to have been educated in this state filled with professional and welcoming reporters.
  • All of the interactions I had with different employers were extremely positive and very encouraging. I am anxious to begin the job application process and to see what the future holds. I am confident that whatever path I choose will include seasoned and accomplished reporters willing to help me along the way.
  • All in all, the experience was nothing short of amazing and much needed for everyone.
  • I think every table offered the opportunity that if I ever wanted to sit in and shadow for a day, that I am more than welcome to. Everyone was so thoughtful and encouraging. It was great to feel like a professional that day, and I hope DMACC continues to provide this opportunity in the future.
  • I honestly don’t think the day could have gone any better. I really enjoyed talking to everyone. I will keep an open mind, as I get closer to graduation, to both freelancing and official, because both offer great job opportunities.
  • Everyone I spoke to was nice, and it sounds like there are many wonderful places I can work in the future. I am excited to see where I will end up.

Thank you to all of the employers listed below:

District 5:                    Chelsey Wheeler, RPR, official court reporter

District 6:                    Sarah Hyatt, RPR, official court reporter and the Hon. Judge Lars Anderson

District 7:                    Karla Lester, RMR, CRR, freelance court reporter

Jeanne Jacobs, court reporter

District 8:                    Kailey Booten, court reporter

                                    Kari Diggins, RPR, official court reporter

                                    Heidi Baker, district court administrator

                                    The Hon. Judge Mary Ann Brown

Iowa Judicial District: Jessica Holmes, interim director of human resources

Sarah Dittmer, RPR, freelance court reporter

Susan Frye, RPR, freelance court reporter and owner of Susan Frye Court Reporting

Andrea Kreutz, CLVS, and owner of Huney-Vaughn Reporting

Sean Sweeney, owner of Sweeney Court Reporting

Congratulations to the Student Speed Contest Winners

Madalyn Massey
Kelly Madden
Rachel Marr

Schools across the country once again participated in this year’s NCRA student speed contest. The contest was held in celebration of 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and gave students the chance to test their speed skills on Literary and Q&A tests. Madalyn Massey, of Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa, was awarded first prize. Kelly Madden, of Atlantic Technical Center in Coconut Creek, Fla., was awarded second prize, and Rachel Marr of the Hardeman School of Court Reporting and Captioning, Tampa, Fla., was awarded third prize.

“I first got interested in the Realtime Reporting program because of a family friend, who is now my wonderful mentor,” said Massey. “It also became a huge motivation for me to get a job where I would be sitting due to an ankle injury I received in high school. I really need a job where I am stationary, and I became even more interested in the career field after seeing firsthand the dedication, professionalism, and passion involved in the court reporting field.”

Massey is set to graduate in December.

Second place winner Madden is returning to court reporting after an 18-year hiatus. A graduate of Sheridan Vocational Technical Institute, Hollywood, Fla., she is back at Atlantic Technical to hone her skills and get to back to the career she loved so much.

Marr is a mother of three who got into court reporting by chance. “I had to leave my radiology program when I was pregnant and while I was on my leave, I talked to an attorney who said that if she had a chance to do it all over again, she would be a court reporter. That piqued my interest, so I started looking into what exactly that detailed [in terms of] school, money, certifications etc.” 

The Mardi Gras-themed contest, sponsored by NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, was open to students in any court reporting program, at any speed level. Ninety-three students from 10 schools took the tests. One Literary and one Q&A test were given, and each consisted of five minutes of dictation at a speed that each student was either currently working on or had just passed.

In order to be eligible to win a prize, students must have passed the test with at least 96 percent accuracy. The tests, written by Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, a member of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, were designed so that the speed could be adjusted to fit the student’s speed.

A total of 25 students passed at least one test. Three of those who passed were chosen at random to receive the winners’ beads. As the gold bead, or first prize winner, Massey received an RPR Study Guide ($125 value). Madden, the purple bead, or second prize winner, was awarded the choice of a one-year NCRA student membership ($46 value) or one complimentary leg of the RPR Skills Test ($72.50 value). The winner of the green beads, Marr, won a $25 Starbucks gift card.

Many thanks to Kriegshauser for her hard work writing the speed tests and preparing the other testing materials. The contest would not have been possible without her.

NCRA would like to showcase the hard work that students and schools are doing to promote the court reporting and captioning professions. Below are the names of all the students who participated in this year’s contest. Students marked with an asterisk passed the test with 96 percent accuracy or higher.

Atlantic Technical College

Coconut Creek, Fla.

Kelly Madden*          

Victor Laznik 

Amber King   

Lynn Corbet   

Brown College of Court Reporting

Atlanta, Ga.

Parker Burton

David Gee      

Shirley Johnson          

DeLeon Little

Chris Tomko  

College of Court Reporting

Valparaiso, Ind.

Kerri Huff      

Natasha Wentzel        

Patricia Lopez*          

Des Moines Area Community College

Newton, Iowa

Madelyn Schmidt*    

Madison Rowland     

Madalyn Massey*      

Green River College

Auburn, Wash.

Ashley Dixon*           

Spencer Holesinsky   

Justin Choi     

Sarah Webb   

Mariah Banta*

Alexandra Fleming    

Hardeman School of Court Reporting and Captioning

Tampa, Fla.

Michele Buono*

Rachel Marr*

Casey Venoitte*

Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting

Houston, Texas

Christy Nowotny       

Pearl Gonzalez           

Cayley Rodrigue        

Macomb Community College

Clinton Township, Mich.

Allison Boggess         

Jennifer Mitrevski      

LaTasha Lindsey       

Allison Grawburg      

Carla Stark     

Kim Champagne        

Jackie Felker  

Robin Fisette  

Dorothy Strong          

Robert Ludkiig          

Kelly Mason  

Alicia Urbinati           

NAIT

Edmonton, AB Canada       

Andriana Bilous

Angeline Jacobsen

Caprice Albert

Elizabeth Fossen

Emily Ferdinand

Ericah Crumback

Jasmine Hallis

Jennifer Friesen

Jodie Kostiw

Joseph Nudelman

Julia Desrosiers

Katherine Gallin

Kayla Velthuis-Kroeze

Kelcy Sherbank

Kristina Zeller

Krystal Truong

Lucie Titley

Marie Foreman

Meagan Gibson

Michael Thomas

Robin Tarnowetzki

Roxanna Doctor

Sara Pelletier

Tyler Hopkins

Abby Robinson

Amanda Hebb

Ariana McCalla*

Bradley Morrison

Julie Layton*

Lora Zabiran

McKaya Baril*

Michelle Stevens

Netannys Turner-Wiens

Presley Thomson

Sarah Pfau

Shauna Lagore*

Stephanie Jabbour

Yazda Khaled

Plaza College

Forest Hills, N.Y.

Paula Mullen*

Taylor Mascari*

Bianna Lewis*           

Letizia Yemma*        

Michelle Paluszek*    

Elisabeth Dempsey*  

Dishawn Williams*    

Maia Morgan*

Alexandra Bourekas*

Rachel Salatino*        

Emily Nicholson*      

Tikiya Etchison*        

Christina Penna          

Shane Perry    

Pedro Santiago           

Cecilia Miranda

The Importance of belonging to state and national court reporting associations

Leah Hamre

By Leah Hamre

We’ve all heard it before, “Team work is dream work.” How about, “None of us is as smart as all of us,” a quote from Ken Blanchard? Or, as Helen Keller stated, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”?

Being a part of an organization opens up doors that you may not have known existed and exposes you to opportunities, ideas, and people that challenge you and make you a better person.  I’m attending Anoka Technical College in Minnesota, and I have quickly learned how important it is that we take care of each other and our profession.

Court reporting is not as prominent as nursing or information technology but it’s just as honorable and important. The best way to educate and inform others, as well as learn and grow as a professional, is by joining an organization like the National Court Reporter Association (NCRA).

NCRA is the pinnacle of court reporter associations as they set the standards for court reporters and captioners. This popular organization really has something for everyone. Throughout the year, you can stay involved through awards and contests, continuing education, and incredible networking opportunities.

NCRA started with a small group of passionate shorthand reporters more than 100 years ago. The first convention was in 1899 in Chicago, Ill., with an attendance of 156. Last year’s convention, held in New Orleans, La., hosted 1,072 of the best court reporters in the nation! The NCRA Convention & Expo offers training sessions on software, updates on the latest and greatest technology, speakers, tips and tricks for efficient writing, and games, all while offering credit toward continuing education. Registration is now available for the 2019 convention being held Aug. 15-18 in Denver, Colo.

On the other hand, not joining an organization gives you a lot less credibility when you have an opinion about our industry. I think Dale Carnegie said it best: “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain- and most fools do.” Have you ever noticed that the people who are always complaining aren’t doing anything to fix the problem?

If you’re unwilling to succumb to complacency and want to be the best person and reporter you can be, NCRA is the place to be. And don’t stop there, join as many organizations as possible. You can simply take advantage of the visibility and career opportunities or dive in and actively participate by becoming a mentor or joining a committee.

Whether you’re in school and wondering where you’ll land your dream job, looking for a change, or just want to help others, I urge you to invest in your future and mine, through NCRA membership.

Leah Hamre is a student at Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.

Students and new professionals, don’t miss the chance to apply for these scholarships and grants

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) is accepting nominations for the Robert H. Clark and Frank Sarli Memorial scholarships for students, as well as applications for the New Professional Reporter Grant. The June 1 deadline to apply for each of these awards is approaching fast. Now is the time to make sure you have all your paperwork in order.

The Robert H. Clark and Frank Sarli Memorial scholarships are awarded to high-achieving students nearing the end of their court reporting program who meet a number of criteria, including being a current student member in NCRA, passing at least one Q&A test at a minimum of 200 wpm, and achieving a GPA of at least 3.5 based on a 4.0 standard.

“This has given me an extra boost of motivation and confidence I needed while I head into my final semester,” said Megan Baeten upon receiving the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship in 2018. “It will help me with the cost of schooling for this last semester without the added stress of how I will pay for it. It will also help me with some of the start-up expenses upon graduating, as well as the certification fees.”

The New Professional Reporter Grant is given to a promising working reporter in his or her first year out of school who meets a number of criteria. These include maintaining a current NCRA membership, graduating with a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 standard, and submitting a recommendation from the person’s current employer.

Beginning this year, all NCRF scholarships are open to NCRA student members enrolled in any court reporting program, not just NCRA approved programs. In addition, the New Professional Reporter Grant is now open to qualifying graduates of any court reporting program.

More scholarships and other NCRF programs can be found by visiting NCRA.org/NCRF.